POCONO and OLD MINE ROAD EXPLORATIONS – 16-19 JULY 2016

I was way overdue for a visit with Scott and Betty at their home on a lake in the Poconos. I have shared with you many of our adventures together – Scott and my Cathy worked together for years, and it has been wonderful to have them still as close friends. We picked the dates for my visit, and they started searching for new adventures in their area (of course, we could have just sat on the deck and talked).  Scott found an Inter-Tribal Native American POW-WOW that weekend, right in an unfamiliar area of their town. The plan was hatched for Sunday, July 17 – none of us had been to a POW-WOW before.

DPA-1With festivities beginning at Noon, we arrived with our chairs at the scout camp early to get a good seat. After reading and heeding this warning, we crossed this bridge into the open area for the ceremonies and ubiquitous vendors.

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We looked, but none of us needed any tchotchkes. But I could not resist a $1 donation to throw a tomahawk. I have no idea why Scott didn’t take this action shot while facing me!

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Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, the first dance is symbolic of stamping down the grasses to facilitate the following dances.

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Then the opening ceremonial parade and many dances with LittleWolf & SummerBird, and Matt White Eagle & Chris Mourning Dove, and others. (you can click to enlarge)

Everything was pretty much the same, with the public invited to join in. We heard a “hoop dance” was coming, so waited for that – fascinating. Matt White Eagle, from Canada, travels all over the country to perform. He dances and uses increasing numbers of hoops (originally made of a white ash, but painted red) to intricately present recognizable designs.

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A peaceful evening on the deck with dinner followed, the plan for Monday was my desire to see Jim Thorpe, PA, which I have read about, and admired the history and Victorian architecture. We arrived in the valley along the Lehigh River at about 11:41 am the 18th.

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Mauch Chunk, PA and East Mauch Chunk became Jim Thorpe, PA in 1955. Mauch Chunk had been considered “Switzerland of America” by the Swiss Tourist Board, but even without this designation I implore you to learn of its history and visit. Anthracite coal was first discovered in 1791 in nearby Summit Hill. To bring it down into town, in 1828, the second railway in the US – the Mauch Chunk Gravity Railway – brought the coal to town to then be transported by canal to Philadelphia and New York.

When early 20th century renowned athlete and Olympian, Native American Jim Thorpe died in 1953, his wife became angry with his home state of Oklahoma for its unwillingness to erect a memorial to him (read about the early controversy following him from the 1912 Olympics). Hearing that Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk wanted to establish a tourist trade to their towns, Thorpe’s widow made a deal with them. She provided his remains in exchange for a memorial and renaming of the towns – and that probably made the difference. But, we were surprised that the memorial is on the outskirts of East Mauch Chunk about as far away from the Victorian town attractions as possible.

Remember to click to enlarge images.

Actually, we found the memorial on our way out of town five hours later. We first toured the untouched Victorian town.

The main attraction is the Asa Packer Mansion that overlooks the National Historic District. Asa Packer arrived in Mauch Chunk in 1833 becoming owner of a canal boat, and later expanding his canal business transporting coal in his Lehigh Valley Railroad. In 1861, he built this mansion.

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Which over looks the town. Next door he built a home for his son (now a B&B, and murder mystery weekend venue – been dying to do one – pun intended)

We did the tour first. No photos allowed inside, but I bought a booklet of images, but you can google “Asa Packer Mansion Images.” Maybe sometime I will have time to add from the postcards I bought. But here are some very important fast facts about this family.

When Asa died in 1879, there were 26 millionaires in the US, and 13 of them were living in Mauch Chunk! His widow inherited 54 million dollars, but an 1856 Pennsylvania state law stated she could not keep the money unless she was married. She asked the local train station attendant to marry her, her fortune was secure, and she divorced him 6 months later, but with an nice settlement and annuity (I can be seen hanging around train stations now). There is a table in the parlor that Queen Victoria gave Sarah Packer when Sarah was visiting in London. At that time Queen Victoria was the wealthiest woman in the world, and Sarah Packer was the second wealthiest. In 1865, Asa gave the funds to start Lehigh University. Tuition was free from 1871-1891, and graduates were offered jobs on Asa’s Lehigh Valley Railroad.

When Sarah died in 1882 the home passed to her daughter Mary Packer Cummings. Mary died in 1912, leaving the mansion and its furnishings to “the Borough of Mauch Chunk and its successors.” Essentially unchanged from its construction in 1861 to 1912, the borough did not know what to do with the mansion and covered all the furnishings, boarded up the windows, and unknowingly created a Victorian time capsule for 40 years.

In the mid-1950s, the local Lions Club approached the borough about opening the mansion as a museum, and that happened in 1956. I cannot help but think that was in conjunction with the name change of the community to stimulate tourism. On the tour we were told that the chandelier in the mansion was copied for the movie, GONE WITH THE WIND, but in fact checking I cannot substantiate that claim – remember, at that time the mansion was boarded up. But, substantiated is the claim that Disney used Packer’s son’s home as a model for its Haunted Mansion.

Asking about a structure on top of a mountain, I was given directions, and from that vantage point we had a view back to Jim Thorpe.

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You can see the red roof to Asa Packer’s mansion, East Mauch Chunk to the right, and there was a whole new area on the “hill” above the mansion we did not know about. Of course, we headed there to explore too.

If I could have found a biography of Asa Packer I would be reading it now instead of writing this post. I need to go back to Jim Thorpe, PA – and I cannot overstate, RAY RECOMMENDS – VISIT THERE SOON.

