Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Visit to Spain

Ann Marie’s niece Jenny has the wonderful chance (of a lifetime) to visit Spain for a little over a month.   She is staying with a host family while she attends school there.
She has written some of her experiences in her blog.   Reading her entries gives me such a good feeling.  It is the feeling I so often get whenever I hear any young person excitedly telling about their experiences.   I love to listen to them tell about their visit to a place they have never been to, when they saw something they never dreamed of before, or when they finally got to do something that they could only imagine in their wildest dreams.

To leave all that is comfortable and known and to go to a place that is totally foreign, where everything is unknown and you have to learn to survive, that is such a great educational experience!   Jen is seeing things that will stay with her for the rest of her life.   Her world is opening up to her, she is realizing that her present world is just a small piece of a huge world that exists just outside of her daily life.

I really envy her, to go across the globe, to live with people who don’t speak her language, to eat food that isn’t available at the local fast food joint or supermarket, to see art and architecture that has been on this Earth for centuries.

Ohh, it’s too bad that we all can’t experience these things.   Even if we are stuck here in “Hometown, USA”, we can still see the world through others eyes.
Her blog is entitled Inolvidabe~Ciudad Real 2011

You can read about her trip at:

I hope you can get a little of the wonderful feeling I get as I read about her trip.

And lastly, if you ever get a chance to travel, even if it’s a few hours or miles away….jump at the opportunity!

St. Augustine said “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page!”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

World War 1 Compass

WW1 Compass
(Pictures will enlarge when clicked!)
I just got another addition to my compass collection, an Engineers Compass from World War 1!

It has a polished section on the inside of the lid (Which is a bit tarnished right now) which allows you to see the numbers on the dial when you’re lining the compass up with your target. The dial has the numbers printed both conventionally and reversed. The mirror imaged numbers appear correctly in the polished section.
The bezel can be rotated and there is a small screw to lock it in place. There is a rotor lock on the side that stops the dial from rotating when the lid is closed and it also has a small button to dampen the rotation when using the compass.
It has U.S. Engineer Corp printed on the lid and on the bottom the manufacturers name along with its serial number.
Top cut out for sighting
Bottom  view
It was made by Cruchon & Emons of Berne. They also had a plant in Paris France.
 The serial # is 51841.

It has a nice patena and doesn’t have many scratches. I find it cool to imagine where this might have been, who might have carried it and what he might have seen when he was using it!
Ahhhh, the things some people find interesting enough to collect!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stars in the Sky, AND on the ground!


Trips are almost always fun.  There are the preparations involved, the planning, the expectations.  There are the new things you see and discover.  And then there are the old things that you’ve already seen, the things already experienced, the memories.

I was thinking about these, the memories, as Ann Marie and I were on our latest jaunt down to West Virginia.  We usually take the same route, a route that was shown to me by my friends, Duke and Maggie many years ago.  Along this route are thousands of memories, the spot where they had an auto accident on their way to a backpacking expedition.  I didn’t even know them when this happened, but the location is stuck in my mind.  They pop into my head every time I near Thomas, WV.  There is the huge tree in the center of a Y in the road, a geocache is hidden there, and the memories of AMB and I rooting around it, trying to locate the hide come to mind as we pass it.  The Little(st) Church brings memories of Chelsey and I stopping here during our Wild West Virginia Tour.   Spruce Knob reminds me of bushwacking our way off of it on a backpacking trip with Duke and Maggie.  Standing in the meadow near Seneca Rocks brings back thoughts of both AMB, and Chelsey and I standing there and looking in awe at the rocks.

