Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Visiting Maryland's Ghost Town: Daniels



Good friends of ours offered to take us to some "local ruins" that were "only a short hike." They had me at "ruins." I lept at the chance, and so a windy, blustery late October Sunday found us hiking off of Hollifield Road, following what's left of old Alberton Road into the ghost town of Daniels, now part of the Patapsco River Valley State Park (PRVSP). Daniels used to be a mill town with churches, homes, a school, and people.



What's left now is a pleasant walk along what's left of the old Alberton Road; ruins of homes and other buildings, including two churches; a forgotten old cemetery (there are rumors of another cemetery lurking behind the Pentecostal church but we couldn't find it); and lovely views of the Patapsco River.

Daniels, originally called Elysville, was a cotton mill town, founded in the 1820s. Lured by the mills, the B&O Railroad came through in 1831. In 1853, the Alberton Manufacturing Company bought the town, renaming it Alberton (hence the name of the road) and held it until the 1870s; the mill was then acquired by James S. Gary, who created still another firm which operated the mill until the 1940s. Eventually the C.R. Daniels Company bought the mill and the town -- 500 acres for $65,000 -- in the 1940s, and the town was renamed again. 

A low, old stone wall is all that remains of a large building. Our friend said row houses used to exist here.


It's a lovely walk along the river, not nearly as crowded as the section of the PRVSP near my home and the Grist Mill Trail that I've written about again and again. From Alberton Road into Daniels, just below the Daniels Dam, then up for a quick spur trip to see the mysterious ruins of St. Stanislaus Kostkas Roman Catholic Church and back to the car is an unstrenuous 5 miles. 



As we walked down old Alberton Road -- much of the path is still the old chipseal road -- you could see some remains of buildings, now mostly just foundation walls a few feet high at most. And the remains of old cars, deposited carelessly around by the floods that destroyed the town in 1972. Our friend, whose great grandfather, grandfather, and father had all lived in Elysville/Alberton/Daniels told us about the town.

If you follow old Alberton Road into Daniels (you'll know you're there when you start seeing some low walls and the Pentecostal Church. Near the church you start to hear the sound of the falls. Keep following the path below the railroad tracks to the Daniels Dam. A path curls around to the left to the top of the dam.


Daniels was once a thriving mill town straddling the Patapsco River east of Woodstock and north of Old Ellicott City in Baltimore County and Howard County. 

Beside the old road are the ruins of the Pentecostal Holiness Church,
abandoned after being flooded post Hurricane Agnes. 


Daniels was never a large town, but it did have two churches -- St. Stanislaus Koska Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Holiness Church -- a general store, a bowling alley, a post office, a library, a pool hall, a ball field, and a restaurant, all but the churches were owned by the mill companies. Eventually, the mill ran into financial difficulties, and in the mid-1960s, the town's decline into a ghost town began as housing for employees was phased out and the large majority of the town's structures were demolished. Flooding from Hurricane Agnes finished what the mill company had begun, and finally Daniels was completely abandoned. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources later acquired the property and it became part of the PRVSP.



About a third of the way along Alberton Road toward Daniels, there's a fire road that leads away from the river that runs up the hill, taking you to the ruins of St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, which had been built in 1879. The fire road follows the hillside and curves around until suddenly, across a gulch strewn by old cars, the ruins of the old church loom up, silent and mysterious and partially hidden in the leaves and trees.


















































The stone gothic church stood until it was struck by fire and burned in September 1926. The church had no priest (rather, one visited once or twice a month) and thus the church was abandoned after the fire. Behind the church is the old graveyard; now most of the stones have been knocked over or partially destroyed, but a few stand, reminders of a past era.


Another blogger found some interesting old photographs of Daniels, which are well worth checking out, at http://dynamicsymmetry.livejournal.com/1375397.html

A number of dead cars and vehicles litter the landscape, still where Agnes' furious floods dropped them.




















