Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The Rocks Don’t Lie by David R. Montgomery

The book’s flyleaf says, “With an explorer’s eye and a fresh approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey and across landscapes and cultures as he investigates historical dialogue...” regarding the formation of Earth. He questions whether Biblical stories of creation and Noah’s Ark should be read as allegorical or factual? He concludes “I believe faith and science can peacefully coexist, so long as we don’t founder on or cling to the rocky shore of either.” It’s a very, very thought provoking read.

Black Wave by John and Jean Silverwood

This is a true story of a family’s adventure at sea and the disaster that saved them. The story blends nicely between the segments presented by each author. It blends nicely between their disaster and that of an identical, historical experience by a Captain Pond and his square rigger, the Julia Ann with colorful supporting tales from Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. What more could you ask in a tale from the sea? Bravo!

The Best American Travel Writing 2012 by William T. Vollman, Editor

I really like travel stories but this anthology mostly left me cold. Of course, it squeezed the works of 19 authors into its slim 220 plus pages so that made for a batch of very short stories. I couldn’t even warm up to one of my favorite travel writers’, (Paul Theroux) offering of The Wicked Coast. I did, however, enjoy a piece on Chernobyl by H. Shukman and another on hiking the US Mexican border by L. Dittrich. Maybe it was just me.

Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt

An insightful topic, indeed. And the author was scholarly in his pursuit of the viewpoint of near-countless, informed folks on this challenging, philosophical topic. Ultimately he crashed into a wall when he concluded “nothingness” was the real eternal home. Then, in his epilogue while pondering a Parisian night scene from his favorite foot bridge and the deeply penetrating beliefs of his sources, he flicks his cigarette butt into the dark waters flowing below him and heads home. Good grief!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Deep in the hills of Vinton County there once was a town called Moonville.  It was born in 1856 when the country was sprawling its way toward the frontier.

The railroad tunnel above was part of that expansion by the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad which itself was grinding its way westward through these Appalachian Mountain foothills in southeastern Ohio.

Coal also was found in the area then and the railroad would be a terrific means of moving that fuel to the marketplace.  Hence Moonville was born in these forested hills where the Civil War was several years away and hostile Indians were in the death throes of maintaining their land against the overwhelming force of this expansion of white people.

The railroad was built and the town made up of railroad workers and miners reached its biggest population of about 100 in the 1870s.  But soon, progress passed the little hamlet by.  By 1887 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bought out the M & C line while the coal mines already were becoming exhausted

By the turn of the century the mines were closing down.  The last family left town in 1947 and the town was abandoned.  By 1960 all the buildings were gone and the only things left to mark the town's site were the tunnel and the cemetery which my lady Sue is reconciling with the tunnel's location in the small photo above.

Lookout Rock (below) is a nearby, geologic feature.  Local legend has it about 20 men were passing this area one night in Ohio's early history when they were attacked by a large pack of wolves.  The men took refuge on this rock structure, built a fire and spent the night--safely.

Other local legends tell of ghost sightings, often of people who met gruesome deaths, usually by encounters with moving trains on dark and stormy nights.

Vinton County to this day is the least populated and most heavily forested county in Ohio.  Note the road Sue is standing on above is gravel and one lane.  Not far down this road we passed a place where the road was barely wider than the car and the drop on either side was nearly straight down and unprotected by any form of guard rail.

Can you see the face of a local ghost in the rock above; the broad high forehead and the hooked nose flanked by a disfigured eye on the near side with the other eye hiding under a sharp brow and above a bony cheek with a small mouth and drooping chin below--supported by hunched shoulders and a sunken chest?

All that and the possibility of a slumbering ghost being in the neighborhood added up to our being very happy that we made this visit in the partly sunny daylight.

Friday, November 23, 2012

At the Clay Haus, Somerset, OH

I offered a silent prayer of thankfulness as I celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday with an assortment of friends and relatives of my lady Sue's family--and was grateful for that privilege. 

I lost my bride over 10 years ago.  Gone too, then, were the stable traditions that are born and grow with a loving marriage and the arrival and maturing of children.

In just a few years, it seems, those children have children and my expanded family now lives from Mansfield, to Columbus, to northern Indiana, to southern Ohio to Jacksonville, FL.

That does not change the meaning of Thanksgiving.  It just makes its celebration different.

