Monday, February 29, 2016

2016-02-13: More Geocaching in Cemeteries Learning History and Route 66 Through Texas

Welcome back. Today was a little bit of everything. Our Geocaching goal was to pickup a few new counties and visit some classic Americana along Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas.

Our first cache (GC5NEFN) was another ghost town cemetery in Hale County. The Running Water Cemetery dates back to the late 1800's. Running Water Draw was near the headquarters of the Morrison ranch, established in 1881 as the first ranch in the county. Later the land became part of CC Slaughter's extensive holdings. Settlers bought railroad lands in the area, and in 1890, a post office called Wadsworth was established. For promotional reasons the name was changed to Running Water in 1891. That year a school was built. The railroad bypassed Running Water, which was near this cemetery, and in 1928 the community's businesses were moved three miles north to Edmonson Switch on the rail line. In 1935 the Running Water post office was moved to Edmonson Switch and two years later was renamed Edmonson. The old site of the Running Water community was abandoned.

The next cache was a quick stop by the Hart Cemetery (GC5TKDM).

Then we arrived in the town of Dimmitt for a full-sized time capsule. Mr. Kerr was a man of principal and the proprietor of Kerr Hardware (GCP930). The Texas Limited Sales, Excise and Use Tax Act was enacted by the 57th Legislature and became effective on September 1, 1961. Mr. Kerr got upset because the State of Texas had the audacity to require him to charge a sales tax. Needless to say, Mr. Kerr said he would "lock the doors" before he did this. The local legend goes that Mr. Kerr refused to charge the citizens sales tax and walked out and never came back. You will see brand new bicycles, tricycles, radios, fishing baskets, old wringer washing machines, riding toy tractors, appliances, on and on. Take a peek in the windows, everything is exactly how Mr. Kerr had left it over 50 years ago! I think I'd like to buy this place, clean everything up, and just keep it on display. 

Also in town was The Olde Hotel, built in 1929 and had 30 upstairs rooms and two restrooms. The hotel ceased operation in 1977 and was converted to apartments in 1980. The upstairs still houses six apartment rooms and four bed/breakfast rooms. The first floor has been home to Antiques Plus since 2002.

The Ozark Trail Obelisk was constructed in the 1920's and was originally in the middle of the highway intersection and marked the distance to other towns along the trail. On another corner of the courthouse lawn is one of the many Quanah Parker Arrows that mark the Quanah Trail throughout the Texas Plains.

A few more caches later and we came to the St. Mary Cemetery (GC4VHW6) cache. German Catholics settled the north side of Umbarger and Swiss Catholics to the south side of town in the early 1900's.

Heading on up to Amarillo on the south side of town, we come to our first virtual cache (GCH59D). A strange site to say the least. According to the historical marker:
In 1819 while on their horseback trek over the great plains of New Spain, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft (author of "Frankenstein"), came across these ruins. Here Shelley penned these immortal lines:
I met a traveler from an antique land who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert, near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculpture well those passions read, which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away." (1819) 
In reality: Inspired by a similar set of big legs in the Egyptian desert, Stanley Marsh 3 (who commissioned the nearby Cadillac Ranch) paid a guy named Lightnin' McDuff to build the legs.

Speaking of Cadillac Ranch (GCG71X), that was the next stop of our day. I once paid a visit here to this Route 66 roadside attraction back in 2009 while I was a truck driver. At that time, I was the only one out here. With the exception of a couple dozen cows grazing about. Back then the cars were also covered with graffiti. Today is a little different. Candy had never seen this before. There is also a traditional cache here too (GC4K7Y3).

But sadly there were no cows anywhere in sight. There where about 25-30 people in the stages of coming, going, and painting. But the worse part was that there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of spray paint cans littering the field. Even with the 3 large dumpsters back by the fence and parking area for those who must leave their mark, there are still those disrespectful people who could care less and just toss their empty cans on the ground. Reading through some of the Geocaching logs though, some cachers bring bags out here to pick up some of the cans as they make the finds. If we ever come back out here, we'll definitely be prepared with extra bags.

