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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trail, Thong, Marker, Bent, Elbow, Message or none of the above.

It seems that I am developing a style or lack of style where as the title of a new entry makes absolutely no sense at all.  I think this title definitely follows my trend of literary confusion.  It's my hope that this nonsense doesn't scare you off but instead makes you read on in hopes of finding something that makes sense in the following paragraphs.  Hey, maybe you might even find it interesting.  Whoda' thunk that could possibly happen.

Okay let's get this underway.  Most of you are somewhat familiar with the Quehanna Area and have your own visions when the name is mentioned.  Some may think of the Boot Camp that makes it's home at the southern entrance to the Wild Area.  For others the word Quehanna brings to mind "Piper".  This place was a key location in the early days of the Piper aircraft. At one time 1000 people were employed here making metal and plastic parts for Piper aircraft.

Some of you may think of Curtiss/Wright when someone mentions Quehanna but most likely really don’t  know the history behind it.  Curtiss/Wright was actually tied to the three early pioneers of flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss.  This relationship had some very ugly legal struggles.  When all said and done Curtiss/Wright saw the Quehanna area as a perfect location to develop nuclear jet engines.  The beautiful Quehanna Wild area still bares the scars from this endeavor and will for many generations to come.

Going back even further into the past of the Quehanna Wild Area there are even wilder visions that occupy my thoughts.  I think of the times that Robber David Lewis hid out in these woods while being chased down by posse's consisting of lawmen and others seeking justice for this thief and counterfeiter.  This colorful character was thought of by many as the Robin Hood of the east. Unfortunately the law and those ripped off by Mr Lewis didn't look at him kindly.  Not too far from this area is where he would see his end.  This will be the subject of a future Blog entry so stay tuned for episodes to come.

For those devoted and patient readers that have endured all the above rambling I’m nearing the true reason for this entry.  To lead into this we need to look back much further than the Boot Camp, Piper and Curtiss/Wright and even further back than Robber David Lewis.  We need to look back to when the Indians inhabited these woods.  It’s hard to imagine but many years ago the Iroquoian speaking Susquehannock Indians called this place their home.  They hunted here, farmed here and created worn foot paths as they traveled from place to place.  They didn’t have GPS’s and they couldn’t stop and ask for directions although the males of the tribes most likely wouldn’t have asked for directions.  Modern day men can blame this trait on the Indians I would suppose.

So just how did these early travelers navigate across land that had no roads, power lines or gas lines?  How did they get to shelters, food, water and all the other waypoints vital to their existence?  They used a method of trail marking that became known as Elbow Trees, Signal Trees, Marker Trees, Thong Trees, Message Trees and lots of other similar names.  By the way Thong Trees didn’t have thongs hanging from them.  To mark critical directions they would bend small saplings over at a 90 degree angle with the end pointing in the desired direction of travel.  Typically they would tie the end down with a strip of rawhide, a strong vine or even weigh it down with soil or rocks.  Over time the tree would continue to grow that way even if the original mechanism holding it down were no longer there.

Recently we were in the Quehanna area and found ourselves face to face with what the typical Elbow Tree would look like.  We would have loved to let our imaginations run wild and label this as an old Indian trail marker.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  Over the years of hiking all over Gods creation we have spotted Elbow Trees that very likely were true trail trees from years gone by and the work of Indians.  You are probably wondering why the trees in the pictures below are not labeled as authentic trail trees and if not why are they like that.  There could be several reasons for a tree to grow like this.  One cause could be attributed to a larger tree falling over or being knocked down from the wind or snow load.  This tree could have bent over a sapling and the sapling could survive and continue growing in this fashion.  Over time the large tree rots away leaving a mature tree growing in such an odd way.  The growing branches would grow toward the sun reaching for the sky.  In other words it would not be smart to assume any elbow tree to be an original Indian trail marker even though it makes a better story.

If you look at the trees in the following pictures you would have to agree they are very interesting and surely could pass as Elbow Trees.  For one thing they are not large enough to have been around when the Susquehannock Indians tromped these woods.  The other thing that we noticed right away is that this particular location had maybe 10 bent trees all within a 50 foot radius.  One thing became immediately obvious is that there was no pattern and the trees pointed in multiple directions and some actually curved along the ground.  As cool as these trees were, I would be quite silly to call them Indian trail markers.  Whoda’ Thunk that I would get you all excited into thinking you were getting a glimpse at some authentic Indian trees but then drop this on ya’.  Sorry about that but it is what it is.  Hey, maybe I’m wrong!  If nothing else I hope I opened your eyes as to the vast significance of the Quehanna Wild Area.  It’s truly an awesome wilderness with so many stories to tell.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can't go over it, just go through it!

