Thursday, August 13, 2015

Indian Echo Caverns and Chocolate World. (PA 2015, Part 2)

So, I'm back. I feel some sort of serious accomplishment, managing two posts in one week. It's a meeeeericle! It may or may not have something to do with the fact that my big kids started school this week, but I'll save that for another post...

My dad has been wanting to take us to Indian Echo Caverns, for a while now, and this trip we finally managed to fit it in. Seriously, it was really cool. And literally cool. As in 52° year round in the caverns. 

They even have a little petting zoo and playground to keep the kids occupied while you wait for your tour group.

Mom and dad. I love them!

So the caverns are underground, and to get to them, you've gotta walk down a bunch of stairs (and then back up, when you leave). It wasn't a big deal for someone so young and athletic as I am (ahem), however I felt the need to throw that information out there, in case you were wanting to plan a trip there right away.

Make sure you have a jacket, even in the middle of summer, because it is chilly in there (especially if you're from Florida!).

Here's a little history for the Indian Echo Caverns website:
The first visitors to Indian Echo Caverns, most likely were the Susquehannock Indians. They lived along the Swatara creek, upon which the mouth of the caverns sits. It is currently believed that they used the caverns as a refuge during inclement weather because of the constant 52° temperature inside the caverns. The Susquehannock vanished from the area in the 1670's leaving the region around the caverns virtually unoccupied.

The first non-Native American explorers of the caverns were most likely French fur trappers. They traveled along the rivers and creeks of the north east during the latter part of the 17th Century and into the early 18th Century. Most likely they discovered the mouth of the caverns as they traveled on the Swatara Creek. These intrepid explorers wrote about their tales in the caverns attracting more and more explorers.

The Caverns were first opened to the general public in 1929, when Mr. John Bieber (not related to Justin) opened the doors to the caverns. Mr. Bieber realized that many people wishing to visit the caverns might be put off by the treacherous, uneven terrain that nature created. Bieber undertook a massive commercialization process, in which all of the pathways in the caverns were made safe for travel, as well as opening up many rooms closed off because of huge mineral deposits. The caverns were a natural Mecca of the region, attracting thousands of visitors in its first years. However, sadly, the caverns fell upon hard times during the Great Depression, and Mr. Bieber lost ownership to the bank. All was not lost, for in 1942, Mr. Edward S. Swartz, a Hershey native purchased the caverns. Today, the ownership of the caverns still remain in his family, with hundreds of thousands of visitors walking the paths of the Susquehannocks each year.

Like many caverns in the Mid-Atlantic states, Indian Echo Caverns is a limestone cave. Cut through Beekmantown limestone, they were formed through the erosive properties of water. As time progressed, geological forces led to an "uplift" of the surrounding limestone, eventually allowing more and more water to flow through the formation. As the water flowed over the limestone, it began to create small crevices, these small crevices led to larger ones, and eventually, over a series of years, it created the caverns as they are today.

After the caves, we spent some time at the Gem Mill Junction. Taite was a little too young for mining, so we just took selfies...

 And after mining for gems, we headed for the Hershey Kiss lined streets of Chocolate Avenue.

That's right. Hershey's Chocolate World.

The free, educational ride must have been very scary. I love this crazy sister of mine!

 Who loves to see a husband sporting a baby carrier?!? Me!

That's all for now.
Goodbye and so long, from some cute kids and a giant Jolly Rancher.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pennsylvania 2015, Part 1


It's been a while.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get back here, to this little space in the middle of outer space, but sure enough, eventually I come back. Since I've got so many great memories to share from our little family vacation this month, I figured I'd get started on that. Also since I know I'll never get through all of them today, I'm just going to start out with a "Part 1". No promises on when if ever "Part 2" shows up...

Anyway, here we go...

As always, we started out with plans to drive for a few hours, and then stop for dinner at Cracker Barrel, however true to Buckman form, we didn't make it out of Sanford before we stopped for dinner...

Eventually we were on the road for real.

We've found that the kids do really well when we drive through the night, so aside from a few gas/potty/coffee stops, we keep moving pretty well.

Coffee the size of my head, it's great for keeping me awake, not great for eliminating frequent stops... On a side note, dude. I LOVE Flying J/Pilot gas stations! They are always so lively, and the employees are super friendly, even at 4am. They are clean and the coffee is always fresh. Three cheers for the Flying J and Pilot!

This year, we added a stop to our Pennsylvania trip, and stayed with wonderful friends in Virginia. Isn't this door lovely? I loved it so much, that I wanted to take it's picture. It smiled at me.

Before I go any further, I think this would be a great place to add a completely awful "we've been friends since..." picture. So here it is: We've been friends with Tim and Amanda (far left) for close to 15 years, since before we were married, since highlights and tanning beds, glasses and crazy faces. Good times!

Anyway... we arrived at their house in the morning, and were greeted by great smiles and hugs and the sweet smell of breakfast! After breakfast, we settled in a bit. The boys played soccer in the cul-de-sac, boys against dads, and the girls sat on the porch and kept score.

Lilly and Amanda made beautiful music together. Lilly played the piano, and Amanda skillfully made up a song to sing as she played. Lilly was amazed.

And Taite slept. He was exhausted from that long ride...

After a bit, we packed lunches and headed to their neighborhood "beach". 
Oh my goodness, what a fun time!

Amanda and I did not venture into the cold water. We claimed "baby duty/lunch duty/selfie duty"...

That evening, after bird watching and homemade pop-cycles, we went to chick-fil-a for dinner.

 And then, the next morning, after another great breakfast, we hit the road again, Pennsylvania bound! They we are!

And after a very short drive, we pulled into that familiar, long and beautiful driveway.

That's the main house on the left, and the guest house on the right.

The kids room.

Fresh baked bread and homemade strawberry jam were waiting for us.

And fresh as it gets milk in the fridge. 

We unpacked our things, stocked up on groceries, and reunited with our Amish friends. And then we headed to my grandparents house to meet up with my sister and her family from Denmark, and the rest of my family. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, full of fresh fruit and some Pennsylvania corn on the cob. There really is nothing like Pennsylvania corn.

And then the grandmas read books to the littles. I really wish we had had more time on this trip. I would have loved for my grandma to spend some more time reading to my kids. She has the best reading voice, one I remember just LOVING to sit and listen to.

That night we went back to the farmhouse and settled in. It is such a blessing to be able to stay with my sister and her family, and have that extended time together. The cousins all get along so well, and just really love being together.

The next morning, bright and early, everyone was outside, ready for adventure.  Behind the fields in the back of the house runs a creek. And oh! The fun that some kids can have at that creek!

My brother-in-law, Jens took some of my very favorite pictures from our trip. The following is one of them. Something about it just makes me want to print it and frame it. Isn't it so gorgeous?

Well that was the first few days of our trip. Part Two through Ten is going to have to wait for another day or so, or maybe thirty, you never know. Tomorrow our three bigs start a new home school adventure, and we are excited to be getting ready for that! Until then, have a great week!