Saturday, February 27, 2021

2019-05-19: Caching Counties in North Carolina and Visiting Civil War History

Welcome back to another one of AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventure stories. After working all week here in North Carolina, on this Sunday day off it's time to go geocaching and pick up some new counties to add to my geocaching county map. So as I look down this trail into what may be ahead, are you ready to go along for the ride? Are you just as curious? The GeoJeep passenger seat is open. Let's go on a roadtrip and see what awaits us.

Starting out with breakfast at Hardies in Washington, NC, I drive north on US-17 up to Old Ford on the way towards my first geocache. Before I get to the geocache, I see this old church building to my right across the street from the Old Ford Church of Christ on my left. I quickly pull over and take a few dozen photos. 

Now I can't just leave it at that and keep you interested. So I start doing some research. Not much on the web via normal searches. But I did find an old newspaper article from November 11, 1928 which describes a centennial celebration. The Old Ford Church was at first a Calvinistic Baptist Church founded by Joseph D. Biggs and Jeremiah Leggett in October 1828 with 20 members. Between 1831 to 1833, Pastor Leggett swayed them towards the Church of Christ. As the membership grew over the years, they outgrew this building.

Further down NC-171, I also spot this old 1956 GMC Pickup Truck just rusting away in somebody's yard. That would be so cool to restore or turn into a radical resto-mod. If I only had the time or money. Well mostly the money to be able to do such a thing.

Now I finally stop for a quick roadside cache (GC42NQV) down a country road before arriving at my target geocache for Washington County. The Roanoke River Lighthouse (GC10RGW) in Plymouth is actually a replica of the lighthouse that used to be at the mouth of the Roanoke River in the Albemarle Sound in 1866.

There's also a boat museum next door with a few old wooden boats used on the river.

Continuing down the river front in Plymouth, I arrive at the next geocache and Civil War history. The C.S.S. Albemarle (GC5NEHF) was contracted by the Confederate Navy in 1863. Gilbert Elliot, a 19-year-old engineer, constructed an ironclad gunboat designed by John L. Porter, the navy's chief architect. Elliot built the vessel at Edwards Ferry on the Roanoke River, 60 miles upstream from Plymouth, where his "shipyard" was Peter Smith's cornfield. It took more than a year to construct the C.S.S. Albemarle , which was 158 feet long and 35 feet wide, and topped with a 60 foot long casemate sheathed with two layers of two inch thick iron plates. Inside the casemate, two large Brooke Rifled cannons could fire hundred pound shells. An 18-foot long white oak ram, also sheathed with iron plates, extended from Albemarle's bow to puncture the sides of wooden vessels and sink them.

Albemarle saw first action on April 19, 1864, during the Battle of Plymouth, when it rammed and sank U.S.S. Southfield. It also indirectly caused the death of the Federal Fleet's Commander, Charles W. Flusser. A shell fired from Flusser's ship, U.S.S. Miami, at Albemarle bounced off the iron plating back onto the Miami and exploded, killing Flusser, who was standing next to the cannon that had fired the shell.

On May 5th, in an engagement in Albemarle Sound, the Albemarle engaged seven US gunboats. Despite being outgunned 60 cannons to two, outshelled 557 to 27, and rammed, the Albemarle escaped destruction. The ironclad was finally torpedoed (blown up with a mine on the end of a wooden spar) on October 27, by a motor launch commanded by Lt William B Cushing, and sank. The Federals recaptured Plymouth on October 31st.

Outside the Port O' Plymouth museum sits a replica of the 6.4 inch Brooke Rifled Cannon. Developed by Commander John Mercer Brooke (CSA), who served as Chief, Department of Ordnance and Hydrography. While closely resembling the Parrot Gun used by the Union, the Brooke Rifle is considered to be the finest cannon on both sides of the war. The fact that the bore had rifling, or spiraled grooves in the barrel to spin the projectile, made it extremely accurate. While the two original cannons from the Albemarle are on display at the Norfolk Navy Base, inside the Plymouth museum are some of the original shells fired from the Albemarle.

Entering into Bertie County, I drive over to the north side of the Cashie River to catch a ride on the Sans Souci Ferry. There was a virtual geocache halfway across. But the ferry was closed and I wasn't able to get the find. But there was a recently placed traditional cache (GC85629) on the north bank of the river and I was able to retrieve and sign the log for it.

