Archive for the ‘Safety First’ Category

For Roads Untraveled

The Abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange

Written by: Sean

Photographs by: Amanda

Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for paths left lone.

‘Cause beyond every bend is a long blinding end.

Its the worst kind of pain I’ve known.”

I could not get this song out of my head as we walked through the abandoned wasteland. We have seen and explored many places across New England in our time. But this one was truly breathtaking. It was like being in another dimension, so close yet so far from civilization. With every step I was expecting this place to just magically come back to life. It is place where time seems to stand still, waiting for man to return to it. We had heard many legends and stories about this place over the years. And with recent rumors of it being redeveloped, we figured it was finally time for us to pay a visit to the abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange.

Connecticut is, and probably always will be, my home. But I can honestly say that it is a place that is no stranger to lucrative, and ultimately foolish, design projects. This is not the first abandoned stretch of highway we have come across, and it probably won’t be the last. With the project originally launching in the 1960’s, it was planned to extend Route 9 North and allegedly connect 291 with the city of Hartford (we have read conflicting information). Things came to a sudden halt in 1973, however, over complications with the local reservoirs in West Hartford. The interchange has lain dormant ever since, trafficked now only by vandals and pigeons.

  Not one NO TRESPASSING sign or anything of the sort was here. The fences were all open or simply taken down. But curiously, the grass and vegetation is definitely being cut and maintained.  There was also plenty of evidence that vehicles have been riding up and down this stretch very recently. Someone has clearly been keeping an eye on this place. Graffiti has been spray painted all over the barren wasteland.  It is deathly silent, except for the faint chorus of the summer bugs. The great steel and concrete bridges show no sign of decay. Farther down the road, the busy I-84 runs like a roaring river below the abandoned interchange.

Finally visiting the abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange was haunting. It is one of those few special places that is a true representation of what life after people looks like. Though there are rumors of revival, and clearly somebody is maintaining it, this place remains nothing more than a broken road.  It is sad to see this industrial titan standing silent and alone, so close to completion. Who knows how much it cost the people of Connecticut. It stands as a grim reminder of a big mistake. Even now as I sit here at my desk writing this reflection, the haunting tune of my favorite Linkin Park song still rings in my head.

“Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for sights unseen.

May your love never end and if you need a friend,

there’s a seat here along side me.”

Welcome Home

The Abandoned Marlborough Commons

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Marlborough, Connecticut, is and always will be my home at heart. I grew up here. I spent my entire childhood and young adult life here. I know this town like no other, especially growing up in the time where kids used their bikes to get everywhere. But as much as I love this little town, so many things have changed about it. Many of the smaller local businesses are no more. Construction is underway on a large supermarket. And many of the people I once knew have moved on. It is simply the way of life. We have covered the abandoned Marlborough Commons shopping center in the past. But several years later, it has taken a grim turn for the worse.

 A mere stone’s throw from the now hustling and bustling center of town lies the now abandoned Marlborough Commons. I can’t tell you exactly what year it officially went under, but I do know that this place never quite picked up traction as a local business. Maybe it was their location, sitting pretty right off the entrance/exit ramp from Route 2. From what I remember, it was always a two-floor business complex with the restaurant a bit further down the lot. Many different establishments came and went from here, none sticking around for too long. The complex limped on as long as it could, and has now sat empty and deserted for almost ten long years.

On a beautiful summer day in 2017, we decided to pay the Marlborough Commons a visit. Though it is still listed as FOR SALE, we did not encounter a single NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT, or PRIVATE PROPERTY sign anywhere on the property. Since the almost three years since our last visit, the Commons has certainly entered a downward spiral. The once minimal vandalism has run rampant at this former shopping center. Windows have been smashed. Doors have been boarded up. Graffiti stains the old brick walls. Farther down the lot, the old cafe is slowly being engulfed by the wild and hungry vegetation.  Nature, much like the vandals, has struck back in a big way.

