by Leslie

For me, it is as close to heaven on earth as one can get. I had not intended to mention the cabin on the lake surrounded by nothing but mountains and sky, but it worked its way into the story on Price's Law, so as Paul Harvey used to say, here's the rest of the story.

Except for the cabin, there is no sign of civilization. Ruth, George, aka Maid Doris and I were up for a long weekend and what a weekend it turned out to be. Because I had Monday off, we planned an overnight hiking trip deep into the unexplored (unexplored by me) high valley that opens onto my property. We would head up early Sunday morning and get back to the cabin Monday afternoon leaving enough time to get home that evening.

It was Doris's third visit up to the cabin and I had prevailed upon Ruth to dress her maid in something more appropriate for the rugged outdoor environment and activities planned for the weekend. Unlike her first visit when Doris showed up in her formal satin French maid uniform and high heels, Ruth now had her dressed in a long straight but fairly lose kaki skirt and practical leather boots that came almost up to the knee and had only a slightly high heel that afforded plenty of contact with the ground. I could see when she was putting the boots on and from the way they were talking that she was wearing nylon stockings attached to her corset, so Ruth was obviously not letting her off the hook completely. I did express apprehension about her wearing a corset while hiking but they both dismissed my concern. Looking at those obviously very expensive boots I contemplated the irony that the outfits Ruth's maid wore were far too fancy and expensive for any real maid to ever afford or wear. At least Ruth has good taste when dressing up her play thing which she topped off that day with a color coordinated pith helmet with a white silk scarf around it. Ruth wore a similar outfit except of a darker color and she wore a fitted blue jacket, a straw hat with a blue scarf and of course no corset.

With only light makeup and wearing a very pretty white long sleeved blouse to protect her from bugs and briars, Doris was in a classic outdoorsy outfit that looked like she stepped off the cover of an Eddie Bauer catalogue or a Ralph Lauren photo shoot. Well at least her clothes looked like that. While she might pass as a woman in poor lighting, she was not going to be mistaken for a fashion model. Not even close.

Now she could join Ruth and me on a long but not too arduous hike in the vast state park that adjoins the property. We had a more than reasonable expectation of privacy in the back country on the remnants of the logging road we would follow because without crossing some very rugged mountains, not even the park rangers have direct access to the hidden valley we were about to explore. It is inaccessible without going through my property. They are of course welcome to do so, but as far as I know nobody had been back there in decades, perhaps not since it was logged in the 50's when the park boundary was surveyed and a gate was placed on the property line at an old logging road dating back at least to the 1870's when the area was logged for the first time.

Ostensibly the problem with their weekend visit to the lake house was that Ruth's house would have to forgo its usual weekend thorough cleaning. That was Ruth's claim at least, but it has become obvious to me that George is actually her sissy maid seven days a week even though he is only in his cute little sissy maid uniform on weekends. So, any cleaning that was missed on the weekend would be done the following week. George would somehow just have to find the time to get it done. Sometimes Ruth seems callous in her treatment of Doris, or perhaps she just feels that she deserves to be pampered or she is punishing George for his peculiar interest in women's clothes. Then again she certainly indulges his cross-dressing so I can only assume that some sort of equilibrium has been reached in their relationship that is satisfactory to each. More importantly, it is none of my business.

The old overgrown logging road leads up to what looks like a small valley, but when you look at the topographic map it greatly expands once you get through a narrow pass. It makes me think of Shangri-La, the fictional utopian lamasery in a hidden Himalayan valley in James Hilton's 1935 novel; "Lost Horizons". I recommend the book if you haven't read it.

In addition to the recreational hike, I had a couple of chores to perform on the way. The old gate at the property line is not far past the spot where I get water for the house from a deep pool just above a waterfall. We would follow the trail that affords a view of the waterfall in all its glory then climb to the top of the falls to check and clean the filter on the waterline that leads to the cabin. I would reach into the small pond and close a valve before pulling the water line and filter out of the deep water. This would prevent air from entering the waterline so I would not lose the siphon going down to the cabin while the line was out of the water. I gave the filter a thorough cleaning throwing the gunk over the waterfall and deeming it to be good for another year I placed it back deep in the pond draining all the air from the line before opening the valve. The gunk off filter reminded me of W.C. Fields' comment about never drinking water because of what fish do in it.

After that, we proceeded to the old gate and tried to discern where the old logging road had been. It is still shown on the topographic map that according to the notes in the lower left hand corner of the 7 ½ minute quadrangle was last updated in the 1955, so it shows the park boundary. I had told my guest of the mysterious trick the winds in the valley can play on your ears. I had been up there a few years earlier trying to clean the filter before heading home after a peaceful weekend. I was in a hurry because I had forgotten that Halloween fell on a Sunday that year and I wanted to pick up candy and get home on time to avoid toilet paper in my yard in lieu of treats for the trick or treaters. There was a north wind coming down the valley and where the wind blew through the mountain pass it sounded like a piano playing and a choir singing hymns at the same time. There isn't a church in that direction for fifty miles so it was obviously a freak of nature playing tricks on my ears. It has remained, however, a most vivid memory. I guess that's why I told them about it, hoping they might hear it too, but there was no north wind that day.

Hiking up the valley that day Ruth and Doris insisted they heard voices in the distance. I thought they were making fun of my story but when I confronted them about it they insisted they were not. If you have ever slept in a room with a fan running at night, it can sound like a radio or voices as the blades disrupt the fan motor sound. Trees in the forest can do the same thing with other sounds. Nature is not quiet. It was getting late and we were losing daylight fast when we reached our planned campsite.

