LAST WEEKEND, I dragged took my neighbor Stephanie up to my old stompin' grounds. My aunt and uncle built a sweet cabin on the ridge above what used to be my grandmother's (her mother's) farm, and they kindly allowed us to invade for a girls' weekend. Steph's sister Dory and Dory's friend Diane met us there. Our mission: A whole bunch of geocaching, a ride on the Millersburg Ferry and a visit to the Ned Smith Nature and Art festival.
I provided nonstop running commentary and shared interesting facts spouted minutiae about my hometown. I pointed out where my relatives live. (Which was, like, every third house.) I told stories from back in the day. I wouldn't shut up was probably pretty unbearable, but I was their chauffer, so they were my captive audience.
For the uninitiated, geocaching is a worldwide game of hide and seek. You can find lists of "caches" on the website, enter the coordinates into your handheld GPS, then use that to guide you to the exact location of the cache. Along the way you can get sunburned hike, learn local history, and you get to see things that are miles from all civilization off the beaten path. My companions are all quite experienced geocachers, but they were patient and willing to train their chauffer.
But enough of my prattling on and on and on. I'll let the photos do (most of) the talking.
Dory fishes a microcache out of its hiding place while Steph logs our find.
One of the caches we found was hidden in state gamelands, high above the Susquehanna River…
…and Routes 11/15. This was just north of Liverpool, PA.
We found caches at two covered bridges -
…the Aline Bridge, just up Route 104 on the way to Middleburg, and…
…Red Bridge, outside of Liverpool. Please don't tell anyone that I grew up maybe 4 miles from this bridge but never knew it was there. Adjacent to this site were an old outhouse–
—and a long-abandoned house:
There were also cemeteries (which, I just learned, is from the Greek word that means "sleeping place"). There was the one out by Barners Church –
…where there are, in fact, many tombstones bearing the name "Barner."
(…even though this photo features a "Meiser" grave marker. You'll have to take my word for it.)
Then there was the cemetery at the site of the former St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pfoutz Valley. It's an equally peaceful "sleeping place":
This cemetery used to be adjacent to a church, which has long since been razed:
St. Michael's is next to the farm that was my aunt & uncle's, and the next farm after that one was was my grandmother's – where my dad grew up. So you see, I can't even count how many times I've driven by this place. And yet, I can remember only stopping and visiting it a few times. It's so peaceful and quiet there, and as I surveyed the plot's location amid corn and soybean fields, I got to thinking how this would be such a nice place to spend my eternal rest, because the chances are next to zero that they would pave over this particular slice of paradise… but then I remembered the other cemetery we visited earlier in the day –
The cache was nestled next to Sarah Catharine Shuman's grave. She died when she was only ten. And that was next to these —
–which were sequestered way up on top of a slab of earth that was flanked by a highway on-ramp and an off-ramp – the Millerstown exit of Routes 22/322. The highway was built in the '60s, and my cousin Julie tells me that her dad protested the original plan to relocate those graves. The highway was redesigned to leave this small family plot intact. And I am sure that when Catharine's grieving parents buried their precious daughter there, they couldn't have imagined that her resting place would end up overgrown and inaccessible to all but the hardiest, most adventurous hikers. I mean, you really have to wanna get up there.
Now, this cache –
…was called Nekoda. The cache was hidden in an overgrown area across the road from an old structure that once housed a general store and a post office. Until recently, it still showed up on maps of Pennsylvania, even though the post office has been defunct for decades. The building sat abandoned for many years. I could see it from my bedroom window. I spent 16 years looking across the corn fields at it, wondering if it really was haunted, as was the rumor. A family has since bought it and fixed it up and I'd love to see what it looks like inside – I bet it's great fun to ramble around in there. We, however, were focused on navigating 'round needle-sharp bramble bushes to locate the cache that was tucked into the overgrowth near an old stone wall that may have once been the foundation for a barn or other outbuilding.
My fellow seekers – Steph, Dory and Diane. And yes, that's a Busch Pounder in Dory's hand. This was our 15th and final cache of the day, and we decided to linger 'neath the evergreens and enjoy a refreshing cold beverage to celebrate our finds. What a fun day – I enjoyed showing my friends around my hometown and surrounding area, and really liked learning some new things, too.
I have more to share, including the Millersburg Ferry photos – but those will have to wait for another day. Until next time –