Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2018-04-08: Geocaching Across Central to West Texas

Welcome back to AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventure Blog. For those that don't know, I started using AwayWeGo back in 2005 when my sons were 8 and 10 years old. At the peak of the real estate boom, we sold our house and bought a motorhome. For the next 11 months we just traveled the country from Florida to Maine to California up to Alaska. You can read about that adventure by going to AwayWeGo.US. Click on the "Our Adventures" in the menu for the archives. The AwayWeGo.US is also my Geocaching name.

OK, so much for reminiscing. Today's 360+ mile Sunday drive from Killeen back to Monahans, Texas, had me stopping by a couple cemeteries, an old church, a roadside attraction photo opp, the geographic center of Texas, and has Christmas died?

My first stop was at the Copperas Cove Cemetery at a cache called "Nineteen Forever" (GC1G31T). The hider has a brother buried here who died in 1989 at the age of nineteen.

One more before leaving Copperas Cove. A quick guard rail cache called Keyless Entry (GC11JGE), but not what I was expecting.  It kinda threw me off a little. But then it finally hit me like "what's the purpose?" Duh! I guess I should have reconsidered the name of the cache. A round rusty magnet covering the key/cache hole. Nicely simple creative geocache.

Continuing on to Lampasas, Texas, there was a new puzzle geocache (GC7MJC7) that had not yet been found after three days. So a chance at a First-To-Find! Most puzzle caches I take a quick look then ignore because they can be so complicated you need rocket scientist to decode them. But this one wasn't one of those. I arrived at the given coordinates and looked around for some numbers in the line of sight. Getting the information needed, I input the new coordinates which took me over to Hancock Springs Park. At the entrance to the park is the Worlds Largest Spur. After taking a few photos, I found the cache and a nice clean logsheet! YEA a FTF!

Along the way to my next geocache, I found myself on some very rural backroads of Texas north of Richland Springs in San Saba County. While enjoying the drive, I noticed a sign pointing down a side road that said cemetery. Hmmm... so I don't recall another geocache being along this route and I don't have cell phone service to verify. But I gotta go investigate no matter what.

A short distance later, I find myself in the Bowser Community. About 1858 the Abel Bowser family settled at a large bend in the Colorado River about 3 miles north of this area. The developing village, school and cemetery became known as Bowser Bend and by the late 1880's included a cotton gin and store. Due to river floods, Paul Varga donated land at this site for a chapel and cemetery in 1890. In the early 1900's J. T. Martin sold town lots and deeded land for a school one-half mile east. The town of Bowser relocated, but the closure of the post office, gin and school caused it to decline in the 1940's. Recent population has it around 20.

I spotted this old homesite that had fallen in on itself. The only thing that's held up are the two chimneys at each end of the house. I've seen a few of these towering chimneys with nothing else around. In Odessa, Texas, there's even one at the edge of a shopping center parking lot. The only remains of an early pioneer homestead.

Then there's this small church that looks like it's had some additions and improvements over time. The lower right corner of the stone building has a plaque that says: "The Methodist Church, 1941, D. G. Hardt, Pastor."

Finally, I arrived at the Varga Chapel Cemetery which brought me down this way. This is the cemetery I mentioned above on land donated in 1890. Since there wasn't a geocache here already, I decided to hide one myself. Walking around through the headstones, I was looking for something of interest and a reason to highlight this cemetery. Then there it was! Of all the many cemeteries I've been to, I don't recall ever seeing this family name. I found a spot to hide the geocache container and "Bah Humbug! Christmas is Dead!" was created (GC7MRW5).

Remember as a kid when your mother
used to tell you not to eat the seeds
because trees would grow in your stomach?

OK, time to get back on track continuing on towards the geocache (GC5PFE3) I was headed for! I thought this next one was going to be cooler than it turned out to be. What I did find was a historical marker. It read as follows:

"Five miles northwest is the geographic center of Texas,..." WAIT! WHAT? FIVE MILES NORTHWEST!? So as it turns out, this marker is NOT the geographic center. The TRUE center happens to be located on private property. So NO marker to visit there. Oh well. Here's the rest of the text you'll read on this historical marker just in case it might appear on a Jeopardy question or trivial pursuit.

"...an imaginary point whose coordinates divide the state into four equal areas. In straight-line distance it is 437 miles from the state's most westerly point on the Rio Grande River above El Paso, 412 miles from the most northerly point in the northwest corner of the Panhandle near Texline, 401 miles from the most southerly point on the Rio Grande below Brownsville and 341 miles from the most easterly point on the Sabine River near Burkeville. Maximum border-to-border distance is 801 miles from north to south and 773 miles from east to west.

"Enclosed within the 4,137-mile perimeter of the state are 267,339 square miles or 7.4 per cent of the nation's total area. Fifteen of the 50 states could be readily accommodated within Texas' borders--with more than 1,000 square miles left over. Brewster, in southwest Texas, is the largest of the state's 254 counties with 6,208 square miles, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. Smallest county is Rockwall in northeast Texas with 147 square miles.

"Texas elevations rise from sea level along the 624-mile coast of the Gulf of Mexico to 8,751 feet atop Guadalupe Peak in the Guadalupe Mountains. Altitude at this point is 1,545 feet. Terrain varies from the subtropic Rio Grande Valley to the trackless Great Plains, from the lush forests of East Texas to the rugged Trans-Pecos region where mountain ranges thrust 90 peaks a mile or more into the sky. But perhaps nowhere are Texas contrasts more pronounced than in average annual rainfall: from more than 56 inches along the Sabine River, nearly as much as Miami's, to less than 8 inches in the extreme West, as little as Phoenix's."

