Brownfield Hollow and Laurel Caverns Cache

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge

10/22/05 and 10/23/05

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Maria had friends visiting for the weekend and she was busy showing them the town.  So the kids and I decided to go do a little Geocaching.  We'd already been rained out of our plans to go to Seneca Rocks and do some camping and hiking so this was the next best thing.  I loaded up some film cameras and lenses, the digital camera, and loaded the GPS's with waypoints for four Geocaches.

I painted a few Matchbox off-road vehicles for later use in the Geocaches.  I brought them along to place in any caches that we might find on this trip.

Trucks for CachesTrucks for CachesTrucks for CachesTrucks for CachesATV for Caches
Trucks for CachesTrucks for Caches
Trucks for CachesTrucks for CachesTrucks for CachesATV for Caches


With the kids all dressed for wet fall weather, we took a quick walk to my Geocache and found someone had visited it earlier in the morning.  They had left a cool travel bug (Ringwraith) that I decided to bring with us to drop in one of the caches we might find.

Travel Bug found in Legend in the Rough - Click to Enlarge
Travel Bug found in Legend in the Rough

The kids found him very engaging and insisted on getting more familiar with him while we drove to our destination.  I didn't see any harm in it so obliged.


I have found it very convenient to use the GPS V to generate a route to Geocaches, so today was no exception.  I put in the waypoint for the Laurel Caverns Cache and then told the GPS to find it.  The route that resulted looked great on paper so off we went.  I had planned only to drive to the caches, find them if possible, and then come home.  I was not planning to go trail riding, even though I am always prepared if the opportunity arises.

Pretty soon we got onto a road that had a sign at the beginning that said "No Outlet".  I wasn't too worried because I figured that perhaps the road I saw on the map was gated or something.  We'd just turn back and go around.  No big deal.

When we got to the end of pavement (and it was quite a patchwork quilt of pavement at that), there was indeed a gate but it was open.  Exactly where the map on the GPS said it should be was a rocky dirt road that disappeared up the hill into the woods. 

Ready to Run Old Logging Trail at Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Ready to Run Old Logging Trail at Brownfield Hollow

I drove up a ways to see what it was, and found it continued out of sight, looking not unlike any other trail we love to drive.  So I broke out the Oasis Automatic Tire Deflators and aired down while I disconnected the sway bar.  That was easy, even in the rain with my umbrella to hand.

Once that was done, I got back in the Jeep, told the kids we were going 4-Wheeling after all (duh) and with 4-LO locked in, started crawling up the hill.  The trail stayed very well defined until we got to the edge of the glen then it got a little narrower into the woods.  It looked like ATV's may run the trail from time to time but it was pretty tight for us.

After going a ways, I came to the conclusion that it was probably best to come back with a buddy and poke into this some more.  I managed to get turned around and we drove back out the way we had come.

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge

At the bottom of the hill, I turned to the East and drove along another well-defined trail that was calling my name.  This one followed the bottom of a hollow and gradually lead up to a very steep hill.  It was good solid ground and there was no place to fall, so I drove up into the woods.  I had to stop and break out the buck saw for a minute to widen an open someone had cut in a fallen tree.  That was easy too.

Up past the tree, the road switched back along the hillside.  It was steep and tight so it took me a couple point turn to get around.  We drove a little further and another tree was so low that when I tried to go under, it gently fell down across my windshield and onto my hood.  It didn't dent or scratch anything but it meant I needed to get out and clear it off.  Again with the saw and soon we were rolling again.

We came to another switchback.  This time it was complicated.  It cut sharply to the left, the right side was very narrow with a good drop off the steep side of the hill, and the road continued steeply up some loose, muddy and narrow ground.  To the right the old trail continued to a wider flat area with grass.  I pulled up there, got out and checked the area, then turned around to go back down.  I didn't feel like getting crossways on this trail in the rain, in the cold, alone, with no cell coverage, All we needed was to slide off the side of the hill here...  Even though I had left my itinerary posted at home, and even though Maria would know to come looking here, it would take a while for her to get really worried enough, and longer still to muster up a vehicle that would get her here.  So again, we made a graceful exit full of new opportunities to explore with a buddy and some sunshine.