One a good note, as we were leaving the area getting back to I-40, a few blocks away was the Amarillo West RV Park which re-created its own "Cadillac Ranch" without the graffiti, restored Cadillacs, and a giant cowboy statue. A better photo indeed!

And you can't visit Amarillo without a stop by the Big Texan restaurant complex. There's also a Travel Bug Hotel here as well (GC30FGP), though I was disappointed when I found it. The previous one here I found back in 2009 was listed as a LARGE cache and was a 10 gallon plastic storage container. A fitting Texas sized cache. That one was archived and this new one put in place. Still listed as a "large" size cache, this one wasn't much bigger than a sandwich size Tupperware.

A few blocks down was the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum next to the AQH Headquarters. There wasn't a cache here, but several life size horse & rider statues as well as this unique wall of running horses.

Getting late in the day and we still had a 2 hour drive home. But there were two more virtual caches in the downtown area I wanted to get. The first (GCGXBZ) was at this park that had a 1-ton granite globe that was supposed to float on the water. But the water from underneath was turned off so you couldn't spin the globe. The second photo below was an old train locomotive (GCGBMY) built in 1930 and traveled 1,750,000 miles before retiring in Nov. 1953. 

What a hodgepodge of things seen today! From 100 year old cemeteries, historically preserved hardware store, roadside oddities and attractions, to old trains. We sure like this hobby!

2016-02-06: Geocaching and Canyon Hiking in Dickens Springs

Today we wanted to do some rough terrain hiking and Geocaching. Our last few months back in Florida, we starting doing the bushwhacking and hiking through scrub and swamp. While the chance of hiking a swamp in West Texas is ZERO, there is opportunity to do some bushwhacking through the forest.

About an hour east of Lubbock are several Geocaches with high terrain rating located within Dickens Springs. So after breakfast, we headed out on US-82 into Dickens County and the town of Dickens. After stopping by the historic Dickens County Courthouse and the County Jail buildings for photos, we arrived at the Dickens County Springs Park from 1891.

The history of the springs from the Historical Marker:
At one time, water covered this area. Sandstone, the prominent rock around this site, is porous, causing exposed strata at canyon rims to form a natural drainage outlet for upland aquifers, making possible the existence of these springs. Situated at the head of a canyon ravine immediately below the Upper Prairie Region of the Rolling Plains, the ancient springs have been a favored human habitat since the earliest human occupation in this region. Many nomadic tribes have used the site, leaving behind a wealth of archaeological evidence. 
John A. Askins and his family settled near these springs in late 1883, and it became known to pioneers as Askins Springs. A traveling real estate developer called Dr. M. S. Crow arrived here in 1891 and was a driving force in the organization of the town of Dickens about a half-mile west of the Askins land. In 1891 he gave a speech proclaiming his intent to give ten acres around "Crow Springs," as he called them, to the town of Dickens. The new city park became known as Dickens Springs. Generations of Dickens citizens and tourists, attracted by the rugged and colorful scenery and the unique collection of plants, have visited this site for picnics and social gatherings. In 1978 the departments of Anthropology and of Park Management at Texas Tech University made an intensive survey of the land surrounding Dickens Springs. Though many artifacts were lost to souvenir hunters, the university workers uncovered a variety of ancient tools, rarely of local origin. In the 21st century, Dickens Springs continues to provide water and beauty to the area for modern visitors as it did for the nomadic peoples of the past.

So we drove towards the springs and canyon area and about halfway down the entrance the road forks. Naturally I take the right fork. Not having ever been here before, we later learned I should've went left. You'll see why as you continue reading!

We arrive at the parking area for the Chuck Wagon (GC4ZZA4). A quick find of our first cache, and we go check out the chuck wagon. A makeshift replica of an old west covered wagon with a picnic table in the center. Hopefully in the hotter summer months, they have a canvas giving shade to those having a picnic.