They say the older we get, the more things we have to leave behind. That’s life. And as my old hometown grows and grows, places like the Marlborough Commons seemingly get left behind. Most of the old businesses I grew up with are now gone. It is sad to see what was once a cornerstone of our local community now sitting in a state of such disrepair. But like I said, a big FOR SALE sign sits out front. The Marlborough Commons is not beyond salvageable yet. I hope to see her rise again someday, stranger things have happened. And if I’ve learned anything growing up in this lovable little community, it’s that you can never count the town of Marlborough out.

My Sweet Summer

The Abandoned Case Cabin

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

What is it about summer time that makes it so magical? To me, it always seems like the shortest season. When I was a kid, August was my least favorite month of the year. And it was because the shadow of September and the dread of going back to school made it so hard to enjoy anything. But July, that was always the best. Vacations. Ice cream. The beach. Hiking. All the best summer memories come from July. And yet it always feels like the shortest month of the year. You had no worries about school, or homework. All that mattered was having fun. But I guess that’s just the brevity of human existence. Enjoy what you can while you can, because time stands still for no man. And few places we have ever visited have experienced such an extreme fall from grace as the once adored now abandoned Case Cabin.

In 1862, two brothers of the well-known Case family purchased two acres around the beautiful Case Reservoir in Manchester, Connecticut, and this is where they built their summer home. The Case family were successful industrialists from the area who owned and operated multiple factories and processing plants. The exquisite log cabin was first built in 1917 using sturdy chestnut wood from the neighboring forests. Throughout the early twentieth century, this place was the vacation paradise of the wealthy Case family. But much like the summer beauty, the prestige of this wondrous place eventually waned. The prestige of the family slowly came to end, and the summer home was eventually left behind.

We have visited Case Cabin many times over the years. And with each passing visit, the magic of the grounds disappears ever so slightly. And this was the visit for us where the most changes had been made to the grounds. There was a time where there were no fences, security systems, and renovations. The back and side decks were once accessible, now removed from existence. The entire back house has even been demolished at this point, leaving only a bare foundation of stone walls and broken memories. While a family of chubby bunnies now happily resides within the perimeter, the entire Case Cabin has been sealed off by a chain link fence. A few yards away, the boat house still stands. An old swimming ladder still pokes out of the nearby pond.

Much like the passing days of summer, the time for Case Cabin seems to be sadly drawing to a close. Though she was once enjoyed by the local high society, today she is nothing more than a withering spirit. She is lost to the slow decay of time, at the mercy of the unstoppable sands of the hourglass. But that’s what makes places like this, and summer itself, enjoyable. We know that our time is short, which is what drives us to make the best and most out of each moment. She once had a flourishing history and pedigree. But those days are gone. The sun is slowly setting on this once wondrous and wealthy place. Case Cabin will inevitably be gone someday. But the memories will always be with us.

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” -Troy (2004)

Days Gone By

The Abandoned Car Graveyard

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

We’ve been covering a lot of outdoor stuff recently. But hell, with the weather having been so nice lately, and after a really shitty winter, why not? This place has always been one of my favorites to visit. And before you ask, no we will not be revealing the location of it. People have inquired to us in the past about finding it so in an attempt to scavenge metal and parts from the wrecks. So in an effort to preserve them, we will regrettably not be saying how to find this graveyard. Apologies. But what I can tell you is that it rests alongside the banks of a quiet river on the far reaches of the state. It is quiet as a tomb, and almost entirely untouched by the hands of man.

To the untrained eye, this is merely a quiet wooded area. The only sounds are the faint chirping of the birds and the ambiance of the running river. Unfortunately these woods were also full of ticks. We pulled twelve of those little suckers off us combined. But past the old broken bridge and up the wooded pass lies the most unique graveyard I have ever seen. In place of a line of tombstones, the wrecks of a half dozen classic cars and trucks lie deteriorating into the forest floor. Snakes roam about their interiors. Frightened families of mice roost in their rusted roofs. And these once priceless beauties are now nothing more than piles of junk.

