Boardwalks, Bunkers, Bungalows, Beaches, Birds and Bombs

The Delaware Beaches of Rehoboth, Lewes and Cape Henlopen
Our travels around this great country are multipurpose. One purpose is trying to decide where we want to live in our retirement. That quest led us to spend some time not far from home but new to us, the Delaware Beaches which includes for our purpose, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Lewes. We’ve made two trips there so far and the pictures are from both trips.

DSCN7943On our first trip over the long Presidents’ Day weekend, we stayed at the Hampton Inn on Coastal Hwy. It is a little less than 4 miles to the Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach. Boardwalks are fairly common in the middle Atlantic Beaches from about Ocean City northward. Rehoboth’s is actually made of boards and is somewhat deserted in the middle of February. We walked around a bit (in the cold) and the carnival midway gameroom and several eateries including fries, hot dogs and the like. There are several hotels on the boardwalk (along with condos) that look to have a great view. Much of the area surrounding the boardwalk look to be houses that are rented for the week or the season. Driving north there are more extensive condo developments and a park leading past the Gordon Flats Wildlife area and into Cape Henlopen State Park.

DSCN7956 Walking along the beach, we found two of these. They aren’t lighthouses, the doors at the bottom are sealed and the openings higher up aren’t covered. We pondered and looked but came up with no answers yet. As we rode around later, we discovered there are more of them spread along the coast. There are three south of Dewey Beach and at least three further north before Lewes. One of the towers south of Dewey offered a clue in the form of a website link on a sign next to the highway. Save the Tower They’re WWII fire control towers, built to guard the entrance to the Delaware Bay.

The towers are open on top with a wide slit running halfway around the circumference. They were manned by lookoutsPhoto-0029

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Photo-0037 and specialists who calculated the trajectory and angle of the artillery fire. Perhaps most amazing in this age is that the calculations didn’t have modern electronics (calculators, computers) to assist. A combination of the known distance between two towers and the height of the observation deck allowed the personnel to triangulate and located the precise location of a target and feed the necessary information to an armed battery. We couldn’t find information on how successful these efforts were as the towers at Henlopen weren’t tested in actual combat. More of the towers were erected (perhaps 1000) along the coastline as far north as Maine and New Hampshire. Many of them have been destroyed although a few remain, both on privately and publicly owned property.

One of the towers at Cape Henlopen has been repurposed by the Delaware Pilots Association to watch the Delaware Bay entrance and the ship traffic there. Delaware Pilots Association tower Also check out the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation.

For some reason the towers really captured our attention and we made a point to see as many of them as we could while we were there. It did seem that we were jinxed on trying to get pictures of the inside of one. When we visited in February (and they were closed), the battery in the camera died just before we tried to sneak an inside picture and again in July, the camera batteries died when we climbed the tower at Cape Henlopen State Park but we did get a couple of lower quality shots with the old cell phone.

DSCN7970Within the confines of Cape Henlopen State Park are the remnants of Ft. Miles. Ft. Miles is about 5000 acres in size and was an active military installation from 1941 until 1996. There is an ongoing effort to preserve and restore much of the history of the post, originally constructed to help protect the oil depots and refineries as well as the port of Philadelphia during WWII. Luckily for the preservation-minded, the 261st Coastal Artillery was somewhat practiced at rust prevention techniques. The naturally-occurring sand dunes helped form protection for the underground bunkers for DSCN7987storage and personnel.

Strategic placement at the mouth of the Delaware Bay helped ensure the area’s involvement in US history dating back to the War of 1812. The town of Lewes is home to the Cannonball House. The Cannonball House is home to the Lewes Historical Society’s Maritime Museum and is famous in part because of the cannonball embedded in its stone foundation since the war of 1812. Across the street from the Cannonball House is the War of 1812 Park. The Park is the site for Lightship Overfalls and the Lewes Life Saving Station, both the subject of local preservation efforts. Lightship OverfallsLewes is also at one end of the Cape May-Lewes ferry run, connecting to the NJ peninsula. We didn’t make that trip this time around but had ridden the ferry back in the early 1980s.

We had contacted Deb Griffin , a local Realtor, and told her we were interested in visiting the area and were looking for some guidance. She agreed to guide for us and show us some houses while we were there. As its turned out, Deb has given us 3 days of her time in person (plus her prep time) and shown us a variety of homes in our price range and shown us some of the local color and significant spots. We haven’t yet decided just where the heck we’re going to wind up but certainly appreciate her combined goodwill ambassador and real estate/tour guide efforts. She’s also pointed us at some good restaurants in the area.

Three eateries stand out as being especially good for us among the locals.

We had dinner one evening at Henlopen City Oyster House. Their menu changes daily and has an abundance of seafood dishes, including a sampler of oysters on the half shell (which we didn’t try).  Feeling a bit adventurous, I had the Day Boat Scallops which were a combo of broiled scallops with bacon, caramel and plantains. Absolutely delicious and served with potatoes and broccoli that evening.

Lunch one day was at Tout de Suite Patisserie at Paynter’s  Mill in Milton. We opted for a light lunch although the bakery cases were filled with yummy- (and very rich) looking pastries and desserts. The soup and sandwich were quite the treat as well and worthy of a return visit.

We also grabbed a late lunch at the Pickled Pig Pub on the Coastal Hwy in Rehoboth and I’ll recommend the Cuban Press as being delicious and filling.

Of course, there is a variety of the expected chain eateries including Panera and IHOP. I think we will need to be careful of our eating or take up a more active lifestyle should the Rehoboth area win the decision for a retirement locale.

You can see all the pictures from the Delaware beaches by clicking the highlighted text.

Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 7 — West to East – Nevada to Maryland and Home

The air had turned cooler overnight and the wind had picked up as well. We hadn’t gotten the showers but there had been wind-driven sprinkles. Although we planned to go to Great Basin today, it didn’t look like a great day for being out and about. It was time to head home. Gary and Ace weren’t outside yet but they were both up as I’d heard them stirring around. I packed up and told them I was heading for home.
Ace gave me directions to hit Rt. 50 which should make for a scenic drive home. I was planning to take a bit more time headed east than I had taken going west.
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The last 5 miles to US 50 were windy and raining pretty hard. Maybe it would be better once I crossed the ridge.
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I drove on through the rain through Eureka and Ely with no signs of clearing.
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50 is called the Lincoln Highway and was built to connect the country’s east and west coasts. Parts of the Pony Express routes follow roughly the same lines.
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By the time I had reached I80 and the Utah state line, the weather had let up a bit so I decided to hit the Nevada Welcome Station on the way out of state. The woman working at the tourist info desk was a bounty of information. She asked where I was going and I told her I was headed for home after a week of ghost towns. I asked about non-camping accommodations as Betty and I had toyed with making a similar trip without the camping. She told me that in the small mining towns, upwards of 60% of the hotel rooms were occupied by workers at the mines or construction. Further south, where we had been it was closer to 40%. The point being that a trip such as ours without camping that you should make reservations before arriving. She also had two audio CDs provided by BLM for a car tour of the mining areas and the Pony Express routes.
I hit the road and quickly was back into the rain. As I crossed over the Bonneville Salt Flats, I noticed another teardrop headed west.
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The scenery continued to be great, even though the rains continued.
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Crossing into Wyoming, the rains continued. Spending most of my life on the East Coast, I’m still taken aback when I see a road this long and straight.
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In Wyoming, I decided it was time to stop fighting the rain and check into a motel. A hot shower and a comfy bed worked wonders.
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The weather continued (sort of like on the trip west) to be unsettled. From the limited weather information, I had thoughts of possibly driving out of it eventually. Radio weather reports and severe warnings usually give the county affected. As a traveler, I’ll usually know what city I’m near but not always what county so word of Tornado Watches for XYZ County just meant somewhere nearby but could have been in front of me or behind me, who knows?
On the whole trip, I’ve mentioned that the only reptiles I saw were lizards. When I stopped at a Nebraska rest area, I’ll admit the thought that crossed my mind was “We’re going to argue natives versus tourists here?”
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Nebraska does do well with the promoting local tourism though. Almost every exit had an 8×10 feet sign in color advising of tourist attractions at that or an upcoming exit. Not just “Historic Marker 500 feet”. That’s how I found this original Pony Express station when I had to stop for fuel.
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I kept seeing the heavy clouds and lightning and hearing reports of severe weather. Going through my mind was the notion that perhaps I would be in more danger if I stopped for the night than if I just kept going and was aware of what was going on around me. This kept me going until well after midnight and into Iowa where I pulled into a rest stop for some sleep in the Little Guy.
I did discover that Iowa rest stops along I80 all have free wifi!
By the next morning, the sun was shining and it was an uneventful trip through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and into Maryland and home!
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It was a great trip with some quality folks. I got to see things I’d never seen and learned more about the area. I also learned a few things about this type of travel (overlanding or travel camping) where you’re in a different place each night. I identified a few things that need adjustment to the truck, the trailer and the way I pack.

Where to next?

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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 6 – Goldfield, Tonopah, Manhattan, Belmont and Pine Creek Campground

Alas, Monday morning comes and folks have places to be, loved ones to see and commitments to be met. We bid adieu to the others but Gary, Ace and I stayed together with plans to see some more and hoped to make it to Great Basin National Park.
We left and headed back to Tonopah for re-provisioning. Along the way, we passed through Goldfield NV but didn’t stop. Goldfield is more recent town which grew from the discovery of gold in 1902. Mining until 1940, over $86 million was extracted. Much of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1923, although several buildings survived and remain today, notably the Goldfield Hotel, the Consolidated Mines Building (the communications center of the town until 1963), and the schoolhouse. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today. The hotel is not currently open and some accounts describe it as haunted. There is an ongoing effort to restore many of the old buildings and build the tourist trade. You can find out more at Ghost Town Operations.com website.
Teddy Roosevelt visited Goldfield and there is a story that Wyatt Earpp came to Goldfield after the Gunfight at the OK Corral but there is little to support that. It is confirmed that his brother, Virgil, worked, lived and died in Goldfield although he is buried in Portland, Oregon.
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The school is the building in the right of the picture above.
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RV parking behind the casino in Tonopah.
Continuing along to Manhattan, we find another town’s mainstreet which has obvously seen better days.
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This church, which sets on a hill above Manhattan’s main street was orignially constructed in Belmont.
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We stopped for lunch outside of town and then went on to Belmont, NV.
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Although closed this day, there are still accommodations to be had at the old Combination Miining Co. building, including the Old Boots Saloon.
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Remains of the bank.
Belmont is the site of a spring used by the Shoshone. In 1865, the discovery of silver ore led to a boom that eventually led to the buildup of a commercial center including schools, a post office, a newspaper and eventually becoming the county seat of Nye County from 1867 to 1905.
Belmont was known as a rowdy town with saloons, a red light district and various ethnic neighborhoods. Roughly $4 million was extracted from the shallow ore.
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Courthouse from the days of County seat.
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Remnants of the Combination Mining Mill in East Belmont.
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We traveled further north and found a spot for the night in the Pine Creek Campground in the Toiyabe National Forest.
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The weather forecasts were calling for cold, possible rain/sleet and this spot seemed fairly sheltered.

