Dear Sherlock Holmes – There’s A New Game Afoot in North America – Geocaching with a Haunted Twist!

What do you get when you combine a GPS receiver and online coordinates with a bit of treasure hunting and camping, hiking, walking, trekking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities? A new sport, founded in 2000, dear fellow – as thrilling and adrenaline-racing as any one of Sherlock Holmes unsolved mysteries. Only the whereabouts of arch-nemesis, James Moriarty, has been replaced with a hidden waterproof container that conceals a logbook, code name, pencil, stamp, and perhaps a token coin and dog tag. Indeed this detective-like game of “Geek and Seek” is an outdoor sporting activity that the whole family can enjoy – not only in state parks and luxurious resorts – but in some of the most haunted places in North America! Let’s look then at some of the spookiest geocaching spots in Canada and the USA.

1-Canada – Newfoundland – City of St. John’s – Gibbet Hill Note: St. John’s is the oldest English-founded City in North America. Gibbet Hill was the “site of the gallows during colonial times – located on a rocky cliff that has a clear view of the entire downtown…so anyone in the old city could see the gallows to deter criminal activity.”

2-Canada – New Brunswick – St. Andrews by-the-Sea The Algonquin Resort Built in 1889, this Tudor-style “Castle-by-the-sea” overlooks the Passamaquody Bay and has welcomed famous leaders, royalty, and upper class families from around the world. ”It is also a haven for the afterlife. On many occasions guests report seeing a brokenhearted bride, walking the halls of the second floor. It is not uncommon for guests to have their luggage delivered to their room only to see the young bell boy vanish into thin air.”

3- Canada – Nova Scotia – Cape Breton Island – Fortress Louisburg Constructed around a fishing port between 1720 and 1740, the Fortress of Louisburg was one of France’s key centers of trade and military strength in the New World – being the third busiest harbor behind Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA. The fort was also built to protect France’s control on one of the richest fishing grounds in the world – the Grand Banks. Today the Fortress of Louisburg is known to house four ghosts. “One is a sea captain who is very helpful indeed. He warns people of impending danger, greets guests, and sometimes just walks by just to disappear. A nurse is said to also roam the grounds. She is said to weep. There is also a poltergeist located in this place. He is said to be violent, moves three hundred pound equipment, and damages property. He is said to haunt the King Bastion Bakery. The last known ghost on the fortress is a child screaming for his mother. Along with his screams comes the sound of cannon and gun fire with screams of a group of men.”

4-USA – Michigan – Mackinac Island Located in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is a resort area that was formerly a giant Indian burial ground. Today there are about 100 caches hidden all over the island. Every spring there is a large gathering of folks who geocache at “The Grand Hotel”. Ghosts are most notable at nearby Fort Mackinac built in 1779. “The children of the post commander are supposed to haunt the officer’s hill quarters. The hospitals in the fort are undoubtedly haunted and are surrounded by an air of sickness to this day. A skeleton was found in the “Black Hole” of the guardhouse and now people get the usual chills along their spines in the reconstructed guardhouse. There is supposedly a phantom piper that walks on the stonework above the North Sally Port. He is only sighted on misty mornings and his music can be heard faintly.”

5-USA – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia – Fairmount Park – Laurel Hill Cemetery The Fairmount Park is the largest landscaped park in the USA occupying 10 percent of all the land in Philadelphia. Ten active geocaches are hidden throughout its 4,180 acre park system. One of them is concealed in the Laurel Hill Cemetery which features graves dating back to the 1830’s including Thomas McKean, signer of the Declaration of Independence and David Rittenhouse, a renowned 18th century American astronomer, inventor, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, scientific instrument craftsman and public official. Note: Laurel Hill Cemetery has the distinction of being one of the few cemeteries in America designated as a National Historic Landmark.