It's always amazed us when we would mention something that we assumed everyone knew about but would then realize that most were unaware of it.  In this particular entry I will be talking about a hole in a hill in Caledonia.  Okay, some may choose to call it a tunnel and they would be politically correct, but it still is a hole in a hill.  Some say potatoe and some say potato......  Okay, I digressed for a bit so someone quickly reel me back in.

Okay, moving forward now lets talk about this tunnel.  If you haven't figured it out by now, we have a slight fascination with tunnels.  This particular one can easily be seen without leaving the blacktop, or for that matter you don't need to leave the comfort of your car.  You can bet your sweet bippy we did get out of our car.  In fact we have walked through this tunnel many times both in the darkness and in the daylight but that is another story in itself.

The first time we walked through this tunnel I remember looking up at the keystone on the east end of the tunnel.  The date was 1876.  Hmmm, I clearly recall the date on the west end saying 1873.  Well, the reason for that is that the tunnel began on the Weedville side in 1873 and finally the exit end on the Benezette end was completed in 1876.  It took 3 years to complete this hole in a hill.  If you think about it they didn't have all the fancy equipment and technology back in the late 1800's so we think they accomplished something amazing.  It still looks real good and it still is part of an active rail system.

So if we have wet your appetite and have you starving for more, there is more indeed.  If you get up close and personal with this tunnel you won't have to venture very far to notice the signs indicating that this tunnel is an official Fallout Shelter.  There is a sign at the entrance and another just a little ways into the tunnel.  During the Cold War this tunnel would have been used as a fallout shelter if necessary.  Thankfully that wasn't necessary.

When I make entries into Whoda' Thunk the info either comes from the space between my ears or it may require lots of research.  If it comes from the space between my ears it's the info that I have packed into my head over the years and have decided to share it with you.  Sometimes I get lucky and the info just kind of slides right into my hands.  This is the case as I share some more info about this tunnel.  We thank our good friend Bubba for providing the rest of this info.

This tunnel was once used as an icehouse or cold storage.  There would be huge blocks of ice cut from the lake at Parker Dam and transported to this tunnel.  The ice would be used in the refrigerator cars to keep the milk, meats, beverages and other food cold during transit on the rails.  The tunnel was also used to keep food cold during the summer months.  In fact there were once huge doors that would close off the entrance and exit to this tunnel to make it a more efficient ice house.  When a train would come they would need to open the doors to allow the train to pass through.  There are holes still very visible that were drilled into these huge stones where the doors were hinged from.  Pretty cool, huh!  In the spring they would  drive a machine through the tunnel to knock down all the ice hanging from the ceiling so the train could pass through.  We can attest to the ice formations that adorn this tunnel in the winter and into spring.

Whoda' Thunk there could be so much written about a mere hole in a hill!

If you look at the upper part of this picture you will see a home that is almost directly above the tunnel.  As we walked through the tunnel there was continually water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel.  I mentioned to my wife that perhaps it was not water but actually coming from their septic system above us.

1873 on the West end

Fallout Shelter

1876 on the East end

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Backpack Jack returns home

Okay, so now and again I make an entry that may be questionable as to it's worthiness to be part of this Blog.  I guess since it's my Blog I can get away with it.  Maybe though once you read it you will agree it's a legitimate entry.  I think I've proven in the past that I can turn most anything into a Whoda' Thunk, it just takes a little imagination and my wife claims mine is quite vivid.  I think that is the word she used, or was it warped.  Oh well, it doesn't matter so let's continue.

First and foremost let me explain what this is all about.  Some of you may have never heard of Geocaching.  It's a high tech treasure hunt using Global Positioning Systems or GPS's.  People hide things all over the world and the game is to use the given coords and description and go out and find it.  Some are easy while some can be quite difficult.  A common container for a hidden cache is an ammo box because they are very water tight.  Geocaching has several twists and one is called Trackables or Travel Bugs.  These are things that travel from cache to cache and their travels are tracked and logged  by those that find them.  People will take the Travel Bug from one cache and place it in  another and so on and so forth.