There are way, way too many memories to enumerate.  Thank heavens, they just keep coming to me as we drive along.  I shudder to think what my life will be like as these things slowly disappear from my memory….
A short trip down to West Virginia
(pictures will enlarge when clicked!)
So, AMB and I left early, so early that it was late!  We left Glenshaw around 9:30 Thursday night.  We both had Friday off and were doing an overnighter in West Virginia.  It seemed as if the drive down went quicker at night than it does during the day.  We stopped near Friendsville Maryland to do a night cache.  Now it isn’t listed as a night cache, but it was definitely night when we did it!  There were no lights near-by and only an occasional car going by.  It was 11 PM when we found it!
AMB and our "night cache"
There were clouds overhead, hiding the moon and stars, making it appear even darker.  Occasional lightning flashes illuminated the horizon for a brief moment, then we were back in the darkness again.  Passing through Deep Creek Maryland, it started to rain, at times really fierce downpours!  This followed us almost to Seneca.

There was an Iridium Flare predicted at 4:38 at Seneca and we were hoping that the skies would clear by then…. (An Iridium Flare is when sunlight is reflected off the surface of an Iridium Satellite, causing a brief, bright flare of light in the sky)  Luck seemed to be with us, when we pulled into the parking lot at Seneca Rocks around 2, the rain had stopped, but there weren’t any stars visible to us.

We walked over to the bridge leading to the rocks and found it fenced off because of trail construction. Bummer!

We drove down to the Visitors Center and the bridge there.  The bridge looked as if it was ready to collapse.  It made of cement and one slab of it was canted off to one side.  We held our breathe and drove across.  Continuing up between the rock outcroppings, we looked for an open spot where we could see the backside of the rocks.  We ended up right at the edge of a field marked as Private Property.  Not wanting to trespass, we stayed here.  The trees opened up enough to give us a nice view of the sky, even though it was clouded over.

We laid a blanket in the meadow and enjoyed the view, the field was filled with lightning bugs!  They were everywhere, in the grass, in the trees and overhead.  With no lights to interfere, it was beautiful!

Getting out the compass I plotted where the flare would show up and made sure no trees would interfere.  Believe it or not, a couple bright stars were starting to appear!  By 3:20, the sky was clear and the Milky Way was visible!
15 second exposure (doesn't do the sky justice!)
With the lightning bugs, we had stars in the sky and on the ground, there were lights everywhere, and none of them offensive!

Right on time, the flare happened!  It actually appeared about 10 degrees higher than it was predicted, so I missed it in the picture, but we saw it by eye!  Another great memory made! (It was a -8 magnitude flare, as bright as they come!)  Another satellite was traveling in the same direction below the flare, so we watched them both pass by at the same time.  A nice bright shooting star, off to the north, topped off the morning viewing session for me.

We drove back to the front side of the rocks and took a few pictures of the rocks and Venus and later the rocks as they started to brighten in the morning light.
Venus visible over the Rocks
Seneca Rocks in the pre-sunrise light
From there, we stopped for a quick breakfast in a little restaurant in the German valley before we headed up and over Spruce Knob.  (Highest point in W. Va. 4840ft. High)  Continuing on past the high point, we headed into the Gandy Creek Camping area.  I had first “discovered” this area in the late 70’s and had been back many times.  My last time here was with Ann Marie about 2 years ago.  Even though it was a Friday morning, a good deal of the camp sites had already been taken.  Lucking out, we found the same spot we stayed at last time, unoccupied.
Campsite location
We set up the tent and having been awake all night, took a nap.  After a few hours we awoke and started to set up our camp site.  We enjoyed the stream and chased the fish and crawdads for awhile.  We read a bit and just relaxed and soaked up the sun.

I had brought a small telescope from work and we were planning on using it to look at Saturn after the sun had set.  After the sun went down, the clouds moved in, so that idea didn’t pan out.  Around 11, the sky started lighting up with flashes of lightning.  It wasn’t long after that the first drops started falling.  It didn’t start with a light drizzle, it just started to pour.  It came down hard and fast. We were lucky the rain fly was on!  Lightning and thunder rumbled all around us.

I have to say this though, with the stream gurgling beside us, the thunder cracking above us, the lightning illuminating the inside of the tent, they all combined together for a great nights sleep.  We stayed dry and warm, that’s the most important thing!

