It’s the end of the day and my legs are POOPED!
It all started by sleeping in. Ahhhh! I set the alarm, but hit snooze for almost an hour. Not bad, not bad.
Then it was up and back to Alvira to see what else I could discover! I drove all the way to the end of the road and what was right in front of me? Another one of those odd little bunkers. This one was quite messed up and was behind a fence topped by barbed wire. What to do, what to do? Go past the fence? Stay where I am? What would you do, little children?
I’m an obedient fellow, so I just took pictures from my side of the fence. No trespassing for me! Not this time, anyway.
Right beside it was another cemetery with big posts at its entrance. It appears that this cemetery was the site of mostly older graves, many of people born in the 1700s who passed away in the 1800s. There were some fascinating stones, and one that had quite an extensive write up about someone’s father, but unfortunately some cracking and general weathering made it impossible for me to decipher the bulk of the message. In the picture, I don't even think you can tell that there is any writing across the bottom, it was so faint.
I went up the road a ways to another bunker I’d noticed when I passed. Its entrance was surrounded by junkety-junk-junk and lots of it. Not one, but TWO broken televisions were the centrepiece to this mess.
After taking a picture of that one, I started exploring some of the paths and roads. The trick, I discovered, was to look for paths that showed signs of having once been proper roads rather than simply short/crushed grass paths. Sometimes there’s not much indication, to be honest.
As I was making a “return trip” down one such road, I saw a mound, practically hidden by the forest growth.
I couldn’t see any entrance on my side, but decided I could probably climb it. If there was a chimney vent in the top, I knew I’d found another. Up I climbed, and sure enough, chimneyville.
I clambered down the other side and found the entrance, partially obscured by growth, unlike the others I had found.
And guess what.
The door was wide open.
I made my first entrance into the domed, igloo-shaped bunker.
I can’t even begin to describe adequately the sound inside one of these bunkers. For a moment, I thought there were bats or birds fluttering around inside, but there were none. The tiniest sounds made by each step were amplified and reverberated almost endlessly. The best way I can describe this strange popping-crackling-twinkling sound is to imaging those weird sonic tube things they sell at dollar stores (you know, with a coil inside to sound all spacey) and multiply that sound and feeling a hundred-fold. It’s so eerie and exciting and strangely electric.
Unlike the open bunker I’d read about from a previous visitor, this one was pristine. Possibly because it was not on the main road, possibly because it was quite hidden, vandals and punks had not damaged it at all. The only evidence that ANYONE had been there, was a single piece of plastic, a wrapper of some sort. I think it was some sort of jerky or meat stick. It was crazy dark once you were past the entrance way, so I had to keep taking pictures, just to see the walls.
The Inside of the Dome
The Wall Opposite the Door (see how clean!)
The Door from Inside
Fairly nearby, I soon discovered three more bunkers, all open, all clean and graffiti-free, though with more signs of visitation in the form of a few cans, candy wrappers, packages from those instant-heat hand warmers (must have been winter visits), and a few ziploc bags. (Hmmm. I wonder what those held! I’m sure with the darkness and eerie acoustics, more than one person has gone there to get stoned...)
I was on a roll! Next up, I walked a long road to nowhere (and turned around long before I got to nowhere) and then up another branch to find ... one of the bunkers I’d found yesterday. Ah, the roads converge, at times!
(Remember, at this point I’ve been hiking madly for about two hours... HOT and SWEATY! Yack!)
Nearby I found the elusive #2 I hadn’t gotten to yesterday (which was good, because I’d already planned how I wanted to display a few of the pictures, and I needed #2). Then I found #4, which the person from whom I’d gotten directions had not found. (Of course, at this point, I was way past the total of four that she’d discovered.) Numbers 8, 10, and 13 followed, requiring a few long walks through long grass. (Of course, I later deduced that the paths in that area of the park likely followed a fairly logical plan or organization.
In any case, I called it quits, not because I’d exhausted my options (rather I suspected I could find all of the missing numbers to 13, at least, if I’d wanted), but because I’d been hiking around the park for too long. I was thirsty, exhausted, thirsty, hungry, thirsty, and a little weak in the legs. I was also a little scratched up, though I didn’t realize that until later.
Having plotted a route to my next intended stop, I hit the road. I stopped for a quick McLunch (and lots of beverage), and continued on my way.
Now, remember how I pointed out how much Pennsylvanians like their signs? Yeah, that’s just road work signs. Their signage in other ways stinks. STU-INKS! After a lengthy jaunt, I came through Frackton and made it as far as Ashland on my way to a place called Centralia. Well, the poor signage coupled with some weirdness regarding North-South-East-West directionality (seriously, there’s a lot of weirdness in Pennsylvania with directions of routes according to their signs), I found myself curiously near my starting point of Frackton and decided that, since time was wasting, I would call it quits on that one. It’s unfortunate because:
#1: Centralia is interesting because it was evacuated years ago because of an underground fire burning which is, reportedly, still burning.
#2: Along my way towards (or so I had thought) Centralia, I passed some interesting places and buildings which I had hoped to photograph on the way back. These sights included the (sort of odd) enormous statue of Whistler’s Mother, the house with the rainbow-coloured roofing, and the derelict Prism theatre.
Zero on both counts.
So it was off to my next intended stop, Eckley Miners Village. (I really wish it were Eckley Miners’ Village.) More sign-trouble delayed me by about ten minutes (the signs to Eckley are sporradic at times, but even worse, change colours at various points along the route). That made me arrive at 5:02. The village “closes” at 5:00.
No matter, though, I walked around anyway.
But what’s weird about Eckley? It’s now a historic village for tourists and history buffs, with original buildings, a gift shop, and whatnot, but SOME of the homes are still inhabited! So I felt a little odd walking up the street of the village while occasionally seeing people at their homes. That’s when I need someone less shy than me, because I would have loved to ask them questions about living in the “village”, but instead just sufficed with sheepish smiles, the occasional “Hey”, and a “Good evening, how are you?”
Finally, it was time to head generally north and find a place to stay. In the end, I crossed over into New York State and stopped in at Binghamton. It was bucketing of rain, pitch black, and I was exhausted. I ended up on a stretch of road and gave up looking for a hotel. I caved and checked into a hotel that looked ... um ... okay.
It’s a dive.
I’m sitting in the dive-y-ist motel I’ve ever been in as an adult. I may sleep sitting in that chair over there...
Other observations for the day:
Pennsylvania has the worst drivers I’ve ever encountered in North America.
McDonald’s cheeseburgers taste different down here. I think it’s the bun.
I’ve yet to see a population listed on any town, thus you never know if it’s worth pulling off somewhere until it’s too late.
Gas prices vary greatly and in close proximity with one another. Prices such as $4.29 a gallon were spotted just up the road from $3.99.