Daniels is a testament to the power of nature to reclaim its own; a humbling reminder that our lives and the world we take for granted are not permanent. We wondered about the lives of those who'd lived in Daniels as we walked the old road. I wondered about their hopes and dreams, and I wondered whether their ghosts still lived in this forgotten ghost town.

To get a trail map of the Daniels area of PRVSP, click here.

Getting there: The Daniels Area can be accessed off of Daniels Avenue, and also from Alberton Road (trail access only in this area). Take Route 40 West to the second light, which is Rogers Avenue. Turn Right. Follow Rogers Avenue to Old Frederick Road. Turn right. Then turn left onto Daniels Road.

To get to the Alberton Road trail into the ghost town, take US 29 north to the end, turn right onto Rogers Avenue. Follow Rogers to the roundabout, then turn left onto Old Frederick Road. Follow Old Frederick Road; eventually it turns into Holifield Road after it crosses the Patapsco River. Hollifield Road Ts at Dogwood Road. Turn left onto Dogwood, then almost immediately left on Alberton Road and the trail's parking lot.

Hours: dawn to dusk

Dogs: But of course!!

Website: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapscodaniels.aspx

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!



Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Top 5 Budget-Friendly Day Trips

Periodically I'll post my top picks. This is the latest My Top Picks posts. Links to the original posts will be embedded in the text. Let me know what you think of this new blog feature!



6. Visit the National Zoo
Whether you take the metro or drive and park ($22 flat rate for parking), the Smithsonian National Zoo is a bargain! This is one of the nicest zoos on the East Coast. Lots of animals, lots of fun -- don't miss the pandas! The Zoo is on a hillside, so you'll get your exercise too. Watch for the post on a day in the zoo, coming in November!





5. Biking or hiking the C&O Canal
With the amount of time I spend on the C&O Canal, I'm surprised it isn't showing up in more Top Picks lists! Although some of the lock houses and exhibits have entrance fees, these are usually nominal; some of the more popular areas, such as Great Falls, has a parking fee -- but that's also nominal. Spending the day hiking or biking the C&O Canal is an easy way to enjoy a budget-friendly day trip! Check out my favorite sections: Great Falls, Williamsport, Maryland Heights, and Brunswick.


















4. Go to a Maryland winery; pack a picnic.
Many of the Maryland wineries -- a couple of the Virginia and Pennsylvania wineries -- will let you bring your own picnic. With tasting fees running between $5 and $10, going to two or three wineries, enjoying the ambiance, is an easy way to stay within a budget! If you purchase just 1 bottle of wine to enjoy while you're there, you can keep your budget to about $50 for the entire day. Check the winery's website to ensure they allow you to bring your own food. Check out here and here and here for more information about Maryland wineries!


























3. Go on a ghost tour.
You get to hear interesting stories told (and who doesn't enjoy a good story?) while seeing interesting sights and strolling around on a pleasant evening. Most ghost tours cost between $10 and $15, making this an ideal way to enjoy a budget-friendly activity! Check out more about ghost tours in Washington, DC; Frederick, Gettysburg, Ellicott City, and Annapolis. Bonus: they won't charge you extra if you actually see a ghost!























2. Explore a State or National Park
Really, you can't get much more budget friendly than a picnic and a day hiking! My favorite local park (for me) is Patapsco River Valley State Park. I go biking there and I go walking with my dogs, family and friends. I've volunteered there also.




































1. Gettysburg
With several museums -- the Gettysburg Heritage Museum and the Shriver Museum House -- with entrance fees of less than $8, this is an easy place to do on a budget. Touring the battlefield is free, although there is a significant fee to enter the Visitor's Center and Museum. With several inexpensive diners and cafes in Gettysburg or fast food places immediately around the park's visitor's center, you can do this day trip for two for $50 or less.



Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

This Time the Sun Shone



Last year we went leaf peeping in Shenandoah and when it wasn't blindingly foggy, it was raining!