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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 5 – Silver Peak and Gold Point NV

Sunday we visited Silver Peak and Gold Point. These two fit the definition of a ghost town that is still alive but significantly less-populated than in their peak times.
To get to Silver Peak, we headed back in the direction of Tonopah and the highway. We turned off and stopped at a crossroads at Pearl Springs. In this location, the water supplies for several settlements branched out. We again found koi in the pool. This spot was marked as private property so our views were limited and we moved on.
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Signs warned of road construction on our way to Silver Peak. On the approach to SIlver Peak, we spotted a large lake with aqua/turquoise blue water, obviously showing the effects of chemical content. The lake and its surrounding activity are parts of the active lithium mining by Rockwood Lithium, taking place in the area.
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Silver Peak still has a post office along with the building that was formerly the post office. There are several commercial buildings, including a 6 unit motel along the center of the town, most of which have sale or lease signs in the window. As a note of comparison, there are photos on the web from 2000 that show many of these buildings having operating businesses.
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We left Silver Peak en route to Gold Point. Along the way, Michael experienced his second blowout of the trip.
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While we had been in Tonopah on Saturday, Michael had attempted to replace the first blown tire but unfortunately found a merchant who believed that his role was to soak every customer once while you had the chance. This tire store in Tonopah is closed on weekends, there may be others where you would have a much better experience. Among the many other charges, a weekend callout fee was included in the $600 the merchant wanted to replace the first blown out tire. Michael declined and decided to chance it without a spare of his own but his luck didn’t carry him through. In the picture, you can plainly see the blown rear tire while everyone is working on the front. The thought process was to put the off-sized spare on the non-drive front and move the same size front to the rear to avoid excessive wear on the rear driveline. It seemed like a good idea at the time. As it worked out, the odd size tire interfered with the brakes operation and they wound up having to switch the tires back before Michael was able to move. We located another tire store across the line in California that would open on Sunday and had two tires in stock that combined cost less than the one in Tonopah. Michael spoke later of how the guy there was very thorough and customer-oriented. I don’t know the names of the two tire stores involved and don’t wish to mislead but advise the reader to proceed with caution if you’re in a similar situation.
While Michael went off to tend to tires, the rest of us went on to Gold Point with plans to meet up later that day. The meetup didn’t happen until the next morning. This is testimony as to why the longer range HAM radio has a place in desert traveling over the limited range CB radio. Enough about all that.
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Gold Point is a tourist destination with an active, though maybe limited, tourism industry to support the preservation of the town. Memorial Day weekend is designated as paranormal weekend and Labor Day weekend also has a theme which escapes me at the moment. As part of the festivities, there was a parade through town which included clowns, the transparent woman and even a unicycle rider.
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Gold Point’s preservation/restoration is a project largely credited to Sheriff Stone. To help raise funds for the restoration, several of the houses are available for rent on the weekends. Stone also prepares quite a spread for breakfast and dinner for a reasonable price. We decided to hang around for steak dinner.
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There are a number of old fire trucks on the property as well. I never quite got the connection unless its another hobby of a collector.
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For over 20 years now Walt and I, with many thousands of dollars from our own money from working, have been purchasing building materials and working on all the different cabins and buildings. It takes thousands of dollars to rebuild and preserve even a small old miner’s cabin, and we have 12, not to mention the other bigger buildings, so it’s been a slow process. Each year we find the price of wood products continues to climb.

It takes a lot of different materials to save a cabin. The only thing we generally do to the outside is put on a roof. We try not to put on any new wood unless absolutely necessary. Rolled asphalt roofing is usually applied first. Then as we get the extra money we put on the cedar shingles.

Inside is a little more complex. These 100 year old cabins and buildings were built without any framing like we build today. The walls are only as thick as the 1 x 12 inch board and bats that were used. We go in and strip the walls down to the original walls and then build a 2 x 4 frame inside. This stabilizes the cabin tremendously. We can then install the electrical wires, insulation, sheet rock, paint and/or old newspapers or old fashioned wall paper, carpet, curtains and finally furniture. From www.GoldPointGhostTown.com

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We visited the open businesses including the saloon and the mercantile and got some hints for a spot to camp that night. We had an interesting discussion with one of the landowners/residents who told us a bit about what its like to live in a place like this. This particular resident has retired and stays in Gold Point mainly but also has a second home elsewhere. The resident specifically asked that details not get shared on the internet so you’re just going to have to visit and find out for yourself. :)
After our steak dinner, we wandered around a bit more.
I met a guy in the saloon who was asking about the Little Guy as he also had a teardrop trailer that he and his son had used in one of the parks for their vacation.
Eventually we decided to go find a camping spot away from the crowd. We eventually landed at a dry wash about half mile or so out of town after turning down several spots.
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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 4 – Kawich Range: Rachel, Bellehelen, Golden Bow, Silver Arrow, Tonopah

