(refer to pages 16, 17, 48 & 49 in On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans)
National Park Service Linville Falls Trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Burke County
As I progressed through my journey of locating & photographing all the locations, I very often shot video tape as a kind of notebook for myself. Iíd return home and study the video tape to see what else I might spot. Typical of input from many of the locals who attempted to assist in my locations search, was this when I inquired of someone where the George Road Ambush was shot:
Oh, somewhere off of Highway 221 up yonder.
Yes, the Blue Ridge Parkway IS, in fact, off of Highway 221, but, as I traversed the trails of Linville, I had no idea the Ambush was shot here. I knew something was filmed here ... Canoes maybe? ... but I just wasnít looking for that overhanging tree that defines this place.
So, after spending a morning poking around a bit up there with my sons (I did identify the Upper Falls as being a part of the film sequence, and, standing on a bench along the trail and video taping the adjacent forest, I remarked, on tape, how typical these woods were of scenes from LOTM - little did I know it then, but I was standing right at The Escort location!), I was thoroughly surprised at what I saw as a consequence of my video taping ... One of my sons had climbed out on a limb, over hanging the path, and was playing around up there. Well, Iíll be! It took seeing it on video tape to recognize it, but there it was, right in front of me on my television set, the George Road Ambush! I had walked right under that tree,twice, my son had actually played up on it, but I had no idea I was there!
Though the movie was, more or less, filmed in sequence, this was the first location chosen to shoot, here and a bit further up the trail at the Escort location. Curtis Gaston, Soldier #1, was a member of the Cadre, the Dale Dye trained core group of British regulars. About this shoot, he says:
The George Road Ambush scene was the first in which the 35th regiment was involved. Everyone, including myself, was happy to escape the stifling repetition of training camp for a few days. We were also looking forward to displaying our newly acquired killing skills to the cast and crew. It was a chance to make Papa Dye proud, while giving us some credibility within the eyes of the film's key personnel ... The weather was unpredictable. Hot days, cool nights, and bone-chilling rain made some of the days nearly intolerable (in hindsight, the Linville shoot was a cake walk compared to thedraconian temperatures and humidity that we would face at the fort). Playing dead for hours at a time while encrusted in mud and goop probably has its advantages, but I don't know what they could be..
Ah, Hollywood! At any rate, principal photography had begun. As if to drive home the point, Eric Hurley, Soldier #2, likewise a Cadre member, says about the Escort:
We were burning up in these things [the wool uniforms]. We're in the middle of the forest at Linville Falls. Humid as it can be. Hot. We're just ready to pass out. There's no way in God's green earth that we're going to make it through the summer.
Both Gaston & Hurley were involved with the filming from pre-production training through the last shoot at the Asheville warehouse in October ... more on that later.
So, the production goes on strike here, becomes unionized and things go merrily on their way, until, of course, theIndian extras decided to go on strike themselves later on at the lake.
Gaston & Hurley ... as long as Iím completely off the beaten trail itís probably a good time to say a brief word about the two of these gentlemen. They were among the very earliest of the folks actually involved in the filming of The Last of the Mohicans to contact us. In fact, it was very shortly after we had installed our Mohican WWWBoard that we first heard from Gaston. His was one of the very first posts, in May of 1997. It wasnít until September that Hurley hooked up with us, but he soon became an integral part of our understanding of the filming process. Both these guys, in good humor, offered a zillion little tid-bits about the "making of." Added together with input from other extras, crew members, the cast itself, we were given an inside look into this movie like few have ever seen ... for ANY movie. Weíll intersperse a few of their recollections throughout this volume.
This location, on National Park Service land, is freely accessible & open to all. In season, there is a small Visitorsí Center open at the beginning of the trail. Rest rooms are available.