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Name: Helldiver in the Highlands
Owner: Quest Master
Country: USA
Region: Pennsylvania
Near: Laurel Mountain Park
WGS84: N40° 14.324 W079° 07.182

Hidden: 2008-05-13
Cache type: regular
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Terrain: 4 out of 5
Environment: permission granted,public,free,not commercial
Average rating: 5.0 out of 5
Other ratings: Handicaching
Waypoint: GE026C
Nearest: GPSgames  Groundspeak
Watches: Quest Master, pafarmboy, Mooman56, geogirty, skyraider, mickemt, old BM, svc, Team redstar, WeaslyPilgrim, pigspotter, Cloudywing2
Ignores: 0


The date was October 9, 1945. The fall colors would have been at or near their peak in the Laurel Highlands of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania but it's unlikely that the members of Bombing Squadron Ninety-Seven could have seen the landscape well enough to appreciate it due to the foul weather that they found themselves flying into. Laurel Hill has a way of creating its own weather on those dreary days that are typical in this season and this was one of those days. The whole mountain was enshrouded in a thick fog as the formation of 22 navy warbirds approached.

VB-97 was returning to its base at Grosse Ile, Michigan after participating in the Nimitz Day Celebration that was held in Washington, D.C. on October 5th. This leg of their journey had begun in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg) where they had taken off at noon so it was about 1:30 in the afternoon when they encountered the formidable wall of clouds and mist that was hovering over the Laurel Highlands. It was decided at this point that they should turn around and return to New Cumberland but it was already too late for one of the planes. As the formation was turning and climbing up through the overcast, something went terribly wrong. It is impossible to know what happened for sure but it is generally believed that the pilot of one of the planes became disoriented in the dense fog and experienced vertigo which caused him to lose control of the aircraft. It crashed and burned on Sugar Camp Hill approximately 3 miles from the village of Waterford. The pilot and radioman died instantly in the crash.

What remains of the Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver, Bureau Number 82966, is preserved by virtue of the fact that it crashed in such a remote area. There is a small memorial at the site which pays tribute to the two World War II veterans who lost their lives here. Please respect that this is hallowed ground and don't take away any souvenirs.

Be advised that this cache is in state gamelands and that you are subject to their rules. Be sure to wear your blaze orange during deer season and don't drive your vehicle or ride mountain bikes where you're not allowed. This cache hunt is complicated by the fact that this site is in an area that has been logged recently. This big ugly mess is surrounded by a game fence that is intended to keep the deer out until the trees grow back. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB OVER OR CRAWL UNDER THIS FENCE! It's allowed to enter this area but you MUST enter through one of the manway gates provided for this purpose. These bright yellow gates are few and far between but they are easy enough to locate by following the fence around. Here are waypoints for two of the gates so that you have something to aim at:

N40 14.243', W79 6.730'
N40 14.500', W79 7.217'

Getting to this cache is not going to be easy so prepare accordingly. This is old-school caching at its finest! Driving directions from internet websites will be useless and your auto-routing GPS will likely fail you by sending you up roads that are either blocked by gates, closed to unauthorized motor vehicles, or simply don't exist. Get a good map, study it, and bring it with you. Expect trial and error to be the order of the day. The closest legal vehicle access that I have been able to find is about 1.5 miles hiking distance from the cache and this parking spot is more than two miles from the nearest pavement. One possibility is to hike the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail from either of two designated parking areas on Route 30 (N40 10.451', W79 7.326') or Route 271 (N40 16.895', W79 02.980'). It's only about one mile from the LHHT to the cache but it's going to be about 6 miles to the turnoff point (N40 13.942', W79 6.273') from either direction which means that you're setting yourself up for a hike of about 14 miles if you begin from either of these two spots. Another possibility is to park in one of the designated parking areas for this tract of State Gamelands 42. The one by the rifle range (N40 13.825', W79 8.583') is easy enough to get to but it's unlikely that you will be able to find an easy route to the cache from here because there's a roadless mountain in the way. The one on Mystery Hill (N40 13.429', W79 6.169') is probably a better choice IF you can figure out how to get to it. This may be impossible due to road closures imposed by private landowners and/or the game commission. The last best option is to approach via the Roaring Run Camp (Outdoor Odyssey) but it is required to check in at the command post (office) to ask permission and there's no guarantee that access will be allowed.

Good luck, have fun, and be safe!

TRIGO: Three Rivers Informal Geocaching Organization

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Edited: 2012-08-23 23:44:04 UTC
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