Hidden Valley &
Over eighty years ago George stevens homesteaded a fertile area on the east side of Font Lake that was surrounded on three sides by a high, cup-shaped ridge and on the fourth by a marshy pond, one of three in that area that are collectively known as Sweeney's Swamp. He built a two-story, shake-sided frame house, and planted apple trees and asparagus. His tenure at the Valley farm was followed by that of Fred Roberts, who would drive his horse and buggy around the southern edge of Font and into St. James almost every day. After that, a mysterious woman from Chicago, a Mrs. Klimas, spent three isolated years here with her children, and then disappeared.
When the trail became overgrown, the homestead acquired the nickname of Hidden Valley. The buildings decayed, but the apple trees flourished; aside from hunters, the only visitors were Islanders who trekked in with a burlap bag for the golden deliciouses and Wolf Rivers. Finally, ten years ago, the Port of St. James Property Owners Association bought the property and accessed it by means of a trail from Donegal Bay.
The three ponds are nearly dry this season, but not quite. They've always abounded with dear and birds. When we came out of the oaks on one of the intervening ridges and caught sight of the large and still watery middle pond, a buck was watching us, and two bottom-heavy herons were waddling in the mud, turning this way and that way in unison like an elderly couple enjoying a leisurely stroll down Miami Beach. When the buck bolted, they followed suit, but with their slow flapping they had to circle the field twice to gain enough height to clear the surrounding trees.