Still, we saw some gorgeous trees and the fog leant a mysterious beauty to the autumn scenery. We made the best of it.



This year, though, I was hell bent on seeing the Skyline drive in all its glory. Too bad I arrived a week early! Oh well. The weather was cool and gorgeous. I couldn't have asked for a nicer day. There was still lots of green, but enough trees at the highest elevations along Skyline Drive had turned to make it well worth the drive.




And although it may not have been at its peak (it seems to be running a week later than last year), the park was still very crowded. Although traffic flowed smoothly, by mid-afternoon there was little to no parking available at any of the trailheads.



Skyline Drive is pretty neat, though. It's a road meant NOT to be driven quickly. Developed in the euphoria of a newly mobile society, the whole point of it is not to get you from point a to point b, but to allow you to be able to enjoy the scenery of the park by presenting different vistas during what is meant to be a leisurely drive: the speed limit is posted at 35 mph, and that's not a joke. Park police were stationed around various curves awaiting speeding drivers.



But why go fast? You'll probably miss something if you do. It's not uncommon to come across vehicles haphazardly pulled over, its occupants gawking at white-tail deer or even a random black bear. Sometimes it's not immediately obvious what the other vehicle is looking at; I always drive away feeling as if I'm missing something I REALLY wanted to see! And of course, once you climb to the higher elevations of the park, there's a scenic overlook at almost every turn.



Like last year, we had lunch at Skyland, a resort built before the park existed, catering to those who could afford it. Now it's part of the national park service. You can purchase sandwiches at a coffee shop or eat in the restaurant. The food is decent, not spectacular, but that's okay -- the scenery makes up for it. The Skyland dining room has huge picture windows that look out on the view below; on a busy Saturday you can expect a wait of 20 or 30 minutes. When not shrouded in fog (as it was last year), the view more than compensates for any culinary inadequacies.

Getting there: There are four entrances into Shenandoah National Park:
  • Front Royal, accessible via I-66 and Route 340
  • Thornton Gap, accessible via Route 211
  • Swift Run Gap, accessible via Route 33
  • Rockfish Gap, accessible via I-64 and Route 250 (Rockfish Gap is also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway.)

Hours: Shenandoah National Park is always open. However, portions of Skyline Drive, the only public road through the park, are periodically closed during inclement weather and at night during deer hunting season, mid-November through early January. Visitors can still enter the park on foot to hike even when the Drive is closed. Most visitor facilities and services begin operating in March and close down completely in late November.

Dogs: Dogs are welcomed in the park, although not in Skyland.

Website: http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm





Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!



Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Top 7 Haunted Places

Periodically I'll post my top picks. Links to the original posts will be embedded in the text. Let me know what you think of this new blog feature!

My Top 7 Haunted Places the Blog Has Accidentally Visited*

7. Fort Frederick
Historical reenactors in the fort have frequently reported a presence or hostile feelings coming from the front right bastion of Fort Frederick, or of being followed out of it. Interestingly people re-enacting Scottish regiments sense a presence in this same place but it is friendly and curious. Four Scottish regiments were among those surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. I've been there twice now, but have thankfully seen nothing. Still, not a place I'd like to be alone.



6. Gettysburg National Military Park
Of course the battlefield is haunted. It would have to be, right? More than 7 thousand men died during the 3-day battle. How likely is it that not a single one of them would be restless? Although the Union dead were eventually re-interred with respect at the nearby National Cemetery, the Confederate dead stayed in their shallow graves for close to a decade before they were moved or brought home. Not all of the bodies were recovered. And supposedly, there are several mass graves, including giant piles of human limbs that were hacked off because of terrible wounds sustained during the battle. So yeah, it's believable that there'd be ghosts there, and lots of them. Multiple sightings, in multiple places, of ghosts around the battlefield. Some during the light of day on the anniversary of the battle. The Devils Den appears to be particularly restless. Would I go there -- or anywhere on the battlefield -- alone or at night? Oh heck no!

