 I have tried to find information about the history or story of this graveyard, but have yet to uncover anything. If anyone has any information, we’d be happy to hear it. How did these old cars get here? The road and any nearby homes are in fact a good distance away. Who did they belong to? Surely someone a long time ago must have once cared for these old wrecks. What strange chain of events led them to their current state? It’s not everyday you see a graveyard of old cars. In good condition, some of these may have been worth a fortune today. In the days gone by, they were once beloved and reliable machines. But now they rot in pieces in a forgotten section of the wild woods.

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” -Ecclesiastes 1:4-11  

Up Horsebarn Hill

The Abandoned UCONN Ski Slope

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

We’ve taken a walk up Horsebarn Hill several times in the past. It’s beautiful out there. It is a much needed touch of farm life a mere stone’s throw away from a hustling and bustling city. Going to school close by, and having many friends up on the campus, the University of Connecticut is a place that I am all too familiar with. But what’s special about this campus is no matter how much you think you know about it, it can still surprise you. We have covered the abandoned corners of UCONN in the past, such as the Depot Campus. And we had heard rumors about the old ski slope for a long time. But now, after all this waiting, we finally went looking for it.

Opening in the 1960’s, the UCONN Ski Slope was at first a booming attraction. Open to both the public and the student body, it was one of many smaller skiing areas to pop up in the area as the sport began to reach its popularity. Sadly, though, most of these smaller ski areas did not survive for long. It was a single slope attraction, featuring a rope tow system to the top of the hill and a few smaller buildings to boot. The UCONN Ski Slope eventually faced its closure a mere ten years later due to budgetary restrictions and a changing climate. It is now a piece of history lost to the wilderness, and something that the campus seems to want to forget.

It was a beautiful Saturday in the waning days of Spring 2017 . We made the trek through the woods and onto Horsebarn Hill, but found only the skeletal remains of the UCONN Ski Slope. Any and all buildings have been lost to the heavy hands of time. The ghostly rope tow system still leads straight to the top of the hill, though her path is now only used by the local deer and coyotes (which we encountered both of on our trip). A few old rusted pieces of metal lie amongst the underbrush. And the main hub of the rope system still stands at the bottom of the hill…barely. Still, it is a very nice hike through what may be the quietest corner of the UCONN campus.

If you’re up for an adventure, take a walk up Horsebarn Hill sometime. You never know what you’ll come across.

The Bridge of Death

The Abandoned Willimantic River Railway

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

“He who approaches the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, heir the other side he see.” Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

I love this quote. I always have. My friends and I used to quote this and all the other great lines from the immortal British classic all the time. Hell, I still quote it every once in awhile. It may sound a little extreme for this piece, but there has never been a structure we’ve come across that is more menacing than the abandoned bridge that was once the lifeline of the Willimantic River Railway. We’ve crossed it once before, and it was quite an exhilarating experience. Until our way back across it when the old structure began to creak. That is not a sound you ever want to hear when you’re standing fifty feet in the air over the running waters of the Willimantic River. Heart-stopping as it was, we did make it back safely.  It is an experience that I shall never forget. Though it may have been a bit scary, it was a nice thrill ride to conquer the bridge. Since then, we unofficially christened the old bridge with the quotable nickname. That was over two years ago. So in the early days of spring 2017, we decided to return to the Bridge of Death.

 The official entrance to the Willimantic River can be found on Columbia Avenue. Sitting right before the Columbia/Windham town line, the area is technically a part of the Hop River State Park Trail. Commonly used for biking and hiking, the trail begins here and extends all the way to the Vernon town line. It is describes as a perfect two mile ride or walk for your average outdoorsmen, but it wasn’t always this way. In the mid 1990’s, the town of Willimantic was a hotspot for railways and train yards. One of the older and more prominent lines ran across the picturesque Willimantic River. However, a fierce rainy season during the summer of 1955 caused major flooding in the area. The flooding permanently crippled some of the bridges on the Willimantic River line, causing it to be decommissioned shortly after. Following its closure, the land was converted into a recreational area. The former railway bed was removed and covered with gravel, making the paths perfect for bikers. It is now managed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy and Protection, and maintained by local volunteers and organizations. However, not everything was removed from this former railway line.

