We awoke to yet more car aimlessly driving around us through the car park. The weather wasn’t particularly brilliant but we decided to do a short local trail. Unfortunately about half an hour in it started raining quite hard which it continued to do for a lot of the walk. We didn’t quite as wet as we were walking through forests but, the walk was also fairly non-descript, I didn’t even take any pictures.
As it was a bit rubbish, this was perfect cave weather and we headed off to visit the Indian Echo Caverns, around an hour away.
Next to the visitor centre is a few farm animals including some quite cute baby goats and this ridiculous chicken which I feel deserves a hilarious caption, I just haven’t thought of it yet.
Shortly after, we set off in quite a large group with Claudia our tour guide. Heading down 71 steps to reach the entrance to the caverns, the drop in temperature was noticeable. The caves remain a steady 52 degrees, year round.
The caves are fantastic to see and we reckon they are worth the $37 price tag. I tried to take a few photos, but they don’t really do it justice.
If you are going to visit, try an unpopular time (this was a Saturday) as you can see our group was big and that meant it was hard to see everything as some of the walkways are very narrow with no room to stand at the end. In this particular part we all walked down the walkway and then hand to turn and file back out which meant anyone at the back didn’t even really get to see the end, luckily we were fairly near the front.
One of the bigger rooms at the end of the tour, which lasted around 45 minutes.
Having resurfaced and warmed up again, it was time to find a place for the night. The woman in the gift shop joked that I had brought the English weather, and I reassured her that if it was England it would have rained all day not just the morning. On that note, we headed for our next point of interest, Centralia.
I found a spot on google that looked like we might be able to park and we headed north. As ever with google spots, we arrived and didn’t like it. Having driving through Ashland mining village to get here, we retraced our steps to a promising looking picnic area that we saw on way into town. We drove in and noticed the usual signs saying it was closed at night, but naturally ignored them. We were pretty chuffed with ourselves as this place had a sheltered area with picnic beaches, power sockets and also toilets. We settled down for a movie night…
Unfortunately near the end of our film, a couple in a jeep arrived and told us we were on private property. Once he had established we weren’t going to trash the place, he was fairly reasonable and said we could finish off our film and recommended a place we could stop. So we had to leave our nice spot, and head back into the village looking for the coal mine car park. Up a very large hill, we found a flat area to park, and were reassured by the fact there was already someone camping there in a trailer.
The morning brought back the sun and we packed up and began to drive off down the hill towards Centralia. After a short distance Ruby made a rather unpleasant noise and I wasn’t sure if I’d run over something or if it had backfired. Nothing looked out of the ordinary though, so we continued.
Centralia is an abanonded mining town that caught fire in 1962 when the villages tried to burn off rubbish and the fire spread into the mine. It’s still burning today and is estimated that it may burn for another 250 years. While on some days you can apparently see the smoke coming out of the road here –
It’s now more about the graffiti, the being called ‘The Graffiti Highway’. We hadn’t realised that most people come here to add to the already covered road. The done thing seems to be to bring your ATV with a very loud speaker strapped to it and drive up and down the road spray painting things as you go.
The access at the bottom is over two small but high hills, otherwise I would have driven Ruby up the road for some really cool photos.
The road itself is around half a mile long and goes uphill from the photo above, into the main village itself where 7 people who refused to leave, still live.
Everything is painted, including the leaves. On the way up we pass three different sets of people all adding to this huge artwork, and wish we had known to bring our own paint!
Being early afternoon now, we were in desperate need of some food shopping and a laundrette so we headed for Walmart to restock. We thought Centralia looked like it had a few good camping spots where no one would bother us so we thought after doing the washing we would go back there for the night. We found a local laundrette and Ruby began attracting people, as usual. We spoke to a nice couple for a while who recommended some place to go and then a woman came over to ask to take photos of the van and have a chat before she left, we found out she was called Sherry. We started getting through the washing when she returned with a bag of goodies and offered to have us round for a meal as she was about to put the BBQ on. Not to turn down a free meal, we headed round to her house once we’d washed everything.
We spent the evening with Sherry and Jack (who set us this photo to use on our blogs) and their pets, having a lovely home-cooked meal and enjoying some nice Yuengling beer. We stayed up till around midnight chatting and a wonderful evening. We also met their neighbours who were just as friendly.
So far we have been blown away by just how kind people have been, and these guys were no exception. They let us into their home and allowed us to use all the facilities – we borrowed an extension lead to charge our batteries and then fill up our drinking water carrier. That night we stayed in the van outside their house which was on a very quiet road and had a great nights sleep. In the morning, we were welcomed in again and had coffee and doughnuts provided, as well as the use of the bath, all of which we were very grateful for. If more people were this kind, the world would be a better place indeed and I hope that this isn’t a one off for our trip!