Continuing may way around to the north side of Albemarle Sound, I make my next stop at the Beaver Hill Cemetery (GC84AZ7) in Chowan County. The geocache highlighted the sadness and struggles of the Littlejohn Family living in the late 1700's. According to the Find-A-Grave website, the cemetery dates back to 1778 and Catherine Littlejohn who lived only 6 days. Only four of the twelve Littlejohn children lived beyond age 20. And Catherine was just one of four Littlejohn children who didn't even make it to see their first birthday.

There are now more than 6000 permanent residents in the Beaver Hill Cemetery. This angel statue was located within the cemetery and looks over those here.

Across the creek from the southeast corner of the Beaver Hill Cemetery, is the Providence Burial Ground (GC84E7C). From the plaque: "Established in the late 18th century, this African-American cemetery is the final resting place for free blacks, slaves, and emancipated people buried here through the late 19th century. Among those interred here are several family members of Thomas Barnswell, a free black property owner; Molly Horniblow, a free black businesswoman and grandmother of author and abolitionist Harriet Jacobs; and Jonathan Overton, a free black veteran of the Revolutionary War, a Private in the 10th NC Regiment of the Continental Line." (2001) There wasn't much to see here anymore. Just an empty lot with a couple headstones remaining and a few place markers.

Continuing on US-17 east, the next county over was Perquimans County. Located in the town of Hertford along the banks of the Perquimans River is a virtual geocache at a historical house (GC4740). The 1730 Newbold-White House is one of North Carolina's oldest examples of colonial architecture. The house served as an important meeting place for the state's Quaker congregations as well as a center for governmental courts and assemblies.

A land grant from the Lords Proprietors to Joseph Scott for 640 acres included this tract of land and house site. Personal journals of Quaker missionary George Fox describe a meeting with Joseph Scott and his neighbors at his home in 1672. Later Scott, along with his family and neighbors, established their own Quaker congregation. Following the death of his first wife, Scott married Mary Hudson in 1683. Until her death in 1692, Mary Hudson Scott opened her home as a meeting place for Quaker congregations.

James Coles and his wife, Mary, bought the land in 1703. The property was sold at auction in 1726 and was bought by Abraham Saunders, a Quaker and planter. Saunders most likely built the one-and-one-half-story brick dwelling that later came to be known as the Newbold-White House. The name Newbold-White derived from its last two private owners, Jim Woodward White and John Henry Newbold. The Perquimans County Restoration Association, Inc., purchased the house in 1973 with the intention of preserving it as a historic site.

One more northeast county to go and I wasn't going to pass up without it. I did that back in Texas and had to take a weekend to go all the way back to the north corner to finish the state. Turned out on US-158 east into Currituck County. There were two caches on my target and was looking forward to going after them cause they were on a 4x4 Jeep trail. (GC51Q5F, GC51Q0T) Well I got as far as I could go in the GeoJeep. The rest was bushwhacking through tall weeds and brush in humid 95 degree temperatures. Naw, I'm not up for that right now. Back out to the Hwy and a few more miles for a quick roadside cache (GC7Q131).

Working my way back westbound now, I drive across the top of North Carolina on US-158 into Gates County. I stopped for a quick cache (GC3D5JG) down in Gatesville, NC in a little park at Bennett Creek. No bushwhacking required here.

Taking a different route back, I enter once again into Hertford County. I stopped for a quick roadside geocache (GC5NECT) near a historical marker. The marker reads: "A detachment of United States troops burned Winton on February 20, 1862. The first town to be burned in North Carolina during the Civil War."

Re-entering the westside of Bertie County, I make a quick stop for a cache at the Hoggard Cemetery (GC1NV7W). There's just over 300 interments in this cemetery with the oldest dating back to 1908.

A few more miles down the road from the cemetery, I passed by this huge abandoned house now being overtaken by nature. Looks like it was once a majestic plantation home. I wonder what happened. Who lived here? Why was it abandoned? Sure would be cool to go exploring inside and see what stories I could find.

Now in Martin County I had several geocaching stops. The first was a geocache at the Oak City Cemetery (GC1NV7B) which dates back to 1905. Then gas and a cache in Oak City (GC1NV79).

A quick scenic geocache stop at Conoho Creek (GC5FNJ5).

Finally, I arrive at the scene of the first photo at the top of this page. The Fort Branch Confederate Earthen Fort Civil War site (GC5DDC, GC56HZ7, GC5NEF2) is located two miles below Hamilton, North Carolina and 60 miles upriver of the town of Plymouth. Sitting 70 feet above a bend in the Roanoke River, this Confederate earthen fort provided a safe and clear view of Union gunboats approaching from down river.

