Last mission of California Rocket. Hiking to find remains of USAF B24 J "Liberator" from WWII in Gorce Mts, Poland

Reconstructed cockpit of "California Rocket", Gorce Mts, Poland

Mountain hiking is my passion. I do it every Saturday. My other hobby is history. A few weeks ago I combined both pastimes into a historical hiking trip.


I met @wadera and two other hiking fans and we drove to the Gorce Mts in southern Poland. The trip was planned for two days. On Saturday we did a long and pleasant hike in light rain. For Sunday, I had designed a route that combined a viewing tower on top of a mountain with a historical place. Easy 15km, with 530m of total elevation gain.

Hiking route-

Hiking route


Hitting the trail

After covering a long stretch of a village road, we entered the Gorce National Park. As we did so, we emerged into beech and fir forest, with spruces showing as we ascended. I like woods where beech is the dominant tree. Those big trees create large crown and let little light pass to their "feet". It means a cool and pleasant micro climate on a hot day. It also means that few other plants can grow at the bottom of the forest, so it is pleasantly spare. Thick undergrowth appears only alongside the trail, as this is the only place where sun rays get to the bottom.

Trail in a beech and fir forest

The forest is a National Park, which means that dead or fallen trees are only removed where they pose danger to the wanderers. Elsewhere tree trunks are left and thousands of little creates have a feast, turning wood into humus. Humus means rich in nutrients soil, which is essential to support big trees. And so runs the cycle of nature.

Crash site

History of the Liberator crash

During WWII Poland was occupied by Germany. All over the country the were partisans who tried to make the occupation difficult for the invaders. The resistance movement found good strongholds in the mountains of southern Poland. Both terrain and helpful highlanders were essential to provide support.

As the war neared to the end, the Allies started regular flying missions from northern Italy. Some carried weapons and supplies to help the resistance movement. Some were on bombing missions, attempting to damage German industry in occupied Poland.

Crash site of the Liberator

Such was the mission of USAF B-24 J "Liberator" bomber, nicknamed "California Rocket". It was manned by 9 crewmen, with captain William Beimbrink. They set of in the morning of Dec 18, 1944 from Italy. Unfortunately they were hit by German anti-aircraft missiles and lost 3 out of their 4 engines.

It was clear they wouldn't be able to complete their mission. So they dropped the bombs over uninhabited area and flew towards the Gorce mountains, where they knew they had a chance to be rescued by the resistance fighters.

Liberator crew, picture taken in their base in Italy

And rescued they were. As they parachuted down, 8 of them were recovered by the Polish partisans and joined their forces. Only the pilot, who jumped out as the last crew member, The plane was already apparently too low and the brave captain didn't survive.

Viewing Tower


When I satisfied my historical curiosity, we went up to a viewing platform (27m high), situated over a large mountain meadow. The visibility wasn't perfect, but still we could see the surrounding mountain ranges. As I am learning to become a Beskidy Mts Guide, I tried to practice naming the visible peaks. Here's a sample - a view towards the majestic Tatras, with peak names provided by PeakFinder, a great app that knows all mountains.

View from Magurki tower

There are four such towers in the vicinity. It's interesting for me to climb them and compare the views. We see the same mountain ranges, but each from a different angle. It's good exercise in recognizing and naming summits.

Mountain meadow at the feet of the Magurki viewing tower

We spent a long time at the tower, taking in the views and enjoying the large swaths of meadows. They used to be pastures for sheep. Now there are no sheep up there, but the National Park authorities maintain the meadows and protect them from being overgrown.

As we descended back to our starting point, I took a photo of the local church. At first I thought it was too big for the little village. But I did like its shape - quite fitting for a church high in the mountains.

Catholic church in Ochotnica Górna, Poland


It was a great hike. Nothing extorting - pure pleasure of hiking. Nature, history, views and a piece of architecture. Did I mention my great company? They were the most important ingredient of that pleasant Sunday. Tomorrow, I hope to meet another HIVEan, @racibo and hike in the same area.

-- Merthin

Entry created for @macfit Super League writing competition - Weekend One

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