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A few flights over Pennsylvania…

December 31, 2021, 11:13 PM

Just before Christmas, Elyse, Evan Stone, and I made a day trip up to Pennsylvania.  The goal was to visit the Lancaster area.  Elyse left the house ahead of us and flew up to Lancaster via Southern Airways Express, while Evan and I went up by car and met up with her in Lancaster.  On the way up, Evan and I took our respective drones for a spin over Hanover, the Susquehanna River, and Lititz.  I have my DJI Air 2S, while Evan has the original DJI Mavic Pro.

The first flight was over downtown Hanover, and it was a solo flight for me.  Evan saw a building where he wanted to know what the elevator was, and I entertained myself with a drone flight.

The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don't recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?
The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don’t recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?

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A day out in parts of Virginia that we don’t normally visit…

December 14, 2021, 11:03 PM

From December 9-11, Elyse and I took a little weekend trip down to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed at Hotel 24 South.  We call the place our little home away from home, as we always stay there when we do these trips every 2-3 months.  Typically, we do something simple on the first day after we get down there, have a full-day adventure on the middle day (the Staunton Mall photo set came out of one of these middle-day adventures), and then do a few things and go visit my parents on the last day before heading home.  It’s a good routine, and it’s a lot of fun.

This time around, our middle-day adventure took us down to Clifton Forge, Covington, and Roanoke.  I had not been to the Clifton Forge and Covington area since 2005, and Elyse had never been.  Roanoke wasn’t part of our original plan for the day, but as we had not been to Roanoke since 2018, we were probably due for another visit.  I had low expectations for the day, considering that the weather was expected to be cloudy (which means gray photos), but I got a few useful things out of the day.

Our first stop was the Howard Johnson’s on Route 11 north of Lexington.  I had first become aware of this place after seeing it on Highway Host, and so we decided to visit it again.  Elyse wanted to film the elevator, while I was more interested in the architecture.  My understanding of the history of this location is that it has always been a Howard Johnson’s ever since it opened in the 1970s, though the attached Howard Johnson’s restaurant later went independent under the name Hilltop Diner, and had closed entirely by 2004.

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Categories: Friends, Roanoke, Virginia, Woomy

A peeve about political terminology…

December 14, 2021, 6:15 PM

One thing that always bothers me when I’m reading and listening to things from political discussions is when I hear someone use a term incorrectly, specifically referring to political parties.  As you probably know, the two major political parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The names, as they refer to the political parties, are themselves relatively meaningless, and are really brand names more than anything (and, in fact, the parties have switched stances with each other since their formation).  “Democratic” with a capital “D” is a separate concept from “democratic” with a small “d”.  The ideas of “Democratic values” and “democratic values” are two different things, as one thing refers to the political party, while the other is more abstract and references democracy more generally.  The same goes for “Republican” (capital “R”) and “republican” (small “r”).  The former refers to the Republican Party, also known as the “Grand Old Party” or “GOP”, while the latter refers to representative government, also known as a republicanism.  People like to consider the United States as a democracy, but technically, we operate under a republican system, because, constitutionally speaking, we are a republic, because we elect people to do all of the governing for us on our behalf, rather than all of us getting together and doing it ourselves (the founding fathers tended to view “democracy” as a negative thing, likening it to mob rule).  The concept of democracy and a small-d democratic system has little to do with the capital-D Democratic Party.  Similarly, the concept of republicanism and a small-R republican system of government does not mean a government that is, by definition, run by the capital-R Republican Party.  The idea of “republican values” and “Republican values” are two very distinct concepts.  The same goes for other political parties as well.  For instance, traditionally libertarian stances may or may not be the official stance of the Libertarian Party. Capital “L” vs. small “l” and all.  As an example, I feel like I’ve been leaning more libertarian in my own views as I’ve gotten older, but I generally don’t pay much attention to the Libertarian Party.  I like to tell people that I am a leftist, but a liberal, I ain’t.

In any event, the rest of this entry refers to the versions of these terms with capital letters, because I’ve pretty much covered the small-letter versions of these concepts as much as I need to for our purposes.

As far as use of the wrong terms goes, I mostly see it coming from Republican politicians and Republican-leaning pundits, directed at the Democratic Party, mostly because there are two closely-related terms to refer to the Democratic Party and people associated with it: “Democratic” and “Democrat”.  Most often, I see the improper use of the term take the form of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” and Democratic politicians as “Democrat politicians”.  You don’t get this so much towards Republicans because the same term is used to refer to people and the organization.  Members of the Republican Party are typically referred to as Republicans.  About the only different terminology there is the “Grand Old Party” moniker, typically abbreviated as GOP, and pronounced as “G-O-P”, i.e. as the letters, rather than as something rhyming with “mop”.