As we left Delamar, we said our good byes to Frenchie and headed towards pavement again, the circuituous route.
We headed along the powerline road where we saw new high line towers paralleling the old lines. The new towers had no wires though. A turnoff to the west took us into the dry lake bed where the soil (and its accompanying dust) turned nearly white. We came to a formation of rock that was nearly black (at least a few millimeters deep) which included petroglyphs.
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We eventually reached pavement at the Great Basin Highway and turned to head into Alamo. The gas station included a deli and really a complete grocery store so we stocked up fuel, aired up the tires, bought a few groceries, unloaded some trash and several of us had an ice cream treat before traveling on. It should be noted that they do not sell beer. We made another stop in Alamo to replenish that. We discussed heading down to a lakeside park for lunch but Martin had a better idea from a trip he’d made through the area some years back.
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Left to right, that’s Scott, Ace, Kyli, Keith, Gary, Michael, Martin and Sibastian in a photo taken by Laura.
We started down the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV 375) towards Rachel, NV. The top-secret Area 51 government base is near SR 375 and many travelers have reported UFO observations and other strange alien activity along this road. Such stories prompted the state to officially designate the route as the Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996. The small town of Rachel, located near the center of the highway, caters to tourists and UFO seekers with alien-themed businesses. Although the area receives some tourism due to alleged extraterrestrial activity, SR 375 remains a lightly traveled route. I have previously commented that we had no confirmed UFO or exraterrestrial sightings on our journey but I do have a scar (Scars are like tattoos with better stories!) on my temple where I supposedly walked into a tree in bright daylight for no apparent reason. Extraterrestrial abduction attempt gone bad? You be the judge.
When we got to Rachel, we stopped at the Little A’Le’ Inn for a look around and to grab lunch.
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Contiuig north along 375, we turned west through some BLM land towards Reveille area and the old Bellehelen mine site. Along with a newer (1940s?) abandoned wooden building, we found the remnants of older stacked stone structures and some smaller tailings piles.
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We also saw evidence of environmental monitoring in the area.
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The early mining methods used chemicals such as cyanide and others we know to be very dangerous (and long lasting) today and in our more enlightened state, we are taking the time to clean and monitor the contamination.
As it was getting on into the afternoon, we started looking for a place to set up camp for the night. We were aiming for something a bit better protected from the wind this night and found a flat spot on a hillside. Scott and Laura showed their culinary skills with Pizza and Brownies this night.
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In the hillside next to our campsite, we found this. Was it prepared as a home? A fallout shelter? Or just a way of protecting the mine?
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Up and off again the next morning at a leisurely pace befitting our vacation status.

This area shows generally on the maps as Reveille (or Old or New Reveille). We visited a couple of smaller mines that we didn’t discover the names for but we did see remnants of more of the stacked stone buildings and a bit of wildlife.
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The name Reveille refers to the Reveille Mill which we found at a crossroads along with an empty corral.
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Kyli enjoyed a cooling dip and playing with the koi.
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We found our next night’s lodgings down in the valley and among the greenery.
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Tonight was to be fajita night. Most of the fixings were supplied by Scott & Laura and Martin with the rest of us providing a little something. Thanks for some good eating!
Friday morning we were headed to an old ranch (Don’t remember the name but we thought we would find it empty.) As we approached we saw No Trespassing signs and signs of life so we turned around and headed in the direction of Golden Bow. To get there, we passed through (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse refuge and were not disappointed.
These two beauties stayed within sight and watched to make sure that all of us had the opportunity to take pictures and also that we left their area.
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I saw a ram’s head in this rock formation although someone else said they saw a bird.
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Although not as much left standing, there was more evidence of the town at Golden Bow.
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Much of this area was originally mined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1940s, much of the tailings piles were reprocessed with more efficient equipment and then again in the 1970s. Since that time, much of the work we see around has more to do with cleanup than mineral extraction.
Our next stop was Silver Arrow.
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Looking down a vertical mineshaft.
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Once again, we nosed around a bit and grabbed lunch. Silver Arrow is along the edge of restricted US Government space so we headed back out the way we had come in.
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We headed towards Tonopah with some thoughts of eating at a restaurant and restocking. We visited the Mining Museum and displays. Betty also happened to catch me on the truck phone in a rare moment when we had signals and I was in the truck. Tried to talk her through some computer problems but she managed to work it out after I dropped signal.
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We decided to find camp rather than hang around town for dinner and then go looking in the dark.
We found a good spot on national forest land.
Turns out the Little Guy had some issues with the too stiff suspension and the rough roads. Spent a while cleaning up the mess from that but slept well.

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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 3 – Helene Graveyard and Delamar NV

On Wednesday morning we headed in search of Delamar NV, a classic mining ghost town which saw its hey day in the 1890s. Gold was discovered there in 1889 and the original mines along with most of the major mines in the immediate area were purchased by Captain Joseph Raphael De Lamar for about $150,000. Some cursory research on the man shows he left his maritime interests and invested in mining claims. The one in Nevada paid off fairly well, producing over $13 million in gold.
Delamar at one time boasted a population of 1500 and amenities such as a hospital, an opera house and a central water system pumping water from a well some 12 miles away. Unfortunately, the gold in these hills was embedded in quartzite which lead to deadly silicosis when ground to dust as in the ore extraction process. One source said the population of Delamar included 400 widows at one point in time. The moniker “widow-maker” was apparently well-deserved. Remaining at Helene is a tailings pile from one excavation and a much-vandalized graveyard. Helene is on the way and just over the crest from Delamar.

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Gravestones are pretty much non-existent but the remaining decorative iron work is impressive in its detail and how well-preserved it remains.
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Moving on over the hill, we could see a lot more of the remains of the town and the mining and millng operations. It was obvious this had been a significant operation in its day.
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We decided we would spend the afternoon investigating further and stay in Delamar for the night.
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We found a clear level spot above the mill and along the roadway with enough room for all of us and we hoped some protection from the wind. It commanded a great view of the area.

During the night and early morning, I got quite ill. I’m not sure if it was the excitement, the altitude, something I ate or an allergy pill I’d decided to skip. Although my allergies are pretty mundane fare around home, I’ve discovered that I can be very allergic to rare flowering plants in Hawaiian volcanoes and possibly the Nevada desert. While I’ll spare the details, the morning found me worried about dehydration and seriously considering cancelling the remainder of the trip. As it turns out, I was somewhat weak the next day but after that one night, all seemed to be okay.
Frenchie, on the other hand, was not quite as lucky as he also got ill. He tied the symptoms to a medical issue he’d dealt with a month or so earlier and did leave the trip to visit medical pros to follow up. We heard from him later that he got home okay though. He was missed along the rest of the trip as he is quite an entertaining travel companion.

