Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Archbald Pothole

Posted by Stu On January - 24 - 2012

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Now that’s a deep hole.  This is allegedly the largest pothole in the world, though I haven’t seen anything official confirming this.  The pothole was found accidentally in 1884 when miners were blasting underground.  The pothole was cleared out and was initially a privately owned tourist attraction.  It’s now a state park and free of admission.  Visitors are fewer in number, as it seems looking down a large hole has lost its appeal.  It is interesting for a few seconds, but I found myself thinking, “Next!”

The top of the pothole is fenced off but has a small observation deck going part of the way over it.  I was annoyed to see garbage at the bottom of it, but that’s to be expected I guess.  Even though I visited in the middle of May, there was still some snow and ice at the bottom.

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Archbald Pothole is just off US-6 BUS in Archbald.

Popularity: 17% [?]

Sheppton Mine Disaster Site

Posted by Stu On January - 24 - 2012

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In August of 1963, three miners were stuck 330 feet below the ground when the Sheppton mine caved in.  Two of the miners stuck together and waited two weeks for rescue, initially eating tree bark and sucking water out of the bark for survival.  Within a week, holes were drilled to them that allowed air, food, water, and the beginnings of a rescue.  One miner, Louis Bova, was never seen again, despite making contact with his two coworkers, and his body was never recovered.

I first heard about the Sheppton mine disaster from a principal in a nearby school where I was doing some observation hours.  I was told a memorial could be found along a main road in Sheppton.  It surprised me that I had never heard of this mine disaster before, and it was more confusing that there was little information regarding its location.  I was determined to find it on my own, so one day in May 2011 I decided to make a small trip out of it; in addition I decided to check out and geocache in a few surrounding towns I had never been to before:  Sheppton, Oneida, and Brandonville.

Sheppton and Oneida are right next to each other, and each is just a few blocks long; the mine site was between the two towns.  I drove around and found no roadside monuments.  Sheppton actually reminded me of Children of the Corn, to be honest; most of the buildings on the main street are vacant, and I saw nothing but groups of kids walking around.  Down one road, however, I saw the following sign, and I figured that was a good starting point:

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I parked near this sign and simply started roaming the field behind it.  For a little while there was a path, but it served little good since it went right into a pond:

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I walked across a rocky stream because I thought I saw another trail to my side:

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Following this path a bit, I saw something off in the distance:

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This monument was certainly not just off a main road, but rather a good distance off a back road.  Still found it all by myself.  It’s much more a grave than a memorial for a mine disaster, however.  It’s dedicated to Louis Bova, the miner who could not be found.

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Popularity: 24% [?]

The Old Jail Museum

Posted by Stu On November - 6 - 2009

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The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe is almost like any other old restored prison museum I’ve been to.  Almost.

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Sure it’s got its display of artifacts from when the jail was in use.  Sure it’s got cells you can enter.  And it’s even got a solitary confinement area, aka “The Dungeon,” which you can wander.  However, it also has, according to local legend, proof of supernatural activity.  Right up on one of the cell walls.

4 of the Molly Maguires (an organization among Irish immigrants sometimes equated to a mafia) were accused of murdering a higher-up of the coal company for which they worked.  Long story short, the trial, jury, and judge were all very biased.  The men were never proven to have committed the murder.  They were found guilty anyway and hanged right in the prison.  Before the execution, one of the Irishmen is said to have placed his hand on the prison wall and said something along the lines of “my handprint will remain here to prove my innocence.”

And the handprint is still there.  Allegedly it has been painted over, ripped down, and knocked out of the wall.  And it always comes back.

Unfortunately, the prison loves their handprint.  And nobody is allowed to take a photo of it.  Not even yours truly.  I did, however, get access to sections of the jail that are usually off limits to tours, like the upstairs cell block.

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The tour begins in the prison’s cell block.  A replica gallows is also in the room.  The handprint cell is also in this room.  After an introduction and brief history, visitors are led around to view the cells and can even enter a few.  The handprint cell can be looked into by one person at a time, but expect a museum employee to be watching over your shoulder making sure you’re not trying to sneak in a pic of that handprint.
If you want a picture of the handprint that badly, you can buy a photo for 50 cents in the gift shop anyway.

