It's quite something to imagine the Uwharrie Mountains with Alp-like peaks, thrusting twenty thousand feet skyward, looming in the middle of present day North Carolina where the prehistoric seacoast used to be.
That's some imagining when you consider that the mountains today barely surpass eleven hundred feet in height at the most, and are really no more than high hills. The passage of time -- five hundred million years in the Uwharries case -- has reduced one of the world's oldest mountain ranges considerably, to say the least.
The Uwharrie (pronounced "You-warr-ee") woodlands seem pretty big when your in the midst of them, but technically they're the smallest National Forest in the state at close to fifty-one thousand acres, or nearly eighty square miles. It seems - especially looking at an old Rally map - that the national forest once encompassed a good many more square miles than it does now. Searching on the net has so far been of no use in determining why this reduction happened.
My first realization of the Uwharries as a unique place for wildlife came about as a young boy living in Charlotte, North Carolina. I remember window-spotting Black Sam one day as he came up the driveway with a cage in the back of his somewhat battered Chevy, or maybe it was a Ford, pick-up truck.
Anyhow, what Sam had in that small cage was a spooked and angry bobcat he'd trapped somewhere on the lodge's acreage. Up close the hissing feline was beautifully marked, but, I knew if a finger was thrust through the heavy cage wire I'd be down to a four-digit hand, pronto.
His reply to a question about the wildcat's fate was a harsh one for an animal loving little boy to hear. He intended to shoot it, presumably for its fur or for taxidermy purposes, or maybe even a bounty if they were still considered "varmits" back then in the early '70s. In any event, Sam was proud enough of his caged prize to show it off some first.
The Uwharries and surrounding areas were favorite stomping grounds of the Native Americans for at least ten thousand years, but probably for much longer. Their legacy and artifacts to future generations include, but aren't limited to: arrow and spearheads, pottery fragments, ancient campsites, and fish-traps.
Right below the Uwharrie National Forest is one of the historic Mississippian culture's East Coast ceremonial centers called Town Creek Indian Mound. The archaeology on the mound began in the 1930s and some amazing artifact and other discoveries have been made there over the years. It's well worth anyone interested and unfamiliar with the place taking a look into it through reads or video, or, best of all, visiting.
There were no Native American tribes permanently occupying the Uwharries when the pioneers did arrive, but several smaller tribal areas to the east, and the powerful Catawba Nation to the west, were no doubt using the big river, numerous creeks, and fertile forest for bountiful fishing and hunting purposes.
Raiding warriors from the north often attacked Carolinian Indians without warning: a good example would be those from the feared Seneca tribe from New York State, who may have utilized the Uwharries flora and fauna by branching off the Great Catawba Warpath on occasion.
Perhaps occasional Woodland buffalo, ranging eastward of the mountains appeared, eastern elks were present and, especially, white-tailed deer, abounded in the green forest, despite the long-standing skin trade with Europe. The biggest majority of these hides went to the fur ravenous Old World through the colonial port cities of Norfolk, VA, and Charles Town, SC.
Although numbers could vary, most years saw thousands of furs shipped across the wide Atlantic. Those taken from the Coastal region began to decline after about 1715 because of wars and disease besetting the tribes, but peltries from westwards largely made up the difference.
The animals most affected by the hunting and trapping practices were the otters, beavers and deers, especially the latter two. Revered as spiritual creatures due respect by many Indian cultures, the European merchants simply could not get enough of these unfortunate mammal's pelts.
The beaver's fur went largely into the making of fashionable hats up until the 1840s, when silk became the preferred material; but the beaver's days in Carolina were long gone by then. They have since been reintroduced in many areas, with varying results as the industrious animals gnaw down trees and sometimes with their dams, back-up important streams and creeks.
The deer populations suffered more and more as time went on as well, and the larger hoofed-beasts like the eastern elk and woodland bison were scarce, if not extinct, by the start of the American Revolution -- along with their predators the panthers and timber wolves. Being in less competition for survival with the settlers, black bears probably remained extant for the longest time in the Uwharries.
Not surprisingly, there was another boom for the precious metal during the Great Depression years. Folks still enjoy panning for it in the rivers and streams, along with horseback-riding, biking, hiking, and camping. These are just several of the many activities available to visitors in the Morrow Mountain Park and Uwharries area.
More and more people are coming to accept the idea that Bigfoot exists in the Pacific Northwest. This vast region still has wilderness areas secluded and forested enough to support a small population for one thing, many reason. But it should be realized, the eastern parts of America still have some wilderness left, too. A good example would be the vast mountainous area of Cohutta, to name just one example. The North Carolina Appalachians seem to have their very own Bigfoot with eyes that resemble the shading of a raccoon. More about these particular ones in a moment.
Perhaps it pays to think outside the box concerning these east coast hairy bipedal enigmas. The Cherokees and other tribes have legends going way back about Bigfoot-like entities. And many parts of the state, across its 500 mile length -- particularly some coastal areas and Appalachia -- still hold areas no human being has ever stepped foot in, at least not in a very long time. The largest number of reports seem to come from the Great Smoky National Forest and in relation to the still mysterious Brown Mountain phenomena and its adjoining regions of the Pisgah National Forest.
At any rate, as far as this writer can tell, the Georgia case and more than a few others from the Appalachians remain unexplained. And I have heard about, and read, a recently published co-authored book by a seemingly honest gentleman- and many credible others, living in those mountains, who tell of experiences concerning the matter. The book writer claims to have made "friends" of a sort in over twenty years of gently, and with patience, dealing with these sometimes frightening camouflage masters and often hungry mysterious entities.
A lot of reports about Bigfoot have been coming out of the Uwharries in recent years. These include very credible sightings and encounters by residents, visitors and others. From what I've researched most of these folks seem reasonable and sincere. Of course, we can't say that for all of them, certainly. A lot of videos have been taken too, some more convincing than others. One was at night in infrared, and if real, seemed to suggest the entity was either extraordinarily good at camouflage or was able to go in and out dimensions. Who knows?
Additionally, it was around the same time while fishing in a farmer friend's pond near Biscoe, that an Army helicopter came out from behind the thick forest a couple hundred feet away. I waved as it headed southeast towards Fort Bragg. This may be nothing to get excited about in and of itself, but becomes interesting when you consider the forest is a key location for the U.S. Army Special Warfare School's training of Special Forces students according to wiki.
The fifty-five stories in the two books include many ghostly and high strangeness events, like the one about a violent ghost who's rampages were finally quelled by incantation. There is Old John and his magic ball from the 19th century, who was believed to have been from the mists of ancient Egypt. And then there's the haunting tale of the Irishman Peddler Paul, who beheld the digging of his own grave but was saved by a kindly mountain spirit - or benevelot haint, as the vernacular had it in those days.
The frights continue with hearse wagon, time-clock, porch room, and even sheep-stealing ghosts. Witch tales abound along with stories of buried treasure, haunted graveyards, and of course, goldmines as mentioned previously; and in conclusion to this article, it's certainly no exaggeration to say, that those Gothic forests and ancient hills are holders of history and the paranormal to a great and varied degree.