Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A radiating experience...

One of the perks of geocaching is learning about the history of our area. Last summer we discovered Dawson Forest, a local wildlife management area, which usually means beautiful undeveloped forest, hiking trails, jeep riding, clear unspoiled creeks, etc. Unless it is hunting season - hence the 'wildlife management' part. Then you don't want to be in there unless you are hunting. The boundary of this forest begins 5 miles from here, and it stretches for 10,000 acres. There were several geocaches in this forest, one of which was named Reactor Road.

Of all the things you would not expect to find in a protected forest area is a nuclear reactor, but that is what is there, or the remains of one. It seems this tract of land was formerly owned by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, who operated the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory (GNAL) which, among other things, tried to develop a nuclear powered aircraft. A small 10 megawatt reactor was used in radioactive material research for about 12 years.

The area has been continuously monitored for radiation, and no health or safety threat has been found. Three acres out of the 10,000 acres continue to be restricted from public use as a precaution. The hot cell building area and cooling-off-area are restricted with fences and posted due to levels of Cobalt-60 and Europium-152.

We were wary of hiking through this area, but when entering the area, there were lots of folks enjoying the forest, riding horses, jeeps, hiking, etc. We passed the abandoned buildings with their warning signs. We wound around the area and finally found the cache. According to the information page on the cache, it is only 18 miles from our house (as the crow flies, of course).

There are a couple of new caches just placed in the area recently. One is by the Etowah River which winds through there. The other is named Firefly Treasure Hunting, which must be done at night, and which apparently involves something that glows in the dark... I guess just as long as we don't glow in the dark after finding that one, we will be going after it soon.

It is still puzzling and unsettling to find out that this has been here all these years, and we had never heard of it. It is even more puzzling why anyone would want to hunt and eat animals who live there (?). Reminds me of the story of the 3-eyed fish found in the river near the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant where Homer works on The Simpsons.

1 comment:

Motherkitty said...

This picture looks so idyllic and beautiful. Makes you want to dip your feet in the water on a hot summer day.

I wanted to know a bit more about geocaching and went to geocaching.com. There was a place to enter your zip and actually found a whole list of sites near where we live where caches have been placed here in western Kentucky and in southern Illinois. Very interesting. Now if I only had a 4WD vehicle and the ability to walk/hike, I would probably take this up as a hobby. I give you and your husband credit for having the ability/drive to enjoy this hobby.