Wild Vic’s Cabin
October 26, 2011
With a name like Wild Vic's, I just had to see it. Many times I'd come across mentions of Wild Vic's Cabin, located along a trail in the Buffalo National River, in a passage in one of Tim Ernst's guide books or on some random internet forum. At some point I added it to my "must see" list and it eventually made it near the top.
I spent the second day of my fall vacation at home, because the weather forecast called for high winds. Wednesday morning found myself stuck in a slump at home, mainly because I couldn't decide where in the wonderful outdoors to go. But then as soon as I decided to find Wild Vic's, I was energized and gathering my gear.
On the drive up to the Buffalo River area, I saw a lot of spectacular fall foliage on Highway 21 north of Clarksville. It's amazing how fast the leaves change color. I sure did pick the right week for my vacation.
I pulled in to the Compton trailhead around 1:30, and followed the trail south down the mountain. I came to an intersection after about three-fourths of a mile, and hung a left onto the Bench Trail. Wild Vic's Cabin was only a couple hundred yards further east.
The single-room log cabin was small, at most 20 feet square. It sat on the south side of the trail, with the front facing north. The front had a horizontal window opening about three feet tall and almost as wide as the entire cabin. A hinged shutter on the left could be closed to cover a third of the opening. If the windows had ever been screened or glassed, I couldn't find any evidence. A narrow doorway allowed entrance from the east, and a more square window opening faced the west.
When I stepped inside, my impressions changed. The cabin wasn't all that old, or at least the last inhabitants had made some improvements with materials that weren't available to early pioneers. One section on either half of the sheet metal roof had been replaced with a common translucent plastic roofing material. And portions of the interior walls were covered with modern particle board paneling. Had anybody ever really lived here, or was it a hunting cabin?
The coolest feature of the cabin was a tree trunk reaching from under the floor to the roof. Apparently the cabin had been build around the tree, which served as a ladder to reach a loft on the back half. I didn't think to try to climb up into the loft.  There were a couple of openings in the south wall up there that might have afforded a great view down into the Buffalo River valley.
Items in the cabin included a cast iron pot belly stove, a rusty metal headboard, and a metal gasoline can. Outside beside the door, a window frame from an old car hung on a nail. I was reminded that the Bench Trail follows an old roadbed, and reasoned that the inhabitants of the cabin probably drove right up to it. I recognized Yucca plants in the ground 10 to 15 feet from the cabin; they aren't a native species and surely were planted by the cabin's residents.
(When I got home I cracked open my copy of Kenneth Smith's Buffalo River Handbook and found some good information. Smith refers to the structure as the Flowers Cabin, and states that a Floyd V. Flowers built the cabin around 1935 but didn't necessarily live in it and in fact moved from the area in 1956 and left the cabin open to the elements. When the National Park Service purchased the property for the Buffalo National River in 1975, a different tenant had recently replaced the cabin's wood shingle roof with a metal one.)
I spent over an hour inspecting the cabin and shooting photos, then made the return hike to the Tahoe. I still had a couple hours of daylight left so I drove around the area looking for scenes to photograph.
At Ponca I turned onto Highway 74 with intentions of shooting a beautiful section of Beech woods beside the highway just above the river. The previous weekend Stacey and I had passed it and I told her I didn't know why I'd never taken any photos there, considering I must have driven by a hundred times. But when I rounded the turn there was already a photographer with a camera and tripod taking pictures from my spot! And not just any photographer, but Tim Ernst, whose guidebook had brought me to the area in the first place.
I didn't want to disturb him so I parked the Tahoe beside the road and walked up the highway with my camera to see if I could find something else to shoot. I stuck around until I ran out of ideas, and then I returned to the Tahoe and drove back down to Boxley valley.
I parked near the mill pond and crossed the highway to check on an interesting stone spring house built into the hillside. A lot of people come here after a big rain to take pictures of a temporary waterfall running beside the spring house. I went back to the vehicle and drove to several other spots along the valley to shoot pictures. The trees up in the hillsides above the valley were just the perfect color, but the air was hazy and most of the pictures just didn't turn out. I did manage to get one photo I liked, of a barn in front of one of those colorful hills. The Buffalo River actually ran between the barn and the mountain, though it was hidden by trees.