The Elk Hunt
(refer to pages 4, 5, & 51 in On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans)
Coleman Boundary, Pisgah National Forest (Toecane District), Buncombe County
These locations were pinpointed, as best they can be, somewhere in the middle of my search. My first clue came in some literature being passed around by one of the Tourism Authorities in the area, as part of their "tour" to the locations. Following that, youíd end up at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield offices in Virginia. No joke! Pretty wild, but there was some close-to-valid information in their brochure. Douglas Falls was quoted as the location where the opening sequences were shot. I naturally assumed they meant the opening sequences ... the vistas. They didnít. They meant The Elk Hunt sequence.
I went to Douglas Falls, which is a mini-Hickory Nut Falls in appearance, and is found a short walk along a beautiful trail that meanders from the dirt parking area at the end of Forest Service Road #74 in Pisgah National Forest near Barnardsville. The hike is well worth it, traversing territory that has some beautiful old-growth timber here and there, but I was sorely disappointed when the falls I saw there were not identifiable as any seen in LOTM. The rain that began to fall on my sons and I as we reached the falls, made it all the more a sad first jaunt to The Elk Hunt area. Yes, we were close!
Calling around, I was put in touch with the now defunct Misty Mountain Riding Center folks. Their location was just a of mile short of the beginning of Forest Service Road #74 (Presently, a larger farm occupies the site.) You have to pass them to get there. At the time, the fence used at Cameronís Cabin proudly adorned their property, for it was cut from trees they owned (No longer there, sadly.). I spoke with a woman there named Marcia Kummerle. She was so excited that someone was interested in this and she gave me much useful information. One of my greatest regrets was never taking her up on her offer to lead me on horseback through some of the locations there in that part of Pisgah Forest. Unfortunately, she too repeated the mistruth about some of the filming taking place on the trail to Douglas Falls.
I wrote to the National Forest Service, and was put in touch with a Ranger by the name of, Lee Thompson. He was with the film crew at all times, and assured me that was not the case. Best of all, he told me what was!
He went out in the field and had a hard time figuring out exactly where sites were, so much had changed since the film crew was in there. During filming, paths were laid out through the forest with dried hay for the actors to run along. Mark A. Baker, the re-enactor, and perhaps the foremost authority on frontier life in the era of this story, recounted the story of Daniel Day-Lewis hurting his ankle on one of those paths. The scene of the actual elk kill was drastically altered for filming with much forest debris and the like covering the rocks.
Poking around, though, enabled me to positively identify much of the running action during this sequence, most notably, the creek crossing.
This site is freely accessible, a part of the National Forest system. No real hiking is involved, but several short strolls through the woods at the various stops would be highly recommended.