Eleven cannon offered significant protection for the railway bridge over the river at Weldon, a weak link in the "Lifeline of the Confederacy" between Wilmington, NC and Richmond, VA. The fort also protected the nearby construction site of the ironclad ram C.S.S. Albemarle which later helped regain control of the lower Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound by sinking wooden Union ships. Citizens of the entire Upper Roanoke Valley benefited from the fort, as well.

Well that's it for today. I picked up some new counties today to fill in my North Carolina map. Next weekend is a 3-day holiday weekend. Gotta plan a weekend roadtrip to get the western counties and hopefully complete the state. Please leave your comments on my blog, good or bad. I look forward to hearing from you. See you soon...

Saturday, February 20, 2021

2019-05-12: Geocaching Counties in OBX and NE North Carolina Visiting Kitty Hawk, a Crazy Bird, and Grave Digger

Hey guys! Welcome back! So if you remember from yesterdays blog, I started working on a solar project in North Carolina this past week. Yesterday, the first Saturday off, I geocached the southeast corner of the state to pickup the missing counties I needed for my geocaching map. Today I'll be taking a roadtrip over to the Outer Banks (OBX) and the northeast corner of the state for more counties. So let's get going...

From where I'm staying in Blounts Bay, I first have to go west around the Pamlico River into the town of Washington to pickup US-264 eastbound. By the way, originally called Forks of the Tar, the town of Washington, NC was renamed in 1776 and the first to be named in honor of George Washington.

Sometimes while driving the rural backroads around the country you get to discover some unexpected photo ops that you just have to pull over for. This one was on the way to my first geocache. Driving along US-264 and crossing over Scranton Creek, I spotted this old sailboat that was probably victim of one of the many storms that have hit the Carolinas. My first thought was "GILLIGAAANNN!!!"

And speaking of storms... my first geocache was in Hyde County. It was located at a roadside historical marker for the Providence Methodist Church (GC57KRV). There wasn't anything to see here other than the sign and a cornfield. But back on September 16-17, 1876, the church was "moved by the hand of God." It seems that the church floated away from the center of town during a flood and landed here. Then the following day when the waters receded, it pushed the church back almost to the exact spot it started in town nearly two miles away!

Moving on up into Tyrrell County, I stopped for a quick roadside cache (GC1FEDM). From there were continued the backroads north into Columbia, NC and picked up US-64 eastbound. Usually driving the backroads you can encounter some unexpected sites. I passed by a Seafood Market with about a dozen of these metal sculptures. Here's just a couple of them.

Crossing the Alligator River into Dare County, my next geocache (GC2Y1PC) was at the remains of the old ferry docks. The ferry established in 1931 by W. T. Baum while it was State Highway 90 and gave travelers a way of crossing the river verses driving all the way around to the south. Soon thereafter the state began subsidizing Mr. Baum and providing a free service to users. Upon the completion of US-64 in the 1950's, more traffic arrived and additional ferry crossings scheduled. Eventually a bridge was built over the river connecting both sides of US-64 in 1962 and the ferry abandoned. You can still see the remains of the docks used by so many in the past.

Continuing on US-64 east, I cross over Croatan Sound onto Roanoke Island. It was here where the first English colonists came and attempted to settle back in 1585. On the third attempt 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children were left behind on the island in 1587. By the time the supply shipped returned again in 1590, the colonists had disappeared never to be seen again.

Also on the island are my next three geocaches locates at the Outer Banks Welcome Center. The first one called OBX Velkominne Respite (GC38G6K) was a very creative cache at one of the picnic tables with over 200 favorite points. From there take a stroll down the boardwalk for a rather difficult magnetic container hide (GC4K4NH) about halfway down.

I hadn't planned on spending so much time here. But the caches and the views were worth it. And finally, down at the very end of the pier was the final geocache to be found here (GC477R6). I guess the best way to describe it would be to leave you with a couple videos:

My next geocache in Dare County on the OBX was the most historic and where I spent the most time. "Dawn of Aviation" (GCB57D) is a virtual geocache on Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk. It was on this hill where two bicycle shop owners from Ohio, Orville and Wilbur, built a flying contraption and brought it down here for a test flight. On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers made four successful flights gradually increasing in lengths at 120 feet, 175 feet, 200 feet, and finally 852 feet.

After passing both the House and Senate, President Calvin Coolidge signed the act to establish the Kill Devil Hill National Monument on March 2, 1927. The first monument was a 10-ton granite marker placed on December 17, 1928 at the approximate location of the 1903 liftoff and a cornerstone was laid atop Kill Devil Hill for the larger monument. Construction of the 60-feet art-deco designed triangular monument was completed in November 1932.

From the monument at the top of the hill looking out over the flight path. The parking and visitor center is off to the right side.