In the morning, we were surprised to see that the stream had risen almost a foot!  Rocks that we sat on the day before were hidden by the rushing water.  Only a few stones were visible above the flow.  (We were still another foot or two above the water line, in case you were worried!)
Angry stream in the morning
We made some coffee and breakfast and then started packing our gear.  We left the campsite in better shape than we found it in!  (It was in real good condition when we arrived.  Unfortunately, some campers tend to leave their trash behind!)  We even left a nice supply of firewood for the next visitors.

Back at Seneca Rocks, we watched the climbers on the rocks through the telescope for awhile.
Watching the climbers at Seneca
The 2011 graduates of the ECP Climbing School were climbing on the rocks for their Graduation Trip.  I remember when I was up there 3 years ago!  Way to go grads!  Keep on climbing!
This says it all!
While we were there, met another 2 cachers, David and Heather, who showed up to discover a cache at the same time we did!
It is always cool to meet other geocachers!
AMB, Heather and David
Attack of the Giant Windmills
We stopped and visited a spring that George Washington had used on more than one occasion.  It is on a back road and has a rusted historical marker describing his visits.  Braddock’s Road used to pass right near here and the area was once a favored camping site…back in the 1750’s!
George Washington drank here!
Our last cache brought us back to one of our favorite areas, the small town of Dunbar in Fayette County.  This was recently hidden and had only been found a couple times.  It was hidden in a tunnel near Dunbar Creek.  At one time, an industrial facility was on this land, a plant that manufactured iron.  Now days, it is overgrown and divided only by a few small dirt bike trails.  Poison ivy and jagger bushes keep the occasional hiker to the paths.

Just as we arrived at the parking area, a thunder storm broke out.  The first storm we had seen since the  night before.  We decided to give it 5 minutes, if it hadn’t slowed down by then, we would continue on.  5 minutes later, it had slowed to a small drizzle and we decided to hike in to the cache.  It was only about a ¼ mile away.  Wearing our rain jackets for the first time this weekend, we stayed dry except for our legs which received most of the water we brushed off the weeds along the trail.
Dunbar Creek
Ann Marie stayed on the trail, away from the poison Ivy, while I went through the weeds and over the hillside to the stream below.  I soon found the entrance to the tunnel.
No doubt about it, this is it!
Climbing up into it, I went back about 15 feet where I found the cache hidden under a branch and a root.
Inside the tunnel
I signed the log and then we returned to the Jeep.  The rain had stopped and the sun had come out with a vengeance.  The humidity rose as we walked, the camera lens got fogged over and we quickly removed our rain jackets.

Less than an hour later, we were pulling into Shaler and unloading the Jeep.
Home again
I have to say, not a lot was done that evening, I took a shower and got all the dirt of the weekend washed off me.  Soon after, I hit the sack and took a good nap.  Later, a little of the camping gear was sorted out and put away.  The stuff that needed washed and dried out had to wait until Sunday.

For “just” an overnight trip, we managed to squeeze a lot of stuff into it.  As always, we had a blast and enjoyed ourselves, and made a few more memories….and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Urban Explorations