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Categories: Language, Politics

In case anyone noticed a pattern this year…

December 5, 2021, 10:10 AM

I’m wondering if anyone noticed a pattern with the splash photos in 2021.  Here’s what I did all year:

January
January

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

Clearly, I know how to break a drone…

November 24, 2021, 2:54 PM

I haven’t mentioned it on here yet because it’s discussed in an upcoming photo set, but I got a new drone last month while I was on my trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  My DJI Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade and crashed nearly 400 feet up in the air while I was photographing a shopping mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  I was positioning the drone for my first shots of the mall, and then I noticed a “motor error” message and saw some uncommanded rotation.  Then I saw the view start to tumble, and the connection with the remote dropped.  I was soon able to reestablish contact, and found the drone on the ground, laying on its back in the grass about 500 feet away.  Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up:

The drone after falling from the sky

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What is the point where elected officials have killed their credibility?

November 18, 2021, 11:41 AM

Starting Saturday, November 20, Montgomery County, Maryland implements mask mandate number three.  This is based on rules that the Montgomery County council, sitting as the Board of Health, determined in August and October, where seven consecutive days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (50-100 cases per 100,000 people), based on raw case counts, automatically triggers an indoor mask mandate, and seven consecutive days of “moderate” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people), again based on raw case counts, automatically rescinds an indoor mask mandate.  This continues until 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The result of this auto-on, auto-off policy has been a yo-yo effect, where it’s masks one week and no masks the next.

For some history on this, the Montgomery County government first implemented a mask mandate in April 2020, not long before the governor issued a statewide mask mandate.  That mandate was rescinded in May 2021 when everyone else did after the CDC said that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore.  When the county had reached a 50% vaccination rate, they abandoned their own COVID rules and began following the state’s guidance instead, which included no more masks and a full reopening of everything.  Then in August, after the CDC revised its guidance again, and the county council watched as case numbers went up, Montgomery County started implementing its own rules again separate from the state, and brought back the mask mandate.  The idea was that the mask mandate would last until there were seven consecutive days of “moderate” transmission, after which time it would automatically be rescinded.  This happened in late October, and the mask mandate was rescinded effective Thursday, October 28.

Right after this is where they started to shoot their credibility, and it demonstrates what is wrong with looking at raw case numbers as a metric for determining public policy.  On October 30, two days after the mandate was rescinded, they were already talking about reinstating the mask mandate, as they soon returned to “substantial” transmission territory, and announced a return to masks less than a week after they were rescinded, to be effective on Wednesday, November 3 (i.e. six days from rescission to reimplementation).

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The master at work…

November 14, 2021, 8:52 PM

Most of the time, when I’m doing photography, I only get to see the end result, which typically ends up on my Flickr page, along with other places.  It’s far less common for me to see candid shots of myself, just because I’m usually the one doing all of the photographing.  But when you go on a trip that is explicitly photography-oriented, and when everyone is shooting, I end up seeing some candid shots of myself.  Recently, from October 15-21, Elyse and I went on a trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads, where we photographed a lot of stuff, some familiar, and some less familiar.  The parts of North Carolina that we visited were almost entirely new territory for both of us, while Hampton Roads was a more familiar setting.  In North Carolina, we got together with my friend Patrick, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and had a quick meetup with another friend who formerly lived in the DC area.  Then in Hampton Roads, we spent time with Aaron and Evan Stone.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the trip itself right now, because I’m working on a much larger photo set about the adventure for the Life and Times section, so for all of the details, stay tuned, but it will be a while before it releases, because it’s going to be a big one.  In any case, some of these shots are posed, but a lot of them are candid.  If it tells you anything, when Elyse and I were reviewing them on the big screen in the living room, we put on “Yakety Sax” and laughed a lot.

In any case, here they are.  These shots were all taken by Elyse, unless otherwise noted.

Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there's Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.
Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there’s Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.

