The quest to find abandoned bricks and blocks is a combination of the best and worst elements of scavenger hunts and fishing. It resembles fishing more often: Long periods of nothing, some false alarms when the whopper turns out to be a dud, dealing with the elements, the muck of dirty water and more. Like a sweet fishing spot the more remote the location, the more likely the reward or the amount of time wasted for nothing.
There is one spot that I had invested hours into and found very few worthwhile bricks or pavers. I was happy to find any at all because the territory is a ravine I played in throughout my youth and I never recalled seeing any marked bricks in the area. I divided the ravine into sections and decided to explore the entire length of it – about 2 miles.
Having explored over 50% of the area, I found one “sweet spot” which had several (six) really good bricks. Having hit another dry patch I was about to throw in the towel for the last 15% of the ravine when I found 3/4 of a battered block, which after figuring out the missing letters said Portsmouth Block. I had never seen one of these anywhere but it was dusk and too late to continue.
I came back the next week to pick up where I left off, which involved having to walk through a drainage tunnel. The other side was not very productive but I was determined to check out the entire area so I pushed on. I found one Portsmouth Block buried in the murky mud by a small waterfall. Then I found another and soon I had a pile of over twenty. I continued on to the end of the ravine, finding over sixty in good condition as well as a few very old Hocking Valley Blocks and a Nelsonville Block. I always find it interesting that in a sea of one type of brick or block I will usually find one brick or block at random that is years older or from a different part of the state as the others.
I also wonder how the bricks got to their location. In this case, most likely these were the base of an old road that were dumped in the ravine as fill and forgotten. Over the decades they sank into sand, muck, trash and vegetation and blended in the with landscape. Until every once in a blue moon, someone stumbles on one or even less likely a brick forager decides this would be a good place to look for free range blocks.
I was pretty sure I had picked this site dry last fall but I decided to return recently. After two seasons of rising and falling water plus the wear and tear of weather, I found more in areas I knew I had picked bone dry. At this point, I merely set the ones I find aside in “caches” in case I need them in the future or to make it easier for someone else to find these some day. I am only looking for 100% perfect Portsmouth Blocks or any bricks that I don’t have in my collection.
There is a concept among long distance hikers called trail magic which involves unexpected finds just when you need them. I guess there may be a “brick magic” as well which involves finding that one perfect, hard to find brick in a sea of broken and mangled bricks or finding a cluster at the end of a fruitless search.
During my search of this ravine I would occasionally run into other people on the nearby road wondering what I was doing. Usually, they just assume I am homeless and walk on at a quicker pace. However, once they see a guy pouncing on a “fish” in the water or trying to dig some treasure out of a creek bed they pause to ask “what in the hell are you doing.” After I explain my quest, most think it is pretty cool.
The other interesting discovery in this ravine is that at least one nearby resident has an appreciation of these bricks as well – as seen below. Each time I walk by, I toss a little brick magic their way in the form of a couple of bricks or blocks I have found that I don’t need. You can see their stockpile below (it is off-limits brick hoarders).