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After poking around the cells for a bit, we were led upstairs to where the women’s cells are located.  Before heading there though, I stayed behind and checked out the upstairs section of the cell block first, again not part of the regular tour.  But I’m special so I was allowed to go.

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The women’s cellblock, no bigger than a larger room, is only a handful of cells upstairs on the opposite end of the jail.  They reminded me more of cages than prison cells.  I mean look at the “bars.”

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Finally, we headed down to the basement, where the solitary confinement cells are located.  It was dimly lit, as it was back when the prison was in use.

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Popularity: 20% [?]

Rausch Gap

Posted by Stu On July - 10 - 2009

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Hidden in between Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation and Swatara State Park in northern Lebanon County are the ruins of the town of Rausch Gap, once a mining and railroad town.  The basics are up on that sign right there, so I’m not going to reiterate all of them.  Basically, the area’s coal mines went dry quickly.  Soon after, the railroad company moved all its employees and operations to larger and busier towns along the tracks, leaving virtually no employment in the area.  Throw in the fact that Rausch is smack in the middle of an area known as Saint Anthony’s Wilderness (it’s still almost wilderness today), and you have the recipe for a ghost town.

Rausch Gap can only be accessed by a hiking/biking trail that runs partially along the Appalachian Trail.  One end is shorter but is much more brutal on cars to reach its parking area.  The other end, the one I ended up using, has much more accessible parking but requires a 3.5 mile hike to get to the town.  This is, to date, the farthest I’ve hiked to reach a site and easily crushes my previous record of 1.5 miles to reach Dana, MA.

On the trail to the town are several random mile markers spray painted onto trees:

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Also along the trail are concrete markers.  I’d find out later on that the trail leading to town was once the very railroad track that gave life to the towns of the “Wilderness,” and these concrete things actually held spare pieces of track in case the rail line ever needed repairs.

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After a long and seemingly perpetual 3 1/2 mile hike, you come across a bridge and a sign.  One side of the sign is the info pictured above.  The other is a map:

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Let’s back up a bit.  Just before coming up to this sign…if we go about 300 feet off the right side of the trail, we come across some of the town’s ruins, including a well.

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OK, back up at the bridge, there’s a small trail that goes off to the left just before crossing it.  Taking this down about 1/3 of a mile leads to a tiny cemetery with only 3 headstones.  There is a 4th stone but nobody’s really sure if it’s a badly weathered headstone or just a rock.

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I didn’t have much daylight left and still had to hike another 3 1/2 miles back out, so I quickly explored the other side of the bridge.  I found the remains of an old stone bridge.

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That was about all I had time to find.  I had about an hour to get back out to the road.

Popularity: 42% [?]

Knox Mine Disaster

Posted by Stu On June - 18 - 2009

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The term “coal baron” exists for a reason.  In 1959, the owners of Knox Mine got greedy and had workers dig within 5-6 feet of the Susquehanna’s river bed; 30 feet is the normal stopping distance.  The river broke through the thin rock layer and immediately began to flood the mines.  Luckily, most of the miners managed to escape, but the twelve who didn’t were never found.  Water poured into the mine so rapidly that a whirlpool was visible on the river’s surface.  Anything within reach was thrown into the river to attempt to plug up the hole, including mining carts.
Today, a small marker can be found along a hiking trail in Pittston, memorializing the disaster and those who were never found.  Farther up the trail is another marker, indicating an air shaft that nearly half the escapees used.

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Popularity: 34% [?]

Stockton Mine Disaster

Posted by Stu On June - 18 - 2009

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Stockton Mine was like any other anthracite mine in northeastern PA until one early morning in 1869, when some of the ground above the mine suddenly collapsed.  A few homes were swallowed up, and nobody inside had time to escape.  The rift kept growing, and the buildings that fell into the mine were buried almost as instantly as they had fallen.

Rescue was just about impossible; there was no way to get close with the ground continuing to sink.  A few bodies were recovered, but many were not.  Today, a memorial which also serves as a gravestone marks the site of the disaster and names the people who are still buried there.  One was a Civil War veteran.

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Popularity: 31% [?]

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