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Virginia governor’s race? Not at all surprised…

November 3, 2021, 4:17 PM

On the evening of November 3, I, like so many others, checked in on the various news websites to learn that Republican Glenn Youngkin had defeated Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.  I saw this result, and I was like… meh.  The pundits all said it would be close, and the results seem to bear that out, with Youngkin’s winning with 50.9%, McAuliffe’s coming in with 48.4%, with Princess Blanding, who was running on a “Liberation” ticket, taking the remaining 0.7%.  In any event, it seems like Youngkin did his homework and pulled it out.  It seemed like he had the better campaign overall, while McAuliffe tended to run on, “Hey, remember me?  I’m not Donald Trump.  I was also your governor back in 2014, and I’d love to have another go at it!”  In other words, while McAuliffe may have done his homework in 2013 and come out on top, the same can’t really be said for 2021.  I also did quite a bit of traveling through various areas of Virginia during the last few months of the campaign, and I saw way more campaign signs for Youngkin in my travels than I did McAuliffe signs, to the point where seeing a McAuliffe sign in my travels was noteworthy.

Terry McAuliffe’s win in 2013 was unusual because it broke the pattern of Virginia’s voting opposite of the president’s party.  Virginia, along with New Jersey, votes for its governor in what is called an “off-year election“, the year after the presidential election.  Since Barack Obama had been reelected president in 2012, by the usual Virginia pattern, Republican Ken Cuccinelli should have won.  I would suggest that people just didn’t want to vote for someone like Cuccinelli, because based on the public statements that I’d heard him make as attorney general, I had long come to the conclusion that he was nuts.

In any case, the pattern is well-established.  Looking through the list of governors of Virginia, the trend of voting opposite the president has been the case since 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  That followed two other Republican governors that were elected following Nixon victories in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which followed 80 straight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.  Following Dalton’s tenure, there were three more Democratic governors, which corresponded with the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  Then there were two more Republicans that corresponded with the Clinton presidency, and then two more Democrats that corresponded with the George W. Bush presidency.  The pattern then continued in 2009 with a Republican for Obama’s first term, and then McAuliffe broke the pattern in 2013 during Obama’s second term.  After that, the governorship fell right back into the pattern, with a Democrat’s being elected in 2017 while Republican Donald Trump was in the White House.  And now the pattern continues, with a Democratic president in Joe Biden, and a Republican governor’s being elected in Virginia.

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Let me play a sad song for you on the world’s smallest violin…

October 29, 2021, 9:36 AM

Do you remember about a month or so ago, when I made that Journal entry about Jeremy Jones, the guy who used several of my photos in an infringing manner, and lost his Twitter account for it?  He recently came back to badger me via Messenger one more time, and this time, unlike the silence that I had been giving him after my first response where I said that the matter was already resolved, I let him have it.  I told him that his losing his Twitter account is not my problem, that calling my parents in search of me was completely out of line, and I included the link to the earlier Journal entry.

I got a rather long-winded response to that message, and the sense that I got was that he had no real argument, and this was mostly an attempt to verbally lick his wounds in order to make himself feel better after being told in a definitive manner that I wasn’t playing:

Hey Ben,

Appreciate the response.  I respect your decision, didn’t really know that you felt that way but I understand now.  If you’re open to it, I’d like to explain how I feel about this situation now.

I think in the future you should try to be more compassionate and really understand what’s going on before writing me off because the way that you describe some of these things in the article are simply not true.  For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.  On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.  Secondly, it does mean this much to me.. it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.  I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.  I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.  Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.  But that’s neither here no there, I respect your decision and I will no longer contact you.  Thanks for your time.

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Regretting the shot not taken…

October 14, 2021, 10:04 PM

Some of you may remember that a month or so ago, there was a large protest on Reddit about COVID misinformation, targeting a subreddit called /r/NoNewNormal.  The idea of the protest was that a number of subreddits “went private”, i.e. stopped accepting submissions, and vowed to stay that way until Reddit management did something about this subreddit, after Reddit management had previously stated that they were not going to intervene.  Ultimately, /r/NoNewNormal was banned, and as such, the subreddit and all of its contents were removed from the Internet, as if they had never existed.  I have mixed feelings about the whole affair, and I feel like I have a unique perspective on it, because I used to moderate the subreddit, and probably did the most in building it, and then once it caught on, it slowly morphed into something that it should never have been.