As you can see from the photo above, if you do decide to have a picnic here, you will have an incredible view of the canyon. Our next cache was called the "Forgotten Picnic Table" (GC552R2). Looking above at the picture again and the trees in the foreground, that's where the spring flows. That's also the location of our next cache. DOWN into the canyon! We started down what appeared to be several different trails leading down, but none panned out. So we just started bushwhacking our way through the trees, bushes, and thorns.

It's kinda hard to tell in the photo below, but the first is looking down through the trees what we had to get through. After about 30 minutes, we finally made it to the bottom and found the forgotten picnic table and the cache.

Now the next cache seemed to be in the direction of the top of canyon on the opposite side about 1/4 mile away. But before we climbed back up the opposite side, I wanted to find the origin of the spring. Plus it was kinda going in the same direction anyway. So we followed the small creek upstream to the spring.

REALLY?! We arrive at the springs only to find stairs and a trail leading UP to the other parking area. Yeah, remember that fork in the road I mentioned? If we had taken the left fork, we could have parked and taken the easy way down into the canyon. I know, I know... where's the adventure in that right? So we check out the springs and take the trail up to the giant steel teepee covering another picnic table.

Now checking out the remaining caches, we were now closer to The Mystery of the Dug-Out-Mine cache (GCHYXZ). While not really a mine, this is actually a replica of the original first home built around 1878 by John Askins (even though the above sign at the entrance suggests 1883). The dugout was a common sense first home for early settlers in timber poor West Texas. John Askins traveled to Colorado City, TX for the tin used to roof his dugout. The remains of the original dugout were located about 200 yards to the south. But this method was a quick way to get shelter until more lumber or brick could be brought in to build a house.

Finding the cache above and behind the dugout house.
Looking back down the canyon from the cache in the above photo, if you look closely to the top right side, you can hopefully make out the frame of the chuck wagon. We bushwhacked our way down to the forgotten picnic table below the trees in the center of the photo. Then towards the camera to the right for the springs and up to the dugout house out of the photo to the right. Now the last cache was over to the top of the hill to the left side of the canyon.

So we went back down the stairs to the spring and followed the creek a short ways until we got to within 200' of the cache (GCHYXW). Then it was climbing UP the side of the canyon through rock, sand, and trees to get to this boulder you see below. We searched for about 15 minutes without any luck. This cache on the opposite side of the canyon doesn't get looked for as often as the others. The last time it was found was in May of 2014. Since then there has only been one other cacher logging a DNF in March of 2015. And now almost another year later and our DNF. I don't like going through all this and not come away with a find.

Having now hiked back down to the creek, we decided not to go the short route back to the car which would also require bushwhacking back up the canyon. Instead we went back up to the springs and the teepee parking area, and walked the road back to the fork and then down again to the chuck wagon and our car. I forgot how long a walk it was going around the long way, but it felt like a mile!

Driving back up to the entrance of the park, there was one last cache (GC54JDT) to get and another short hike up the hill. If you look back up to the photo of the entrance, you'll see the hill off to the left side. Yep, we now had to hike up there too!

The last cache for the day was at the Dickens Cemetery (GC5HGQC). A quick find and we then headed back to Lubbock. Another long but adventurous day hiking in the wilderness. Yes, our muscles maybe a little sore, but definitely well worth it!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016-01-24: Cemeteries, Canyons, and History Around Crosby County Texas

Today was a Geocaching day for finding lonely caches and cemeteries around Crosby County Texas. Lonely caches are either difficult or caches that are way out of the way in the middle of nowhere and nobody wants to drive to go find them.

So today we headed east on US-82 out to our first cache at the Crosbyton Cemetery (GC5HGV5). In 1909 when James Boggs, one of the -N- cowboys became ill and was thought to be dying, Julian Bassett had the Crosbyton cemetery laid out. TJ Walling, foreman, Buck Creamer, and JP Goins did the work. However, Boggs did not die. The first person buried at the Crosbyton cemetery was Willie Oliver, eighteen month old daughter of Mrs. Laura Oliver. She was buried on the north side where a small wooden fence enclosed the grave.

