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On Tuesday, May 28, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie. The charm of the Schoharie Valley is becoming quite evident now.

Most of the scars of the flood are disappearing with the new growth of vegetation, the flowers, and nature’s natural way of repairing itself. Although nature is never in a hurry — she takes her time.

The OFs discussed the C-130 (the four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft) some columns back. That prompted a phone call from a reader who put the OMOTM in touch with a couple of men who work with the C-130 in Glenville. That conversation developed into a meeting with the C-130 people who are currently in talks with a few of the OMOTM who are also members of the Masonic Lodge in Berne.

What is in the works is a talk on the C-130 with demonstrations and explaining some of the equipment that is used.  This demonstration will be held on June 27, at 7 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge in Berne.

This will be a special event because the OMOTM will be bringing their wives, girlfriends, and siblings to this presentation. It should be a lot of fun and some of the OFs will be seeing the distaff side of other OFs for the first time.

The lodge members also suggested that it would be nice to invite the public to this event so they will not only be able to see what the C-130 is all about but also meet some of the OFs and find out not only that most OFs are old but also are real live people, and we don’t make this stuff up. (Well most of the time.)

Right now, the OMOTM are in the middle of a discussion on refreshments. That would be a nice touch. What to have, and how much to have, things like that.

It is beginning to sound like the OMOTM needs an auxiliary. There will be more to come on this; however, save Thursday, June 27, for a trip to the Berne Lodge, around 7 p.m. Formal attire will not be required.

Who will be remembered?

The OFs talked about who among the younger group is going to have staying power. We had Astaire and Rodgers, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Einstein, FDR, Eisenhower, John Wayne, Marylin Monroe, Bradshaw, Hope and Crosby, Barney Oldfield, and so many others — even The Beatles.

The OFs are sure there are some up-and-coming personalities but people the age of the OFs do not see much of a connection with the younger set. Who, in their twenties now, will still be remembered and associated with icon status, forty, fifty, or one-hundred years from now?

The OFs can’t see Justin Bieber being remembered in 3013, but the OFs think that Ruth, or Einstein, etc. will still be remembered.

One OF said those in the history books, like Caesar, Gandhi, Columbus, Hitler, Salk, will still be in the history books in 3013, unless George Orwell’s 1984 takes over and makes it illegal to own books.

Tough soles 

The OFs talked about going barefoot, and how tough their feet became when they were kids. We don’t know how much bare-footing goes on today, but, in the OFs’ day, after just a little running around barefoot, the OFs could run on nails and not know it.

One OF said, no wonder the young people come down with so much sickness; they have not eaten or come in contact with enough germs to build up a resistance to them.

Everything seems to be so sterile today — youngsters have no germs in them to fight other germs.  The attacking germs just take over, and bingo!  You are sick.

Unless it is something really strange, the OFs say go ahead and eat it, drink it, breathe it; eventually, the body will be able to handle it.  In the long run, it may even turn out to be good for you.

One OF said, “It is good to be a little cautious, though; I don’t think it would be good to have too many mutants running around.”

Then another OF added, “Who knows?  Maybe the mutants will be better off in the future.”

Then a third OF said, “You guys are way off base here.  Some of this stuff will kill you in an instant. Who knows what is being cooked up in some of these labs? I am all for washing the food well before eating it, and washing my hands frequently.  Hey, it is not going to hurt me to do that, and it doesn’t take any more time.”

Finally (and not a moment too soon), an OF said, “I know that cleanliness is supposed to be next to godliness but what did God do? He knelt down and scooped up some mud from beside a river and made us. So we are no more than mud with a soul. I say, eat dirt and go to church.”

Those OFs that attended the breakfast at the Country Café in Schoharie and were served some darn good breakfasts and not an ounce of mud were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Steve Kelly, Frank Pauli, Roger Shafer, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Jim Rissacher, Jim Hauser, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Miner Stevens and guest (his son-in- law Kevin Carey), Bill Krause, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Don Woods, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.        


The Enterprise — Mike Nardacci
An outcrop of Onondaga limestone can be found along Route 102 with a small shelter at its base. It is apparently an erosional remnant of the layers that covered this area millions of years ago.

The Enterprise — Mike Nardacci
A section of woods in Joralemon Park shows enormous isolated blocks of limestone randomly scattered. (A Hudson Valley Community College student appears in these photos for scale.)

The Enterprise — Mike Nardacci
These blocks are tilted in many directions, indicating they have been displaced from their original horizontal positions.

