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10.25.2020

Scripture Rocks Heritage Park: Huge Boulders, Forest & Biblical Graffiti with a Strange Backstory

There is something about human nature to want to leave its mark on aspects of nature that are large and impressive. This is seen time and time again in PA at numerous spots, specifically those with boulders. Instead of leaving them be, some people come with chisels, spray paint, and more to “leave their mark” and vandalize something that is much larger than them. Scripture Rocks in Brookville is a prime example of this human impulse. 

While the story regarding this biblical vandalism is fascinating and was the main draw for us going to check it out, the natural beauty of this forested and rugged tract with house sized boulders is what will bring us back to it again. Considering this place is less than a mile south of Interstate 80 on Route 28, this is a great spot to go and get a little hike in to split up a drive, or even to stop at as a pit stop on a ride up to Cook Forest or the Allegheny National Forest, or out to the Elk herd from the Pittsburgh area. 

Scripture Rocks in Brookville is a public park area that has been dedicated to the chiseled biblical graffiti that was one man's pipe dream, tirade, and evidence of his declining mental health that would lead him to be institutionalized in a time when mental health care was rudimentary and dangerous. We have to delve into the background of the man who created Scripture Rocks in order to truly understand the full context of the place.

Douglas Stahlman's graffiti illustrates the challenges of someone living with declining mental health in a time period in which minimal adequate intervention was possible. He adhered to a particularly strange and extreme brand of religious fundamentalism that is accurately described as a cult. This is specifically evidenced with him chiseling "an order from God" that a local young woman was to marry him. Soon after he completed his final set of graffiti, he was taken away and institutionalized at the former Dixmont State Hospital near Pittsburgh. Sadly, the right treatments for his mental health were not available at that point which would have not only protected him, but possibly saved his family members as well. 

CeCe doing some light reading.

Douglas Stahlman originally grew up in the Brookville area. After moving around in his life, he eventually ended up in the state of Indiana where he started a family with a wife and children. At this point he joined up with a "faith healer," John Alexander Dowie, who declared himself to be a "prophet" as the "third Elijah." Eventually Douglas began to call himself a prophet as well. 

Douglas, following the brainwashing that this cult instilled in him, refused all actual medical treatment for both his wife and his son. As a result of this negligence, his wife and one of his children succumbed to their illnesses with the withholding of medical treatment, instead insisting on "divine intervention through faith" would heal them, without considering the fact that maybe God directed the healthcare professionals and scientists to heal people. Needless to say, Douglas was horrendously negligent and his young wife and second son died as a result. The brother of Douglas's deceased wife took custody of the children after this fiasco, and Douglas was committed to the "insane ward at the county jail." Upon this development following Douglas's criminal negligence and some time spent in the ward, his mother in Brookville took him back in. A great rundown of Douglas's life can be found at this link. 

He ended up going on a mission tours of the country with Dowie, the charismatic cult leader and then stayed in Brookville. Between the brainwashing, possible guilt from making the absolute wrong choice that likely ended up killing his wife and child, and the trauma of that loss, his mental health was likely further compromised from what it was. He carried his religious mission to Brookville through creating altars and chapels on some of the giant boulders across town. Once he stayed in Brookville, he used his mission to create inscriptions on the rocks from 1907-1913, on which he wrote biblical passages, coupled with "statements from God" that commanded a young woman in the area to marry him:

"GOD HAS BEEN CALLING //// GILBERT FOR A LONG TIME TO BECOME MY WIFE SO FAR HER OWN AND FATHERS' STUBBORN RESISTANCE HAS PREVENTED OUR MARRIAGE"

(parts of the inscription have been defaced, showing signs of struggle with the family)

"GOD HAS BEEN CALLILING MARY GILBERT FOR A LONG TIME TO BECOME MY WIFE BUT SO FAR HER OWN AND HER FATHERS STUBBORN RESISTANCE HAS PREVENTED OUR MARRIAGE

HOW FAR MAY WE GO ON IN SIN? HOW LONG WILL GOD FOREBEAR?"

I underlined and bolded "her own" because this specifically talks about how this was not a relationship, but rather her being stalked by Douglas, by his own admission, but that "God commanded" that they have a relationship. He then proceeded to inscribe the following rocks with one bible verse that refers to retribution coming to those who rise up against someone, and then further verses that demand subservience by women and servants, likely as further threats to the poor young woman that he was harassing. 

His final known rocks, before he was institutionalized, state that God commanded the murder of his ex brother-in-law (the man who rescued his remaining children that were left after Douglas's willful negligence).  Needless to say, things were not going well with him. It is impossible to understand the totality of Scripture Rocks without the cautionary tale of its creator, which specifically illustrates the need for comprehensive and open access to mental health care, which Douglas (and the people that were either killed or harassed in his orbit) would have surely benefitted from. Now back to his creation, Scripture Rocks. 

The chiseled graffiti at Scripture Rocks in Brookville is Douglas's handiwork and Mother Nature is weathering and wearing it away back into smooth rock after just over a century. The local area has come together to create a small nature park to show off the boulders, which are truly impressive. Set into a heavily forested hillside, the boulders are massive and hiking around them is largely on the easy side, with light elevation change. The beautiful landscape itself is worth going out of your way to see and hike. 