Dinner that evening we experienced Powerhouse Eatery in White Haven, PA. Originally  the power plant for the White Haven Sanatorium which closed by 1976, it was renovated as a restaurant in 1989. My evening special, the Halibut, was amazing.

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Jim Thorpe, PA, is on US Route 209. I was conflicted on how to meander home on Tuesday (stopping at the Red Lion Inn, of course), and one option was to travel US 209 through the Delaware River Water Gap – had not been there in awhile. Well, Scott and I looked at an atlas. He and Betty are shunpikers, and even more exotic than I. For example, in Alaska with their Airstream they traveled 28 miles down a dirt road (subject to washout) to an abandoned WWII airfield where camping was allowed. And, on departure, yes, the road was washed out. Now that is shunpiking!!! Looking at an atlas, Scott pointed out that US 209 north of Port Jervis, NY, was a designated scenic road. I had not been through that section of geography before — decision made.

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No rush leaving on Tuesday, and I arrived in Port Jervis, NY, shortly after noon, and saw a sign for the Erie RR turntable. With my interest in railroads, I had to see it.

 

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With possibly less than 500 left in the country – I now have another quest along with canals and locks to document and show you. Of course, we have one of the best (still in use) right here in Walpole at the Green Mountain Railroad roundhouse.

Neversink Valley Museum - Cuddebackville, NY (yes I spelled it correctly)

Neversink Valley Museum – Cuddebackville, NY (yes I spelled it correctly)

Once I got north of Port Jervis life became more rural and scenic as the map proclaimed. There was one historical marker after another. Ends up that US 209 is one of the original federal roads established in 1926, and follows the Old Mine Road from Colonial times which followed Native American trails. The Dutch when arriving in the area developed the road from Lenapi trails in their search for furs and minerals. And, guess what? Much of the Delaware and Hudson Canal traverses this route from Port Jervis to Kingston, NY. Great suggestion, Scott, and a repeat trip is in order. I first stumbled into the Neverskink Valley Museum (sadly open only weekends) which has much on the D&H Canal and is in a small complex of original canal buildings at a point where a wood aqueduct designed by Roebling crossed.

Country Store in Wurtsboro, NY

Country Store in Wurtsboro, NY

 

The Wurts brothers were instrumental in the development of the canal, and a common practice was to name canal towns after those involved. This country store in Wurtsboro dates to canal days, and there was lots of “eye candy” inside.

 

 

Five miles up the road was the Delaware & Hudson Canal Linear Park, and I stopped. Here is the canal and towpath looking north with part of the remaining buildings in the distance.

D&H Linear Canal Park. Near Summitville, NY

D&H Linear Canal Park. Near Summitville, NY

Mules (sometimes horses) would pull the barges about 20 miles a day (3,000 miles per season) often eating and sleeping along the way. Local residents were fascinated with the canal with boats being pulled by animals. They enjoyed leisurely family walks, or courting strolls along the path. It was discouraged by the D&H, but Sundays the canal was closed. One information panel discussed all the historical sites in Sullivan County – and I have to get back – but on a weekend when things are open.

Getting closer to Kingston became more built up and historic. I pulled into Hurley (after passing all the stone houses in Stone Ridge) and enjoyed the stone buildings, including one where George Washington was entertained. Here is a typical street view in Hurley.

 

Stone Houses - Hurley, NY

Stone Houses – Hurley, NY

It was late afternoon. US 209 has been rebuilt around and bypassing Kingston ending at NY 199 to cross the Hudson on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge built in 1957. Working my way across the state to Massachusetts, I stopped (as planned, of course) at the Red Lion Inn to take in the atmosphere for awhile.

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Scott and Betty earlier this year finished their second stint as National Park Volunteer Rangers at the LBJ ranch. During our visit, Scott showed me their copy of a NPS “bible” – INTERPRETING OUR HERITAGE by Freeman Tilden. I immediately ordered my copy, and it arrived the other day. Museums must not just be a statement of facts, the idea now is to stimulate further investigation. Tilden defines interpretation:

An educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, by firsthand experience, and by illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information.

he continues: Interpretation should capitalize mere curiosity for the enrichment of the human mind and spirit.

I hope in some small way, my ramblings will encourage your curiosity to explore, and learn and enjoy more.

And, I promised you an answer.  I saw Chris at the library yesterday. Her guess was way off, and she needed to know.  Remember the “hook” I gave you last post to read further?

THE "HOOK" - What is it? Keep reading.

THE “HOOK” – What is it? Keep reading.

You ready? Remember I was at the NH Farm Museum — this is a HAY CAP – a pressed paper unit placed on top of a hay stack to keep water from entering the center of the stack.

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So, now you know. So keep exploring, and I will keep sharing my explorations with you. Thank you, and enjoy, yours, RAY

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3 Responses to POCONO and OLD MINE ROAD EXPLORATIONS – 16-19 JULY 2016

  1. Marian says:

    Nice to hear from you Ray. Great trip there and a plus with Scott and Betty.
    The POW-WOW looked like a lot of fun.
    Hope to see more soon. Great looking meal there.

    Hugs,
    Marian

  2. Interesting, informative and entertaining as always. Have passed through some of this area but must admit that we never saw half of what you reported on. Have enjoyed the Delaware Water Gap tour a couple of times. Took Tour to see Indian Head Profile.

  3. Jim says:

    As always, Ray — an amusing and informative write-up for what looked to be an amusing and informative trip. And I daresay if you hang around train stations long enough you WILL find your
    “Sarah Packer.” 😉 Interesting that — instead of a frosty brush-off — the wealthy widow was given
    a table by Queen Victoria. Did she curtsey? Or just offer the old queen an American handshake?
    Protocol sometimes fails…

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