HIK­ING

The Southern Berks News - - FIT FOR LIFE - Bob Frye is the Ev­ery­body Ad­ven­tures ed­i­tor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or [email protected]­di­allc.com. See other sto­ries, blogs, videos and more at ev­ery­bodyad­ven­tures. com By Bob Frye ev­ery­bodyad­ven­tures.com

The stones speak silently of hope, of love, of po­ten­tial, even per­haps of sad­ness and tragedy, but al­ways, ul­ti­mately, of fi­nal­ity.

Roam the out­doors long enough and you will even­tu­ally come across ru­ins. Rock walls, foun­da­tions, old chim­neys, rot­ting cab­ins, they dot the land­scape, tucked here and there into pock­ets of for­est and field, the last rem­nants of dreams.

I have a few fa­vorites. Some are well known, lo­cated on or along­side well-trod trails. Oth­ers are hid­den, over­grown with bri­ars and bram­bles and woods and grass, as na­ture slowly re­claims what once was taken from it, hard-earned, sweaty­browed, cal­lus-handed bit by bit.

Don’t ask me where those ones are. I won’t tell you.

Oth­ers know of them, I’m sure. But I claim them as my own, the more so the more hid­den they are.

All rep­re­sent plans achieved, if only tem­po­rar­ily.

I like to wan­der around them, to linger, to touch and feel and imag­ine. At times I’ll take oth­ers with me when vis­it­ing.

Often, though, they’re best ex­pe­ri­enced in still­ness. Mem­o­ries never lived but fan­cied come to mind then, sto­ries happy and sad.

Some of the ru­ins you come across are small, oth­ers in­dus­trial in size. All have his­to­ries, some­times doc­u­mented, some­times lost to time.

Walk the Sun­set Rocks Trail in Penn­syl­va­nia and you’ll find an old Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps camp, for ex­am­ple.

The CCC boys, as the young men be­hind such projects were known, worked all across the coun­try in the days of the Great De­pres­sion. Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt put them to work restor­ing Amer­ica’s pub­lic lands, all for $30 a month, $25 of which they were re­quired to send home.

Their camps played host to dances and din­ners and jokes and games.

Yet along Sun­set Rocks, one of the build­ings they crafted — which still stands, if only par­tially — later housed Ger­man and Ja­panese pris­on­ers of war. How dif­fer­ent the emo­tions in­side its walls were likely then.

To the west, North Cha­grin Reser­va­tion in Ohio, one of Cleve­land’s Metro Parks, is home to an unfinished cas­tle.

Fear­gus B. Squire, who achieved wealth by help­ing to found Stan­dard Oil Co., put crews to work build­ing it for his wife in 1890. It’s a mas­sive struc­ture, meant to mimic cas­tles of English barons.

His wife died be­fore it was fin­ished, how­ever, so the project was aban­doned. Yet hik­ers make their way to it to­day and wan­der in­side its unfinished skele­ton.

It’s pos­si­ble to have a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence in Great Smoky Moun­tains Na­tional Park in Ten­nessee.

There, in 1908, Lit­tle River Lum­ber Co. built the town of Elk­mont as a place for its work­ers to live. The com­mu­nity had a post of­fice, church, school and ho­tel in ad­di­tion to “set off” homes, pre­fab­ri­cated dwellings meant to be off­loaded from a train as is and set up im­me­di­ately.

In time, after the lum­ber­men left, the Ap­palachian Club crafted a va­ca­tion com­mu­nity there, with peo­ple build­ing and oc­cu­py­ing cab­ins to play rather than work. And then, it faded away. The Na­tional Park Ser­vice quit re­new­ing leases for Elk­mont’s cab­ins and cot­tages in 1994. Their own­ers dis­ap­peared. The town re­mains, how­ever. Hik­ers who walk to the old ghost town can wan­der among some of the build­ings, 18 of which re­main stand­ing. Some are re­ha­bil­i­tated enough that it’s pos­si­ble to even walk through them.

Sim­i­lar ru­ins — from en­tire towns to bits and pieces of in­di­vid­ual build­ings — ex­ist all around the coun­try. Each state has its share. Each site has its story.

Not all are known. The peo­ple and lives be­hind them are, in cases, lost to the ages.

But often, that un­cer­tainty, that mys­tery, that past shrouded in im­pen­e­tra­ble mist, makes them all the more ap­peal­ing.

Hike ru­ins and you can feel echoes of drama long gone.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ru­ins of old cab­ins, in­dus­trial build­ings and even en­tire vil­lages dot forests and fields all around the coun­try.

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