The map showed the old road expanding into three separate roads at the widest part of the valley with a grid of roads where there must have once been a small community, logging camp and briefly a CCC camp in the 30's. Each of the three roads terminated on the map about a mile from this spot. I had taken too long cleaning the filter and we had moved up the valley too slowly to get up there with enough light to explore the area so that would have to wait until morning. I would like to have gone to the end of each of the roads. Instead, we had just enough time to put up our tents, gather some wood, start a fire and fix supper.

After supper we were relaxing by the fire and enjoying an ample supply of liquid refreshment that Ruth had the foresight to bring (but carried by Doris). Both she and Doris were still going on about hearing voices as they had been saying all day, so I decided it was time for some ghost stories. They objected, but I went ahead with a story. I was in the middle of a real whopper when Ruth and Doris reacted in unison looking at something behind me and pointing, so I stopped talking, looked around and saw nothing. Suddenly the voice of a little girl right behind me said "Oh please don't stop. Continue with your story."

Startled, I looked around but once again I saw nothing. Then I looked back at my two companions and said, "How did you do that?" But they just sat there with mortified expressions looking at me. Then the request to continue the story was repeated. Clearly, they had planned to play a trick on me so I figured I had no choice but to play along. I continued the story certain that they had set me up for a prank and that one of them had learned ventriloquism. I finally finished the story to the sound of laughter, and applause of about twenty people whom I could suddenly see stepping from out of the darkness. And a small girl appeared from behind me thanking me for finishing the story.

There were too many of them and they were too well dressed and good natured to be viewed as a threat, but they were certainly a mystery. Apparently Ruth and Doris could suddenly see the rest of them too and the three of us stood up at the same time. I was more puzzled than scared. How could they move so quietly? One of them introduced himself as Reverend Bob Shipley and said they saw our camp fire and tents from their church and came over to investigate. He said they were having an evening service to usher in the All Saints Day, at his church and he said we were welcome to join them in prayer and fellowship.

As we followed them to their church, the sound of a distant piano and singing resonated across the meadow. We followed a small foot path for about a quarter of a mile. As we were crossing the meadow, the singing started again. Now I could hear the piano clearly and a banjo and fiddle accompanying it. I have heard famous coral groups before but the singing emanating from this tiny church was the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. Ruth said it sounded like the voices of angles. At the far end of the meadow was a small wooden church on a slight hill with a few buggies parked and some horses tied to a fence that surrounded a small cemetery.

We could see light through the windows but he church was rather dark inside because it was lit only by a few oil lamps. But, thanks to a big pot bellied stove, the church was nice and warm, and was a welcome relief from the nippy autumn air outside. Up in that valley on the last evening of October winter was teasing us with the possibility of its early arrival. We joined in the service and the people were very nice but acted confused when I asked where they were from. The all said they were from "here" and that they had been born and raised there. When they asked where we were from, our small city a mere sixtyfive mile away seemed exotic to them as though we had come from the ends of the earth. They were wearing clothing one would expect from about the 1880's and even spoke of the "recent death" of President Garfield and they prayed for him and for God to protect President Chester A. Arthur. Now that was weird, but we know when to keep our mouths shut.

Doris seemed to pass muster except for her makeup. Like Doris, each of the ladies in the congregation was firmly cinched up in their corset under their best Sunday Dress. They all also wore hats so Ruth and Doris seemed acceptably dressed in that regard too. Ruth's lack of a corset however seemed a bit scandalous to some of the ladies and I in my blue jeans and field jacket was obviously regarded as some sort of workman in their service. But, in the house of God we were all welcomed and we were treaded graciously. They were most impressed by our bright electric flashlights. I explained away Doris's makeup as a new fashion for some women in the city. One of the men said it seemed a bit like false advertising to him; "If the eyelashes are fake, who knows what else is fake". I thought to myself; "If he only knew", as I nodded in agreement.

The evening passed quickly. During the time of fellowship we and several members of the congregation stepped outside to look at the stars and hear an explanation by one of the older men of the different constellations and their relationship to Greek mythology and the basis of the individual star names, many of them being of Arabic origin. He was remarkably knowledgeable on mythology, astronomy and the Bible. But suddenly, at midnight, Ruth Doris and I found ourselves alone standing on a small hill a quarter of a mile from our campsite. Everyone must have just left without a word of good bye and the church was dark and cold. Houses and buggies were gone as silently as the group had appeared. Luckily the embers of our camp fire could still be seen across the meadow and we followed the path back to our tents.

We couldn't sleep that night thinking about what we had just experienced and obviously there were no more ghost stories told. The more we thought about it, the more freaked out we were by the evening's events and we all agreed that whatever was in Ruth's "liquid refreshment" was much stronger than anticipated, and we would never drink that stuff again.

At first light, having given up on sleeping, we fixed breakfast and packed up our campsite. Doris mentioned that the white silk scarf had come off of her pith helmet and asked if we had seen it, but we had not. With our belongings packed up we left out packs at the campsite to explore the area before heading back down the valley. We explored the remnants of streets and a few building and when we started talking about the events of Sunday night we decided to follow an old footpath in the direction of the imagined meadow. There was no meadow. The path lead through woods and on the small hill a quarter of a mile from the campsite we found a dilapidated old wooden church with a small graveyard next to it. Inside the church was an old dry rotted piano and on the floor by the piano was Doris's scarf. Perhaps it was blown by the wind, but in the little graveyard we found the tombstone of a Reverend Robert E. Shipley who died in 1892. Now that's quite a coincidence!

Sometimes it's best not to over think things, but I'm going to do some in-depth research and next time Halloween falls on a Sunday the three of us will go back up into the high valley dressed more appropriately and without Ruth's liquid refreshments. Happy Halloween!

The End
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