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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 2 – Cedar City UT to Rainbow Canyon NV

On Tuesday morning, we were all to meet at Smith’s Market in Cedar City with some time planned to meet and greet and then get on the road.
Timing can be a relative thing but we did all eventually show up and get ready.
Along for the ride were: Scott B and his navigator, Laura in the recently repowered white Ranger; Sib (Sibastian who also is Scott’s father) in his white Ranger; Gary (gwittman) in his red Ranger; Michael (mjmcdowell) in his gray Ranger; Frenchie (Frechiexj) in his white Jeep JK; Martin (martinjmpr) in his maroon 4Runner; Ace (Ace Brown) in his silver FJCruiser with Kyla the golden retriever and Keith (4x4x4doors) in the orange Colorado.
We left Cedar City on UT56 and went off pavement before we got into Nevada. We eventually got into Echo Canyon State Park and found a spot next to the reservoir for lunch.
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Our next waypoint was Caliente, the first ghost town of our journey. This is probably a good spot to define exactly what is a ghost town. Many of us think of a place that is totally abandoned and derelict but Merriam-Webster includes towns whose population has significantly declined from previous levels due to the collapse of an industry or resource such as when a mine is closed. Detroit, Michigan would fit the part of the definition that includes a significant decline in population without being completely and totally abandoned. Caliente, Nevada (and several of our other stops) fit that significant decline defintion. Caliente gained its name from the nearby hot springs. The Union-Pacific Railroad came to town in 1905 and the train station, built in 1923, is built in the style of Spanish missions. Today it houses a museum and the town’s municipal offices and a library.
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After passing through Calienete, we veered left into Rainbow Canyon and followed the stream and the railroad tracks for a ways.
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Climbing out of the canyon, CB radio traffic tells Michael that something doesn’t look right just as he discovers that he has a blowout.
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Replacing the tire turns into a group project with Scott providing his racing jack, Martin providing his four way lug wrench and various folks providing labor and advice. Ultimately, its clear the tire is toast and well-beyond repair and we’re back on our way.
We pass onto federally-owned and managed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Different rules apply to passage and camping so ownership and management of the land is significant. We ride along a ridge road and see one other vehicle. Eventually we wind down into lower ground and start looking for a place to spend the night.
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This is range land and we happen upon some cattle and a stock tank and nearby clearing that had been used for camping before based on several fire rings in the clearing.
We set up camp for the night. Just before dark, we noticed four horses approaching with great interest. While they checked us out a bit, they decided to go on. Apparently our sheltered location was also used by the to bed down for the night.
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As we pulled out in the morning, the cattle followed for a while. One calf showed a particular interest in Martin’s 4Runner and ran after him for possibly a mile! There’s probably an off color joke that fits but I’ll refrain.
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Desert Expedition III: Nevada – Post 1 – Zooming Across Country

In June 2012, Scott B. over at Expedition Portal starting discussing a third Desert Expedition for early summer 2013. The early planning just talked about a trip to visit ghost towns in Nevada. Several jumped in with possible locations to include and some early commit-ers saying they were in as well as a couple of the “regulars” who had taken part in DE 1 and/or DE2.

In January 2013, my plans to retire in March were firming up so I committed to joining in. Good thing I did as Scott capped off the list shortly thereafter. I said goodbye to my employer and officemates in March and started getting ready.

The roadways indicate that this was a trip for the truck and I decided to take the Little Guy as the truck bed, at 5 feet, is too short for me to sleep in except in emergencies. As provisioning stops would be few and widespread, I had to add capacity for water and fuel. While I probably overdid, I carried about 20 gallons of water and 10 gallons of gasoline in containers. I also carried my Edgestar refrigerator/freezer (works on AC or DC); tools; recovery gear; clothing; and some food with plans to restock and finish loadout with perishables before we met up in Cedar City, Utah. Also included in my packing was my SPOT messenger which allows me to check in with a select group of family and friends with my progress even when cellphone service isn’t an option.

The trip by the numbers:

  • 5482 miles driveway to driveway.
  • 14 days (all good).
  • 2 blown tires (neither were mine but both went to the same guy).
  • Gas: 306 gallons. High price $4.199; low was $3.599.
  • Motel nights 4.
  • Bottles of water consumed by me 22.
  • Post cards sent home 8.
  • Animals: Fish (too many to count in a couple of springs and stock tanks); Reptiles – lizards only (no snakes); Mammals – horses (wild and domestic); donkey; jack rabbits; dog; cattle; pronghorn antelope; 1 dead field mouse.
  • Extra-terrestrials (none confirmed but I can come up with no other explanation for the knot on my head and walking into a tree in a broad daylight outside the Little Ale’ Inn).
  • Good fellow travelers 7 human, 1 canine. Jerks in our party – 0.
  • Pictures taken 1312. (Don’t worry I won’t try to share them all).

I left home Friday morning, May 17th. We were supposed to meet on Tuesday morning and I figured on a nice DSCF0554 leisurely trip out of about 4 days putting me in town on Monday sometime. I planned to get at least part, if not all, the way across Illinois the first day. I had a bit of adrenaline going as well as the uncertainty of how far I’d feel like driving on subsequent days so I got all the way across Illinois and decided to try to get out of range of St. Louis morning traffic. DSCF0565 Using the GPS, I started looking for a Comfort Inn around midnight and got directed to an empty lot. (So much for recently updating the GPS maps!) By that time, I was pretty beat and stopped for gas and a walkaround and then noticed a Walmart at that exit. (Walmart has a general policy — there are exceptions — of allowing RVs, even little ones, to spend the night in their parking lots.) I stopped in and picked up a pan I had not gotten at home and checked to make sure they allowed for overnights. So back out to the edge of the parking lot and a couple of hours of sleep in the Little Guy.

