Cathedrals of Fire and Stone

Welcome, old friends and new! And thank you for stopping by to visit, as I celebrate my 2,000th consecutive, not-a-day-missed blip-day! Now, let's enjoy a little outdoor adventure in the woods and waters of my beloved central Pennsylvania.

It was drizzling a little when we woke up, but sunshine and blue skies arrived by lunchtime, and it turned into an absolutely perfect early June day. On Friday, our plans to go swimming had been thwarted by closed beaches caused by rains earlier in the week.

However, we learned that the swimming areas at Whipple Dam and Greenwood Furnace had reopened late Friday afternoon. So my husband and I packed up our chairs and a cooler and threw a few things into the car, and we took out on a summer day's adventure.

We started with a hearty lunch at Couch's in McAlevy's Fort: the meatloaf meal for my husband, and an excellent hot turkey sandwich with gravy fries and cole slaw for me. From there, we drove to Greenwood Furnace for an afternoon of outdoor fun.

We took our chairs and sat by the swimming area and people watched at first; as we waited for our meal to settle, we were serenaded by the music wafting out from a wedding party celebrating in a nearby pavilion.

Butterflies flew around the swimming area, and the only catastrophe of the day was when a little boy, who may have been five or so, who had been chasing one, tossed his swimming ring and actually HIT a butterfly, knocking it down to the ground. I was up and suddenly THERE, saying, "Don't hurt it!" and reaching for the downed butterfly as the little boy backed away.

My heart dropped as the butterfly struggled on the ground and landed in the water, flopping around until I lifted it out. It flopped awkwardly into the water again and I grabbed it again, fearing the worst, that it was mortally wounded; if only I had been a few seconds quicker, maybe it could have been saved.

But butterflies are stronger than all of that: in my hands, it caught a breeze, and suddenly it lifted (as did my heart!); strong and whole, it flew gracefully upward, straight upward, and disappeared into the perfectly blue summer sky! Hooray!

Here is a thing you swimmers need to know: the water in the lake at Greenwood Furnace is probably the coldest water you will ever swim in, if you even have the nerve to try. I am a lover of the cold, cold waters, so in I jumped, and I swam happily around for several laps.

Cold water does amazingly therapeutic things for me: it chills my body and stills my thoughts, and makes me feel totally peaceful and calm. And so that was how it was on this day: the magic healing of the cold, clear waters washed all my cares away.

While I was in the water, the wedding party decided it was time to photograph the bride and groom, and so the photographer positioned them along the lake, at the far end of the swimming area. What a lovely sight the bride's white dress made against all that green!

A separate party that included lots of children was on the beach, and the kids were riding around on a huge, inflatable white, purple, and pink unicorn floaty. It was quite breezy, and suddenly there was nobody on the floaty; we all watched with mouths open as the wind caught the unicorn and whipped it, cart-wheeling end over end, out of the swimming area and all the way to the other end of the lake!

Several people from that party hiked around the lake and rescued it, much to everyone's relief. Of course, I was swimming at the time, but how I wished for my camera in my hands, to capture the lovely bride in white along the lake's green shores, and nearby, the adventures of the errant, wild, out-of-control unicorn!

We may have visited the more historic parts of the park before, but it had been a long time, and so we checked out the remains of the two iron ore furnace stacks. In the height of their operation, in the mid-1870s, the furnaces were fed by iron ore, limestone, charcoal, and water, and produced up to five tons of pig iron each day.

The park website says this: "The furnaces were hot (3,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and cast clouds of smoke and cinders into the air, which rained down on grass, people, livestock, and buildings, rendering everything sooty and gray. At night, the fire’s red glow lit the sky, probably allowing residents to walk about without lanterns. Greenwood Furnace was a village built around an inferno."

The photo above shows the remains of stack #2. That may be a bit of leftover pig iron in the center. Several huge butterflies fluttered around as I took this photo, and they danced between light and shadow. Beautifully lit up inside by afternoon sunlight, the stones almost seemed to glow with color, and the structure seemed more like a cathedral than a furnace to me.

It was such a lovely day that my husband and I decided to go for a little hike. So we put on our hiking shoes and headed for the Standing Stone trail, which winds up through the green, ferny woods and eventually connects, via the Tuscarora Trail, to the world-famous Appalachian Trail.

There had been practically no bugs at all in the main park area, but in the woods, the gnats were ferocious and mean and blood-thirsty, and I quickly received several itchy bites. So we left the woods and found a picnic table in the park, where we set up our chairs and read our books, unmolested by gnats and serenaded by birdsong.

We visited the blacksmith and wagon shop, and I took many black-and-white shots of the implements we found there. And then we headed home, after an absolutely delightful summer day!

What a treasure trove this park is for those who bring their cameras! So many different venues and photo ops for the intrepid photographer. I'm providing links to the Greenwood Furnace State Park website and a Wikipedia page so that those who are interested may learn more.

I'm also including below links to prior blips containing photos I've taken of this park so that those who enjoyed this photo and story may see and read more:

This Bird Is Laughing At Us! (August 2014, our first visit back to the park in probably 20 years)
Greenwood Furnace (July 2015)
Spillway, Greenwood Furnace State Park (June 2016)
Reflections of a Quintessential Summer Day (July 2016)
Graveyard on a Hill, Greenwood Furnace (August 2016)

It is my tradition to conclude each blip with a song as the soundtrack for my image and story, and so this one is a favorite track by the Boss and Crew, as you all know what a fan I am. The song is about a blast furnace in Youngstown, Ohio, that produced steel. But I think that it works quite well for this iron furnace as well. Please enjoy the tune, and especially the awesome Nils Lofgren solo near the end: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with Youngstown.

P.S. Totally unrelated . . . we now have bunnies in the yard at home, and plenty of rowdy chipmunks. One of the chipmunks now thinks it is a bun-herder, and it has been chasing poor Genie Bunzini around the yard whenever it has the whim. So I'm including in the extras a photo of the chipmunk we have lately begun to think of as "Babe," sneaking up on the innocent bunny with the intent of herding it around the yard. A chipmunk who wants to be a bun-herder; who knew!

Sign in or get an account to comment.