Back in 2003 we placed a travel Bug named Backpack Jack in a cache in the Quehanna Wild Area. Where we hid him was quite remote but definitely an amazing place.  Backpack Jack had a mission and that was to see the Rockies by traveling from cache to cache and then return home.  His journey was quite long and lasted over 8 years.  He traveled way over 10,000 miles and made many stops.  At one point he spent 6 months buried in a snow drift in Colorado before someone dug him out and got him moving.  He did see the Rockies but he didn't return home just then.  Instead he headed to the west coast and traveled from San Diego to San Francisco and back to San Diego again.  He then went to Las Vegas and traveled around the Rockies again and actually at one point got real close to home.  Unfortunately someone didn't understand his mission and he headed west again and did many more miles.

As his travels continued he was in the hands of many nice people that kept him moving.  At one point he ended up hidden in a closet until he was discovered by the person that took him.  Fortunately he got moving again.  Over the years, he would go into hiding and at times we had worried he was gone forever but suddenly he would show up again.  Just recently we got an e-mail from some nice folks that had Jack and wanted to meet us at the place where he began his journey.  We couldn't wait and agreed immediately to meet them.  Whoda' Thunk after 8 years and over 10,000 miles that we would finally have Backpack Jack back in our hands.  Our thanks to the nice people that made this happen.  His journey has finally ended and he's back home with us.

This is a map showing Backpack Jack's travels.

This is Backpack Jack, but you probably guessed that.

This is an interesting story in itself.  This is miles from anywhere and you would never expect to see a monument like this out in the boonies.   Hmmm, Whoda' thunk!

These are the nice folks that returned Backpack Jack to us.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fetching A Stick Bores Me Silly!

This past weekend we headed to Erie to see how the migration was progressing out on the Peninsula.  We kayaked out to Gull Point and saw lots of American Coots, a couple Tundra Swans and a few hundred seagulls.  There were other migrating ducks that wouldn't allow us to get close enough to identify.

After loading the Yak back on the truck we managed to get back on the pavement without burying the truck on the beach.  Our plan now was to check out the lagoon and a few other ponds along the way.  As we approached Sunset Point we stopped to watch the goings on and take a few pictures.  Look at the pictures and you will see why I titled this post as I did.

What you are seeing here is two very active Border Collies.  They really enoyed their day at the beach.  But what the heck has them so excited?  Could it be that someone threw a stick and they are going after it?

Next Picture will explain all of this.

This Border Collie thinks fetching a stick is boring.  He prefers chasing stunt kites on the beach.  So you might be asking, did he ever catch it?  The next picture should answer that question.  These Border Collies are highly skilled and quite trainable.  We watched one of these same types of herders work some sheep lately and they are really amazing.  When that kite was perched stationary on the beach the dog just stood there motionless and wouldn't take his eyes off the kite.  When the kite went airborn and he got the command is when the fun began.  Whoda' Thunk a day at the beach could be so much fun for a Border Collie.  Playing fetch with a stick is boring!

Yes, he caught it several times but would release it at the command of the owner.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rest in peace Kimberly

Typically the entries in this Blog are about things that are a tad unusual or just a bit out of the ordinary.  We like to share some of these goofy things that we run into with those that follow this Blog.  For the most part the entries are light in subject matter and meant to maybe even lift ones spirits rather than be of gloomy content.  This entry will be completely different and I would ask that you bear with me and be assured the next entry will be the typical goofy subject matter.  This post is in memory of Kimberly Jo Dotts, may she rest in peace.

Kimberly Jo Dotts was murdered at the young and innocent age of 15 by her own friends and classmates.  She was a sweet young girl with some learning disablities and desperate to be accepted and fit in.  That desire to fit in ended up being responsible for her demise.  She found herself at a popular party spot in the backwoods of Clearfield County with a group she thought were her friends.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  I will keep this story short because I don't know exactly what happened that day and I don't think the whole story ever came out.  I will also not mention names but if the readers are curious they can do a search online and find that information very easily.