The Enterprise — Mike Nardacci
A textbook fault in a small limestone bluff in Joralemon Park shows two parallel layers of the rock known as “chert” within the limestone have been displaced by the fault’s movement. The layers on the left have been moved upward while those on the right have moved downward.

— Map courtesy of the National Speleological Society
Hannacroix Maze, a maze cave in Joralemon Park, near Ravena, was formed by chemical weathering.

An old joke among people whose life interest is rocks is that, if you ask 10 geologists the reasons for an unexplained geologic phenomenon, you will get 10 different answers.  Some of the answers will be stated with qualifications while some will be issued with Biblical certainty, and, as some of the explanations will be mutually exclusive, they may set off lively — even bitter — debates.

The wooded areas along Route 102 in Ravena — and in particular, Joralemon Park — have been known to geologists for decades as places of considerable geologic interest. 

Among the area’s features are stretches of bare bedrock showing scratches from the passage of glaciers thousands of years ago; a series of easily visible faults produced by very ancient earthquakes; remnants of ancient caves;  complex systems of active caves that have yet to be fully explored;  sinkholes and karst ponds into which surface waters disappear or from which they emerge;  isolated outcrops of 400-million-year-old Paleozoic bedrock, remainders of once-extensive layers deposited in pre-historic oceans;  and massive boulders, some scattered randomly through the woods and offering no immediate clues to the reason for their presence.

Rocks, of course, do not simply appear out of nowhere.  In mountainous areas, rocky sediments of all sizes weather and erode out of the exposed bedrock.  In wide, flat areas far from mountains — such as large stretches of the Hudson Valley and much of the Northeast — rocks must be carried and deposited by streams or glaciers. 

The rocks that turn up in farmers’ fields with the maddening frequency of weeds were deposited there thousands of years ago either directly by glacial ice or by the streams that poured from them when they began to melt. 

In his great poem, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost described such rocks found in the stone walls of New England:  “And some are loaves  and some so nearly balls/ We have to use a spell to make them balance:/  ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’” 

The important facts are that erosion by glaciers tends to take the sharp edge off of transported rocks while running water tends to make them more or less rounded; and that glacially deposited rocks are usually “erratics”:  specimens of rock types that are not found locally and have often been brought from hundreds of miles away. 

And so the Helderberg landscape is dotted with purple sandstone cobbles from Potsdam, rounded fragments of granite and anorthosite from New York’s High Peaks, and chunks of garnet-bearing metamorphic rock from the North Creek area.  These sediments are referred to as “glacial drift” deposits and they cover much of the landscape of the Northeast.

Mystery outcrops

And herein lie the puzzles of the Ravena rocks.

A mile or two north of the park, on Route 102, is a massive outcrop of rock that stands alone, looking to be more appropriate to some desert landscape of the Southwest than New York State.  It is made of the 400-million-year-old Onondaga limestone, as is much of the surface rock of Joralemon Park, and local lore has it that Native American Indian artifacts were found long ago in the shelter on its north side.

Certainly, it would be an inviting place to spend a rainy night for a hunting party.  Its layers lie horizontally on the surrounding terrain — it does not show the disturbance geologists call “displacement.”   Moreover, its edges are rather jagged, not blunted; hence, it is unlikely to have been deposited there by a glacier. 

While extensive excavation around it would be necessary to make a certain judgment, it is very likely an erosional remnant, a lone remainder of the thick layers of Onondaga limestone that millions of years ago covered the Joralemon area.  There are other, smaller such outcrops scattered through the forest.

The massive outcrop is, in other words, likely to be “in place“ as geologists would say.  The eponymously-named Joralemon Cave — its entrance yawns on the east side of Route 102 — is located in just such an erosional remnant, a segment of a long-vanished cave system.

The heavily-shaded interior of Joralemon Park contains numerous seeps and springs and swampy areas scattered beneath a forest of tall hardwood trees that trap much of the moisture.  This creates an environment evocative of a rain forest, highly conducive to the growth of moisture-loving plants, which are remarkably diverse and prolific in the park.

A few hundred feet into the woods north of the bluff containing Joralemon Cave is an impressive high mound of giant boulders of Onondaga limestone. Its provenance is not so easily determined.

The boulders are wonderful to walk among in early spring and late fall — those times of the year when little growth is occurring, for they contain a collection of various types of mosses and ferns growing on and between them that would be damaged by foot traffic and that would delight any pteridologist or cryptogamic botanist (and yes- — I had to look up the terms!).