6-USA – Colorado – Saint Elmo – Historic Ghost Town Built in 1878 in a heavily forested area, Saint Elmo is the best preserved ghost town in Colorado with far more ghosts than its actual 8 year-round residents. All of the 24 original buildings are privately owned and a few are occupied by active businesses. The General Store now operates between May to October. This is a far cry from its heydays in the 1890’s when this small mining town had 2000 year-round residents and a telegraph office, a town hall, five hotels, saloons, dancing halls, a newspaper office and a school house. It was a time when the discovery of gold and silver brought miners from far and wide to the area with the help of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad which ran through the town. Once, however, the last mine shut down in 1922, the business district in St. Elmo was closed down as well. But the pioneering Stark family in particular tried to keep the town alive. Today, it is the ghost of Annabelle Stark who watches over the town. Her mother, Anna, ran the general store and a small hotel that served the railroad. Visitors report that the doors to this hotel shut on their own and several have noticed a young woman in one of the windows along the second floor of the hotel. And located just before the entrance to the town is the Saint Elmo cache – hidden in a pocket of boulders and upgraded to a large container and new logbook due to its immense popularity.

7-USA – West Virginia – All of West Virginia – A State-Wide Geocaching & Ghost Hunting Treasure Trove There are so many haunted places to consider when hunting for caches in West Virginia – places made famous by its phantom creatures such as the “Flatwoods Monster” (aka the Braxton County Monster) and the “Mothman” in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. But here are five lesser known favorites :

a) Cole Mountain near Moorefield, West Virginia – An offshoot of the Appalachian mountain range, orange and red lights have been seen on the slopes of Cole Mountain ever since the 1850’s.  The strange lights are believed by local folk to be that of a ghostly lantern of a young slave looking for his master, Charles Jones, who had disappeared one year before whilst coon-hunting.

b) Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, West Virginia – Located in the Greenbrier River Valley, this site marks West Virginia’s bloodiest Civil War battle – said to be haunted by soldiers and old souls who never left the battlefield in 1863. “Among these ghostly inhabitants are a poltergeist who supposedly throws rocks at you, a headless ghost that seems to have ties to a certain local family, and an entire phantom cavalry that emits horse, buggy, and firing sounds that can be heard all over the wooded area. There are even reports of a ghostly gray horse with bright yellow eyes.”

c) Flinderation Tunnel near Salem, West Virginia – Completed in 1857, this old railroad tunnel is a popular place for ghost hunters and multi-stage geocaches because of the strange apparitions, noises, and EVP’s that have been reported over the years. According to local folklore, repairs were being made on the tunnel in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s when a high speed locomotive unexpectedly came through killing two of the three workers working on the track – one of whom was trapped under the train causing it to derail. Later on, it is said, the tunnel was used by the KKK as a lynching spot. Soon after the railroad was officially shut down and the tracks torn up in the 1990’s because of its paranormal activities that continue even to this day – phantom train whistles, phantom mists, mysterious footsteps, orbs, sobbing, screaming, train wheels screeching, metal scraping on metal, and the lights of an invisible ghost train coming thru the tunnel.

d) Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in Princeton, West Virginia – First opened in 1926, Lake Shawnee is a closed amusement park that last operated in the 1970’s. Some of the abandoned rides still standing include a small roller coaster, bumper boats, paddle boats, rotating swings, and a Ferris wheel. It is now private property but the owner gives private paranormal tours year-round. Around 1783, this site was also the terrifying scene of a bloody Indian massacre in which Native Americans scalped two Clay family children and a third burned at the stake. To this day, Native American chanting and the voices of children can be heard on summer nights. Eerie sightings include the apparition of a young girl, silhouettes on the Ferris Wheel, and long forgotten carnival rides moving on their own.

d) Wine Cellar Park in Dunbar, West Virginia
Before the Civil War, many areas in West Virginia tried their hand at the wine-making business. But by 1870, nearly all of the wine companies in West Virginia were gone. The three restored walk-in wine cellars at Dunbar were originally built to store local wine made on the premises. “After wine production stopped, it is rumored that the cellars were used as a stop on the Underground Railroad and today, all that is left are three of the rumored six stone cellars. But, something (or someone?) else remained. Witnesses have said that the Wine Cellar Park is haunted and misty figures and abnormalities commonly show up on film and pictures taken of the cellars.”

8-USA – New Mexico – Santa Fe Established in 1607 and built on an abandoned Tanoan Indian village, Santa Fe is the second oldest city in America founded by European colonists – second only to St. Augustine in Florida. And it is home to about 70 caches and many “ghost tour walks”. It’s ghostly legends cover a ten block historic area which includes a Headless Cowboy, the “Crying Witch of the Ditch”, and the Poker-Playing Ghost who threw himself down a well for losing the company money!