First of all, my own stance on the whole pandemic is no secret.  I wrote a very long Journal entry about it back in May.  In short, I said that vaccination is the only way out of this, and that we should have never fooled around with much of the fabric of society like we did.  We should never have had mandated masks, lockdowns, closures, plastic shields, social distancing, or any other weird new rules and restrictions.  And then when the vaccine became available, get it without delay.  That has been my stance more or less from the outset.  The entirety of “your part” in this is getting vaccinated.  Aside from that, nothing else matters, so leave me alone.  I took an exceptionally dim view of people who tried to justify all of these changes as a “new normal” like they expected this to remain a thing for the foreseeable future, as well as playing the “wE’rE iN a PaNdEmIc!1!1!” card as an excuse to be exceptionally rude and/or judgmental with other people who disagree with them.

At the same time, it initially felt like those of us who opposed all of these new rules, ostensibly to curb the spread of COVID-19, were fairly alone in our opinions.  The sense that I got was that most people were all in agreement on these measures, and that I was the odd man out.  Then I discovered the /r/LockdownSkepticism and /r/EndtheLockdowns subreddits.  These were people who thought more like me on these matters, i.e. that the lockdowns and related measures were security theater.  I later found /r/NoNewNormal, which was started a little bit after the other two, and I tended to participate in that subreddit most, as it had the post quality of /r/LockdownSkepticism, but unlike /r/LockdownSkepticism, it did not have a “gatekeeper” for posts.  I tend not to post in communities that have gatekeepers, because I don’t want to waste my time posting somewhere when there’s a chance that no one will ever see my post based on the whims of some anonymous approver.  If I go to the trouble of posting something, I want a guarantee that it gets seen.  In any case, /r/NoNewNormal fit that bill, with decent, open discussion and no gatekeeper.  It was described in its sidebar as, “The phrase ‘new normal’ is pretty creepy. Let’s talk about concerns with it, and what can be done to resist it.”  It was sort of a way to criticize the measures being taken, and also a place to get emotional support for what we were all going through from a sympathetic group of people.  In other words, it was built with good intentions.

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Categories: COVID-19, Reddit

Exploring the penthouse suite…

October 9, 2021, 10:00 AM

Since last October, whenever Elyse and I have traveled down to Augusta County, we’ve stayed at Hotel 24 South in downtown Staunton.  If you’ve followed this site over the years, you might recognize the place.  Under its original name, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel (the name was changed to Hotel 24 South in September 2020), I photographed the neon sign that used to be on the roof of the building back in 2007, and my sister had her wedding reception there back in 2010.  The building dates back to 1924, and was renovated and expanded to its current form in 2005, restoring its original use as a hotel after having served as an elder care facility for a time.

However, during the 2005 renovation, one section of the building was skipped over: the penthouse suite.  As I understand it, the penthouse suite was never available for rental to guests, but rather, was intended as the owner’s private residence.  I was made aware of the penthouse’s existence by some friends of mine, and we located the door to access the space on our December trip (the primary focus of that trip was paying last respects to Staunton Mall).  At that time, however, the entrance was locked, but we did learn that the penthouse space was excluded from the renovation due to lack of elevator access.  On our next visit, in March, they were doing maintenance work on one of the hotel’s elevators (a mechanical room for the elevators is also up there), and as such, the door was open.  So Elyse and I took a quick tour of the space before we went out for the day.

My impression of the space, based on the vintage architectural and decorative elements present there, is that it has not been used for anything resembling its intended purpose for a very long time, though it is not abandoned.  Rather, it appears that the current hotel management uses the space for storage.  The space does have modern ventilation, as evidenced by a modern air duct running through the hallway to the living room, and it did not smell old or musty.

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Categories: Staunton

Something about sitcom endings…

September 29, 2021, 9:44 PM

Recently, I was thinking about the way various sitcoms that I watched ended their runs, and it made me realize that I actually prefer a certain kind of sitcom ending over others.  I admit: I didn’t ever think that a preference for certain kinds of sitcom endings would even be a thing, let alone that I would have a preference for types of sitcom endings, but here we are.

First, though, to clarify: I am referring to shows that had a proper final ending, i.e. shows where everyone knew when they were taping the final episode that it was to be the final episode.  To clarify what I mean, Perfect Strangers and Full House, for example, had proper final episodes.  Everyone knew that the final episode was to be the final episode when it was being made, and it was aired knowing that it was the last episode.  By comparison, Family Matters and Step By Step, while both long-running series by sitcom standards, did not have proper series finales.  Both shows were cancelled after their ninth and seventh seasons, respectively, and a proper finale was never filmed for either one.  In this entry, I am talking about the former case, where the end point is known, and not the latter case, where the final episode was not intended as such from the outset.