They are a spectacular place for children to play hide-and-seek or to imagine the boulders as the ramparts of a castle.  Often 10 feet or more on a side, they contain between them innumerable overhangs and shady fractures and passageways, leading upwards or down, hiding places for toads and newts and the occasional black racer — a harmless but intimidating snake that in the Joralemon area can reach a length of six feet.

What is problematic about the boulders is that they are not horizontal to the surrounding bedrock.  They are tilted or even upended as if piled there by a deranged giant.

Moreover, the tilts — what geologists call the “dip” of the rocks — are not uniform:  One tilts north, its neighbor tilts south, and surrounding boulders may dip toward all the cardinal and ordinal directions on the compass.

Normally, in such a confusing display, a geologist would look on the rocks for “slickensides” — lines gouged into the bedrock when the two sides of a fault move, much as two cars scraping one another in opposite directions would scratch the surfaces.  There are a number of such faults visible in exposed bedrock in Joralemon Park, evidence of one or more of the massive, earthquake-producing plate-tectonic events known as “orogenies” that have affected this part of the continent over the last 400 million years.

One of them is worthy of a geology textbook.  But, as the boulders are covered in mosses, ferns, algae and liverworts, the slickensides — if they are there — are either obscured by the luxuriant plant growth or have been weathered away by it.

The point is that faults move massive amounts of bedrock during an earthquake.  They may displace the rocks on one side of a fault upward relative to the opposite side or they may move them down; they may slide them sideways relative to each other or one side may dive under the other; and they are capable of distorting the rock structure in ways that have geologists scratching their heads trying to figure out just what Mother Nature was up to.

Amazing maze caves

A glance at a map of the active cave system in Joralemon Park may offer a clue.

Known as Hannacroix Maze (its waters feed the Hannacroix Creek), the cave is a true maze.  If the prospect of getting lost within its labyrinth were not sufficient to intimidate explorers, the fact that it drains an adjacent beaver pond and is filled with fetid water inhabited by an assortment of creepy crawlers and swimmers usually does the trick.

Maze caves form in places where carbonate bedrock such as limestone or marble is heavily laced with the fractures known to geologists as “joints.”  When waters containing mild natural acids — carbonic acid is common — enter the cave in times of flooding, the acidic solution is injected under pressure into every available crack and crevice, and voila!  Chemical weathering forms a cave with a maze pattern.

One can easily notice, however, that between the cave passages are angular areas of bedrock.  Should erosion eventually remove the roof of the cave, the result would be a rocky ramble such as the famous “Devil’s Den” in the Gettysburg Battlefield.

The “Devil’s Den” is made of igneous rock, not limestone, and the outcrops do not show displacement, so the situations are not exactly parallel.  Still, both the cave and the battlefield outcrop represent bedrock in which erosion has occurred on the numerous joints the rock contains, resulting in a maze.

And so it would appear that the great rock pile in Joralemon Park must have resulted from the pre-historic movement of a series of faults running through a massive outcrop of limestone, eventually causing the weathered blocks to be left scattered helter-skelter in the forest.

Or so it would seem.

And yet — there are geologists who will defend the notion that the rocks are indeed glacially deposited — and that the reason that they consist of the same bedrock as the rest of the park and show little of the blunting that would result from glacial erosion is that they just have not been carried very far from their point of origin.

Perhaps it does not matter.

For the fact is that, within the wilds of Joralemon Park, lies a misty forest where water springs mysteriously from the bedrock; where marvelously diverse, unusual plants cover, it seems, every square inch of ground; and where Mother Nature shows her sleight-of-hand in strange geologic phenomena, through the agents of tectonics and weathering and erosion, over time beyond human comprehension.



This Tuesday morning was not rare, but unusual for May 14. It was a tad chilly; in the parking lot of the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh there were cars with some rather heavy frost on them and the windshields had to be scraped.

The OFs remember when it has snowed on the Hill later than this in May, and not just a dusting but four to six inches.

One of the OFs’ snowbirds was attending his first breakfast upon returning from his winter place in Florida. He showed up with a heavy coat and his mad bomber hat on his head with the ear lappers down. The OFs who were in the diner had on light jackets, or sweatshirts and hats. (They always have on hats.)

Hats are a good thing because they protect the head from the harmful rays of the sun. One thing the OFs do not want is more melanomas. Many of them have had their share of these sun cancers.

Florida talk

With the return of the winter escapees, Florida, in this case, was again a topic of discussion. This time it was the housing developments in certain regions of Florida that start up and then flop.