So Sherlock Holmes and the Sherlock Holmes’s of the World – Your Next GPS Coordinate is N 47degrees 36.371 W 122degrees 17.303– Happy Hunting!

The Pen May Be Mightier Than the Sword – But How About “Green” Eco-Friendly Stationery!

“Green” Stationery – sounds a bit like an oxymoron since ‘writing paper and envelopes’ in North America is mostly made out of timber-based pulp. But in fact, eco-friendly tree-free stationery and recycled post-consumer paper are becoming much more commonplace in the United States and around the world than one may have ever realized. But what exactly does this all mean for you and me?

It means that we don’t have to sacrifice our planet’s health with the unwarranted or unregulated wholesale destruction of forests and trees just to write letters, invitations, and good wishes to friends and family. Instead, we now have some really good environmentally-friendly lifestyle alternatives or substitutes such as renewable energy paper and chlorine-free paper and yes – paper made of used clothing and vintage textiles. But let’s begin with a look at tree-free stationery.

Some of the most well known plants used to make non-wood paper are organic hemp, cotton, coffee, mango, banana, bamboo, bean and tobacco fibers. Other lesser known plants used are bagasse and kenaf fibers. Here is a list of specialty companies where you can order such tree-free stationery.

(1) EcoSource Paper Inc. – British Columbia, Canada                                             

(2) Vision Paper – Albuquerque, New Mexico                                                          

(3) Green Field Paper Co. – San Diego, California                                                     

(4) Costa Rica Natural Paper Co. – Costa Rica/Ventura, California                            

(5) Crane & Co. – Dalton, Massachusetts                                                          

(6) Smock Paper Co. – Syracuse, New York                                                                

As for post-consumer recycled stationery, recycling used waste paper, magazines, and toilet rolls is a viable way of providing new paper for consumers without cutting down trees and filling up landfills. In addition, fewer greenhouses gases are produced and less air and water pollution is created in comparison to making paper from fiber in its original condition. Here too is a list of green-minded companies known for their recycled premium quality stationery.

(1) Gumnut Hill Stationery – Windsor, Australia                                                        

(2) The Exotic Paper Company – Taunton, Somerset, England                                 

(3) Green Stationery Co. – Gauteng, South Africa                                                       

(4) Green Paper Company – Columbus, Ohio                                                             

(5) Paper Culture Co. – Millbrae, California                                                                 

For many stationery companies, utilizing wind-generated electricity to manufacture and print their greeting cards, notecards, fine writing paper and pocket journals is another way of “going green” without depleting the Earth’s fossil fuel resources. Notable companies using renewable energy for stationery products include:

(1) Borealis Press – Blue Hill, Maine                                                                            

(2) Jacki Paper Co. – Belmont, California                                                                         

(3) 9SpotMonk Design Co. – Glen Rock, New Jersey                                                      

Another example of stationery companies “going green” is using chlorine-free environmentally-friendly bleaching agents in brightening the final paper product. Two noteworthy companies practicing this method are:

(1) New Leaf Paper Co. – San Francisco, California                                                             

(2) Greener Printer – Berkeley, California                                                                   

But innovation in stationery processes doesn’t stop here – Arch Paper Company in St. Louis, Missouri ( creates business cards, greeting cards, letterpress, and graphics by recycling vintage textiles and used clothing.  And then there are the Benedictine Monks at ‘Abbey Press Printing’ – part of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana – who for the past 140 years have been making an array of cards and stationery in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.   Their Christian commitment to environmental stewardship is far-reaching — and their works — mightier than the sword!

See —                                                                                                                ,%20Promise%20&%20Passion

Are You a Socially-Minded Gardener? A Master Composter at Heart? How Good is Your Recycling Strategy for Both Your Kitchen Scraps and Yard Trimmings and Yes – Your Career?

What is “Composting” you may ask? One definition is that it is the “Controlled” biological decomposition of carbon-containing matter by fungi and bacteria into a stable and useful humus material – or – fertilizer. It is a process that allows decomposed materials to be reused as a nutritious supplement for your garden, lawn, and house plants. The most common materials used for composting is leaves, grass, weeds, and kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, pizza crusts, bread, crackers, beans, rice, cereal, pasta, nuts, herbs, spices, and egg shells.

