Douglas Milewski (dacuteturtle) wrote,
Douglas Milewski


We traveled up to Pine Grove Furnace State Park in the Catoctin mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a very nice drive. We thought that we were almost there, but then we got off the highway, and there was just road upon road of rural roads to go down. Eventually, we did get there.

We were out of cell phone range. No internet or phone calls for us. That did give us a little worry, as who knows what emergency may be happening. Maybe the cat invited all his friends over for a party? We had no idea.

We stayed in the paymaster's quarters. They gutted this place and completely rebuilt it into a modern cabin. It's very comfy-cozy, in that state park kinda way. The furniture is that tongue-in-groove stuff that survives campers. We had a downstairs with a kitchen, table, living room, and a patio. Upstairs we had a queen size bed in one bedroom and two bunk beds in the other bedroom. The cabin sits across from the general stores and the hostel. The general store is only opened during the weekends on the off-season, so we could not raid them for coffee. The hostel is closed during the day (which is an odd thing for a hostel to do).

The location itself is a former iron processing camp. They dug out the ore, chopped down the trees, smelted out the iron, and shipped it away. All-in-all, it was about a 250 person business. Eventually the modern blast furnaces on the coast put these small iron processors out of business. So what you think about all the jobs that the steelworks lost, you must remember that the steelworks put lots of other people out of work.

If you look on the ground, you find lots of colorful slag. These rocks are usually glassy, and often have amazing colors. You find many pretty blacks and blues. Some rock hounds showed me their rocks, and they showed me some nice azurites that they had picked up in the area.

As vacationers will, we forgot things. Useful neglected items included a spatula, pocket knife, decaf coffee, and a baking pan. I packed the wrong sheets. The tissues are still sitting on the bed. At least we remembered to confirm with our neighbor, who is caring for Squirrel.

Jen is dutifully assembling a list of things forgotten, so that the next time that we go camping, we have what we need. Our goal is to eventually work up to full camping. In between trips, Jen will hit the second hand stores for useful stuff, keep an eye on on freecycle, and maybe cruise Craig's List.

On Monday, we took a long stroll through the park. We walked by the lake, which was once a mining pit, and by the large hill, which is really a debris pile that was once inside the mining pit. The path itself was once the railroad. A small canal also ran along the path. Nothing remains of the furnace but a three story smokestack. This thing is the size of my house. For most iron smelters, only the smokestack remains.

We aren't doing too much cooking. Jen pulled "emergency food" from the freezer that was originally intended to cover our butts when the baby came. With great ingenuity, she decided that now this was a good time to eat the food. This also means that she'll be cooking more this autumn as the obsessively-compulsively refills the freezer.

On Tuesday, we visited the town of Carlisle ( Carlisle is noted for a few things: it was a direct staging ground for the battle of Gettysburg, the US Army War College, Dickenson college, and around 1900, the Indian Trade School.

We first visited the US War College ( On their grounds, they have examples of many different types of camps and fortifications. Some are being built, many are already built. Most prominently, they have a WWI trench system, a British redoubt, Civil War cabins, and WWII barracks. They also had an exhibit on the Indian Industrial School which ran in the town. A US Genreal believed that the best things for the indians, now that they had lost, was to teach them trades and to Americanize them. History looks poorly upon this experiment. In a way, it was the Marshal Plan of its day. Now that the US was the victor, it owed it to the losers to help them to reestablish themselves.

A big, noteworthy point about the college is that it is a research institution. We walked through their well-equipped library before we went up to the display area on the second floor.

The Carlisle Historical Society also contained a nice library. This has helped me to understand how local historical societies help establish the histories of this country. These folks are building the archives that the research minded are using. I grow so used to the idea that universities house and conduct research. However, most localities were not blesses with such schools, so the only store of this information are the enthusiasts who lived in the localities.

The Historical Society's museum had sections on all the wars. It also had a nice section on industry in the county. In particular, one section was on the iron industry in the county, which was the Pine Grove Furnace, where we were staying. Rather unintentionally, we did the Carlisle historical tour.

While in town, we took time to buy a spatula.

On Thursday, my parents and my sister came up to visit. They had a grand time visiting the tot.

On the way home, we hit the corner ice cream stand. It was only five miles away. Unfortunately, it was closed. Thus, the hazards of vacationing in the off season. To make up for this, we stopped off at a roadside stand near Gettysburg. The main sign for the place has been there since the fifties, and it looked it.

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