DSCF0566 I woke up before sunrise and got rolling again across Missouri. My route took me on the outskirts of Kansas City in the early morning. Topeka, Kansas was later in the day and looked like it might be more picturesque as it is the capital of the state. While I passed within sight of the capitol building, it was covered in scaffolding for a renovation project. So onward to the wide open plains. Totally different from any part of the country I had seen before and breathtaking. To tell the truth, it was breathtaking the first couple of hundred miles but got repetitive after that.

Scooting across Kansas, there was a couple pulling a Scamp or Casita trailer that seemed to be stopping at the same rest areas. One time, I would pull in as they pulled out and then later they would pull in as I pulled out. We did eventually talk when we reached the Colorado welcome stop. They winter in Florida and were on their way to sons near Ft. Collins for the summer. We spent some time comparing notes on trailers and came to the conclusion that theirs is more livable but in a world of $4.00/gallon gasoline, mine was preferable for towing.

While in Kansas, I saw the occasional pump jack in addition DSCF0580 to wind farms. I guess that Kansas is covering their bets on two different sides of the energy issue. Also in Kansas, I heard reports DSCF0586 of nasty weather which always seemed to be about 40 miles behind me. In a couple of days, the devastating tornado in Moore, OK would hit. I pulled out of the Colorado Welcome Station as the rains hit. I drove out of the rain and back into the sunshine pretty soon but was seeing clouds on the peaks around Denver. Seemed like a good time for gas, so I pulled into a rundown looking truckstop. The gas pumps wouldn’t accept my credit card and I assumed it was related to the seedy look of the station and paid cash. Several declined purchases later, I called the credit card company. You know that ad where the couple is thrilled that the Bank has stopped their card from being fraudulently used in a foreign country? Its not all smiles when you’re trying to use your card and find that your bank (or credit union) decides that buying gas on a cross country trip is “suspicious activity”. Just 20 minutes on hold and we can get this all taken care of. Sheesh! DSCF0623.
Buying gas proved to be a good idea as the trek up the mountains and through the pass was sucking down some fuel. As I neared Vail, we added precipitation into the mix and it was sticking.
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It was close to dark, I didn’t know what the roads or the weather had in store for me and my efforts to find a motel that night before hadn’t turned out well so I holed up in the Comfort Inn in Eagle CO for the night. A hot shower and comfy bed sure felt good. It had been a long day (or two). I figured I had about 450 miles to go before Monday night so I was in good shape.

Sunday morning found me paralleling and in sight of the Colorado River for a while. The engineering of stacking an Interstate Highway on top of the river and squeezing the railroad tracks in there as well impressed me. And don’t forget to squeeze in a parking lot and river access, too!
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As I moved into Utah, things didn’t really level out but the slopes seemed to be gentle and the views longer. The weather was still mixed but mostly good driving weather.
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And what does every 4×4 driver think of when they think of Utah? Moab, of course. So here I am, easily a day ahead of schedule within 30 miles of 4×4 Mecca. So what do I do?
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I take the safe way out. No one knows quite where I am, I don’t really know my way around and I have this great trip in front of me. So, Moab is close but oh, so far away. Something else to stay on the “to do” list for now.
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The views are breathtaking but the locals have seen them before. I got an earful at this rest area after driving through a construction zone at the speed limit (65) for holding up these nice folks…but in spite of me, they still had time to stop and catch the view at the rest area?
I pulled into Cedar City on Sunday afternoon a full day ahead of my schedule. Luckily my motel had a room available but not the room I had reserved for Monday night. It was fine by me. I sorted the stuff in the truck, did some shopping/provisioning and filled my gas and water jugs. I even got my walk in while doing some sightseeing.
Cedar City has an extensive Veterans Memorial Park which I enjoyed. I was surprised to find water running in the rain gutters along the road. I figured it to be waterline maintenance or such but later figured it was the runoff from lawnsprinklers which seemed to be running everywhere with no particular concern for missing the grass.
Cedar City also has an “historic” downtown Main Street which includes a drugstore complete with old-fashioned soda fountain in the old Sheep Association building. Take note of the bronze statues of historic figures on the sidewalks. Similar idea to the OBX Pegasus statues and DC’s donkeys and elephants but classier.

More photos from this leg of the trip.

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January 27: Old Friends Touring DC: Navy Memorial and National Portrait Gallery

A rare treat for the Old Friends weekend, we were able to tour on Sunday as well. Today included breakfast, church and then a trip to downtown DC to visit the Navy Memorial (site of the Lone Sailor) and the National Portrait Gallery.

Our first stop after finding parking (which was free on the street where we were since it was Sunday), was a walking trip through Judiciary Square where we found these two gents deeply absorbed in an impromptu chess game. They didn’t include a timer. Russ pointed out that the board was also set wrong, not something to be noticed by the casual observer.
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Our primary stop was just around the corner on Pennsylvania Avenue at the Navy Memorial. Best known for the statue of the Lone Sailor out front, there are exhibits and a theater inside. 2012 was celebrated as the Year of the Chief.
DSCN7908This centerpiece hangs in the center of the spiral staircase leading down to the main exhibit floor. This one is beautifully made of wood with the woodgrain showing as the gold color with painted silver for the shield. This is a replica of the traditional Chief Petty Officer’s collar device, the fouled anchor.
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Chief Petty Officer uniforms

I’ll take a moment to apologize here for the quality of some of the pictures that follow. The lighting showed a glare on several of the displays. Normally, I’d reject those pictures but I believe the Navy Memorial needs to be shared a bit more and I’ll compromise the picture quality to give you a better idea what’s there.

