Riding the Tater Tunnel Trail

In the good old days before refrigeration, ice cream and the device you’re reading this on, folks used to store their canned goods and root vegetables in root cellars. Around here in western North Carolina, folks call them tater tunnels, because that’s were potatoes were stored. I counted 5 on the roads that lead from Colletsville to Gragg. No doubt I passed many more that were hidden. Call it the tater tunnel day.

Bernie Harberts, tater tunnel

How we started the day in Globe. The big pile is my gear under a poncho. I try to keep my gear dry, be it from dew or downpour. The slanty-looking constuction is where I slept last night. It’s a poncho tied over some sticks and string and my bivy bag. It poured last night but I was cozy dry. Thanks Milton Gragg for putting us up.

Bernie Harberts, tater tunnel

Cracker and Brick descending a stretch of Globe Mountain Road that connects Colletsville to Globe.

Bernie Harberts, tater tunnel

Look closely and chances are good you’ll spy a tater tunnel like this one behind one of the many abandoned homesteads that line the road. I’ve driven by this one many times without seeing it. I had to clip clop past by mule for it to catch my eye.

Some tater tunnels are on the road. Others are in folks’ back yards. Some look like a giant mole bored its way out out of the mountain, blinked its eyes and went back inside. Others are more elaborate, like this one at the Anita Alta horse camp.

Bernie Harberts, bride, mule

This tater tunnel is fronted with stonework.

Bernie Harberts, bride, mule

Metal in the overhead beam that supports the entrance. If I was better with old equipment I could probably tell you what it is.

My favorite one of the day I found on the side of the road deep in the woods. How it wound up beside a gravel road I have no idea. Well, actually, it’s probably the other way around. It was dug when what’s now the road was just a path. Gives you an idea of how old it is.

Bernie Harberts, bride, mule

Cracker ponders what Hobbit-looking beast could come bounding out of this tater tunnel. He is not a fan of the tater tunnel and requires vigorous riding to get even close. Of course I had to climb off my mule for a peek inside.

Bernie Harberts, mule tater tunnel

The sides were sandy, crumbly, the walls green with moss. At a glance, the tunnel shape had an arch-like feel to it, like something you might find in the annex of a cathedral. Or a sand castle.

Bernie Harberts, bride, mule

Close-up of a root feeling its way down the wall. Makes a man feel a lot like a mole.

Bernie Harberts, mule tater tunnel

“Oh hell no!” Cracker said when I invited him inside. Brick wanted to know if found any taters. I informed her, that sadly, I had not.

Day’s end found us in Gragg. Tonight we are camping at Richard Gragg’s. Thanks for putting us up Richard!

Pete Lupo
2019-04-09 07:32:19

Pardon my ignorance, but isn’t a Top Hat the proper attire for a Tater Hole?
“Top Hats & Tater Hole’s” sounds like another book project.
I’m still hollering down every morning!
Good luck!

Bob Skelding
2019-04-09 11:28:17

I was always amazed at how much more is revealed at walking speed compared with what is seen when driving by in a car. Our brains are definitely designed to process information gathered at 3 MPH.

Bernie Harberts
2019-04-13 13:51:46

Hey Pete,
Didn’t you get my hollerin’ code?
I was trying to say “Top Hats & Tater Hole’s would be a great name for a book.” Do we have an intellectual copyright issue here? Let’s holler it out.
Your holler dweller buddy Bernie

Bernie Harberts
2019-04-13 13:58:00

Hi Bob and Rev Hans,
Great hearing from you my horse and bike traveling friends. Bob, you’re one of the few folks I know that gets the long-term observational benefits of moving at 3mph. It’s amazing when you match up brain speed with life speed. You see all the details like the cement-filled mailboxes in some neighborhoods and the way the river flows around large rocks.
Rev Hans, you really gotta write up all those places you’ve slept this week! Now if I could just squeeze mules Brick and Cracker in to a hotel room…..
Super hearing from you my wandering friends. Keep in touch


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