Coming back down the hill the full beauty of the hollow greeted us.  Even in the fog and the rain, the fall leaves were pretty and the green grass fairly glowed. 

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Brownfield Hollow

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Brownfield Hollow

Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Brownfield Hollow


The kids and I took pictures and made a circle around the hollow to explore it.  Then we took another trail to the side that led into the woods.

I was rolling along happily when for some reason I noticed that directly ahead lay a bridge - with big holes in it!  I jabbed the brakes but it really wasn't that dire - we were in 4-LO and still a good distance away at our speed. 

Risky Bridge near Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Risky Bridge near Brownfield HollowRisky Bridge near Brownfield Hollow

I got out and took a look.  I'd say it's pretty inconclusive.  The deck of the bridge is history - thin plywood or something like that.  The longitudinal supporting members were huge 12" x 12" beams that looked quite solid.  But 4500 pounds of Jeep and skid plates can change all that in a heartbeat.  The bridge only spans a 10 foot stream but it was elevated high enough that falling through would have kept me busy for quite a while.  The way the bridge was constructed, there was no way to ford the stream there, and really, there was no point.  It was late, and so on.  So we turned around and backtracked again.

Finally, we'd pretty much run up against enough barriers that challenged my willingness to take chances and I decided it was time to go back to the road the continue on to the Geocaching.

But not before a brief stop to check out the sawmill.

Sawmill near Brownfield Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Sawmill near Brownfield Hollow

Tom taking pictures - Click to Enlarge
Sawmill near Brownfield Hollow


Brownfield Hollow Track Legend - Click to Enlarge

The kids reported that they had lost the "hat" of the travel bug somewhere in the Jeep.  Great!  I swear they could lose their heads if they weren't attached.  The good news was the "hat" was lost inside the Jeep so we'd find it; the bad news was, with the rain and everything, it would not be today...  I told the kids the travel bug was not going to leave for the next cache until he finds his hat.  I was fairly upset with them but having said my piece, I more or less dropped it.

After looking at the saw mill we got back on the road and took an easier route to the cache. 

Laurel Caverns Cache

We found the location easily and after driving around the gas well, then spending some time in the parking lot, we hiked down to the cache location.  We found it easily and signed the log, left the Dune Buggy, then headed back up the hill to the parking lot.  I took a Travel Bug tag but nothing was attached to it.  I would have to look it up to determine what was supposed to be attached, if anything.  I left the log like this except in place of "nothing" it said "Travel Bug Tag".

Geocache Log at Laurel Caverns Cache - Click to Enlarge

Kids at Laurel Caverns Cache - Click to EnlargeTrucks for Caches - Click to Enlarge


Laurel Caverns Cache Track Legend - Click to Enlarge


The kids were wet and ready to call it a day, so we got back in the Jeep after a short and failed attempt to find the travel bug's "hat".  Taking advantage of the level ground, I reconnected the sway bar.  We drove back a slightly different way and reached a gas station in Haydentown where we picked up a snack, aired up, and then headed home for the night.

This area will provide some really interesting exploring.  I am thinking Carl, Jim, and Charlie will find this right up their alley!


Update 10/23/05:

The next day, I literally tore down the inside of the Jeep. Took the seats out, all the gear we carry, the floor mats - everything. And there on the edge of one of the floor mats was the "hat" of the Ringwraith. Phew! I was very happy to find this - would not want him going on with his travels without it!  Only then could I run the vacuum cleaner!