Just down the road, still in Crosbyton, is the Mt Zion Cemetery and our next cache (GC54293). Developed as a burial ground for the community's African-Americans in the early to mid-1900s, many of the stone grave markers have become chipped and broken. Pieces remain, but whole sections of names and dates of deaths are missing. About 10 years ago  Doddrick Quincy, a 16-year-old Boy Scout of the South Plains Council, lead a crew of Troop 333 Scouts in restoring the cemetery as part of his Eagle Scout project. The Scouts had to find unmarked graves and try to learn who is buried in each plot. The cemetery was built by the Mt. Zion Church, an African-American church built in 1924.

Our next cache was near an intersection that had four historical signs telling about a nearby ranch, the Texas Rangers, Old Dewey Lake, and the Mackenzie Trail. Though there wasn't anything there to see or take a picture of, it was interesting reading.

Moving along to another cache (GCHRXD) at a Texas rest area along US-82. This was a fun rest area! There was a creek running along the back side with a hiking trail. Now you can't pass up a hiking trail!

Our next cache was one of those out-of-the-way lonely caches that rarely get visited. Along the way we passed by some really great views and took some pictures. We also passed by a couple of historical signs. The first was about the Leatherwood School. To summarize it read:
This area of Crosby County was settled in 1898 by the family and relatives of M.G. Leatherwood. As other families began to arrive, the need for a nearby school became apparent. As a result, the Leatherwood Common School District was created in 1912.   
The first classes held in the spring of 1913 in a one-room schoolhouse on land donated by M.G. Leatherwood, were taught by Ellsworth Ham. The location of the school was changed twice before it was moved to this site at the eastern edge of the county.
At the height of its growth, Leatherwood School employed three teachers who taught 36 students in a three room schoolhouse. The final classes were held in 1949 when the area was made part of the Crosbyton School District.
 Another historical marker we passed:
The Pansy Baptist Church was organized in 1905 to serve the residents of the Pansy community. Church services were conducted in the school building until when the congregation constructed its first sanctuary. An arbor was built on the church grounds for revival services.
After a couple of moves and rebuilds, the latest being in 1965. Through the years population dwindled in the rural community of Pansy. In 1995 the remaining members voted to disband. The church building was donated to the Mt Zion Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in Floydada. The building was moved 32 miles by 140 volunteers. 

We finally arrive at our next Geocache (GCHRBA) called Cosmic View. A scenic area of the canyon and almost a year since the previous cacher logged a visit. It was definitely worth the trip though. We each took a turn for a photo and then a panoramic view.

Our next stop was Red Mud Cemetery (GC4ZZ83). First known as Tap Cemetery, as the little town of Tap was about 1/2 mile NE of this site. As Redmud Creek was nearby, it later became known as Redmud Cemetery. Will Barger homesteaded this land, and was shot by a neighbor in April 1886. His wife died of TB in July 1886 and was buried by his side. The number of graves increased and in 1906 the land owners on the north and south gave one acre each for the cemetery. In 1909 a group took the care of the cemetery as a project and the day for the annual cemetery working was set on June 6, it is still observed each year.

So as we were walking around the cemetery, we spotted this odd headstone. At first glance it looks as though Ida Peterson died BEFORE she was born. But after closer inspection, it seems as though they stamped the "9" in 1948 upside down!

We found a total of eleven caches for today before heading back home to end another great weekend of Geocaching.

2016-01-23: Strange Houses, Hiking Hills, History and Cemeteries

Today was a day for Geocaching fairly close to Lubbock. Getting a late start after breakfast, we headed east over to Ransom Canyon to grab a virtual cache (GCGPZH). High above overlooking the canyon is a very unique house. It kinda reminds me of a kids Viewfinder from the one side. You can't tell from the photos below, but the side facing the lake is just a giant glass window.

A couple of houses down and across the street is this Hobbit looking house.