There were many years when the male members of the family went hunting while the ladies toiled over the feast yet to come, whether the hunters were productive or not.  Then there were years where about three days worth of televised football rounded out the day of pleasurable digestion.

On this day it came down to my "adopted" grand daughter Mackenna and I roaming around the Junction City, OH area in search of some geocaches before it became time for a rendezvous of our 7-member tribe at the Clay Haus.

That morphed into a second gathering at Sue's family homestead, where sister Patsy still resides, for a prolonged period of grazing on some terrific desserts while the ladies mostly discussed the launch, early Friday morning, of their annual shopping blitz ranging somewhere between Zanesville, Newark, Columbus and Lancaster.

The whole thing winds down when Sue, Patsy, Mackenna and I reconvene over lunch Monday and load the vehicle for the trip back to Mansfield.

Or was that Sunday when I was supposed to retrieve the shopping gals?

*          *          *

Click here for an earlier blog story on the Clay House, Civil War General Phil Sheridan and a ghost or two.  (Our group's seating was out of the picture area in the near foreground of the above photo.)


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Adventure Continues

These photos were taken in Vinton County Ohio where Sue and I centered a geocaching outing in a long abandoned town featuring an also abandoned cemetery and a pair of sometimes scary railroad tunnels.

The story started when I read of the place in the book, Weird Ohio by Willis, Henderson and Coleman.  She agreed it sounded like fun and away we went.  After a lunch meeting with her sister Patsy Love in Newark we headed south and experienced an Earth Cache named Waters of Life near Buckeye Lake.

Then it was on to finding some conventional caches in and around the ladies' hometown of Junction City where Patsy still lives on the family homestead.  One of those caches featured Phil Sheridan who played a significant role in the Civil War and who was born in nearby Somerset.

After an overnight rest it was on to Moonville in northeastern Vinton County.  That story will follow next Saturday.  Meanwhile, these photos were taken near the abandoned town of Moonville where we thought we had found one of the three caches we were seeking.  The one in the top photo was at Moonville Rocks where Sue had to climb up the rock formation to retrieve the shiny cylinder she is holding in the smaller photo.

Turns out the cylinder was not a geocache.  It was a finely machined salt and pepper shaker; the kind favored by hikers, one of whom must have stopped by this rocky perch for lunch then left his nifty and likely expensive gadget behind.  We left it there too.

In the lower photo Sue is examining the only cache we found of the three we we were seeking at the location of this abandoned town.  This cache was a weather proof food container, wrapped in camouflage tape and well hidden in the end of the hollow log in front of her at the edge of the town's also abandoned cemetery.

We were thwarted in finding a cache in the Moonville tunnel (featured in next Saturday's story) because access to the tunnel required us to ford a robustly flowing stream which we could not do safely.

We did find 7 of the nine we were seeking; below our customary average but rewarding nonetheless. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We wrapped up a day of geocaching in Marion recently with this final effort where Mark Meinzer is pondering his return crossing of a crevasse in an old stone quarry.  When we reached this point on our way to the cache, my enthusiasm stalled--completely.

In spite of many years as a pilot, my advancing age has left me with a strong wariness of heights--in this case about 50 to 75 feet of vertical drop in this big crack and along both sides of this narrow rocky elevation between two bodies of water.  The second large lake is on the immediate left in the photo.

While I loitered on the foreground side of this narrow promontory Mark hopped across and continued another 100 yards or so along the bushy trail behind him in an unsuccessful search for an elusive cache container hidden somewhere on the rocky point.

My hesitation cost us a second pair of eyes in the search and, consequently, a failure to find it.

I felt bad.  But, a geriatric instinct for self-preservation overwhelmed the potential for a relatively minor reward for me.

Click here and take a peek at the Geocaching.com web page we use for information on launching a search for such a cache.  Read the cacher's comments on his hide then scroll down to find comments of cachers, successful and otherwise.

As you can see, this delightful hobby is not always a gentle walk in the park. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

 America Commits Suicide

Here lies the United States of America
Born: July 4, 1776
Died: November 6, 2012


The Will of the People Has Spoken, and America Died
The End of an Empire

by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Our Constitutional Republic died a peaceful death on November 6, 2012. Having reached the point of no return in a comatose state after years of progressive and illegal immigration assaults, the fabric of conservative society is now completely unraveled and Uncle Sam’s America is no more.

The United States of America is now relegated to the dust bin of history as a “has been” empire. The Shining City on the Hill, the hope of so many millions since July 4, 1776, no longer exists. What rises from the ashes is a country that few of us will recognize, like, or learn to accept submissively.

