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