The OFs mentioned some they were personally aware of. The developer builds roads and has surveyed lots, drills for water, and touts big plans. Some people build homes in these developments and then the developer goes belly up.

There they sit — 18 or 20 houses in a development that was supposed to have 100 homes.

One such development mentioned was Rotunda on the west coast of Florida. The developer even built canals so that, in this circular development, all homes were on a small canal that was to be connected to a larger canal that would lead to the Gulf of Mexico.

The development was never finished; neither was the larger canal. The houses constructed in this way-underdeveloped development now sit on ponds that breed alligators and mosquitoes.

One OF said, “I don’t like Florida. It’s too hot, and the bugs are big enough to be pets.”

Still serving

The OMOTM group is just that, with the emphasis on (most who come through the door) old.  However, we do have a very active contingent of those who are somewhat younger and they continue the community service that the older OFs started.

The OFs who fall into the category of old have paid their dues regarding community service but this nefarious group continues on.

The OMOTM have the OFs who build bridges for the Long Path, and hiking trails; there are OFs who are part of groups that clean the side of the highway.

One OF thought this is a job that should not be necessary. Why should the OFs have to pick up other people’s trash discarded along the road? But the OFs and many other civic-minded groups do it just the same.

One OF said he thinks that many say, “Ah it is just a country road; chuck it out the window.”

One OF thought it would be a good idea to have a side job for the retired football players, and those rather big guys on the professional basketball teams. They could be part of a roadside goon squad.

When you are caught throwing stuff from a car, a couple of the guys from this roadside goon squad would make a visit to your home.

The perpetrator would be taken to where he threw out the trash and his nose would be rubbed in it, just like training a cat or dog, and then he would be hauled off to the landfill on Rapp Road where he would sort out the recyclables for five days and then be sent home. If he were caught again it would be 10 days at Rapp Road.

One OF said he would bet the football players would have a lot of fun playing that game.

Coming up

Watch this space for an event taking place on June 27!

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner and commenting that this is going to be another year where we go directly from winter into summer were: George Washburn, Frank Pauli, Bill Krause, Robie Osterman, Don Wood, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Miner Stevens, Roger Shaver, Jim Heiser, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Otis Lawyer, Dave Williams, Carl Walls, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Don Moser, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Gas and go: The service station at the corners of routes 20 and 146 was once leased as a Mobil station. A new Sunoco station has been built at the site.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Bright as new: A renovated gas pump graces the waiting room at the Mances’ service station in western Guilderland.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Sentry for all time: Bruce Mance Jr. is guarded by a giant ficus plant that has been in the waiting room of his family’s service station sine the station began.

Most people (women usually) dislike it when they have to take their car to the garage for an oil change, new tires, or to fix “something.” This historian actually enjoys that task.

At Bruce Mance’s station on the corner of Route 20 and Route 146 (Carman Road) in Guilderland, the waiting room there is a short retreat from today’s frenzy.

There are two tall, slim ancient gas pumps, astutely refinished to their original splendid red color, holding fort in the waiting room. “Mobil” shouts the name though today it is a Sunoco station.

Pictures of many years gone by adorn the walls, and recall the history of the western end of town and the station itself. In a glass-enclosed case, models of automobiles of every type draw the oohs and ahs of present car owners awaiting repair of their modern car.

And then, nicely stacked magazines are shelved above, the kind you don’t find in the beauty salon. Preservation, American Hunter, Golf, HGTV Makeover, LaCucina Italiana, and Conservation keep you informed of the important things in life. All of this makes getting the oil changed an informative respite.

On the other end of the room, if you are lucky enough to be there in early spring, large wooden shelves against a sunny glass window hold the beginning sprouts of a garden salad. Lettuce, peppers, parsley, rosemary, basil, and even tomatoes begin their life in that bright, warm spot.

Bruce Mance Sr. leased the Mobil station in 1976 and purchased it in 1984. There was a Wil Roy Drive-In for ice cream also on the property at that time. He later demolished those buildings and built new ones in 1994. 
The front “store” is well stocked where all sorts of necessaries are available.

Mance and his son, Bruce Jr., station manager, are life-time residents of the town of Guilderland. Bruce Mance Sr. spent his childhood on Schoolhouse Road. Both Mances were students in the Guilderland Central School district.

“It was a great place to grow up in,” said Bruce Mance Sr. when questioned about running a local gas station, “I like to give back.”

This historian feels that the Mances are doing just that.