Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fort Fisher and the Hermit’s Bunker

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Fort Fisher photos from May 2010
Hermit Bunker & Grave photos from May 2011

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This wound up being a 2 part trip.  My wife and I have been vacationing in southern North Carolina for a few years.  While looking up things to do, both traditional and nontraditional (you can only go to Myrtle Beach so many times), I found something about Fort Fisher, which saw some combat during the Civil War.  This was somewhat intriguing, but what was even more interesting was something being mentioned about a hermit living in a World War II-era bunker near the fort.  So off we went.

The fort has a small but informative museum regarding Fort Fisher’s history and involvement with the Civil War and World War II.  We walked around the fort grounds for a bit.  There wasn’t all that much – a few cannons and some mounds.  No signs indicated anything about a WWII bunker or a hermit.  After going to the nearby state aquarium (that had an albino alligator), we resumed our search for the elusive bunker but came up empty.  Running out of daylight, we decided to do some more research and try again next year.

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The following year, we were much better prepared.  With coordinates and geocaching hints, we had a much better idea of where we were going.  We parked near the beach access and walked down the beach.  Eventually, a boardwalk led the way.

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As we progressed, the flies became more unbearable.  Finally, we reached the bunker, which was much smaller than I expected, and not necessarily what I think of when I hear the word “bunker.”  By this point, the flies had left, but immediately upon arriving at the bunker site, we were attacked by the largest, most persistent swarm of mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  Seriously.  Just in the area in front of the bunker.  How does that work?

I quickly snapped pictures of the outside of the bunker, the inside, a plaque on it, and a sign to the sign which I’m guessing highlighted the life of Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit.  I’m not really sure, to be honest, because I didn’t get to read it.  I took my 4 pics and hauled out of there.  We must have killed a hundred mosquitoes each.  Our arms were literally covered in them.  Interestingly, just a few yards away from the hermit’s homestead, the mosquitoes stopped following us.

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Robert Harrill lived in this tiny building for nearly 15 years; all it took for me was about 30 seconds to decide to vacate.  Considered somewhat of a philosopher, he received many visitors during his time as a hermit.

We learned Harrill’s grave was found a few miles from Fort Fisher (he was found dead in his bunker in 1972).

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I found it interesting that Fort Fisher’s official website mentions nothing of its hermit.  Little indication is given as to where exactly the bunker is, and it seems a private group provided the signage and plaques in his honor.  Robert’s story, and his final dwelling, are fairly elusive to the casual tourist.

Perhaps that’s the way he would want it to be.

Popularity: 16% [?]

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: 25% [?]

Batteries Lewis & 219

Posted by Stu On May - 26 - 2007

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Harsthorne Woods County Park is just a few miles south of Sandy Hook and also has a few bunkers from the same era as those found there. They were built during World War II to protect New York Harbor. The only shots ever fired were for practice. Battery Lewis is much larger than 219 and was the first one we came across:


An extra 1-Up always comes in handy when exploring. Thanks to whoever left it.

Battery 219 was nearby. We found it by accident.

There is supposed to be an abandoned military building somewhere in the park, but we weren’t sure of where it was.

Popularity: 17% [?]

Sandy Hook 2006

Posted by Stu On February - 6 - 2006

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2002 Trip / 2004 Trip

Friendly reminder – decent amount of pictures. For you folks with dialup… get broadband already. Seriously. It’s 2006, man.

This trip easily destroyed the 2 previous trips I took to Sandy Hook. This time around we met up with a few forum members, along with some of the fine folks from What’s in the Forest.
We first explored Batteries Mills and Kingman. We then checked out the Nike missile base, followed by a mortar battery.


Batteries Mills and Kingman

Semi-disclaimer – Neither of these are very safe. The floors have several holes, and some of the stuff on the ceiling is barely attached anymore and could come crashing down at any time.

These 2 batteries were almost exactly alike, so I just grouped their photos together.


Can’t get out this way…


One of the many holes. Some are quite deep.


Wasn’t kidding about stuff coming down from the ceiling.


Skeletons of 2……somethings.


Nike Missile Base

One building had a grim surprise for us…..2 dead raccoons that apparently got stuck.


Mortar Battery

Another semi-disclaimer – Lots of asbestos.


Fun with asbestos!

Popularity: 25% [?]

Federal Hill

Posted by Stu On September - 21 - 2005

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*Note* This is not yet a complete trip. We could not find the fabled “Iron Door.”

Federal Hill was a lookout for Continental soldiers during the Revolution as well as the site of a mutiny. The leaders of the mutiny were eventually forced to be executed by fellow soldiers – an order given by General Washington himself.
But that’s not what makes this place well known among curiosity seekers. The hill was a Bund camp during the WWII years and has many stories of Nazis attached to it. The most famous part of the hill is the Iron Door, which is supposed to lead to several things, including a room full of Nazi memoribilia. I’ve been told the door is now sealed shut.

As noted above, we didn’t find the Door. I got within 180 feet of it, and no matter which way I approached from, I ended up with a cliff in front of me. I guess you have to get to it from the bottom of the hill; we were at the top. Although we didn’t get to the Door, I did find some other interesting ruins.


Know what I think these are? Toilets. Seriously.

I hope to get back to the hill sometime soon; it’s supposed to be slated for development. If that happens, I’m sure the Door will be taken down.

Popularity: 10% [?]

Cape Henlopen State Park

Posted by Stu On July - 20 - 2004

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This was my main reason for visiting Lewes. I had read about 7 concrete towers along the coast that were from World War II. Back when German U-boats were a possible threat in the Delaware Bay, many concrete towers were built along the coast to keep watch for them. There was at least one on the Jersey side too, as I had found last fall. But unlike the one in New Jersey, you can climb some of these.

I saw 5 other towers from the top of the one I climbed. I also looked down and saw people had made designs on the ground that you can only see from the top of the tower. Figuring this is the closest to Nazca I’m going to get for a while, I figured I’d take some pics.

In another section of the park, you can find some guns, cannons, and buildings from when it was still a fort. None of the buildings can be entered.

Popularity: 11% [?]

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