In addition to the biblical graffiti of Douglas Stahlman, a small Native American campsite was located on the 4.5 acre site, in addition to some 19th century quarrying and exploratory test digging for possible coal mines was also undertaken on this tract. 

The biblical graffiti is an added novelty that adds on to an already impressive location. I came for the graffiti, but was mostly impressed with the house size boulders strewn about a beautiful second growth and mature forest. I will be back again to see the beautiful landscape. I have always been impressed by the wooded landscape of the Brookville Area, yet there are not a ton of opportunities to enjoy the landscape on public land. 1.5 miles of hiking trails await visitors to Scripture Rocks. This is a nice little place to check out if you happen to be in the area, especially en route to Cook Forest State Park, the Elk Herd, and the PA Wilds and Allegheny National Forest, or even if you are on a long drive on Interstate 80 and want to stretch your legs a little bit with a short hike. They also have a lovely picnic area at the trailhead for the park. The trails are also pet friendly, so be sure to take your dog and clean up after them!

It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 

10.18.2020

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway: Trains Rides Through the Scenic Lehigh Gorge

We recently had the chance to check out the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway from Mauch Chunk, and we were thoroughly impressed. The railroad goes through the beautiful Lehigh Gorge on former right-of-way from both the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Central Railroad of New Jersey. It passes through the gorge, running from Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe) through Lehigh Gorge State Park. 

The autumn colors were just glorious. In autumn they have a festival style setup around the spacious and luxurious former Central Railroad of New Jersey rail station, which would be worth checking out, even without the fantastic train ride. You seldom see grand stations like this in great shape, and it is even less often that they are used as functional rail stations. The grand train station dates all the way back to 1873 and was built with tremendous gilded age opulence.  

The Lehigh River at Mauch Chunk
Diesel locomotives pull the 20s era rail cars on their journey. Many of the rail cars were built by Bethlehem Steel and served as local commuter cars. 
The Lehigh Gorge Rail-Trail goes along the course of the ride, and it is neat to see the bicyclists and hikers as you pass by on the train.
One of our favorite aspects of this beautiful train ride was that the whole family could come along, including our dog CeCe. 


Crossing the Lehigh River on the new rail bridge.
We highly recommend going out of your way to check out the beautiful Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and taking in the beauty of the Mauch Chunk and Pocono Mountains area and the beautiful Lehigh Gorge. Once you are done riding, be sure to head up into town to check out the cute boutique stores, eateries, Old Jail Museum and more. For more info on the area in the fall, check out this article. 

For more information, check out their website. https://www.lgsry.com 


It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 

10.04.2020

Seven Tubs Nature Area: Waterfalls & Hiking near Wilkes Barre

Seven Tubs Nature Area gives a nice glimpse into the rugged terrain on PA 115 between Wilkes Barre and the PA Turnpike. This rugged section of road always impressed me driving through it. We opted to check out the Seven Tubs Nature Area as a quick morning stop. It is definitely a nice little quick jaunt if you happen to be in the Wilkes Barre Area. 
The nature area consists of 500 acres across a steep gorge, with a series of small waterfalls cut through the sandstone bedrock of the area. There are well developed trails through the gorge, though I cannot imagine them being able to handle huge crowds. I have heard discussion across the web about the trails getting pretty crowded, and evidence of that could definitely be seen in the small parking area. There were about ten cars in the parking area, and this was at about 9:00 in the morning. The parking area can probably handle about 30-50 cars. Any more people than that and you would likely practically be walking in a queue line through the trails, not to mention practically unable to social distance, and while this destination is cool to see, it is not worth that kind of effort. 

The facilities and the tight gorge are just not able to handle that sort of onslaught of people. It seems like the most logical way to limit people at the gorge is to turn people away once the parking lot gets full but according to what the DCNR is saying, it seems like that is just not enough. Limit spots and direct people to other local area parks. I wonder if the answer to places with crowding issues, like here and Ricketts Glen, could be with reservation times? I don't know how the infrastructure could be put in place like that, but to preserve these places for future enjoyment and as natural habitats, something will have to change. The state and municipalities have straight up closed some great places to the public specifically because of overcrowding, major injuries/deaths with visitors, and vandalism. Places like Glen Onoko Falls, Marshalls Falls, and Swatara Falls have been wrecked due to a mix of things. These things include overzealous bloggers out to make a buck that bring outsized internet attention to places with a lack of infrastructure and facilities built to handle those crowds. Even in a place like Seven Tubs that have some infrastructure, there comes a point where those facilities quickly reach capacity simply due to the fact that the location itself has a limited amount of space. As with any outdoor destination, the best times to go to avoid crowds are early in the morning and/or on weekdays. Seven Tubs Nature Area is a great place to go to blow off some steam after a day at work to take a nice little walk through the woods and let your dog wade a little bit in the creek. 
The trailhead is easy to find, but make sure you are heading outbound from Wilkes Barre on PA 115. There is a small trailhead that leads to steps to take you down into the gorge. The gorge is pretty neat in that the weathered sandstone and limestone is smooth and there are seven distinct potholes at the base of each of the 10-15 foot waterfalls. 
A map outlining the 2.1 miles of hiking trails at Seven Tubs. The Audubon Trail is 1.8 miles long, but the most scenic points are located on a 0.3 mile stretch near the parking area. 
CeCe was beside herself when it came to wading in the water.
I think the coolest aspect of the Seven Tubs Nature Area is the smooth weathering on the rocks.
A view from the top of the bridge that crosses over the main portion of Wheelbarrow Run.
If you are in the Wilkes Barre area or Passing through, Seven Tubs Nature Area is definitely worth a stop. If we lived around Seven Tubs, you would surely find us there on a weekday after work. It is just the right kind of place to go to spend an hour or two and relax. We need to fight to preserve places like this, which greatly benefit the community.

