Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dan's Rock

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: We arrived in Frostburg, Maryland, late Friday afternoon after a full day of driving. Of those so far gathered, I was the only one interested in waking early, and I was out before seven prowling for photographs. I saw the full moon set and drove the road past Lonaconing, looking for side roads to explore as the sun rose. I  followed many narrow valleys where houses clung to steep slopes and the banks of rushing streams. Some were immobilized mobile homes and some had turnings and gingerbread that suggested another age and more steady times. Few had seen a coat of paint recently. The roads wound into the valleys like mine shafts into veins of coal, and all eventually gave out without ever climbing, though one led me to a hilltop cemetery just as the last hope of sunlight was being muffled under clouds. I must have passed over a hundred small bridges as roads crossed and recrossed rushing brooks. Then, on the way home, I saw a sign: "To Dan's Rock Overlook." I had just enough time, perhaps, before I was to meet my friends at 10.

The road led unpromisingly toward a cluster of homes before pointing me left so that by the time I moved beyond the homes I wasn't sure if I was still on the road to Dan's Rock Overlook, but the road kept climbing.  I passed houses and scrub land and some sort of large tank, and the road went on much further than I expected without a sign of getting ragged, and it kept climbing, and it was still paved and finally reached a small parking area. To one side were thin woods and a valley beyond.  On the other a large outcropping of rock blocked my view. The rock had been almost entirely covered with people's names and declarations of young love in bright colors sprayed from aerosol cans. The outcrop was topped with numerous telecommunications towers, and I guessed I was nearly on top of something. I later counted sixteen towers in all. Stairs had been cut into the rock outcropping. I remembered, this was a region where men were used to cutting into rock, but the steps were crudely cut, strictly an amateur affair. 

The steps led uncomfortably up the rocks to a metal structure, metal stairs and a bridge that eventually surmounted the rock and led to two lookout platforms and the scene recorded in my image. The name, "Dan's Rock," had been welded into the structure. I'd finally gotten out of the valley. Messages continued covering every rock surface  even at the top, and it was clear that youths squirming in their immortality had risked everything to leave unrecognizable dabs of paint in dangerously inaccessible locations.

I returned to town and my friends, and after breakfast we all visited Dan's Rock for our morning shoot.  We were due at the silk mill at one.