Brothers Retreat at Jocassee – Part One
It was Stephen who first suggested it. The three Taylor brothers needed to take some time away for a multi-day paddling trip. We would pick a long route and camp along the way. Then reality set in and the plan got altered somewhat. Having slept on the hard ground enough in our lives, we decided that renting a villa at Lake Jocassee would be even better. A weekend in March was appointed, and I called and reserved our villa at Devil’s Fork State Park.
Having to plan that far in advance can be fraught with unexpected peril. I had work issues that I was afraid would delay me. Stephen had pastoral obligations that delayed his arrival and Houston had…cats. I finally got all my gear packed and arrived at the park at about 3:30 for check-in.
The term “villa” was a better choice than “cabin” when the park named these things. They are quite nice (as well as being reasonably priced.) We had a full kitchen, two bedrooms, fireplace, and even satellite TV. This was a far cry from when I last stayed up here in a tent with Houston.
Houston arrived at about 7:00 and we settled in. We explored the beach area and the dock leading down from the villas. What we found was that the lake was down nearly 30 feet from full pool. It was the lowest I had ever seen it.
After an excellent meal and a bit of libation, we wandered back down to the dock to enjoy the lake at night. With the clear, dark skies, I was able to view the Milky Way for the first time in years.
The last time Houston and I camped here we set out in our kayaks for a late night paddle. We contemplated the same this time, but were too lazy to haul the boats down the long trail, or to cart them around to the nearby boat ramp. We decided to enjoy the lake from the banks this time, and plan for doing a night paddle the next night.
It was a bit spooky, too. A controlled burn had been taking place on Musterground Mountain, and there was an orange glow on the mountain. We made up stories about haints and other supernatural events in these hills. The orange glow was an eerie sight.
Then there are the tales of the lake being haunted because of an inundated cemetery. There are even YouTube videos of dives down to that cemetery. That seemed a bit odd to me, that the graves wouldn’t be moved to another location. According to the book Jocassee Valley by Claudia Hembree, the graves at Mt. Carmel Cemetery were, in fact, relocated to the Old Pickens Cemetery, along with graves in the Keowee inundation area. While the graves themselves were moved, some of the headstones were not, and these are what show up in the YouTube dive videos.
Even so, some long timers refuse to swim in the chilly waters of Jocassee. Hembree’s book hints that there might have been graves on family farms that were not moved, and that these spirits, along with the spirits of the native peoples who lived on the land before then, still inhabit the waters.
Graves would be bad enough, but to me just as spooky are the remains of the old Atakulla Lodge, steel bridge and other former dwellings under the waters. As Houston and I watched the stars and the mist, listening to the loons, it wasn’t hard to imagine and other-worldly environment, just yards from the shore from where we sat.