So what happened to Kimberly?  Apparently there was a group of kids that called themselves the Runaway Gang that had planned on heading to Florida just for something more exciting than their life in Clearfield County.  As they planned, there were a couple kids present that were convinced that Kimberly was going to snitch on them.  That just didn't set right with them and they decided to do something about it.  They put a noose around her neck and dragged her around the clearing.  When that wasn't enough to fulfill their evil appetites they threw the rope up over a overhanging branch and proceeded to lynch her.  First her body went into convulsions but then went limp.  They let her down but it was too late it seemed.  When suddenly there seemed to be some sign of life one of her supposed friends repeatedly bashed her skull with a large rock until she was dead.  At this point they hid her body under brush and limbs and left her alone and lifeless in the forest.  And where did the kids go after that?  Believe it or not they caught a ride to Florida and laughed and carried on as if none of this had ever happened.

And so the search began.  Where had Kimberly gone and why can't she be found?  Nine days later her body was found by searchers and she was barely recognizable.  In very short order arrests were made and two of the main perpetrators were sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Others were sent to juvenile detention centers.  Kimberly's parents were left to deal with this tragedy.  To make matters even worse, Kimberly was bludgeoned on Mothers Day. This is such a tragic story but I felt it needed to be told again in remembrance of Kimberly Jo Dotts and those that suffered the pain of this tragedy. The scene of this tragedy happened at a place known as Gallows Harbor named because of a 19th Century hanging that happened there.

You may be wondering why we make this entry at this time.  Well ever since we learned of this tragedy, we felt compelled to visit this spot.  It's not an easy place to find and requires 4 wheel drive to get back in there.  It pretty much took us an entire day to find the spot.  As we made our way back to the location we spotted the monument and knew we had finally arrived at the spot where Kimberly had lost her life. The horror that this poor little girl had to experience is actually too awful to even think about.  We just ask that maybe you will remember Kimberly and her parents the next time you close your eyes and bow your heads in prayer.  Here is a picture of the makeshift monument that sits deep in the woods at Gallows Harbor. 

I guess I need to have the words Whoda' Thunk to make this a legitimate post on this Blog.  Here's my futile attempt at including these words.  Whoda' Thunk there could be so much violence and hatred in these young people to commit such a horrible crime.  Whoda' Thunk a place that should be so peaceful could be so disturbing to visit.  Whoda' Thunk something so horrible was going to happen that day.  Kimberly certainly never suspected that.  She was just doing what whe so desired to do and that was be with friends.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life is full of surprises!

On a recent autumn day we were just wandering aimlessly and stumbled onto a cool little roadside wetland.  We naturally had to stop and check it out and  Whoda' Thunk there would be so many neat things to be seen.  Okay, these things weren't amazing or earth shattering but cool nonetheless.  Hope you like them too!

One might look at this image and wonder what the big deal is.  At first glance you may be thinking this is simply a woodchuck but you would be wrong.  This is a rare species called a Rockchuck.  Very rare indeed!

Nothing more than a mere Garter Snake but it startled me when I nearly stepped on it.  He responded by sticking his tongue out at me.  I did the same and then snapped his picture.

When you initially look at these two images you see the ordinary male and female Mallard. We thought the same but as we looked through the field glasses we noticed a different color variation on one of the Male Mallards.  In this same pond there was another Mallard that looked like a Bibbed Mallard but he was real shy about posing for the camera.

Okay, I realize that I already have post similar to this but I couldn't resist.  Whoda' Thunk we would run into another horse drawn buggy and boat trailer.  Watch for him at the next Bassmasters Tournament.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just when you think you saw it all!

Here's one of those shots that happen because you are trigger happy on the shutter release.  We were sitting in the fog watching a good sized harem and a sizable bull.  There was really nothing that exciting going on but I was still firing off a barrage of shots as the elk moved mysteriously in the mist.  It's a scene you have to witness for yourself to understand the beauty of it.  As I fired away I was watching closely through the viewfinder and couldn't believe what I had just seen.  I looked over at my wife and her expression confirmed what I had seen.  I quickly previewed the last image to see if I got it and sure enough I did.  I couldn't resist adding a few captions to this photo.  I just think this cow was trying to make a point as if to say, how do you like it.  All the hours that I have spent observing and photographing these critters I have never seen that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Artistry in the Sky

Recently we were on our way home from an amazing week in the Smoky Mts. and a bit sad that our trip was nearing it's end.  As we drove down the highway heading north our spirits were brightened as a beautiful rainbow instantly emerged out of a gloomy sky.  It's as if within seconds the gray and rainy skies lifted and this brilliant palette of color appeared to put a smile on our face.  And just as quickly as this appeared we approached a Rest Area which made it possible to leave the Interstate and enjoy this artistry in the sky.  Whoda' Thunk that something as simple as water droplets and sun rays could produce such an amazing spectacle.

My Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow.

Can ya dig it?

It's no secret that we spend a great deal of time in Elk country.  This past weekend our jaunt up on the hill had a bit of a different twist.  It was a bit early for good elk watching so we were looking for ways to kill a little time.  We noticed a sign leaning against a tree advertising for a pavilion sale. Typically I'm not much for garage sales and the like but for some unknown reason I found myself doing a quick spin around with the Jeep which really surprised my wife.  We pulled in and were immediately greeted by the warm and friendly property owner.  It only took a few seconds to realize that this was going to be a fun stop because this friendly couple had lots of history to share with us and tons of old stuff to show us.  I think they enjoyed talking just as much as we enjoyed listening. 

 There was one particular item that they quizzed us on and although we failed the quiz they were kind enough to let us snap a few pictures of it.  The item itself isn't all that amazing and most people would just look at it and say, "big deal, it's just a crude ladder".  But it's more than just a crude ladder because this crude ladder was found near the old Benezette Cemetery.  Have I peaked your interest yet?  This ladder is very old and was used way back when the holes were dug by hand and without these newfangled backhoes.  This ladder was used for the grave digger to get up out of the hole.
Pretty awesome, how about it!!  Whoda' Thunk there would still be one of these grave digger ladders in existence.  I can't help but wonder if perhaps when these gravediggers dug their first hole if they didn't stand down in that hole and say, "geez, whoda thunk we would've needed a ladder to get outa here".

Sunday, August 28, 2011

There are Humongous Fungus Among Us!!

One thing that is an absolute fact, we sure enjoy our weekends.  Some weekends we have specific plans and you can be pretty certain those plans involve the outdoors.  Other times our plan is to have no plan at all.  These are the days that we wander aimlessly.  This day our wandering led us to the back corners and backwoods of Clearfield County.  Most people might say, "Whoda' Thunk" there are so many cool things to be seen while flying by the seat of our pants.  Some of these cool things will be shown digitally in this log entry while some others will be shown on our "Enjoying All That Nature Offers" blog.

Now that's what we call a Humongous Fungus!!  When we first saw this huge thing we weren't quite sure what it was but we knew we needed to check it out more closely.  We have never seen such a large mushroom or fungus.  It was actually quite heavy as is evident by her grip on this thing.  It was pretty much cylindrical in shape which is saying that it was globe shaped rather than a flattened shape.  It was an awesome thing to hold and behold.  Had we not stumbled onto it, it may had just rotted away without anyone noting it's existence.

 If you see something like this, you would be wise to let it bee!

As we explored the backwoods of Clearfield County we ran across this huge and might I say "active" wasp nest.  How would you like to be hiking in the woods and not paying attention and bump your head into this thing?  Just the thought of it makes my butt pucker.
Whoda' Thunk something so awesome could bee built by a bunch of wasps using nothing but a mixture of chewed up wood pulp and saliva.  Ain't nature something!

Wandering aimlessly is one of our favorite past times.  You never know what's around the next bend, over the next hill or just on the other side of the mud hole that you probably shouldn't have driven through.  Hey, that's all part of the adventure.  I don't really believe AAA would be coming to rescue us if things turned sour.  Here's one of the rewards of our wanderings.  We were following this nice road, which turned into a decent trail which turned into a decent path which turned into a dry creek bed which ended at a railroad track.  We had reached a point where we could go no further so we decided to take a look and consider our options.  As we walked in front of the Jeep we had an awesome tunnel entrance to our immediate left and a trestle over the West Branch to our right.  In the distance we could see I-80. 

We decided to first check out the tunnel.  We have walked through more RR tunnels than common sense should have allowed but this wasn't going to be one of them.  It was obvious that this tunnel had a pretty drastic curve in it's depth as there was no light coming through from the far side.  This particular tunnel also narrowed significantly toward the bottom and provided no visible place to stay clear of a passing locomotive.  I later checked it out on Google Earth and found it to nearly 3000 feet in length.  I couldn't resist walking back in and shooting some time exposures with the tripod mounted Canon.  Even while looking at the small camera display I was intrigued by the fog hovering close to the floor of the tunnel. 