I was driving near the Pennsylvania/Ohio line and I came a cross a group of abandoned buildings.  Giving in to my inquisitive nature, I took a look around.
Trail through the woods near-by
(pictures will enlarge when clicked!)
Tracks skirting the buildings
The buildings have sat here for quite awhile, the vast majority of the machinery that once in them has been removed.  About all that is left is a few pallets of plastic covered chemicals (?) and lots of piles of bricks.
View from the outside
The trees and weeds are well into the process of taking back what was once theirs.
Lots of overgrowth
Could this be their product?
There were tons of these bricks laying around, at one time they were neatly stacked on pallets, now they are in large messy piles, possibly the result of vandalism or maybe just the weather.
(I try my best, when looking around this type of site, to do nothing but look and take pictures.  I don't remove anything or destroy anything and I would hope that others who visit these places do the same!)
Machinery still there
These 2 machines, I'm guessing some sort of mixers, were the only machinery I saw.  They were covered in a grey dust, possibly cement.(?)  They were big!
Large open spaces
Leading over to another section of the building were five or six  long hallways.  Hard packed dirt was on the floor, the ceilings were only about 6 foot high.  Birds were nesting in one and one scared the hell out of me as it took off as I passed its nest.  The green plastic covering the windows gave it an eerie green color.
Wooden stairs heading up to???
The footprints in the dust made it obvious that lots of people had taken these stairs up to the top, I myself stayed on the second floor, not wanting to take any further chances.
Another of the buildings
Looking down at the machines and up at the stairs
It looked as if there were mixers or stirrers attached to the top of these machines.  The vanes seemed to have spun at one time.
Another building
After spending about 45-50 minutes roaming around the buildings, I figured it was time to continue on my way.  It was an interesting site, one that will be torn down some day when it finally gets sold...or maybe it will just disappear into the woods of Pennsylvania, to be found only by the adventurous hiker or hunter.
The tracks, a few miles further west
I followed the tracks into Ohio, hoping to see a train, but that was not to happen.  I did pass the depot where a couple engines were parked, but nothing was moving as I drove by.
How true!
I might miss it, but I sure am glad we have what we have!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Photos from Memorial Day Weekend, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Shots
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For me, Memorial Day weekend went from Thursday night to Tuesday morning.  I went out on my own on Friday, leaving early in the morning and driving first north, to Saxsonburg and then to the east to the Conamaugh Dam area before returning home, nearly 13 hours later.  Of course, geocaches helped direct my travels...
I started in Saxsonburg,
A beautiful path took me down to my first find
Since I helped make the container, I had a fairly easy time finding it!
 I was there fairly early and the plants were still wet from the rain and the dew from the night before.  The birds were chirping and along with the stream near-by, provided a nice background noise.  Everything smelled good!
An old, occupied(!) hotel in Apollo
I stopped to take a couple shots of this old building and figured I go around back and see if there were any open doors or windows, to get an interior shot.   I was about 8 feet away from a back door when I saw a light on inside!  There was someone living in here.  I beat a hasty retreat!
Bars and cobwebs protecting an old RR tunnel in Tunnelton
On the far side of this tunnel, about 100 feet from the fence, is a cement plug.  It is 20 feet thick.  On the other side of it is the Conamaugh Dam.  The plug keeps the water in the dam...
What is a roadtrip without a train shot?
(taken on the Conamaugh Line, near Tunnelton)
Flowers on the tracks
On Saturday, Ann marie and I went back to the Conamaugh Dam area.  The day was perfect, the weather co-operated completely! 
 Black snake
(and not very friendly...)
Driving down a dirt road, this snake was crossing in front of us.  We stopped and I took a couple pictures and then I touched his tail to hurry him off the road.  He didn't like that much and quickly coiled up and raised his head, ready to fight.  I can take a hint, it was time to go.
Cave exploring near Dunbar, PA
We  explored some rocks near Dunbar on Monday, Memorial Day.  I like this shot of Kenn, silhouetted against the bright background outside the passageway.

So, those are just a couple of the photos I took this weekend.  It was a beautiful one, just a little rain on Friday and not while I was outside.  Summer seemed to arrive this weekend! 

Back to the Hills of the "Fayette Cong"!

It was Memorial Day, a Monday with no work, a day that people were lining up for parades and celebrations for our enlisted men (and women), hanging out their flags, a day that we were returning to the Dunbar Creek region.
Having been a Boy Scout, I've seen my share of parades, both from the sidelines and the center of the street.  I have both friends and relatives that are in the service and have served and I admire them all.  Where would we as a country be without them?  God bless them all!