5. Fort McHenry
No one should be surprised that a military fort that's seen active battle might be haunted. Park rangers have reported hearing footsteps and having lights turned on after they've been turned off. The ghost most frequently sighted at Fort McHenry is a marching guard on duty often seen patrolling along the outer battery of the fort. There have also been multiple sightings of a ghost of an African-American soldier dressed in military uniform holding a rifle. I didn't sense anything while I was there, but I nevertheless made sure to stay close to my husband and friend while we explored the fort.































4. Hampton Mansion
This 1700s mansion houses several ghosts, including Priscilla Ridgely of the original owners’ family, whose apparition has been seen throughout the house, and Cygnet Swann, an 1800s resident, the daughter of Governor Swann, who died under mysterious circumstances. Her apparition has been seen and harpsichord playing has been heard coming from her room. The ghost of a former butler named Tom also has been seen here as well. There are two more ghosts, both unknown, who also appear here. One likes to roam the house unlocking and unlatching locked doors, and the other makes a noise like beating chains against the walls in the tack room. Some believe this ghost to be original house carpenter Jehu Howell. During our tour, someone else had asked about ghosts, saying she sensed something in the bedroom. I snapped a ton of photos in the hopes of seeing something but got nothing. Hampton Mansion seemed like it could be haunted, and that's why it made it to #4 on this list.




















3. Eastern State Penitentiary
Visitors, employees and those researching paranormal activity have reportedly heard unexplained eerie sounds throughout the Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia. Even without the annual Haunted House ESP puts on every year, this place has it all: creepy old deteriorating buildings, a violent history, multiple deaths within the prison. It's like a recipe for a haunted house. In a typical year, maybe two dozen paranormal investigations take place in the cell blocks, and by all accounts, they almost always find evidence of activity. Tourists and employees have reported hearing weeping, giggling and whispering coming from inside the prison walls, although I'm not sure what there is to giggle about. We didn't see or hear anything ourselves, and thank god for that, because if/when I actually see a ghost, I'll probably pee in my pants. Regardless, it's an eerie place, even during the day.





2. Mount Olivet Cemetery
Yeah, I mean, I did go on a ghost tour of the cemetery, and Mount Olivet, in Frederick, MD, is, actually, a cemetery. So of course it's very eerie. Folks who live near the cemetery have reported seeing Confederate soldiers and a mysterious woman in white. While we were there, in the middle of the cemetery we smelled cigar smoke, although obviously no one in our group was smoking, and it was only around one particular grouping of tombstones. Other tour participants reported smelling perfume.




















1. Shriver House Museum
Listed in the top 5 haunted places in Gettysburg, Shriver House is my number 1 pick because I photographed what I think is a ghost there, in the attic. Apparently, Confederate snipers had used the attic as a hide-out and vantage point during the 3-day battle. Several of them also died there, and modern technology recently confirmed the presence of blood spatter on the floor boards. The house also served as a triage point or temporary hospital in the aftermath of the battle. Funny thing, I didn't see it until after I took the photo. Then I took two more photos, and the shape changed in the other photos. Oh, and just 15 minutes earlier, a door had slammed for no discernible reason, but no one was there. Scary.
































* There were so many places to choose from that I could have mentioned. I've visited multiple cemeteries, Cape May, the Dr. Samuel Mudd House, Sleep Hollow in New York, all these places have pretty creepy ghost stories about them. I had such a hard time trying to figure out which to include in this list. Ultimately, it came down to creepiness. These places creeped me out one way or another.

Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Rare Opportunity to Tour the Thomas Point Shoal LIghthouse

On the last weekend in September, my sister and I went on one of the few tours offered every year to the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. I mean, not just a victory lap around the outside like countless folks in their boats, but get off the boat and climb up through the hatches to the outside deck and go inside.