Just one of the many scenes in Sculpture Gardens. These life sized statues showcase the many people, photographers, the plane and more there on that momentous day.

One last geocache here on the outer banks turns out to be a webcam cache. Whenever you encounter a webcam cache you want to try and get it. They're no longer added so once they've been archived, they're gone. "Sun n' Surf" (GC2585) webcam was atop the Shrimp Shack looking out over the pier. How webcams used to work was a two-person activity. You'd have to stand in the correct spot, call someone at a computer who could screen shot the photo. Now with smartphones, you can do it yourself.

Leaving the OBX on US-158 north back on the mainland. Another one of those "Hey Lookie There" moments! Passing through Poplar Branch, I spot the Grave Digger monster truck and the Digger's Dungeon shop! Oh, I just HAD to pull over for some roadside attraction photos! Posing the GeoJeep next to the oversized Grave Digger of course. And how about the fastest mailbox in the world too.

Making my way back, I entered into Camden County and picked up a quick roadside geocache in some trees (GCTEQN). Nothing special about the cache or the place, but I did get a photo of this disturbed young bird that I wasn't sure it could fly yet. It was just hopping from branch to branch. Then just gave me that look like I just woke it up.

One more quick roadside geocache (GC4MHAH) for Pasquotank County and then I call it a day. Time to get back and prepare for work tomorrow. I picked up a lot of new caching counties this weekend. Hmmm now to plan next weekends county caching run. See you then...

Saturday, February 13, 2021

2019-05-11: Geocaching Counties in SE North Carolina Finding Some Creative Caches and an Abandoned Amphitheater

Welcome back friends, geocachers, road trippers, and fellow backroad explorers. If you remember back from last weeks blog post, I had arrived in North Carolina to start building a new solar farm here in Beaufort County near the town of Wilkinson. After working all week, now it's the weekend and time to go geocaching and exploring! And time to fill in some of those empty spaces on my North Carolina County map! 

My first stop was at a Bojangles for breakfast and also a quick geocache (GC381EA) in the parking lot to claim Pamlico County. Further down the road another quick parking lot geocache (GC7BY75) in Craven County. Then down in the town of Maysville in Jones County, there was small library with my next geocache (GC6WW4B). My next geocache was in Carteret County at the Hadnot Creek (GC1NEZK). Over in Onslow County by the White Oak River was the Bridge to Stella geocache (GC7R2VB).

Still in Onslow just a few miles away are my next three geocaches. Placed on Riggs Road, by a cacher named RiggsNC, the first was at the Riggs Family Cemetery" (GC6CFJP). And this really cool "Riggs Farm - TB Bed and Breakfast" cache (GC6JB0Z).

A travel bug hotel cache is large enough to hold lots of swag and and trackables. This one is themed like a farm. It very creative and well done. It had a lot of favorite points. (Unfortunately this cache has been archived since I had found it. The Riggs have moved away and since this was on their property, it went with them to be relocated as well.)

Then there was the "Meet Me at the Corner" cache (GC6F5BJ). Another creative cache by RiggsNC. Now if a photo is worth a thousand words, then I guess it's best if I describe this cache with a short video clip:

Driving south on US-17 on the way to the next county, I stopped in Holly Ridge for a bite to eat. While eating I was looking up the geocaches close by. Then I saw this puzzle cache called "Elite Bling Series #7 Geocaching Daily News" (GC74AGJ) with some favorite points. I don't usually do puzzle caches because most of the time I can't figure them out. But this one had potential. First the coordinates take you to a war memorial where you had to answer questions for clues...

Then drive over to the final location where you'll find this:

Moving on next door to Pender County, I make a quick stop for a virtual cache called "I See the Light" (GCEFA7) at the Topsoil Baptist Church. I gathered the information I needed for the lighthouse and continued on my way.

It was a short drive to the next roadside attraction. This next geocache was called Hooper's Tale (GC24PPT), perhaps in reference to a 70's movie. It was located near this giant shark. Not too scary as it didn't have much for teeth. Unless maybe you're afraid of it gumming you to death.

Moving along into New Hanover County, I make a quick stop for another roadside geocache (GC1TZ41).

Driving north on up to the town of Kenansville in Duplin County are my next four geocaches. The first was a virtual cache called Cowan Museum (GC9BBC). The Cowan Museum of History and Science was founded in 1981 within this historic 1800's house. Also on the grounds is a historical park which includes many buildings and a botanical garden. The buildings include a general store, blacksmith shop, log cabin, smokehouse, schoolhouse, and a tobacco barn.