It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 

9.27.2020

Reading Pagoda: One of PA's Coolest and Zaniest Novelty Buildings

It had been a number of years since we had last gone to the Reading Pagoda. This zany building was built in 1908 upon Mount Penn to take advantage of the stunning views of the Schuylkill Valley below in Reading. It was to be the centerpiece of a large resort, built over a former eyesore rock quarry. The resort never came to fruition, largely because they were denied an application for a liquor license. After the bank foreclosed upon the property, they sold it to an investor, who after a year opted to sell the building and land to the City of Reading for only a dollar. Reading developed the property into a large urban park, which remains the jewel of the region. It is a part of the greater Mt. Penn Preserve, which preserves 1595 acres of wooded land that has great hiking opportunities, picnic grounds, and more. It even has its own four mile long Skyline Drive (Skyline Boulevard) with scenic overlook pull offs, and beautiful public works stone work walls along the sides of the road. 

The building stands 620 feet above Reading and seven stories tall. The top level of the building has a historic tocsin, a large bell from a Buddhist Temple in Japan that was cast in 1739.  
Going here on a Saturday night was a real treat, with lots of people just taking in the views, sitting in foldable chairs with picnic lunches, getting food from food trucks trucks, and a generally relaxed vibe. It is one of the most sustainably developed public park areas in the state, built with the capacity to handle lots of people without overcrowding. Skyline Boulevard's beautiful stone work and attention to infrastructure are reminiscent of the most famous Skyline Drive down in Virginia, but the area around the Pagoda reminded me most of the beautiful Griffith Observatory in Hollywood, in regards to the building perched off the top of the mountain, the wide expansive views out in the distance, and the use of the building as a public attraction for everyone to have access to visit. The Pagoda is unlike any other place I can think of within the state in this sense and it really is a treasure. Additionally, this is a fantastic place to go at sunset, since it has a great and expansive westward view. Red neon lights outline the edges of the building, which look really sharp. 

For more than 110 years, this spot has remained an anchor for the City of Reading amidst near constant upheaval. Within that time, the famed Reading Railroad had its boom and bust, the city's famed clothing mills went from boom to bust, the outlet industry that rose up from the ashes of the crumbling textile industry had a boom and a bust, the tech industry with Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent/Agere, which had sprawling factories from Reading to Allentown also went from went from boom to bust. S

kyline Drive itself was built during the Great Depression as a way to create employment for the myriad of unemployed people in the region and it was completed with WPA support. In more than a century of great changes, the beautiful Pagoda and Mount Penn Preserve have remained a constant. The area is a lovely and diverse community gathering place.
Looking out over Reading from the Pagoda.
The beautiful Pagoda. A programatic novelty building with Eastern influences. 

On a warm summer evening, the Pagoda, Mt. Penn Preserve, stunning stone William Penn Memorial Firetower, and Skyline Drive are places for people to cruise with their cars, motorcycles, and bicycles and just relax. For how much natural beauty the state has, it is surprising to me that not that many places are developed like this. This is a wonderful and beautiful place to relax as a community and it is well worth going out of your way to check it out. 
 

 
It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 

9.20.2020

Views from PA's Highest Place: Mt. Davis in Autumn

Mt. Davis Natural Area, located at the highest point within the state, and High Point Lake are beautiful to visit in any time of the year, but especially in autumn. Due to it being slightly higher than most places in Southwestern PA, this is one of the first areas to see fall color. The ride up through rural countryside is so pretty as well. 
 Our visit last year was just before peak in mid September, but there was decent color on that balmy September afternoon. High Point Lake is located at an elevation of 2480 feet, which makes it one of the highest elevation lakes in the state. Nearby Mt. Davis reaches a height of 3,212 feet.
 The area is located with short, but mature forest growth, lots of boulders, and a firetower that gives a stunning view of the surrounding ridges. 
As opposed to a specific high point, Mt. Davis is pretty spread out upon a plateau, and is negligibly taller than the surrounding plateau, so you do not get as dramatic of a view as you do at other scenic overlook points. The view is still amazing, especially as the colors change on the thousands of surrounding trees. 
A road goes around the perimeter of the natural area and trails crisscross it as well. This spot here gives a great view of High Point lake, which is about 700 feet below this point. For more background and information on Mt. Davis, check out this previous article of ours. 

It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.


2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 
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