It was too cool an opportunity to pass up.

As I initially wrote the draft blog, Hurricane Joaquin was forecasted to grow into a Level 3 hurricane and head straight up the Chesapeake Bay.  Thankfully, that didn't happen. Another hurricane season survived!

Built in 1875 and now a National Historic Landmark, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is the last of its kind left in its original location.

A photo of the lighthouse from the 1890s. Note that there is no platform below the lighthouse cottage.


For those who follow the blog, you'll recognize Captain Mike and his vessel, the Sharpes Island. We first met Captain Mike during the Passage to Five cruise offered by Chesapeake Lights to see five lighthouses in the north part of the bay. We so enjoyed that day trip that we immediately signed up for the 2-day excursion to see 11 lighthouses in the southern part of the Chesapeake Bay, appropriately entitled Southern Expedition. The National Lighthouse Society hired Captain Mike to take us on the 30-minute ride between Annapolis and the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.



On the way out we enjoyed seeing the U.S. Naval Academy sailing school, as well as another group of sailboats. It's part of the sights of the northern Chesapeake Bay. We also enjoyed seeing numerous other sail boats and yachts on the ride.



Waves were a little choppy that day, but we easily docked at the lighthouse and climbed the 7-step ladder to the first platform underneath the lighthouse. With the breezes and the shade, I was thinking it was the perfect place to hang a hammock and read a book, or go to sleep. I even day dreamed a little about a lovely vacation doing just that! But according to the docent, the lightkeepers stored fuel for the light and their stoves, as well as other supplies, on the platform. So much for my day dream! The platform also offered a close look at the screwpile construction of the lighthouse platform.

Detail of the screwpile base of the lighthouse.


The lighthouse is a work in progress. Currently local volunteers are in the process of restoring (and maintaining) the lighthouse. One room in the lighthouse was filled with all the equipment you'd need to finish any home construction project; paint (probably lead paint at that) peeled from the ceiling and walls. This is what the lighthouse used to look like inside. I appreciated being able to see it this way, and compare it to the rest of the rooms, most of which have been restored to either the late 1890s condition or to reflect the Coast Guard period of the 1950s.



The lighthouse is unique in that most screwpile lighthouse cottages only have 4 dormer windows, versus Thomas Shoal's six. Whether you visit on boat or tour the building, you can appreciate Victorian touches such as the lovely outside railing.

The kitchen, restored to the 1890s period (although much work
still needs to be done, including finding a era-authentic stove.)

The second floor of the lighthouse cottage. 







Getting there: The tours left from a dock is located at waters edge behind the Annapolis Maritime Museum located at 723 2nd St Annapolis, MD 21403. The vessel Sharps Island will be moored at the closest pier to the Horn Point Marina.

Website: The tours were offered through the U.S. Lighthouse Society at www.uslhs.org




Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!



Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Top 4 Creepy Pix

Periodically (i.e., whenever the whim strikes me, I'll post my top picks. This is the fourth of the My Top Picks posts. Links to the original posts will be embedded in the text. Let me know what you think of this new blog feature!


So this post is a small departure from my other Top Picks posts -- this is more like a Top Pix. Whatever. It sounded way funnier in my head before I typed it out. Anyway, while I've been out an about these past three years of daytripping and blogging and photographing, I've taken -- or someone with me on the day trip took -- some creepy photos! Here are my top 4 creepy, eerie pix!

4. Weird orbs photographed on the Ellicott City Ghost Walk 









3. Orbs caught while in front of the Bryce House on the Annapolis Ghost Walk






























2. Taken while on the Washington Walks Capital Haunts ghost tour
































1. A weird mist photographed in the attic of Shriver House Museum: this is my number one pix because we weren't expecting or looking for ghosts. It was only after we took this misty photo that I looked up "Shriver House haunted?" and discovered it's listed fifth in the list of top ten most haunted places in Gettysburg.




Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about: facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!