As I said, there wasn't exactly a road going back into this place.

Friday, August 26, 2011

All white Whitetails are so cool!

Irregardless of how many times we have viewed Whitetail Fawns, the thrill is always there.  Tonight the thrill was even greater because we got to see two Albino fawns.  Yup, you heard it right, two white Whitetail fawns.  Whoda' Thunk!  These cute little critters are completely white.  Unfortunately, we arrived at this location a bit later than what we had intended so we weren't able to position ourselves for some decent pictures. One of the white fawns was especially jumpy and wasn't going to stick around for pictures.  I did get one picture of him on the far side of the field with Mom close by.

 The second albino fawn was doing a great job of hiding in the corn just 50 feet in front of me.  For 10 minutes I tried to sneak closer in an effort to get a clear picture but for 10 minutes this little guy sat tight and wouldn't move until he suddenly exploded into motion like toast out of a toaster.  Let's just say his reaction time was much quicker than my reaction time.  Perhaps tomorrow night we will be better prepared and staged.

All was not lost though as we saw a lot of deer and loads of real nice buck.  We saw one group of 8 deer and 7 out of 8 had real nice racks.  It was a great night for Whitetails.  This post isn't about good images because they clearly aren't good pictures.  I was handholding a long lens with pretty long shutter speeds due to it being dusk.  This post is more about the subject matter which is nice bucks and albino fawns.  Maybe tomorrow it will be about nice images.  Time will tell!

A lousy picture but that is one of the Albino fawns and the Momma.

Okay, here's a little better picture but as it was nearing dusk and we were a good ways away, the picture is so-so.

 It was great to see so many Whitetails and lots of beautiful bucks.

Both of these are going to be real nice bucks!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Silent Witnesses from the State Hospital for the Insane

Typically my entries to this Blog are light hearted and the subject matter is intended to be maybe surprising but not disturbing.  What we discovered today was rather disturbing and was quite an eye opener to us.  I will try to explain why we felt this deserved a spot in our “Whoda’ Thunk Blog”.  Quite simply, whoda’ thunk so many poor souls could depart this life without any loved ones bidding them farewell.

Okay, at this point you’re probably going insane wondering what the heck I’m talking about.  Oddly enough, insanity is what this entry is all about.  Let me tell you how this day unfolded and maybe put all this into perspective.

After checking out the new glass bottomed observation deck at Kinzua Bridge, we decided to stop at Lowe’s in Warren and pick up a few items.  As we approached Lowe’s, something caught my eye at the foot of the hill behind the building and we decided to investigate.  That something ended up being a small cemetery, but not just any cemetery.  We approached from the rear and immediately we could tell there was something very unusual about this cemetery.  We noticed that almost every stone was exactly the same.  They weren’t granite but actually molded concrete.  They were a very simple angled shape and each one had a small stainless steel plate with a name engraved on it.  Some of them had a date of death below the name.  Others had the name and the date of birth as well as date of death.  What we noticed right away is that there weren’t small groups of stones with the same last name which is typical of any other cemetery.  In fact, as we walked from monument to monument there were no two names alike.  The only common denominator seemed to be that the years of deaths seemed to be clustered together.

As we worked our way toward the entrance to the cemetery we finally noticed a small sign that cleared up the mystery for us.  This burial ground was the final resting place for those poor souls from the State Hospital for the Insane.  The name was eventually changed to Warren State Hospital. As we walked among the perfectly lined up rows of markers the feeling was very disturbing.  It is just so sad to think that these people left this earth and had nobody that cared enough to give them a decent burial in their hometown cemetery.  Their death was as sad as their life in the asylum.  It’s impossible to explain the emotions we felt as we walked through this place.  Please visit it sometime and maybe you will understand.

After leaving the cemetery we decided to visit the grounds of the Warren State Hospital which is within sight of this cemetery.  We went there to maybe get more of a feel for what went on within these walls.  Quite honestly, I don’t think we could even begin to imagine what life was like for those mental patients.  It did inspire me to do some research and maybe learn a bit more about this institution.  The first patient was admitted in December of 1880.  At one time there were as many as 1200 patients.  One bit of info stated 3000 patients but that doesn’t sound realistic. These estimates are by no means facts as it's difficult to get accurate numbers.