After 236 years of existence, a new country emerges today, run by secular progressives who rejected our Constitution, what we stand for, and who we are as a nation. The Supreme Court will be forever altered after its last conservative members will be replaced by the liberal academics who call themselves “progressives.” The rule of law will be implemented by Executive Orders, making Congress irrelevant.

The communist motto “Forward” that resonated with so many ignorant Americans will plunge us into many years of darkness from which we will never be able to recover. We have proven our Founding Fathers right, they did give us a Constitutional Republic and we were unable to maintain it.

The forces of the failed communist fundamental transformation that were driven underground in many places around the world, resurfaced with a vengeance in the United States and have now taken over.

How long we will still have freedom of speech, movement, assembly, and control of our private property remains to be seen. Faith and churches will be driven underground; allowing secularism to prosper and take deep roots among the progressives whose God is Mother Earth.

The welfare-dependent Americans, unions, and illegal aliens have chosen for the rest of us the dark path of serfdom to big government and to socialist utopia.

Who would have guessed that the very people who were complaining that the government is not extricating them from disaster or giving them the help they needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, would vote for the very politicians who turned their backs on needy Americans after the lights went dark when the political photo opportunities ended?

Who would have guessed that Americans were as ignorant and irresponsible as to choose fiscal destruction over fiscal sanity for their children and grandchildren, secularism and communism over faith, dependence over personal responsibility and self-reliance?

Americans have been protesting for the last four years the dismal state of the economy and the direction of our country, the corruption of our politicians, and the loss of personal and economic freedom.

Rallies in support of conservatism overwhelmed venues for Mitt Romney while rallies for our bumbling President became scarcer and scarcer. Yet, miraculously, at the ballot box, our President won all over the country.

We lost seats in the Senate. Americans chose liars and cheats to be their Senators and Representatives, rejecting those who protected the Constitution. The candidate from Massachusetts who claimed direct American Indian lineage to Pocahontas is now a Senator, having defeated Scott Brown. Representative Allen West lost his seat by a narrow margin to the infamous Wasserman Schultz from Florida.

Americans chose high unemployment, reduction of our military, communist indoctrination of their children, and loss of personal freedoms unlike we have never seen before in this country.

I am saddened by the loss of millions and millions of American soldiers who have died to preserve freedom yet we lost it on November 6, 2012. Those buried in cemeteries around the world and at Arlington must be rolling in their graves today. We shamelessly allowed their sacrifice of blood and treasure to go in vain. We have no honor because we let down all the soldiers who fought in recent times and returned home limbless with lives shattered from physical and mental wounds of war.

I mourn today the loss of my adopted country. I have fought hard over the last four years to prevent its overt and accelerated destruction but the darker forces stronger than many of us have overcome concerted efforts by millions of Americans to maintain the Republic. Mediocrity, sloth, godlessness, dependence, cowardice, using the law selectively or ignoring it, and hopeless corruption will define the new country. Only God can save us now with his mercy and grace."

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The land behind Sue (above) is representative of a highly unusual geological formation which exists between Perrysville and Loudonville in nearby Ashland County.  The gentle contours are nicely rounded hillocks known as glacial kames and those in this area are some of the finest examples in Ohio.

They also are very visible on the huge farms along the south side of SR 39 between those two towns.  And, there are a couple more very prominent ones just east of the VFW Post on the east side of Perrysville.

These kames were formed as deposits by the Wisconsinan Glacier about 12,000 years ago.  Lakes build up on the top of glaciers and over geologic time sediment would accumulate and stratify in them.  Then, when the glacier melted, this sediment would be deposited below where the lake had existed.

As I was pondering this I found myself wondering if Mt. Jeeze at Malabar Farm is a large kame.  It pretty much stands by itself and is a very large, nicely rounded formation.

In fact, I have long noticed an unusual ridge formation you encounter when traveling north on Plymouth-Springmill Rd., at the intersection of Dininger Rd.  In that otherwise large area of flat farmland you will encounter a very pronounced east-west ridge.  I remember studying such formations in college geology class and they were known then as moraines.

Today moraines are still described as a ridge formation of unstratified glacial drift.  Could that ridge I mentioned be the product of a bulldozer-like glacier, drifting slowly southward during the last ice age and pushing a small mountain of rocks and soil in front of it until it stopped moving as the ice age was ending and dropped its load along what we now know as Dininger Road?

