Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine

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Years ago, when the kids were little, we toured the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland. Pioneer Tunnel & Steam Train is a horizontal drift mine in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania. It was owned and operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company from 1911 and ceased operation in 1931.

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In 1963, Pioneer Tunnel was retimbered and opened to visitors by Ashland Community Enterprises, a non-profit corporation.

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We rode into the tunnel in Mahanoy Mountain on a mine car and our guide taught us how coal is mined and what life was like for the miners who worked here in the early 1900s.

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After emerging from the tunnel, we boarded the Henry Clay, a narrow gauge steam train, for a ride around the other side of the mountain. Here we learned about a different kind of mining called strip mining. And we learned about the nearby Centralia mine fire, which has been burning continuously since 1962, causing the abandonment of the town under which the mine runs.

 

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Location: 19th Street & Oak Street, Ashland, PA 17921

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1963

Date of my visit: 7/17/2005

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Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: Zane Grey Museum

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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.

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I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club for a ranger-guided tour of the area. After touring Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct with the ranger (see that post here), our group headed over to the Zane Grey Museum, about a quarter-mile from the bridge on the Pennsylvania side of the river.

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Zane Grey, actually born Pearl Grey because of his mother’s fixation with the British Royals (Pearl Grey was the official mourning color that year in England,) is considered the Father of the Western Novel.

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He played baseball as a young man which earned him a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s dentistry school. He established a dental practice in NYC in 1899, but his enthusiasm for fly-fishing and the encouragement of his wife Dolly led him to move to his farmhouse in Lackawaxen, PA to pursue writing as a profession.

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He was a prolific writer, having written over 100 novels in his lifetime. His most noted work was Riders of the Purple Sage, published in 1912. His writing was heavily influenced by his travels to the Western states, the first trip having been his honeymoon to the Grand Canyon.

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Grey moved his family to California in 1918, where he worked with the developing motion picture industry. Many early films were based on his novels and birthed the Western genre.

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After Zane Grey’s death, his wife sold the Lackawaxen home to a family friend.

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For 25 years, she ran it as the Zane Grey Inn and then later converted it to a museum showcasing Zane Grey memorabilia.

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In 1989, the museum was purchased by the NPS and included in the Upper Delaware unit.

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Location: Lackawaxen, PA

Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River

Date designated or established: 1978 river, 1989 museum

Date of my visit: 7/18/2018

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The two rangers stationed in the Zane Grey Museum were nice enough to provide a wide array of stamps for our National Park Passports and take a group photo for us. (I’m on the right, end of the second row in the light blue shirt, behind the lady with the red shirt.)

Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.

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Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct/Bridge on the Upper Delaware is also maintained by the NPS. It is the oldest wire suspension bridge in the US and was built by John A. Roebling, who is best known for building the Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Delaware Aqueduct used the same engineering principles as the Brooklyn Bridge.

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I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club. The NPTC has about 2000 paid members nationwide, all who share a passion for visiting the 417 NPS units.  The club had arranged for a park ranger to give our group a tour of the bridge and The Zane Grey museum.

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The Aqueduct was built to carry the Delaware and Hudson Canal across the Delaware River. The canal was built in 1828 to carry coal from mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. The canal was abandoned in 1898 when the railroad became a more efficient means of transportation.

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Our tour began at the D&H Towpath Trail on the New York side of the river. The towpath was once used by mules to help the canal boats move downstream. It now passes under the bridge and past the remnants of a half-mile stretch of the old canal.

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Next we followed the ranger past the old toll house, which now is a museum with displays about life on the canal.

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We crossed the bridge on the southern pedestrian walk and returned on the northern walk trying to imagine what it had looked like when it was filled with water.  (Scroll to the end for a short video clip.)

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When the park purchased the bridge, they restored it to its original appearance, except for the concrete road bed installed to safely accommodate a single lane of traffic. It had already been converted from aqueduct to bridge sometime after the abandonment of the canal, but the road was made of timbers. These had rotted out and actually collapsed under the weight of a truck crossing the bridge.

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At each display, the ranger paused to point out features like the steel cable used to suspend the bridge and the ice breakers designed to protect the structure from ice floes in the spring.

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Back on the New York side of the river, the ranger pointed out some ruins across the street that were from the old canal. State highway 97 follows the path the canal once took, parallel to the Delaware River.

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Location: Lackawaxen, PA

Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River

Date designation declared: 1978

Date of my visit: 7/18/2018

Independence NHP: Congress Hall

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In 1790, Philadelphia was chosen as the temporary capital of the newly formed United States. The recently constructed Philadelphia Courthouse was loaned to the Federal Government as a meeting place for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Our ranger first took us into the large courtroom on the first floor which was used by the House of Representatives.  The furniture here is not original as the desks were auctioned off once the capital moved to DC. The NPS reacquired some of the originals, but they are in the upstairs rooms. So we were able to sit at these authentic looking desks with ink wells while the ranger talked.
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Next we went upstairs to see the room used by the Senate as well as some other smaller committee rooms where large paintings of France’s King Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette adorn the walls. These were gifts from France after the American Revolution ended.
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In 1800, Washington, DC became the US capital and Congress Hall reverted to serving as the Philadelphia courthouse.