I found the Travel Bug Dogtag in my watch pocket of my jeans from the previous day.  I had searched high and low for the stupid thing only to conclude I had lost it.  We returned to the house to look up the number and see what it was supposed to be attached.  We were surprised to find it was supposed to be Frodo - the hero from the Tolkien trilogy - Lord of the Rings.  How strange Frodo would turn up missing when we had a Ringwraith along with us to go Geocaching...  We will go back to Laurel Caverns Cache and see if we can find Frodo in the cache.


Having found the "hat" for the Ringwraith, our interest in deploying him rebounded.  I herded up our stuff, loaded the Jeep and called the kids.  They were all too happy to oblige.  We headed out, this time bypassing our off-road route and going directly to the Laurel Caverns parking lot and the cache.

View from Laurel Caverns Parking Lot - Click to Enlarge
View from Laurel Caverns Parking LotView from Laurel Caverns Parking LotDown the trail to the Laurel Caverns Cache

Geocache Trail 2

Ted and Tom placed cars in the cache and retrieved the Troll and Go Fish game.

Tom gets the stinkin' Troll - Click to EnlargeTed and Go Fish - Click to Enlarge

I placed the Ringwraith travel bug. 

Ted and Tomi with cards, troll and Ringwraith - Click to Enlarge

Ringwraith smell Frodo... - Click to Enlarge

Second Log Entry - Click to Enlarge
Second Log Entry

Cache Contents - Click to Enlarge

Left These for Troll and Go Fish card gameThe cache

There was no sign of Frodo, so I retained the travel bug dogtag so I could report the unfortunate incident and get instructions from the owner of the tag.  Life is stranger than fiction sometimes...

Parking Lot at Laurel Caverns - Click to Enlarge
Memorial at Laurel Caverns

Geocache Trail Part 3

We then made tracks for the Grist Mill cache nearby.

Skyline Drive (PA) - Click to Enlarge
Skyline Drive (PA)

As I like to approach using the GPS, I routed to a mark I had made that looked like a good parking spot.  When we reached it, I found that it marked a crossing that no longer had a bridge.  I walked it off and found it was now a ford so we crossed.  Once again we were 4-Wheeling.  On the other side, I stopped to check and found that the cache was not really going to be any easier to access from here so we crossed back and continued on down the road.

When we got to Quebec Run Recreation Area, I stopped to read the cache instructions.  It made reference to the trail head we noticed but I thought we needed to go up onto the other side of the area and come down so we took a little side trip up and around Sumey Road.

I made a few photos on the way in, and we passed the PA Bureau of Wildlife rangers. 

Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge
Sumey RoadSumey RoadSumey Road

Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge

Sumey Road

They gave a pleasant wave as they passed, showing no concern about us going in, even at the late hour.  We drove in until we were even with the cache waypoint but found it was no closer than from the other side at the trail head.  I took a poll and the kids voted they didn't want to walk the .6 mile to the cache and out.  And anyway we would have had just barely enough time before sunset anyway so it seemed pointless.

We backtracked out.  I stopped to make some pictures of the Jeep.

Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge

Jeep on Sumey Road - Click to EnlargeJeep - Got Mud? - Click to Enlarge

Jeep on Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge
Jeep on Sumey Road


A little further down the road I stopped and made pictures of the area.  It was very nice, reminded me of home this time of year.

Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge
Sumey RoadSumey RoadSumey RoadSumey Road

Sumey Road - Click to Enlarge
Sumey RoadSumey Road

Then we headed back up the road and on our way out of the area.  I took a couple pictures, one of the trail head and another at the intersection of Quebec and Skyline.

Grist Mill Trail Head - Click to Enlarge
Intersection of Quebec and Skyline

Trail Part 2

Ted mentioned the cave that we had located on the map in the vicinity of Brownfield Hollow.  I figured since it was within feet of the road we'd been on the day before, we would have time to scout it out.

We turned into the road that leads in, and drove up to the point where the GPS said the cave should be.  It was not immediately obvious but since the road was so interesting, I continued in.  It was dusk so I put on the bright driving lights.  This would be the first time I had used them in the woods at night and I must say, they really made the going a lot easier.