And interestingly enough, my preference is for series endings where the characters are set up to just go on and on, where things don’t drastically change in the finale, where we’re left feeling like the characters that we had come to love would be just fine going forward, even though we wouldn’t be watching them anymore.  In other words, I prefer the ones where the people involved don’t pull out all of the stops to make a huge grand finale.  They may still provide some sense of closure – a capstone of sorts – but it leaves the premise of the show intact.

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Categories: Television

When I say no, I actually do mean no…

September 14, 2021, 2:32 PM

We’ve all been taught the meaning of “no” before, as well as the idea of “no means no”, i.e. someone has declined, and that’s the end of it.  “No” doesn’t mean “yes, if I am persistent enough.”  When I say “no”, I mean it.  In the case of Jeremy Jones, who ran the @DMVFollowers Twitter account, I feel like he just couldn’t grasp this concept.

For some background information on this case, DMVFollowers was a Twitter account that posted news about things happening in the Washington, DC area.  They typically posted links to news articles, and included a photo with their posts.  Their feed looked like this according to an Internet Archive snapshot from January 2018:

@DMVFollowers in 2018

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My story from an unforgettable day…

September 8, 2021, 10:31 AM

I can’t believe that this Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, otherwise known as 9/11.  I still remember that day like it was yesterday, even though so much has gone on in the intervening two decades.  They say that everyone can tell you where they were or what they were doing when they found out about 9/11, much like the people of my parents’ generation and the Kennedy assassination.

Back then, I was a junior at JMU, and I was working as a resident advisor in Potomac Hall.  It was the third week of classes, and everyone was getting settled into a nice routine.  Being a Tuesday, I didn’t have any classes until 2 PM, so I was able to sleep a little later.  I was awakened around 9:30 AM by a knock on my door, as one of my residents had accidentally locked themselves out of their room.  I put on a bathrobe over my pajamas, and we went down to the hall office, where I completed the paperwork for the lockout (everyone got two free lockouts in a year, and any subsequent lockouts were subject to a fee), and then gave them the spare key to their room so that they could let themselves in.  I impressed on them to immediately come back down to the hall office after letting themselves back in their room in order to return the spare key, because I would be sitting in there waiting for them to come back so that I wouldn’t accidentally leave any room key business unfinished.  My hall director, Mecca Marsh, was a tough boss to work for, and she did not take kindly to any mistakes.  She treated any oversight or error as the worst thing that you could ever do, going so far as to bean you in your performance evaluation for even the most minor of errors, so if I suffered a little inconvenience in order to ensure that I wouldn’t have to deal with Mecca over something, that was fine.  So I waited down there and found a way to entertain myself, probably for about five or so minutes, until they came back with the key.  Then I put everything back as it needed to be and headed back upstairs.  At that time, I was still oblivious to any sort of world events.  As far as I knew, it was just a normal Tuesday.

After this, I had another matter of business to attend to.  The night before, there was a pretty bad backup in one of the toilets on my floor that I had to deal with, as that fell under the scope of my responsibilities.  The toilet got plunged a bit, but ultimately, I had to tape the stall door closed and mark it as out of order, because it was beyond our capabilities as RAs to fix.  I took the plunger, which belonged to housekeeping, with me that night, in order to return it to our housekeeper, a lady named Kathy.  I hadn’t seen Kathy on my floor from the elevator to my room, so I dipped into my room, grabbed the plunger, and continued looking.  She wasn’t anywhere on my floor, and so I went up the stairs to the fifth floor.  I went down the hall to the TV lounge, and found Kathy in there.  I went in, gave her the plunger, and then looked over at the television.

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Categories: Events, JMU, Myself

Going to show that you never know what is going to produce the winning shots…

August 29, 2021, 6:30 PM

On Wednesday, August 25, Elyse and I got together with two friends of ours, Kyle and Pete, and we went up to the Ellicott City area, where we went on a hiking adventure.  We hiked up through the remains of what was once part of St. Mary’s College, and which has since become part of Patapsco Valley State Park.  The goal was to visit “Hell House”, which is the remains of a structure on the former campus.  Elyse was most familiar with this area, so she led the way.  The former campus contains the remains of a number of buildings, and we had a pretty fun time there overall.  Getting to Hell House was a bit of a challenge, considering that the path is not necessarily obvious and required climbing some steep slopes, but in the end, we made it there.

The hike itself wasn’t too photogenic, but we did see a few things:

This tree was growing through what I presume was once some kind of manhole.  It's also grown around the edge of the hole on one side.

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