But “composting” is more than a process – it is a strategy – a way to manage the reduction of solid municipal waste. The same idea holds true for the recycling of one’s career – it is a strategy for overcoming professional hurdles such as company downsizing, restructuring, or mergers. I liken it to a three-pronged strategy for finding that next job, for tapping into team-building resources, and for gaining momentum up the corporate ladder. In addition, the recycling of one’s career is also a process – an individual self-assessment of one’s own unique talents and work experiences to date – broken down to its smallest components – recyclable skills such as writing, planning, researching, conceptualizing, negotiating and promoting.

So in essence, whatever recycling strategy you choose – whether it’s for your lawn or your career – the outcome is sure to enrich your life and the lives of others. Test yourself then with these trivia questions and see if you are up to the 21st century challenge of recycling both personally and professionally.

1- Which U.S. state has the oldest “Compost School” in the nation providing training experiences and interactive opportunities to farmers, businessmen, and government workers who are involved with medium and large-scale composting operations?
A) New Jersey B) Virginia C) Massachusetts D) Maine

2- Currently, in the USA, 33.8% of municipal solid waste is recovered, recycled or composted, 11.9% is burned at combustion facilities, and the remaining 54.3% is disposed of in landfills. Which U.S. island is a leader in the “Zero Waste” movement which ideally seeks to eliminate all waste being shipped to landfills by way of recycling, reusing, and composting strategies?
A) Jekyll Island B) Nantucket C) Mackinac Island D) San Juan Islands

3- Achieving the correct moisture content in a compost pile is an important factor in keeping it working efficiently. Biological activity will stop completely if the pile dries out. Thus the ideal percentage rate for measuring compost water content is which percentage – 30%, 50%, 70%, or 85%?

4- Large-scale “vermicomposting” is practiced in the USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Malaysia, and the Philippines. What special animal expedites this process of breaking down compost materials? A) Squirrels B) Mice C) Wild Rabbits D) Worms

5- Which cool compost-heated thing has not been invented yet? A) Compost-heated greenhouse B) Compost-heated Japanese Tea Room C) Compost-heated car fuel D) Compost-heated outdoor shower E) None of the Above – All Have Been Invented

6- Recycling activity can create anywhere from 4 to 10 more jobs for every 1 job created in the waste management and disposal industries. True or False?

7- Curbside composting in large urban environments has skyrocketed over the last three years. There are now more than 90 cities with such a program. One major reason for the program is that landfills across the nation have reached their maximum capacity as Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage per year. True or False?

8- Which city is the top composting city in America? It has the largest compost collection program in the U.S. including restaurants and food-related establishments. A) Seattle B) New York City C) San Francisco D) Los Angeles

9- The demand for sustainable planning consultants is high – seven times higher than for all other industries. Their role is to provide businesses with tools and information to minimize environmental impact. Which of the following recyclable skills are essential for such a career path? A) Problem-solving skills B) Organizational skills C) Analytical skills D) Client-Oriented Service Skills E) All of the Above

10- Do you have what it takes to be a socially ‘green’ entrepreneur? Here are two examples: One is a two year old Utah-based company called “EcoScraps”. Their business model – they collect leftover food from grocery stores, Costco stores and produce wholesalers – turn it into bags of compost mix – and then sell these bags thru home improvement stores like Home Depot. The second example is a three year old Florida-based foundation called “Clean the World” which is now the largest recycler of hotel amenities in the world. Their business model – they collect leftover hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and gels – recycle them for distribution to communities and countries in need of better hygiene and sanitation – and thereby help to fight the global spread of preventable diseases. In just three years of operation, they have managed to distribute more than 11 million bars of recycled soap to children and families in Haiti, Canada, the U.S. and 40 other countries worldwide.

Answers: (1) D – Maine (2) B – Nantucket (3) 50% (4) D – Worms (5) E -None of the Above-All Have Been Invented (6) True (7) True (8) C – San Francisco (9) E – All of the Above (10) I am hopeful that the answer is YES!