A few days ago, I hiked to the site of the last known Susquehannock Indian tribe village, the site of which is now part of the Native Lands York County Park. Located near Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, history and nature converge. The site is on top of the hill behind the Zimmerman Center (former Dritt Mansion) at Long Level. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Byrd Leibhart site, the National Park Service recognizes it as worthy of nomination for National Historic Landmark status—America’s highest heritage honor. Although it’s a peaceful scene today, this land has seen much controversy, including battles for possession between the Seneca and the Susquehannock.
Earlier this week I walked the Northwest River Trail between Columbia and Chickies Rock. The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, tracing the Susquehanna River northwest from Columbia to Falmouth. While the majority of the trail is paved, the northern segment from Bainbridge to Falmouth is largely undeveloped and best suited for walking, hiking, or mountain biking. The route now contains a trove of historic iron furnaces and building ruins, a canal lock, sections of the original towpath and canal bed, and an abandoned railroad tunnel.
Located between the boroughs of Columbia and Marietta is Chickies Rock. At over 422 acres, it is the county’s second-largest regional park. Its most notable feature is the massive outcropping of quartzite rock towering 200 feet above the river. The vista offers impressive views of York County, the borough of Marietta, and farmlands of northwestern Lancaster County.
Bike paths and walking trails now lead visitors to the sites of interest in Chickies Rock County Park. But one thing seems to run through its long history, unbidden and dark: the supernatural. Locals will agree that the view from Chickies Rock is indeed spectacular and that the history and geology of the site are interesting. But along with the beauty, science, and history are tales that encompass the mysterious: legends of curses, ghosts and strange monsters.
The Griffith Park Zoo was originally opened in 1912, amusingly built on the former location of Griffith J. Griffith’s old ostrich farm. It was opened with 15 animals, and due to lack of funding; it opened without any cages, simply stockades to keep the animals in, which were inadequate for several of the species, kept on site.
Stories claim that the history of the zoo was rocky, and it was always struggling. For example, in 1916, the zoo was apparently leaking sewage into the L.A. River, and later during World War I, a meat shortage made it hard to properly care for the animals, forcing the zoo to substitute horse meat for beef, leading to the deaths of many of the meat eating animals, particularly the big cats. Luckily the zoo was free which kept visitors coming.
Just off the Pacific Coast Highway, between Pepperdine University and Point Dume, Solstice Canyon, is an unusually scenic hike to the ruins of a once-grand private estate.
In 1952, “supermarket magnate” Fred Roberts and his wife Florence commissioned an architect to design a modern home for them at their family ranch at Solstice Canyon in Malibu. Fred had begun buying land in the area in the 1930s, eventually amassing almost 1000 acres.
This is a place with a rich and colorful history. I’m talking about one of those truly Southern Places, shaped by Native American, African and European influences. The ruins sit in a complex ecosystem alongside a major river, that once fed a good-sized little town, a successful textile industry, agriculture, the exchanges of commerce and a decidedly unique public citizenry.