Returning to the abandoned Willimantic River Railway was quite different than our first visit. The multiple tent cities had been completely cleared out. A few pieces of junk were still left behind, most notably some beat up bedroom furniture and a deck of playing cards. But the bridge itself still proudly stands…barely. Though she may look just as sardonically beautiful as she once was, we chose not to cross it this time. The old wooden supports for this former workhorse have taken a turn for the worse. And though the water was exceptionally high that day, it was still not worth the risk of crossing it again. Adventurer’s beware. Around the bridge, a lot of old track is still standing. Farther down the line, a couple chunks of old machinery can still be found. Even without crossing the bridge, it is still truly a sight to marvel at. It is a relic of the past, and a testament of fortitude to its original crafters. And while the world around her continues to change at a whirlwind pace, the Bridge of Death is still standing.

Top 5 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

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Top 5 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Hiking is the whole reason we ever got into this. We accidentally stumbled upon the abandoned Sunrise Resort while hiking at a state park in Moodus. The rest is history. When we plot an investigation, it is usually to go explore something like a big abandoned building. But every once in awhile, we come across a place that may not be as exciting as an abandoned asylum but is still a fun place to hike. There may not be too much to see, but its nice to just be outdoors and do some exploring. Here are a few of our favorite abandoned places across New England to go hiking!

#5 – Manchester Drive-In (Manchester, CT)

This is another place that we just accidentally stumbled upon. While driving home from the office, I would see a large skeletal frame looming out of the woods. I thought it was just an old billboard, but upon further exploration we uncovered that it was actually the ruins of the old Manchester Drive-In movie theater. Unfortunately, there is not much to see here. But the old sign still sits out front, and the old screen looms high and daunting in the sky. With good weather, it is a really nice hike.

#4 – Aspinwall Hotel (Lenox, MA)

And once again, this was another place we just found. We were staying up in the Berkshires as I had a big audition up there. We went for a short walk by our hotel, and found the ruins of the Aspinwall Hotel. Once one of the most popular hotels in all of New England, this former hotspot was burned to the ground at the turn of the century. Now only ghostly ruins still stand all over the woods. But the picturesque mountain view and the lovely wooded setting make this one a very cool visit.

#3 – Willimantic River Railway (Willimantic, CT)

This place can be a little spooky. It was once part of the lifeblood of the rail system all along the East Coast. Now, she is nothing more than a shadow of her former self. The local homeless population uses this area from time to time as a makeshift tent community. But they periodically seem to get kicked out. Plus stretching over the untamed Willimantic River still stands the old tressell, aka The Bridge of Death. Crossing it is certainly one thing that we crossed off our bucket list. Watch your step, and don’t look down.

#2 – Shade Swamp Shelter (Farmington, CT)

This is certainly one of the more unique and underrated places that we have ever visited. It really doesn’t get enough attention. Once a wildlife shelter and sanctuary, this historic landmark now sits empty in the middle of the woods just off a very busy road. Along a winding trail, there are dozens of old enclosures, cages, and habitats that once housed the former residents of this shelter. On a nice sunny day, this place is not only great for hiking but is also a treasure trove for all you nature photographers out there.

#1 – Nike Missile Site (Portland, CT)

Our number one pick just happens to be in the middle of a state forest. It may be a gigantic pain in the ass to get to, but its really worth it if you can make the trip. Unpaved roads, untamed wilderness, and a total lack of other people can hinder your journey. But if you can find the lost Nike Missile site deep in the woods, you’re in for a real treat. The two sites are about a mile from each other. One features a few still standing structures. The other still has its tunnel system (which we recommend you stay out of). Of all the places on this list, this one is truly all about exploration.

And that’s our list! Got any other places you think are great for hiking? Be sure to let us know! Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe.