Friday, December 19, 2014

Lausanne

Posted by Stu On May - 8 - 2013

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Photos taken June ‘12 via camera & camera phone, hence different photo sizes

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Another find via geocaching.  Seriously, if you’ve never geocached, get a GPS or smartphone and go play already.

I was surprised to read that a ghost town was only 20 minutes or so from me.  Lausanne, near present-day Jim Thorpe, has very little written about it, and not all that much remains.  The little I know has come from a geocaching description and talking to a group of anthropologists (more on that later).

With almost no knowledge and armed only with a camera, phone, and GPS, I set out early in the morning to the first set of coordinates.  I knew the trek would be a few miles (how many exactly, I forget now) and that I was being led to a few different locations.  This corridor of green was a promising start to the expedition:

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I had read that there would be the remains of an old toll bridge somewhere along the trail.  I crossed water three times on the way to the first destination, but I wasn’t sure just where the bridge was supposed to have been.  The first crossing had an actual bridge, one of the more unusual ones I’ve seen:

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The second crossing had some old planks and pipes in the water, but seeing that this was barely a stream and I stepped over it without getting my shoes wet, I highly doubt there was a toll bridge here:

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Yet another crossing led to a somewhat larger stream with a rock wall nearby.  Maybe the bridge was here.

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After getting lost once and crossing three streams (or the same stream three times) I finally came to the first goal of my tour of Lausanne – several foundations of either houses or storage buildings (as per one of the anthropologists I spoke with):

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I roamed among the ruins of the homes/storage buildings for a little bit and then entered a second set of coordinates that would take me somewhat back the way I just came from, but past my starting point.  But first there was one more water crossing, this time over a type of bridge I had never seen before.  And this time it was the actual Lehigh River, not some piddle of a stream.

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Yep, this “bridge” was just two cables going across the river.  I was about to cross when I noticed someone coming from the other side.  And then someone else.  And then another.  About a dozen people came across the bridge and looked rather confused with me being there.

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One talked to me and I explained I was ghost town hunting/geocaching.  They told me they were anthropologists from Temple University and had an excavation site not too far away.  I asked if they knew about Lausanne at all, and one said he did.  He was the one that said the houses I just came from may have instead been used for storage.  We talked a little longer, and then I decided it was time to make my way across the cable bridge and finish up my exploration of Lausanne.

I finally made it to the old town square; a hotel and post office once stood at the site.

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I roamed the area for a little bit; a lot of it was quite overgrown.  I then made my way back to the car, which was not that far away from the town square.  All in all, this was a fun little adventure.  Being guided to different areas by GPS coordinates and having to cross the cable bridge really made this outing stand out.

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Popularity: 23% [?]

Alvira

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Photos from May 2011

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Man, was this an adventure. When a game commissioner has to drive you back to your car, you know you had a good day.

I had read about a ghost town called Alvira which was used during World War II to produce munitions.  The government purchased the town and surrounding land via eminent domain (i.e. everyone was kicked out and given almost nothing for their land) and promised residents they could get their land back after the war.  Obviously that did not happen.

Alvira was supposed to have remnants of both its life as a quiet village and also that of its military usage.  And off we went.

My GPS and map sent us down a dirt road which eventually dead ended at a gate covered with barbed wire and a sign stating we were approaching prison property.  Deciding that this was probably not the right way in, we wisely chose to find another way.  Eventually, we wound up parking in a game lands parking lot.  Armed at this point with only GPS coordinates leading to a few geocaches, we decided to hike in.  About a half mile or so down the trail, we came across our first bunker:

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From here we eventually came across a lake.  Down another trail we came across two more bunkers.  One was sealed shut, while the other one was wide open and filled with random stuff.

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We were happy to find so many bunkers, but by this point we were wondering where the actual ghost town was.  I had seen pictures of signs for it online but had yet to come across any.  My GPS coordinates only pointed to these few bunkers, so I was clueless.  We found what looked like a main trail and walked on it for a bit.  Eventually we came to a small building, which turned out to be the office for the game commissioner.  We went in and asked the people inside if they knew where Alvira was.  They told us the town itself was just up the road a bit, along with the ruins of two churches and some cemeteries.  We mentioned we had found a few bunkers on the way in.  One of the guys responded with, “Of course you did; there’s over 140 of them.”
We then said we weren’t completely sure where we were in relation to our car; we were a bit lost by this point (hey, it happens).  One of the workers gave me a map of the game lands that had all the known bunkers marked on it.  From this we figured out where we parked.  One of the guys was heading home and offered to drive us out to our car.  On the way to our car, we passed by the sign for Alvira (posted at the top of this article).
Once back at the car, we retraced the roads and paths the commissioner drove.  Along the roadway near the commissioner’s office, we found a few foundations of what I’m guessing were houses.  There were a few markers with numbers and letters on them as well.  A few bunkers were along this dirt road as well, though they were mostly sealed shut.  Some were vandalized pretty badly too.

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Down the road even farther, we passed a few cemeteries.  The one at the very end of the road is what drew our attention, however.  Pillars and plaques from an old church still stood, though in bad shape.  Almost nothing was left of the church itself, other than some rubble from its foundation.
Behind this area we found yet another barbed wire fence, with the prison off in the distance.

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Overall, despite the blunders we made (not having enough information, getting lost, etc.), this was an enjoyable trip.  There wasn’t as much of the actual town left as I had hoped, but the number of bunkers made up for that.

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Popularity: 26% [?]

Dogtown

Posted by Stu On December - 28 - 2009

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Dogtown, found between Gloucester and Rockport (yes, the same Rockport where that silly Paper House is) has a long and unusual history.  Settled as early as 1641, the town never became too big, with its peak population in the early 1800’s reaching a few hundred.  Farming was next to impossible due to the rocky ground, so the sea was a major provider of industry.  Trading, fishing, and war kept the men busy, but also made a fair share of widows.  Men were often lost at sea, and the Revolution took its toll as well.

By the 19th century, especially during the War of 1812, families died out or moved on to greener pastures, and drifters, ex-pirates, and other undesirables began squatting in some of the abandoned homes.  As the dredges of society moved in, the remaining families and widows relied on dogs for protection.  Eventually, the people left and the dogs ran wild, hence the town’s name.
I was unable to find the town’s original name, if it even had one.  It’s only referred to as Dogtown, even though it existed well over a century before being labeled as such.

Dogtown had been abandoned for quite some time by the Great Depression, when a rich man named Roger Babson, who had great interest in the town’s history, researched the town’s residents and began to mark their paths and former dwellings.  Today, some of the cellar holes have a last name or number posted along the trail; the numbers correspond to a map created by Babson.
Also noteworthy, and probably what drives people to visit the ruins more than anything else, are Babson’s “inspirational” boulders.  Out-of-work stone cutters were hired by Babson during the Depression to carve motivational messages into about 30 of the boulders scattered about town.  Today the Babson Boulder Trail is marked, and many of these rocks are along it.  Others are more hidden or are down side paths.

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The entrance to the Dogtown trail is pretty skeevy, with trash and graffiti all over.  It doesn’t look like the area is maintained much.  There is a holder with some maps in it.  We took one and found the trails aren’t too well marked.  The map itself was pretty hard to follow too.

…so, as usual, we said screw it and winged it.  At first we were only able to find a few numbers.  There are several rock walls and paths running here and there in the woods.  It was pretty cool knowing these were walking paths first used nearly 4 centuries ago.  With pretty steady foot traffic from the 1640’s til the 1810’s, it’s no surprise these are still well defined.

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We walked around for a good hour and pretty much saw nothing but rock walls and paths.  None of the famed boulders were in sight.  Admittedly, we were pretty lost, and the few times we attempted to use the map, we thought we were somewhere else on the grounds.  That’s about when we stumbled into Town Square.

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Finally having a reference point, we noticed we weren’t all that far from the boulder trail.  Off we went.  And we finally saw them, almost in rapid succession.

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There are others as well.  While I admire Babson’s generosity in hiring unemployed stone cutters to carve these, I wonder who his target audience was, since nobody was living here by this time.

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Popularity: 25% [?]

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: 44% [?]

Celestia, PA (Ghost Town)

Posted by Stu On February - 9 - 2009

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Another example of the place’s story being much more interesting than the place itself. I had read over and over about a ghost town in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains that was meant to be a religious utopia. Founded in 1850 by Peter Armstrong, Celestia was supposed to be where Jesus Christ himself would return to the world. Armstrong believed this so deeply he had a dwelling built for Christ. This was to be the one place on earth with people pure enough to survive final judgment.

Long story short, shady characters began moving in once it became well known that Celestia’s residents were exempt from the Union Army’s draft. Armstrong went so far as to deed the town to God, and in doing so attempting to make it tax exempt. Well, that didn’t happen, and with the draft dodgers moving in, the unpaid taxes piling up, and the lack of saviors showing up, it only took a few decades for Celestia to crumble.

After nearly 30 years of no payments, the county sold some of the property to Armstrong’s son in 1876. This would prove to be the killing blow to the town. Armstrong tried until his death to keep Celestia going, but to no avail. After he died in 1887, the few remaining believers began to disperse. The town was quickly reclaimed by nature.

And nature sure did a good job. I was disappointed to find that almost nothing is left of Celestia. Some of the roads and paths are somewhat discernable, but other than that, the only evidence I found of it were some possible cellar holes and sections of stone wall off the trail a bit.

Popularity: 28% [?]

Monson

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2008

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This southern New Hampshire ghost town was the first European inland settlement in the state. Built around 1737, Monson would not last very long; it died sometime in the 1770’s. Considered one of the most archaelogical significant sites in New England, its ruins have remained for the most part undisturbed for over 200 years.

Monson has the usual ghost town stuff – rock walls, cellar holes, a restored house, etc. However, there is also a sign indicating who each house belonged to, and some house sites even have a short bio on the person who lived there.

Monson was supposed to have been developed in 1998, but luckily local citizens fought to have it preserved.

Popularity: 19% [?]

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