As we continued to cache around the lake, hundreds, maybe thousands of ducks were flying by overhead. Not sure you are able to see them flying in formation on the device you are reading this one. Hopefully you can.

After Ransom Canyon, we headed south down US-84 a few miles to the town of Slaton. There we found our next Geocache at the Slaton Harvey House (GC1EKVV). From the historical sign: The city of Slaton has historic ties to the railroad. For decades the site was ranchland until the Santa Fe Railway sought a location for a division point to service trains. The Santa Fe bought the land in April 1911, naming the townsite for rancher and banker O. L. Slaton. Passenger and freight service became central to the economy, and the company built a passenger depot and Harvey House the following year. Scottish immigrant Fred Harvey created the Harvey House chain in 1876, partnering with the Santa Fe Railway, which built the restaurants and provided space on their trains for food and supplies. Harvey provided the equipment, management and hospitality staff, including the hostesses known as Harvey Girls.

The Slaton Harvey House served efficient but elegant meals to 42 passengers at a time around a horseshoe shaped counter on the first floor, which also housed the kitchen, bakery, gift shop and manager's office. The manager and his family and the Harvey Girls roomed on the second floor. The Slaton Harvey House, a commercial and social center, operated for 30 years, briefly reopening to serve troops during WWII. The building remained a passenger depot until 1969; the railroad later converted it to a freight depot and operations center before vacating the property in the 1980's. Slaton citizens coordinated the preservation and restoration of their landmark building.

From there we drove north on some backroads to stretch our legs and do some hiking. There were a couple of caches with a high terrain rating. Sounds like an adventure! We arrived at the first area (GC4C0MZ) and I drove around the curve past it and then back again trying to figure out the best parking and approach to the top of the hill. It was an exhilarating climb with a fantastic view! So peaceful and quiet with only the sound of the wind out there.

A couple miles away on the east side of Horseshoe Canyon was the next cache (GC1K5MW) and the next hike. Slightly easier than the first one, but still an amazing view and peaceful. Only one car had passed the whole time up and back.

On our way to the next couple of caches out in the middle of nowhere, we passed by a herd of deer grazing in a field.

Our last cache for today was located at Emma Cemetery south of the town of Ralls. Emma is on that short list of ghost towns that were once county seats. Business partners R. L. Stringfellow and H. E. Hume were store owners in the Crosby County seat of Estacado, when they bought a section of land in 1890. A post office was granted that year and the name submitted was Emma - after a woman who later married one of the partners. History doesn't seem to record if she became Mrs. Stringfellow or Mrs. Hume.

The central location made Emma a consideration for the county seat and since residents of Estacado were already drifting to the newer community, an election was held in the Fall of 1891. Emma squeaked through by a six-point margin (109-103). The residents of Estacado moved the courthouse and other prominent buildings to Emma and the town prospered for awhile. By 1910 there was a population of 800 and Emma had all essential businesses including a bank and newspaper.

Emma's future seemed bright up until it was bypassed by the railroad in 1910. The shoe was now on the other foot and Emma lost out to the new town of Crosbyton in an election held in September of 1910. This election was also close (198 to 120) and soon the former townspeople of Estacado and Emma were moving again - this time in an organized exodus that consisted of steam engines, mules and most of the male population. The former courthouse was dismantled and taken to Cedric and the next year the Emma post office moved to Ralls. Today only the historical marker is left.

History lesson is over. Now back to Geocaching. Cemetery caches are one some of our favorite caches to find. This one happens to be a virtual cache (GCHA69). Now since we've been Geocaching, we must have been to a hundred or more cemeteries. THIS is a first! Every headstone we've ever seen said "Died", "Death", or simply "D". Poor Tommie Horrell had the truth told about him. He was MURDERED on Jan 5, 1894 at the young age of 24.

While we ended the day with only ten caches, they were really good quality caches. Unusual houses, history, hiking, a cemetery... this is why we like this game! Where do we go to tomorrow? You'll just have to come back and see!