The 19th century general store and Natural Wells Post Office was once operated by James C Boone, who was postmaster from 1892-1903. The structure was located about four miles west of Rose Hill. The building was renovated in 2018.

This schoolhouse building was originally a corn crib from the 19th century. Now used as an example of an 1800's one room schoolhouse, it is made of hand-hewed timbers chinked together. 

A few blocks away is the "Kenansville Spring Earthcache" (GC178NW) and "The Spring" virtual cache (GC9BBE). According to tradition, a sea captain by the name of Capt. Benjamin Beverett had arrived in the area in the 1740's with his wife Barbara Gastor Beverett and son Jacob. He settled his family near present-day Kenansville, returned to sea, and never returned. The legend continues that Barbara was walking with downcast eyes when she saw a goldpiece. Hoping for buried treasure, she began hurriedly scratching the earth with her bare hands, and she uncovered the spring.

Over time the spring was walled in with brick. Concrete steps and an approach area was installed in 1909. Then once again refinished in brick in 1971. Even though the water became contaminated in 1994, the county turned the surrounding area into a small park and gave the spring enclosure a facelift. The water still flows from its original location, but it is no longer drinkable.

Probably my most favorite location of the day is the "Amp It Up" cache (GC29FE2). Constructed in 1976, The abandoned William Rand Kenan Jr Memorial Amphitheater was once said to be the finest amphitheater in the state. Music reviews and musical dramas were presented July through August and at Christmas by the Duplin Outdoor Drama Society. Long abandoned, it is now in the process of being reclaimed by nature. Sitting there in the peaceful quiet of emptiness, you have to wonder why it didn't have a very long life. The photo below is from the stage area looking up. The first photo at the top of the blog page is from the top looking at the ticket window and entry.

Moving on up to Wayne County, I make a quick cache stops at the Pineview Cemetery (GC5DWAR) which dates back to 1900 and the Grady Family Cemetery (GC5JDB7) that dates back to 1911. Continuing on my way back, next up is Lenoir County and another quick roadside geocache (GC1ADD8). And finally one last stop in Greene County (GC3Y888).

Well that was it for Saturday. Eleven counties and a little bit of history later and I make it back to the rental house in Blounts Creek. Join me back here again tomorrow for a Sunday county caching run. See you soon.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

2019-05-05: Moving Day Roadtrip from Texas to North Carolina Day 3 in SC and NC

Good morning friends. If you're just now dropping in on this roadtrip, you may want to catch up first on Day #1 and Day #2. Starting out this morning in South Carolina on day #3 of this roadtrip from Texas to North Carolina. I start a new solar farm project tomorrow, so gotta get there today and get settled. Then gonna find the jobsite so I know where I'm going and get some groceries for the week. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get driving... 

Checking out of the hotel in Lugoff, SC, I grabbed the geocache (GC22BH6) down the block for a Kershaw County find. Then drove up the Interstate and crossed the border into North Carolina.

Continuing up the highway and continuing to pick up new counties, I stopped for a quick geocache (GC3AFP2) in the town of Wade, NC for a find in Cumberland County. From there I drove over to Spivey's Corner, NC for a virtual geocache called "Holler if you Hear Me" (GCAD33) and a find in Sampson County. Spivey's Corner is known as the "Hollerin' Capital of the World" since 1969. Though on this day it was fairly quite.

On the way to my next geocache I reached a milestone. At just one week shy of being a year old, my GeoJeep hits 60,000 miles! That's a lot of roadtrips!

Stopping in Wilson County for my next geocache (GC6H2T8), not too far away was this old abandoned church. The Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church was a predominately black church built around 1900. The first pastor was Sam Brystern who led the congregation until he passed in 1930. Wiley Barnes took over the role until handing it over to his son Tom Barnes in 1964. I'm not sure when it was last used, but I saw a photo from 2012 that showed it abandoned. You can find out more on this church and the area's early history afamwilsonnc website.

The geocache container attached to a butterfly in the woods.

I arrived in Washington, NC and checked into a hotel. Then I drove up to Pinetown and saw where the jobsite was and how long it took to drive there. I checked for geocaches in the area and there was one right around the corner (GC35QJN). That gave me a find for Beaufort County. Back at the hotel, there was another geocache so I grabbed that one too (GC3N3YA).

So that's it for my three day roadtrip from Texas. I was glad to have you riding along. I'm scheduled to be here at this project for 2-3 months. North Carolina has 100 counties and I have only found geocaches in 30 of them. So be sure to check back in frequently as I drive from county to county finding geocaches and exploring North Carolina. See you again soon.