Sunday, July 4, 2010

Antietam National Battlefield

Our hike yesterday ended at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.  I didn’t realize until later in the evening that I had failed to say anything about the park.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the Pine Grove Ironworks in the early 1900s.  The Ironworks, by that time, had had a long history of one owner after another.  Pine Grove Iron Works was started in 1764 and it produced a variety of products including fireplace backs and iron kettles.  There is some speculation that they possibly produced munitions during the American Revolution.  By the early 1800s, the Pine Grove Furnace was producing wrought iron.

The financial downturn of 1837 put the Furnace out of business.  It eventually ended up in the hands of Jay Cooke and Company.  Cooke changed the name to South Mountain Iron Company and built South Mountain Railroad to bring raw materials to the furnace and to carry the finished products away to market.  Another financial downturn in 1873 brought down the company again.  The furnace was bought again and revived, but by the late 1800s new technologies were putting small iron producers out of business.

Today, as a State Park, it offers hiking and bicycling trails, boating, swimming and fishing on two small lake, camping, and the Appalachian Trail runs the center.  There is cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowmobiling in winter.  There is also an area open for hunting in the fall.

The son of the second owner of the furnace built a mansion for his wife in 1829.  This huge mansion has been renovated and is operated by American Youth Hostel, Inc.  The old paymaster’s office has also been renovated and is now a cabin available for rent.  The Appalachian Trail Museum is located in the old Grist Mill.

This is a nice park to visit, even if you don’t hike.  In fact, most of the people we saw were here to enjoy the weekend and had no idea about the AT or it’s thru-hikers.  I suppose seeing Beaver in his worn out boots (held together with duct tape, by the way) and dirty, smelly clothes eating a half gallon of ice cream must have seemed rather strange.  I wonder what they thought when we all applauded.

We’ve been doing the usual chores today.  Our campground is nearly full, but the heat has returned so it’s not such a good day to sit out and people watch.

The sunken road
We’ve decided to go to Antietam Battlefield tomorrow.  The forecast is for hot temperatures, but we don’t have to walk around the battlefield, we can drive.  We really didn’t mean to wait to the last minute to go, but those days we weren’t hiking we were just too tired.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the 4th of July.

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