Ann Marie and I would not be sticking around town to watch the parade or listen to the Gettysburg Address being recited, no instead, we were going along with our friends Lisa and Kenn to do a small hike in the woods.
  Just a small hike of about a mile and a half...uphill!
Green is our route out of Dunbar, Red is our hike
(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
We had agreed to meet in "downtown" Dunbar and then proceed into the valleys together. AMB and I got there a bit early and had time to roam around the town a bit, visit the Historical Society and take a couple pictures of the train sitting near-by. If you ever get a chance to visit, their Historical Society really has their act together!  What a nice collection of town history, all nicely organized, well done Dunbar!
There are lots of old buildings in town
  We had a couple different scenarios that we could choose.  We could go uphill to a magnificent group of rocks, we could follow the stream into the valley to the ruins of an old iron mill, or we could do a couple car visits, another iron furnace or a great overlook.  All of the choices had their pluses and their minuses.
In the end, we decided to head uphill!
The hike is only about a mile and a quarter and the path is an old dirt road.  We passed a couple little waterfalls as we worked our way up and we were also blessed with lots of shade. 
When you cross the bridge, your almost there
Well, really, the bridge is about half way there and the path tends to increase in angle a bit as you continue on.  Make the turn at the next dirt road, leading off to your right and follow this for awhile.  A meadow off to your right marked by cairns, leads you to an even steeper path.  Crossing over some scrub brings you to what some say is an old logging road.  After this levels off a bit, you start looking for additional rock piles which mark the paths up to the rocks.
Before long...there they are in front of you!
Kenn and Lisa in one of the back passageways
They are huge, 20 to 30 feet high.  Lots of them have been bolted by rock climbers, but we didn't see anyone here and also, there was no trash here!  It was very nice and clean. Pristine!
Cool air came out from between the rocks, natures air conditioning.  
You can see how these rocks split apart from each other
I wonder, each time I come here, how these rocks ended up here, were they pushed up along with the mountains many eons ago?  They just don't look as if they belong here,  but the hillsides all around this area are covered with them. 
There are lots of caves and hidden passages
We roamed around for about an hour, crawling around the blocks, climbing up and over them...and of course under them!  While we were behind a large group of rocks, Lisa saw a deer jump across the rocks, way above her!  Other than that, we didn't see any wildlife.  Best of all, no snakes! Rattlesnakes are known to be in this area.
Finally, we shouldered our packs and headed back down the hill.  For me, this is the easier of the hikes...going down isn't quite as tough for me as it is for Ann Marie. (She blows me away on the uphill sections...and Kenn and Lisa blow us both away...)
Soaking up some negative ions (and some lovin') near the waterfall
In another half hour, we were back at the car.  After this, we were heading in different directions, so we said our "good-byes" and returned to Dunbar where we seperated.  AMB and I headed towards Mount Braddock and Old Braddock Road which took us on top of the mountains above Uniontown.  We were very close to where the Jamonville Cross is located.
We parked and then did some more climbing
I thought we would have had enough of the uphills, but here we were again, going up another dirt road.
We were brought here by a...............come on, you know the word.........a GEOCACHE.  Once again, it didn't fail  us.  As we neared the top of the hill, walking through a field of yellow, orange and white flowers, we could see the sky above us and the increasing view.  I felt like I was in The Sound of Music and Julie Andrews should be singing! 
This photo REALLY doesn't do the view justice!
You could see almost 360 degrees around, but most of the view was towards the north.  We could see the Connelsville Airport and the new intersection at 51 & 119, we could see where the tanks were parked along rt. 119 and the Penn State Fayette Eberly Campus.  If there wasn't any haze in the sky, rumors say that you can see Pittburgh from here.  The geocache was an EASY find, but then again, it  wasn't meant to be tough, it was meant to bring us and other geocachers to this nice spot!  It did its job!
We stopped at one more cache on our way home...
This is it...
Its easy to see, isn't it?  Its right there in front of you.
I'll admit, we looked around a bit before we found this have to hand it to the hider. 
Like I said, right there in front of you...
Ahh the wonders of magnets and creative minds!
So we were back home before 5, plenty of time to clean up and get our acts together before we had to fall back into the work week on Tuesday.