Location: 6th & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1951

Date of my visit: August 2017

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Independence NHP: Independence Hall

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link. And to my American followers, be sure to show up at the polls tomorrow and vote!

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We started our day at the Independence Visitor Center to pick up our tickets for the Independence Hall tour. The rangers were very helpful and gave directions to various sites and even got us on an earlier tour than the one we’d reserved. (Be sure to use the restrooms here because there are none in the historic buildings once you go through security.)

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Independence Hall was built in 1732 to be the Pennsylvania State House. It is the birthplace of the USA, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and signed.

You can reserve a guided tour of Independence Hall on the NPS website for a nominal fee (it cost me $7.50 for the 5 of us.) Tickets are free on the day of, but tours do book up quickly. Getting tickets for the tour is the only way to see the inside of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The tour is pretty brief, but interesting and it is inspiring to stand in the place where our founding fathers formed our nation. The tour is limited to the first floor rooms most of the year, but may include the second floor in early winter months.

IMG_9652Our ranger first took us into the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It was here in 1776 that the Patriots stormed in and tore down the King’s coat of arms in an act of defiance.

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Next we went to the Assembly Room.  This is the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. It later became a shrine to the founding of America, housing the Liberty Bell. After his assassination, Lincoln’s body was laid out here before burial.  Now it has since been restored to its 1776 appearance.

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Afterwards, be sure to wait on the line for the tour at the congressional building next door…there are no reservations for that one and it is much more extensive than the one in Independence Hall. I will cover that in a future post. Both tours really drove home the awe and respect we should all have for what these men accomplished in 1776.

Location: Chestnut Street, between 5th and 6th Streets, Philadelphia, PA

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1951

Date of my visit: August 2017

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Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Today is National Public Lands Day and this year’s theme is Resilience and Restoration. It is a fee-free day for most parks, so get out and find your park.

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The Middle Delaware is a National Park Service unit contained within another NPS unit, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Wild & Scenic Rivers System was established 50 years ago and protects nearly 13 thousand miles of US rivers. These protected areas are managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service.

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I began my exploration of the Middle Delaware at the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center, right off Route 80 in Columbia, NJ. There, I was able get some pins, look at a map and speak to a ranger about places to go in the park. There is a beach behind the visitors center with a great view of the Delaware Water Gap.

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A water gap is formed when water carves a path through a mountain range. In Earth’s ancient history, the North American and African continents collided, creating the Kittatinny Ridge. Streams flowing on one side of the ridge scoured a channel over the course of millions of years and became the Delaware River.

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I traveled upriver on Old Mine Road, a narrow road with scary potholes and numerous pull-outs for trailheads and river access. I stopped first at a small pull-out and walked a little way on a level trail that parallels the river. There are some big old trees here.

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Next I stopped at Turtle Beach, but didn’t get out because the lot was deserted except for one run down vehicle and I couldn’t see to the river or the road from there. Maybe next time. A little further north, I found Poxono.

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Poxono has a boat launch and used to be a Boy Scout camp. There were a few vehicles here, but most of the people were out fishing on the river. I got right down to the water’s edge and had some terrific, unobstructed views of the river.

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Location: 85 Mercer Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: 40 miles of the Delaware river, Delaware Water Gap, PA to Milford, PA

Date designation declared: 11/10/1978

Date of my visit: 6/3/2018

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View downstream of Poxono
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Poxono, an island in the middle of the Delaware River.

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Independence NHP: Liberty Bell

 

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Happy 4th of July!

Growing up in the NYC public school system, one of our rites of passage was the class trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell. I don’t remember much about that trip besides horsing around with my friends on the bus and touching the actual Liberty Bell with my grubby 4th grade hands!

That’s right, they let 9 year olds, or anyone else who wanted to, touch the 200 year old symbol of America. Maybe we weren’t supposed to, but there really wasn’t any way to prevent it. Years later, this proved problematic when a crazed tourist attacked the bell with a hammer. We just can’t have nice things…

And so, in 2003, the bell was moved to its new home in the shiny new Liberty Bell Pavilion, across the street from Independence Hall. The pavilion is a block-long building dedicated to the Liberty Bell and its long and interesting history. It is very crowded and you will have to go through airport-type security to get inside,  but there is no entry fee or reservations required. It is best to go first thing in the morning, when it opens.

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Exhibits from different periods of the bell’s history line the walls of the long building leading to the bell at the far end. Most know the bell as a symbol of the American Revolution, but it has been a symbol of freedom for us in many other conflicts throughout our history.

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From ringing in the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, to cracking down the middle, to symbolizing the abolitionist movement during the Civil War, etcetera….this bell has seen and done a lot! There is a film in the exhibit just before the bell that I recommend watching… it’s very informative, and our friends from France who were touring with us enjoyed it very much.

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The bell itself is not encased in glass, but it is behind a railing with security standing guard in case you managed to sneak your hammer past the xray machine.  You’ll have to be somewhat aggressive if you want a photo with the bell…there are a lot of tourists trying for the same shot with the famous crack. If you are lucky enough to get there before the selfie hordes, you may be able to capture the bell with Independence Hall in the background.

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So snap away, do not touch and “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”

Location: N 6th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1951

Date of my visit: August 2017

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