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Memorial plaque for submarine sailors of WWII

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Multiple memorial plaques provided in exchange for donations. There were a number of displays similar to this one.

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The Senior Enlisted Sailor in the Navy is the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON). This display pays tribute to those who have served in this capacity. Of the 13 men who have served as MCPON, three were submarine-qualified (James Herdt 1998-2002; Terry Scott 2002-2006; and Rick West 2008-2012)

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DSCN7919The Navy Memorial maintains a log that allows sailors or their families to enter pertinent data about the sailor as part of the memorial. Their goal is to include all Navy Sea Service Vets. Father Steve was looking things over but decided to complete the entry back at Chateau Pierre.

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Signalmen and spotters served in good weather and bad.

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The Memorial includes a library of books (fiction and non-fiction) about the Navy and its sailors and also by some of the sailors.

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A piece of the USS Arizona, bombed and sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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The display included portraits of Presidents who had served in the Navy. This one is John Kennedy. Also included were Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

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The Ship’s Store

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The Navy Memorial maintains a log of sea service veterans. This poster reminds us that sea service veterans are all around us and asks to help. Visit their website at www.NavyMemorial.org

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Statue depicts “The Kiss”, subject of a famous Life magazine cover at the end of WWII.

P1060136There are a number of scale models of Navy ships on display.
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The Lone Sailor

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The Lone Sailor with friends

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The compass in the Memorial Plaza.

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After visiting the Navy Memorial we headed over to visit the National Portrait Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is dedicated to the display of portraits of persons who have made significant contributions to American history and culture. There is an extensive display of Presidential portraiture including a wire sculpture of President George H.W. Bush pitching horseshoes. The American Art Museum (which shares the building) included exhibits displaying the national parks and other persons in our history. There was an exhibit depicting Amelia Earhart and artifacts from the US Patent Office.

We highly recommend that you take the time to visit. While you’re there, allow time to take in the atrium in the center courtyard shown in the pictures below.

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The water in this picture is no more than a quarter to half inch deep. Although it appears to be much deeper.

We chose to grab lunch in the atrium. There were a number of folks who seemed to be just enjoying the opportunity to relax and read or study in the pleasant temperatures and the sunshine coming through the glass roof. It sure beat the cold outside.

DSCN7937After we left the Portrait Gallery, it was time for Russ to hit the road south while Father Steve, Betty and Keith headed back to Germantown.

Father Steve left on Monday via BWI where he experienced his unusual luck at finding delayed flights but arrived safely back at home, albeit a bit later than planned.

It was another great weekend with great friends, exploring the sights right here in our own backyard.

January 26: Old Friends Touring Locally: Fort Washington — Who Knew?

P1060055 P1060048 DSCN7845 DSCN7843 DSCN7839 DSCN7832 DSCN2944During our last visit with Russ and Father Steve, we had spied something on the eastern side of the Potomac while coming home from Mt. Vernon. A little web research identified Ft. Washington as our target.

As it turns out, Ft. Washington is still a fort. After all these years of being so close, who knew? Today’s adventure would take us there to see close up. Fort Washington is under the care and ownership of the National Park Service.

Originally the location was home to the Digges estate. The Digges family were friends of George and Martha Washington. In fact, George celebrated his 43rd birthday here. It has been called Warburton Manor. The first military installation was called Ft. Warburton. The site is across the river and slightly upriver from Mt. Vernon. President George Washington suggested it be built. With perpendicular earthen walls, it stood 14 feet above the bottom of a ditch which surrounded the river side of the fort. It included a tower with six cannon overlooking the river. But Ft. Warburton lasted only 5 years.

In August 1814, British forces entered Washington through Bladensburg MD and burned the White House, Capitol and most other government buildings. The next day British warships sailed up the Potomac headed for Alexandria VA. Capt. Samuel Dyson feared Warburton would wind up in British hands so he evacuated and used the powder to destroy the fort. (You may note that Samuel Dyson is not a name you hear in discussions of early American heroes.)

James Monroe, acting Secretary of Defense, engaged Pierre L’Enfant (famous for the layout of Washington) within a month to build a replacement even as the threat diminished with the Treaty of Ghent being signed in December 1814 and the British defeat at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. L’Enfant was subsequently dismissed and replaced and the construction was completed in October 1824 at a cost of $426,000 (roughly the price of some of the larger homes in the nearby Ft. Washington community.

As the country moved closer to the Civil War, it became clear that Ft. Washington’s position guarding the capital and across the river from Virginia was more critical. At one time, the fort was under the command of Lt. George Washington Custis Lee, son of General Robert E. Lee. With the growing unrest, he resigned his commission and moved to Virginia. After Lee’s departure, forty Marines were assigned to defend Ft. Washington but were replaced in January 1861 a company of Army recruits. The day after Ft. Sumter fell, the Army’s 1st Artillery took over Ft. Washington. For a time, Ft. Washington stood as the only defense for Washington but was supplemented by a string of 68 enclosed forts and batteries encircling the city.

The fort served during the War of 1812, the American Civil War, the Spanish American War and into the 20th century as a potential defense during both World Wars before reverting to the Department of Interior.

The new fort was designed to serve as a link in the defense of the East Coast of the USA from Naval attack, not just the nation’s capital. During the Civil War, the development of armored ships and rifled cannon shifted the nature of warfare, allowing the ships to approach closer than wooden ships could and to fire rifled cannon which were capable of demolishing brick fortifications and with greater range.

This 24 pounder cannon has an effective range of 1900 yards, almost double the distance to the Virginia shoreline.

This 24 pounder cannon has an effective range of 1900 yards, almost double the distance to the Virginia shoreline. This is all that remains of the fort’s 1861 armament.

