Monday, April 24, 2017

A Night at the Museum (GeoTour continued)

The second half of our Smithsonian Adventure found us leaving bustling downtown DC and heading to the mountains of Maryland. The dashboard reads 76 degrees and the sun is shining into the car. Unlike home, everything here is lush and in bloom. I really wish I know what those purple flowering trees are -- they are all over the mountains and DC.


By Sunday, we had completed five Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area Geotrail geocaches. That leaves eight to leisurely retrieve on Easter morning. We realized there was no rush as the Frederick Visitor Center is closed for the holiday (but later TaGeez pointed out we could pickup our coins in Antietam, too).  

First stop is the Point of Rocks Train Depot. "Built built in 1875 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O)–the charming Victorian station is on the National Register of Historic Places." (National Parks). POR found itself in the middle of a battle during the Civil War.

Photographing into the sun

Luckily, the HCWHA puzzle was easy, and we had the smiley in hand. Also in this same parking lot were two traditionals (one is my 7500th find and the other was our first DNF).

Can't keep a good man down!

History, history everywhere on this trail...

Monocacy National Battlefield is much quieter these days
Confederate Graves at Mt Olivet Cemetery

Parents of Francis Scott Key - Mt Olivet Cemetery

The view from Historic Middleton

Much to our surprise we found a Michigan Historical Marker in a Maryland field!

Fox's Gap

Stepping away from the historic marker and a nearby memorial, we headed to the HCWHA - Fox's Gap GC6NP7M where we discovered....


This was a first for all three of us. Each of us had to pose with the sign and the white blaze.

I could walk the Appalachian Trail. 528 feet at a time!

This was the first of 3 instances our toes touched the magnificent trail, and Shelley met some Trail Hikers! She also explained "Trail Magic" -- random acts of kindness for through hikers so we kept granola bars on hand.


Our second AT touch was at historic Dahlgren Chapel, located at the summit of Turner's Gap in western Maryland between Middletown and Boonsboro. The AT runs right next to it.

Dahlgren Chapel GCV4Q2

We wound our way down and completed the HCWHA in Antietam. After a delightful conversation with a ranger at our final cache at the Newcomer House, we headed to the visitor center to seek our rewards.

Antietam Battleground Visitor Center

Unlike many geotrails, you do have to pay for the commemorative geocoins, but we felt $10 each was minor for such an awesome souvenir! We paid for them in the gift shop as well as new hiker medallions for our walking sticks. If you go, don't forget to bring your National Park passport for stamping.

Front and back of the HCWHA geocoins plus commemorative path tag


Funny thing happened here. We were pulling out of the Antietam Visitor Center and heading towards town when I pulled up the geocaching app - DOH! There was a cache INSIDE the Visitor Center! Shelley did a quick turnaround, and I headed in to the desk. 

What's this? Another code word?

HEY! Another geotrail! Twenty caches will earn another coin and path tag after completing the Washington County Geotrail. We have a day left of vacation... a full tank of gas... it's bright out. Let's go! The only down side - bummer - the caches are located in the same towns we've been driving through over the last day.

For future finders, if you are in town for one of these geotrails, try to do all three as they're in the same area: Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, Washington County Geotrail, and the Hagerstown City Parks geotrail. You can pick up your geocoins and path tags for all three at the Hagerstown Visitor Center.

The WCG, like the HCWHA, featured vineyards, general stores, potteries, historical centers, bridges, heritage museums and cemeteries. By now, historical markers were like dandelions -- they are so abundant you forget to notice them after awhile.

Devil's Backbone GC4EFW1

Look what we found again!

Okay. For all cache hiders, let's talk about terrain. Rule of thumb: if you expect finders to hike 800 feet up hill on the side of a mountain and then hike .2 down a mountain, locate & sign a cache while precariously balancing on an incline like a billy goat... that is not a 1.5 terrain.

Luckily the view from the Washington Monument in Washington Monument State Park was worth it!

Setting sun made it impossible for a great picture

Power down and go outdoors

That final night we went to dinner and grabbed some WVTim caches in Martinsburg. We had intended to hunt for more, but the taste of the geotrail had gripped us. 

The final day of our adventure dawned a gray, drizzly day. That didn't deter us. We headed up, up, up!

Vineyard down below

Our twentieth find was in Historic (are you getting tired of that word yet?) Rose Hill Cemetery. A good puzzle, another smiley, and lo! The rain finally stopped!

We completed another!
Scrapcat, TaGeez and ShelleyJean

The ladies at the Hagerstown Visitor Center were absolutely lovely. They left such a friendly final impression. We bought our coins, collected our complimentary path tags, and stocked up on candy for the ride home. 

Washington County GeoTrail geocoin and path tag


We had considered stopping at the Flight 93 9/11 Memorial on the way into DC, but then saved it for the last day. 

The rock in the middle of the field was the final crash sight

I've been to many memorials but never so moved. It was so personal because I remember where I was the first time Katie Couric interrupted the normal segment on the Today Show in a shocked, confused voice saying a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. To hear it broadcasted again in the Visitor Center rocked me.

Very moving exhibit in the Visitor Center

To re-live the crash investigation, the conspiracy theories. To see the makeshift memorials reconstructed from those first days and hearing about those amazingly brave people who stayed calm and stood up to tyranny.  

Every facet of this memorial was brilliantly thought out. As ShelleyJean said, it gives great comfort that there were so many people visiting today, not letting this be forgotten. We left the Visitor Center, passed the burgeoning orchard, and went down to the crash site. The debris field was enormous.

The wall of names on the left
Visitor Center up on the hill

I think God wanted to extract us from our solemn mood. Right before hitting the freeway towards home, we crossed paths (finally) with one of the Muffler Men! This one in Kittanning, PA! We swerved to take a picture for our good friend, SCOOK, back home.


Final detour on our adventure led us to a webcam and a Virtual in Indiana, PA.  Fitting to the rest of the trip, the large rock before us in the picture was a memorial for 9/11. Directly behind it (out of frame) is a piece of the debris from the World Trade Center.

And after finding our Pooka in the town center, we turned to home. Another amazing memory in the books.


Only official GeoTours are listed on If you are looking for Geotrails with Rewards there is now a Facebook group for that!

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