Construction on the center or main building began in 1874.  The building design is known as a Kirkbride Model named after Dr. Thomas Kirkbride.  The concept of this model is that every room must receive natural sunlight at some time during the day.  The building is designed to have a natural air conditioning.  This was accomplished by venting towers that pull fresh air through each room.  It was also designed with elaborate landscaping and fountains.

Back in those times there were no dozers and backhoes.  The cellars were all dug by hand.  Single horse driven carts were used to haul the stones from a quarry located a mile away.  Nineteen loads of stone and a load of sand was considered a good day at the building site.  Most of the sixteen million bricks were manufactured, shaped, and fired on the site, including rounded bricks and keystones.  Six men were hired to do nothing but sharpen the stonemason’s tools.  If you are ever in the vicinity of North Warren, go around to the front and drive in the main gates and check this place out.  I think you’ll be amazed.

Sadly, this entry isn’t about architecture and old buildings.  Sure I touched on that but it’s really about those that were held in this asylum and those thought to be insane.  Note that I said, “thought to be insane”.  I felt it was important to say that.  Without a doubt many patients of the State Hospital for the Insane were truly insane and had to be put in this place.  Sadly though, many actually were not insane.  Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s  a person could be labeled insane just because they were eccentric or maybe they thought a bit differently that others or had some odd ideas.  A person could be labeled insane by some one in the law enforcement or a Dr. or anyone with a bit of influence.  They weren’t evaluated, they were simply removed from society and placed in an institution such as this.  I'm pretty confident had I lived back in the early 1900's my wife would have threatened to send me to an institution on a pretty regular basis.

A case in point might be that of a fella named Joe Root.  If you are ever in Erie and head to Presque Isle you will notice an eatery called Joe Root Bar and Grill on the right just before Waldemeer.  Joe Root was a legend in his own time.  He lived out on the peninsula and pretty much lived off the land.  He built several basic shelters and lived in them as the conditions varied.  It’s true that he had some crazy ideas but he was harmless.  One of his crazy ideas involved building a balloon factory and floating people to Buffalo taking advantage of the prevailing winds.  Joe Root ended up being labeled as insane and was sent to the Warren State Hospital where he died within a few years.  Truth be known, he was framed in a set up which involved a fight.  It seems that authorities were afraid Joe would claim squatters rights on Presque Isle so it was just convenient to have him put away.  Joe didn’t end up in the Warren State Hospital Cemetery.  When he died, his body was sent to Philadelphia for a scientific study.  He supposedly was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery.  This is another story in itself, but perhaps I’ll save that for another time.  If you managed to read all the way to this point, I certainly admire your patience and want to extend my heartfelt thanks.  Whoda' thunk something as simple as a small cemetery would have prompted such a long post on this Blog.

The first burial at this cemetery took place in 1881.  Prior to 2006 the condition of this burial ground was pretty much in ruins and was overgrown with weeds and brush.  There was only a very small handfull of proper monuments and these still are present and quite easy to pick out.  In 2006 a group of volunteers and state workers put a tremendous amount of effort forth and began a restoration project that took two years to complete.  They had concrete monuments formed with engraved stainless steel  identification attached.  Unfortunately there are no photos to be found from the old cemetery but I'm guessing it would just look like a hillside overgrown with weeds and brush.  These volunteers should be proud of what they accomplished here.

There are 954 poor souls resting here.  These are all patients from the Warren State Hospital.  There are two infants buried here and they were supposedly the babies of former patients. I still don't quite understand that. The most recent markers had a death date of 2009.  It's sad to think that this is where their life ended with nobody that cared about them and were simply left to live out their existence in an institution.  As we strolled through this cemetery our emotions were stirred in a very somber way.  So much in fact that I felt it more appropriate to have the images portrayed in black and white rather than vibrant colors.  I made an exception when it came to Old Glory.

Row after row of forgotten souls.

There were no names that were the same, no families and no spouses lying side by side.  They simply are arranged by the year of their death.  How sad!

Imagine the horror this man witnessed during the Civil War and then to live out the balance of his life in an institution.  And we complain because our steak was tough or the internet was down.

