Most people take their local history with a grain of salt, opting to travel to historic sites far and wide instead of exploring their own “backyards.” Adam Zurn, a teacher at Lampeter-Strasburg, thinks otherwise, maintaining that local history is important and learning about it can be fun!
Adam, who grew up in Susquehanna County, enjoys learning about Lancaster County’s rich history, lore and many best-kept secrets. He has found an interesting way to share his cache of knowledge with others through Uncharted Lancaster, a website that offers scavenger hunt-like adventures, many of which take participants off the beaten path. While each adventure provides varying levels of difficulty, all hold the promise of finding hidden treasure at the end. “The adventures are dedicated to the history side of things,” he explains. The fact that you get to spend time outdoors is a bonus.
These hunts, or adventures, are similar to geocaching (a worldwide GPS-guided recreational activity) or letterboxing. However, with Adam’s adventures you are rewarded with treasure and you don’t have to leave anything behind as in letterboxing.
Adam credits his parents – both teachers – for his love of history and learning, saying, “My mother liked history, so I just naturally inherited that from her.” That love of history figured into summer vacations that took the family all over the United States. “I’ve been to almost every dead guy’s house in the country!” he says of visiting presidential homes and other historical sites.
While history may intrigue Adam, technology is his passion. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Millersville University, where he received his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees in Technology Education, as well as a Master’s in Leadership and Learning. Today, he teaches technology education and is a department head at Lampeter-Strasburg High School.
Uncharted Lancaster has enabled Adam to mix his love for teaching, interest in history and passion for all things digital and technical with outdoor pursuits such as hiking, bushwhacking and climbing. It also pays homage to his love of adventure films such as the Indiana Jones series, The Goonies and Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. In fact, it’s not unusual to find Adam dressed like Indiana Jones for interviews or speaking engagements.
To participate in an adventure, all you need to do is visit Uncharted Lancaster’s website, where you can choose from about a dozen adventures that provide something for everyone. Quests that are currently offered include Bausman’s Hollow Adventure, Climbers Run Adventure, Colemanville Covered Bridge Side Quest, Enola Low-Grade Adventure, Lime Kiln Adventure, Pequea Trolley Adventure, Safe Harbor Adventure, Wind Cave Adventure and Haunted Indian Gold Adventure. A special adventure that was developed for Valentine’s Day used Romancing the Stone as the theme where “diamonds” could be found for you or a loved one.
The website is also filled with fascinating stories that relate to Lancaster’s history.
Adam rates each adventure with one to five “fedoras,” (just like the one Indie wears). One signifies an easy adventure, while five is the most challenging. Adam advises what to bring along, provides the distance involved, terrain you may encounter and so on. Most maps are online. All you need to know can be found on the website. There is a hyperlink that relates to the history of a location and instructions how to complete the adventure.
The adventures are totally self-guided. (There is a disclaimer citing that each adventure is at your own risk.)
Most of the adventures’ artifacts and take-away treasures are handmade by Adam using his 3-D printer. “It is a life-changing experience the first time you print something,” he says. “We teach 3-D print technology here,” he adds, referring to Lampeter-Strasburg’s curriculum as it relates to technology.
He explains that a 3-D printer is very much like an inkjet printer operated from a computer. It “builds” a 3-D object using molten plastic filament or metal extruded from a jet nozzle one layer at a time, from the bottom upward, by repeatedly printing over the same area until the object is finished. Essentially, it takes hours to turn a 3-D CAD (Computerized Aided Design) drawing into the finished object. It is a very slow but exacting process.
Adam carefully tests each adventure before publishing it. The venture is totally nonprofit – Adam makes nothing; in fact, he probably invests approximately $50 in each one. His wife, Maribeth, who is an educator with the Penn Manor School District, and 10-year-old son, Benson, often accompany him on test runs.
The adventures have been well-received and reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Adam says one parent messaged him saying, “I can’t get my kids to walk to the mailbox but they thought nothing of walking four miles to find treasure in the woods.”
Adam is presently researching his next great adventure, Mysterious Petroglyphs of Lancaster County. The petroglyphs – or prehistoric rock carvings created by Native Americans – are found on rocks that protrude from the Susquehanna River, just south of the Safe Harbor Dam. This adventure will be more challenging than the others as the petroglyphs are only accessible by canoe or kayak.
Find Uncharted Lancaster at unchartedlancaster.com and through such social media sites as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.