Fort Washington has evolved over the years and is not just one structure but several on the property that were built to meet the changes in strategy and technology. It is also one of only a handful of the seacoast fortifications still in their original form.

In 1872, the US Army turned the fort over to the Army engineers who constructed new gun positions. In 1896, new concrete batteries were built near the fort for Endicott-era guns, 10-inch rifles on disappearing carriages, 12 inch mortar batteries and 4 inch rifles. Land was purchased and similar batteries were built across on the Virginia side of the Potomac — Ft. Hunt.

In 1921, after the post was no longer needed, it became the headquarters of the 12th infantry. During WWII, the Adjutant General’s Officer Candidate School. was based there. In 1946 the fort was deactivated and became part of the National Park System so that it could be preserved historically and provide recreational opportunities. One Facebook friend says he attended a military school there (or near there) in 2005.DSCN2931
On the point there is also a navigational channel marker which has served as a fog warning.

Our visit was on a cold but sunny day and we started our tour by driving through the park and taking the path down by the river. It’s obvious that the park is used by many nearby residents as a place for walking, bike riding and exercising the dogs.DSCN2925
On leaving the car, we came across this trash can with a solar powered compactor.

The old light house/fog signal is small (even compared to DSCN2937Massachusetts lighthouses), less than 30 feet high.
The area between the main fortification and the river has been used over the years for munitions storage, kitchens and later for mounting of cannons and other artillery. From this area is also the entrance called the sally port. Steve walked in this way but found that entrance locked.

The stairway from the water battery inside the fort.

The stairway from the water battery inside the fort. Doors at the landing below provided protection and thus a sally port.

The stairway from the water batter outside the fort

The stairway from the water batter outside the fort. Doors at the bottom and at the top (shown) provided additional security.

 

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Mt. Vernon lies just beyond the tree-covered point on the right.

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Looking upriver. The bridge in the distance is the Woodrow Wilson connecting MD to Alexandria VA via I95/495

The fort is located on a high point at the juncture of the Potomac River and Piscataway Creek, slightly upriver from Mt. Vernon. This area is known as the Water Battery. In this area were several support facilities for the fort including the powder magazine, storehouse, saddlers shop, blacksmith, stables and the shot house. In the late 19th century, the area underwent major changes as platforms for four fifteen inch guns were added. Later, there were provisions for the Endicott guns. Guns located in this area could ricochet across the water (like skipping rocks) to more directly and accurately hit attacking ships.   DSCN7820 DSCN2953

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P1060125Two sets of gates protected the main entrance. During renovations made in the 1840s, a drawbridge was added to further protect the entrance. A series of chains and counterweights provided for rapid closure in case of attack from the land side. Additionally, 13 guns provided protection. Gunrooms were built flanking the main entrance (or sally port) to aid in that protection.

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The main entrance or sally port from inside.

DSCN7857The northwest demi-bastion was designed to contain two levels of guns but only the upper row was installed. The lower level was used by laundresses who lived with their soldier husbands until better quarters were built later. The area was also used for storerooms.

P1060105DSCN2965Also part of the 1840s improvements was the addition of this protected passageway called a capionere which projected from the landside wall and included two levels of guns mounted on swivel tracks to facilitate aiming.

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The capionere also provided a hidden point to keep an eye on the four-legged neighbors.

There was also a battery along the outer wall of the ditch surrounding the fort. This provided the capability to fire muskets against attackers who had entered the ditch as well as towards the river.

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Postern gate, now sealed up

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Officers quarters

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Looking across to Enlisted quarters

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Another view across the main parade ground

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Looking south across the parade ground from above the front gate. A shed (no longer there) at the far corner provided lookout and control capabilities for the Endicott era mines in the river.

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Part of the river mines system from the late 19th century.

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Father Steve with a cannonball in the guard shack.

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Exiting the fort, you see the visitor center in the yellow house on the hill. DSCN2947 At some point, it was the commanding officers’ quarters but it is not clear during which era. The visitor center contains an audio-vsual presentation as well as some historical
DSCN3013 DSCN3021exhibits. It also contains the highly sought after (at least by Betty) gift shop! On this particular day, it also contained the first place with heat that we had entered since leaving the car.

Outside the visitor center is the Battery Commander’s Center (the concrete tower) and Battery Decatur.
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Battery Decatur was completed in 1891 and is made of reinforced concrete. It reflected the shift in defensive structures to rifled projectiles. On the top were mounted 10 inch guns which used the recoil energy to lower the gun out of sight for reloading. The guns had a range of about 7 miles. DSCN3011The lower stories had storerooms for shot, powder and shells and cranes to lift the ordinance to the upper floor guns.

During WWI, the two guns of Battery Decatur were shipped to Fort Monroe Va enroute to use in France. Ft. Washington was garrisoned by the DC Coast Artillery and a number of military units were organized there. The fort was also used as a staging area for troops headed overseas.

Following that, the fort was occupied by the 3rd Battalion 12th Infantry. Its soldies participated in a number of state functions until 1939 when the 3rd Battalion was moved to Fort Myer near Arlington Cemetery. In ’39, the fort was transferred to the Department of Interior and was home to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks.

Following the US entry into WWII, Ft. Washington was returned again to the Department of War. Further expansion occurred with additional buildings for students and to provide support services for training military personnel. The Veterans Administration used part of the area and buildings as public housing.

In 1946, the fort was once transferred to the Department of Interior with may of the WWI and WWII era buildings removed. So far, it has remained a public park since.

After all the tramping around up and down stairs and hills and breathing all the fresh winter air, it was time for a relaxed meal.  So it was over to Proud Mary’s at the Ft. Washington Marina.

photo7By the time we had finished our meal, it was time to head for home and resume the hotly-contested Uno championship.