Recently as I was traveling east on Dininger Rd., toward Bowman Rd., and looking north I noted a large farm complex perched nicely on very distinct, rounded hillocks very much like those in Ashland County.

Makes me wish I had a handy geology professor with whom I might enjoy some discussion.

Then, on that same geocaching day, I had stopped to find a cache in a cemetery near Tiro, Ohio and paused to do the photo (right) to illustrate a log posting showing caching is not just done on sunny days. 

As I was processing the photo I was amused to note the name of the geocache being sought in the photo was "Gc Tstcl Festvl".

The "Gc" stands for GeoCache and the word "Fstvl" showing on the car's GPS is a truncated version of "Festival".

The T-s-t-c-l is a truncated version of the word "testicle."

And, every April Tiro does, indeed, have a festival of that name; making the second half of this story, I fear, a bit less scholarly than the first half.

BTW, most caches we find in this marvelous hobby of geocaching are in the form of small containers with a few trinkets or even smaller containers with just a log for the searcher/finder to sign.  In the case of the kames mentioned above that was my first ever "Earth Cache".

These caches are obviously not container sized, rather they are a way for cachers to celebrate the Earth's natural, geologic blessings by finding and being made more aware of their often stunning existence.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Salt to Summit by Daniel Arnold

This is an excellent read about a grueling hike from Death Valley (at 282 feet below sea level) to the peak of Mt. Whitney, 14,505 feet above sea level.  The author, with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, is a wordsmith of sizzling quality.  He spent 17 days on this hike avoiding all modern things like roads and trails in his quest to sample the experience of his historic predecessors.  He uses a boatload of very original and illuminating metaphors in constructing his very enjoyable tale.

Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen

To me, Hiaasen seems to write like a guy with a constant grin on his face.  In this yarn he is a veteran reporter permanently demoted to writing for the obituary page after slam-dunking his boss at a board meeting.  He then goes on to validate his journalist credentials by solving a complex murder case and falling in love with his youthful editor after a boat battle on an alligator-infested, storm tossed Lake Okeechobee.  Fun read.

The Confession by John Grisham

Another speed-read by one of my favorite authors who, by the way, continues to write his own material (unlike many of his popular contemporaries) and I salute that.  This tale involves a young black fellow who is wrongly accused of murdering a popular white female classmate and, under extreme pressure confesses.  Wrongly.  Convicted, he spends nine years on death row and despite a herculean effort of defense is executed--just hours before the real bad guy confesses.  Stunning story line!  Thanks again Mr. G.

Expelled by Luke Harding

Harding, a correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, shares his haunting account of the perils faced by a principled journalist who dares to tell the truth in describing modern Russian government under Vladimir Putin as a "virtual mafia state".  He story is a compelling portrait of Russian government descending into--and beyond--the corruption of its horrendous history under Communism.  I shuddered during this read in recalling Obama had garnered the support of people like Putin, Chavez and Castro's family in his (Obama's) current campaign for reelection.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Recognize the above location?  It is, what once was, the locally famous Blue Hole in Castalia, OH.  Long closed as a tourist attraction, I have fuzzy childhood memories of this marvelous pool being protected by a pedestrian wall with paved walkways in a nicely landscaped setting.

I remember peering into its ever-darkening, aquamarine depths and pondering the reality of a hole with no known bottom--as the marketing wizards of the day described it; a truly a menacing concept to a youngster and his lively imagination.

Today Mother Nature largely has reclaimed the site and the outflow (foreground) now serves as part of the water supply for the state's Castalia Fish Hatchery.

We were there one recent day during advertised business hours hoping to do a story on the facility but were denied access to all of the interior. We were invited, by a sign in the unoccupied office, to do a self-guided tour then encountered signs on every door demanding we stay outside.

The only human activity was a couple of fellows with high pressure water cleaning this raceway which stretches from the facilitiy's, hatchery buildings to the outlet stream (below)...

--which, itself, hosts this amazing ichthyological phenomenon...

...of hundreds of rainbow trout, evidently escapees of the upstream hatchery, who choose to hang around because they find the location to their liking.  The next lower photo is Sue's view as she stands on the bridge which is located on Homegardner Road at the entrance to the hatchery just off SR 269 north of Castalia.

Really curious?  Click here for a peek at the state's hatcheries including Castalia.