By now it's after 1PM and I still have almost four hours of drive time plus several more potential FTF's to get near Midland. So I quickly drive through San Angelo all the way to Sterling City. I stop at the DQ to finally get a late lunch and grab the geocache at the park across the street (GC5132R). And well since I've stopped anyway how about another quick one just 2 blocks away (GC52CRT).

Just southeast of Midland and I arrive at "What Am I Doing Way Out Here?" (GC7MPT9), where I find a nice clean logsheet at 5PM. WOHOO a FTF!! I looked up the cache owner and saw she had some more new caches out here in this area.

I found "Finally Got a Signal" (GC7MC5X) and "Down That Long Dirt Road" (GC7MC63), where I managed to get 2nd to find on each of those. Then it was "One Noisy Windmill" (GC7MPT2) and another FTF at 5:30PM.

Now it came down to: do I go after 6 more FTF's in the wrong direction towards Big Spring OR go west towards Monahans for only one more FTF? It had been a long day of driving. So westbound it is to the "Nice Little Pit Stop" (GC7MPT5) at a new Dollar General store for my final FTF at 6PM.

Another hour later and I finally make it back home to Monahans. Thanks for riding along with me. See you next time...

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2018-04-01: Geocaching Through Texas Ghost Towns, Cemeteries, Backroads, and a Large Frog

It's that time again. Another 360+ mile Sunday drive from Killeen to Monahans in West Texas. That means more Geocaching to break up the long drive. So let's get started...

My first stop was in downtown Lampasas at a Geocache called "What's with all the puppets?" (GCJC9Z). It was located out on the front sidewalk of this German Restaurant. Inside the restaurant are a bunch of those Marionette puppets hanging from the ceiling, but the place was closed on a Sunday morning so I couldn't enter.

Then I drove to the south side of town and arrived at the Santa Fe Center (GC15R9R). Located inside the shopping center parking lot just happens to be the oldest cemetery in Lampasas County. The Cook Cemetery was established as a pioneer community graveyard in the mid-1850's. The first marked burial here was that of Rebecca Hughes in 1854. The cemetery is named after Arkansas natives William M. and Cynthia Cook who moved to Texas about 1856 and bought the land containing this graveyard in 1861. No recorded burials occurred here after that of J. S. Brown (d.1873) due, it is believed, to major flooding here in 1873. The cemetery has been altered by highway and business development. It was deeded to the Lampasas County Historical Commission in 1978.

Making up some ground, I continue all the way through Brady where I pick up US-87 west towards San Angelo. On US-87 I find my next two geocaches near the ghost town of Pasche, Texas (GC1NVHZ, GC1JH0X). The Pasche community had a post office from 1907 until sometime after 1930. In 1908 promotional literature for the county cited Pasche as one of five Concho communities having a windmill. Pasche became a station on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway sometime around 1912, when a line was completed from Lometa (Lampasas County) westward to Eden.

In 1914 Pasche had one gin, two general stores, and a population of fifty. From 1925 until 1967, the last year for which a figure is available, Pasche reported a population of twenty-five. In 1936 the community had a school, a church, and a seasonal industry. In 1940 the school, which encompassed grades one through seven, had two teachers and an average daily attendance of eighteen. By 1955 the Pasche school had been consolidated with the Melvin (McCulloch County) school district. By 1970 only a few scattered buildings remained in the vicinity. The only thing I saw were a couple of farm houses.

Driving several miles west on County Road 3034, I arrived at Sudduth Cemetery (GC1NVJ2). The Sudduth Family Cemetery contains only four graves ranging from 1917 to 1945. I couldn't find anything else on this family or the neglected cemetery.

Getting closer to San Angelo, in the small community of Vancourt, I found my next cache (GC130FX). Vancourt is a farming and ranching community on U.S. Highway 87 twenty miles southeast of San Angelo in Tom Green County. In 1908 the community postmaster estimated the Vancourt population as 125. The first business at the community was a stage stop run by William C. and Ida Dickey 1½ miles east of the present site of Vancourt. W. S. Kelly, establishing a mail route for the El Paso Mail Company, applied for the first post office. He named it in honor of his new bride, Mary Ann Van Court.

In 1908 Calvin J. York, Jr., built a general store on the north side of the highway. Until it closed in the 1970's, it remained the only store in the community. The White Swan School, originally 1½ miles northwest of Vancourt, was moved to the community in 1907, on the south side of U.S. Highway 87. The Works Progress Administration in 1937 built a new brick schoolhouse that was used until 1940 (pictured below). A cotton gin had been built in the 1920's west of the school site; the gin continued to operate in the same location in 1988. At that time, businesses in the area near the townsite included another cotton gin, a mill, and two grain-elevator companies.

My next one in San Angelo gave me a bit of a chuckle. My Froggy Friend (GC6Q49M) was made from used tires and located outside a tire shop.

My final five geocaches were quick roadside stops along US-87 between San Angelo and Sterling City. They were: Roll out the Barrel (GC1Y1W7), Body Snatchers (GC1Y2JV), Flying Lone Star (GC513QK), EZMLT (GC5BKYX), and Johnny's Cache (GC5QR80).

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to follow me by going to  FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. Feel free to share my stories with your friends as well. Until next time...