I spotted a trail that lead off to the left so I turned in.  Almost immediately it got really steep.  Thinking it was not much steeper than some of the stuff I had driven out at Oakridge, I continued up.  And it got steeper.  And steeper.  And it was narrow and tight with some sharp turns and then some washed out spots with large stones.

Now when you are going up a hill in a Jeep in the dark and all you can see is sky, it seems really steep.  We had not aired down; not disconnected, and we were presently in 4-LO 1st gear.  So when the tires started to lose traction, I got a little worried that we might not be able to continue up the hill.  There was no place to turn around and it would have been a bitch to back down this hill.  So I eased up on the throttle and the tires caught some more traction.  We managed to claw our way to a less steep area where I could turn around easily.  Phew!

I talked to the kids but mostly I was trying to catch my own breath.  It really wasn't that bad but it was a little more extreme that I had expected or wanted.  Turned around, I crawled back down the hill in 1st.  At the bottom I turned left and continued up the hill.  It got a little bit steeper and then tight again.  But it was too interesting to leave behind.

We got up a pretty steep section and then found it weaving in and out of tight spots, going around some washed out sections and finally following what looked like a regularly traveled ATV trail.  That meant that it was pretty narrow and all the trail maintenance that had been done was only wide enough or high enough for an ATV.

Eventually we came upon a fallen tree that I had to cut out of the way with my buck saw.  I can't emphasis how useful this tool has been.  On this particular trip it was a life saver.  We would have had to turn back which would have been a lot harder than pressing on.

We were flying on instruments by this time since it was dark. 

Old Logging Road Track Legend - Click to Enlarge

I was using the GPS to keep us on a course pointed towards the other road.  The trails we found on the map all appear to go through and come out on pavement to the north of where we went in.  Today I had marked where one of these trails came out on the other end and now that little bit of homework was paying off because I could see that mark and we were headed more or less right for it.

The kids were getting a little bit anxious but we were definitely headed towards the road and the waypoint so I assured them of the distance to pavement and that we'd be fine.  Worst case we'd turn tail and go back the way we came.  That's the beauty of the GPS.  There is no way in hell we would have attempted this at this time of day without it.  As it was, I would say it was quite an adventure, and in these liberal times, I suspect many would think me a fool.

But let's consider.  I have cell phone coverage.  I am within .3 mile of pavement.  I have a CB.  I have GMRS, FRS radio.  I have food and water for a day, warm blankets, fire materials, recovery gear, the temperatures are not going below 45 degrees, the kids are dressed for winter, I know exactly where I am.  There is nothing to fall off of, and the trail, while tight and difficult, is unlikely to leave me broken or capsized.  Still, I am questioning myself for being here alone.  Oh well, that just makes it more of an adventure...

We spent some more time sawing, this time a larger log.  I was hoping to myself that this was to be the end of the trail work since I really wanted to get back to pavement and go home.  Finally we got to within sight of the road.  I could see cars passing in both directions.  Then we encountered another fallen tree.  This time it blocked our ultimate exit.  So I got out one more time and cleared it off.  Finally we were back on pavement.

Immediately the kids recognized the stretch of road we had traveled twice in the last two days.  We were all happy to be out of the woods and headed safely home.  The trail is terrific. And well worth the work I did to get through.  Again, this is right up some of my friends alley!


Like last night, we stopped and washed the Jeep.  The kids played while I washed four tons of mud out of the chassis and off the body.  I spent a dollar washing the chunks out of the bay to leave it clean for the next person.  Last night when we got there we had found a mud pile that would have made a Mudder proud.  I discovered the probably cause on this evening:  a guy with two ATV's on a trailer washing up.  Not that I have anything against ATV guys - after all, the trail I was washing off my Jeep was courtesy of them!

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Brownfield Hollow / Quebec Run GPS Data

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