It was a cloudy, but somewhat mild morning, here in the Green Ridge section of Hazle Township in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday. A “balmy” 29 degrees it was. .
It warmed up into the mid 30’s when I decided to hike on the railroad tracks near my house in Green Ridge. Although next to West Hazleton, it really was a “patch town” when I grew up here. . I walked down what is left of the old “black road” and through some very old strip mines we called “doggie dams”.
I spent many a winter day out here as a child. My friends and I played hockey in the cold with sticks and cans on the frozen surface of the old strip mines.
It seems some critter was also playing on the ice. Well probably not playing but looking for some food. Here is a closer look at the tracks. I am guessing maybe a coyote but not real sure. Feel free to send a comment if you can identify them.
The “dams” are now privately owned and the owners are kind enough to allow me to hike out here. I walked past the “doggie dams” and through the reclamation area that was once a playground for the kids living in Green Ridge.
We played in the deep strip mines and the coal silt we called the “black sands”. We looked for fossils, played army, camped and just explored every part of this vast strip mined area. They were good days. I have written about my experiences in a few other blog posts that can be found in the archives.
As I walked through the new growth of the reclamation area I stopped to watch a large flock of some winter residents in our area, the northern junco or “snow bird”.
Large numbers of these birds migrate to our warmer winters from their summer homes in northern Canada.
I soon made my way to the railroad tracks. So much of the woods and strip mines of my youth have been altered over the years. I find great comfort walking on these tracks which remain a real reminder of the wonderful memories I had growing up in Green Ridge.
As I had done so many times in my lifetime, I began walking west on the railroad tracks. The large slate and culm bank know as “flat top” and which my friends called “killer” is gone.
But not the memories. I would hike up that large hill every New Years Day and take in the view of the homes in my beloved Green Ridge and the City of Hazleton in the distance. I would reflect on the past year of my life and what the new year would bring. It was a sad year when “killer” was leveled as part of the reclamation project about 10 years ago.
Some familiar items still remain along the tracks, like this old telegraph booth that once stood here.
I walked west and soon came to the “tower lines”. So many memories out here. Many a cool summer morning found us out here picking “huckleberries”. We made our way, throughout the day, over the ridge, past “Kress’s junkyard”, and finishing at the cold waters of “Shiny Creek”. We stopped for a cool drink and searched for crayfish in the fresh waters. Good days they were.
The old “tower lines”were recently replaced with new pole lines again removing another treasured part of my youth.
I continued my walk on the railroad tracks , crossing the bridge over the Cranberry Creek, or as we called it the “s–t” creek. It’s waters have not flowed for many year now.
I have been researching the origins of these tracks and it seems they were laid sometime in the early 1880’s. Here is a link to an article I found. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/15778476/the_hazleton_sentinel/
I hope to do more research and post an article about the history of the Green Ridge railroads tracks. On Sunday I continued my hike on the tracks as they curved northward around the ridge. Huge glacial boulders can be seen along the ridge. I explored every one of them over the years.
I came to the location of where Shiny Creek once flowed under the tracks. I spent many days resting here. However, in the mid 1980’s the creek was diverted and a beautiful wetland destroyed to build a factory. How those permits were issued still puzzles me.
I was now near the Valmont Industrial Park. At the first railroad crossing I decided to take a shortcut through the park since I wanted to be back to watch the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
I would often walk to the “mile high” bridges that span the Black Creek about a half mile further north. On Sunday I walked a short distance through the industrial park.
It was here I observed some of the only wildlife I encountered on my hike, few crows flying overhead,
and this blue jay singing from high atop a tree top.
I walked along the right of way of a pole line as it crossed through a portion of the Valmont Sanctuary Bog. This valuable wetlands is now owned, and protected, by the North Branch Land Trust. Rare orchids and other plants thrive here. It is a shame folks still ride their all terrain vehicles or quads through these precious wetlands. Here is a link to some more information about the bog. http://www.nblt.org/lands-we-own/valmont-bog
I now walked on the old right of way of the “third rail” It was an electric trolley line that ran to Wilkes-Barre and built in the 1890’s. It later became an active branch of the Lehigh Valley road. I remember watching many a train on these tracks. The line was abandoned and the tracks removed about twenty years ago. The right of way is now the northern border of my property.
I walked the right of way about a quarter of a mile east and came to “Lipper’s Grove” where we would camp and have cookouts when I was growing up. I used to sit here for hours enjoying the peace and quiet of these woods. I am so proud and fortunate to now own this land. As I had so many times in the past, I decided to build a fire on Sunday.
There is nothing as peaceful, comforting and reflective as a wood fire outdoors on a cold day. This year there was no way to avoid thinking about the recent tragedy in my life and how it has affected me.
As I watched the blazing fire slowly turn to smouldering ashes I reflected on the loss of my sibling, and her husband. Such good human beings. I miss them both. And so many wonderful memories my sister and I had of growing up in Green Ridge that can never be shared together. But sharing them with my family, friends and followers of this blog does provide me with some comfort.
I walked the right of way back to West Hazleton. As I climbed the hill from I came the Babe Ruth field, the Little League field and my alma mata West Hazleton High School. So many memories but that will be for another post. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Green Ridge railroad hike December 17 2017.
“Don’t you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?”
― Sarah Addison Allen