Crystal Ridge: More Coal Mining Photographs And A Lot Of Memories Of My Dad.
It was a cloudy, but mild, late November day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday. I was thinking a lot about my dad lately, the holidays are hard without him. I decided to visit the woods where he first took me and my brothers when he taught us to pick mushrooms and instilled in me a love of nature. I will never forget those many wonderful hours spent in the woods near his home in the mining patch town of Crystal Ridge.
Crystal Ridge was one of the first coal mining “patch” towns in the Hazleton area and was named for the many quartz crystals found there. My dad had found a number of them in the large strip mine behind his house in crystal Ridge, known as Baisley’s stripping. He took me, my brother and my friends down the deep pit a few times searching for them. However, most of the nicer ones were already gone.
I spent some time along the banks of this huge strip mine thinking of all the good times my dad told me he had growing up here. He, and the others kids in the town would ice skate and sled down the banks in the winter and swim in the summer. He said there was always a fire going in the bottom of the pit where he and his friends would gather after school. They were simpler, and I think, better days. Here is a link to some more photographs of Baisley’s stipping. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/crystal-ridge-baisley-strip-mine-november-28-2015
I walked along the old haul road which we would drive in to pick wild mushrooms when I was very young. It was along this road where he would tell us to “keep our eyes peeled’ as we drove slowly looking for mushrooms on our drive in. He also took us here to search for duck flowers, “honeysuckle” flowers and huckleberries or blueberries.
I walked over the old Cranberry Creek, which year ago flowed from near the Grape run reservoir to Stony Creek and eventually the Black Creek. In now flows into this stip mine pit and into the underground mines, exiting miles away through the Jeddo Tunnel into the Nescopeck Creek.
One Summer when I was young some young men ‘borrowed” some dynamite and blew up the dam at the Grape Run reservoir causing this section of the road to be washed out with the torrent of water that flowed from the reservoir. Here is a photo I took later of the remains of the dam.
I walked to the old mining roads were we wouldroam the banks of the strip mines looking for the “red top” and “cozie” mushrooms that grew under the birch and aspen trees. So many good memories in this woods. My dad took us out and built my first campfire and cooked hot dogs near here when I was four or five years old.
My dad would let me and my younger brother John walk, alone, through these woods while he went down the strip mines looking for mushrooms growing on the banks. We would meet near these old culvert on an old railroad right of way.
There were a lot of old strip mines in this area, the ones first dug with the small “steam shovels’ powered with steam. Later , larger gas and diesel powered and electric powered steam shovels created the massive strip mines now found in this area. But before the strip mining occurred this area was honeycombed with underground mines. My dad would take us to the old Number 22 mine shafts were his uncle worked the hoist.
We spent many hours here resting and enjoying the tasty apples on an old apple tree that probably sprouted from seeds from a miner’s apple he had for lunch. Here is a link to some more photographs of the Number 22 shaft. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/crystal-ridge-22-mine-shaft-november-28-2015
I hiked out to near the Interstate 81 highway where, we would hear the dogs barking in the nearby patch town of Harwood, across a huge strip mine. I roamed the many paths and trails retracing the mushrooms walks of my youth. So many happy memories.
I walked up to the old D. S. & S. railroad spur that eventually made it’s way to the patch town and coal breaker in Oneida. It was inactive when we would pick mushrooms in the area and scenes from the Molly Maguires movie were filmed along these tracks in the 1960’s. You can still find old the ruins of mining structures and building in the area.
Finally I made my way to the Grape Run reservoir which supplied drinking water to the local patch towns and water to wash the coal at the Cranberry coal breaker. My dad would walk here every morning when he was a kid and he and his dog Count would swim in the smaller dam near here. We would visit here often on our mushroom picking hikes.
I head back to my jeep , with the skyline of Hazleton in the distance, with many memories of happy days in these woods and strip mine in my mind. It was a very pleasant hike. Some more photographs of my hike in this link. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/crystal-ridge-november-28-2015
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
― John Banville