This badge show that he was a veteran of the Civil war and fought as a Union Soldier.  The GAR  stands for Grand Army of the Republic.

And this is where it all began with patient after patient conveniently tucked away out of sight and out of mind.  There are a series of tunnels leading to and from the Center Building.  Info leads me to believe that there is a tunnel leading over to the Lowe's Complex and perhaps beyond as far as the cemetery.  Some locals claim that in the winter you can see where the tunnels are because a fresh snowfall seems to melt away and exposes the warmer tunnels.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where did all the water go?

Whoda' Thunk that a few short months ago we kayaked this same stretch of water.  You can literally walk from rock to rock and cross the creek right now.  Hard to even imagine that in the spring and early summer we were navigating Class 2 whitewater in our kayaks beween Caledonia and Driftwood.  We sure need lots of rainfall to get the water level up but irregardless this is a beautiful spot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Presque Isle is the home of Frank Furter.

I had asked the question on Facebook if anyone knew where this picture was taken.  He is affectionately known as Frank Furter and he lives at the entrance to Presque Isle right besides Sara's.  We had gone to Presque Isle yesterday to be beach bums for awhile and then we planned on hiking the Gull Point Trail. 

The Gull Point Trail is the place to be in November and April or thereabouts.  You might ask why that is.  It just so happens that at the very extreme end of Gull Point there lies a Natural Area that is a hotspot for migrating land birds and waterfowl.  This area is a popular stopover for birds heading from as far north as the Arctic Circle and Greenland and heading  south as far as South America. You see, this is right along a migration route known as the Atlantic Flyway.  The Atlantic Flyway is a favored route that is flown year after year and is favored because of the absence of high mountains and ridges in the flight path.

So this picture makes it into our Whoda' Thunk Blog because Whoda' Thunk Frank Furter lived so closely to the Atlantic Flyway.  Possibly one day I will make an entry into one of my Blogs about the wild and crazed Joe Root.  Whoda' Thunk I would mention Joe Root and not write anything about him.  Stay tuned because someday I will.

Frank Furter is quite the character.  He stand over 6 feet tall and has this strange habit of squirting ketchup and mustard on himself, a habit I don't really relish.  You can see him hot dogging in front of Sara's at the entrance to Presque Isle.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How does it feel to soar silently with the eagles?

Imagine the feeling to glide through the air and to be as free as the birds that share this space.  Imagine the feeling as you catch a thermal and gain elevation and now soar a couple thousand feet higher than from where your feet launched you off the mountain.  Imagine for a moment that the only thing between you and a very hard landing is some very thin fabric and a wildly constructed collection of cables and aluminum tubing.  Well, maybe it's best not to think about that, let's return to the more pleasant thoughts.  The feeling has to be exhilarating beyond words.  Few will ever get to experience this feeling.  I have to admit the thought has struck me more often than I have the courage to express to my wife.  I've looked into lessons and casually shopped around online for prices.  I suppose there are a couple reasons why I have yet to pursue this new sport.  The first reason is that even I realize that I can't afford the time nor the money for another interest.  The second reason is that even though my wife will disagree I still have just the slighted touch of common sense that occasionally rears it's ugly head.  This is one of those times!  But who knows, maybe I will be feeling this experience one day.

Several times a year hang gliding enthusiasts gather in number at Hyner Mountain and challenge the thermals as they glide through the sky much to the satisfaction of gobs of onlookers.  I will be adding several pictures of this activity and hope you enjoy them.  The first collage depicts what occurs in the first minute of flight starting from launching.  This was a tandem jump and involves a seasoned glider and victim.  Maybe victim isn't the right word.  I will also attach a large picture of the very first image and maybe you will understand why I say "victim".  This picture is deceiving but the fella in the back seems to be begging the seasoned jumper to not jump off this mountain.

I felt it was justified to make these entries in the Whoda' Thunk Blog because whoda thunk people would actually jump off the side of a mountain and actually live to do it time and time again.  Okay, maybe I can squeeze in one more hobby!

I don't wanna die!!!!!  Let's talk about this!!

 Don't be concerned, he is way high yet!

 And he's off and soaring!

 Fortunately you don't need to be soaring the skies to enjoy the splendor of Hyner Mountain!!