Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Tears of a Mountain

The Abandoned Mount Beacon Railway

Written by: Wilk

Photographs: Lassie

Most people like to go the beach on their vacations. Somewhere hot, where there’s a soft ocean breeze and they put little umbrellas in the drinks. I am not one of those people. I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating. And it gets everywhere. (References, we’ve got them.) Personally, I prefer the mountains. Always have. Always will. Whether it be winter or summer, they are my favorite places to visit. There is just something so breathtaking and awe-inspiring about them. I’ve been climbing them my whole life. From my time in the Scouts, up until now. There is just no better feeling than reaching a beautiful mountain top after a long hike. By the way, this will be our 100th post here at Abandoned Wonders, so be warned. There will be a lot of reminiscing moving forward. While vacationing in New York, we decided to climb one of the local mountains – Mount Beacon. Little did we know at the time, this place holds a story and a secret that sets her apart from most mountaintops.

It was once known officially as the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, located in the absolutely beautiful town of Beacon, New York. First established in 1902, the railway was a very popular tourist attraction for much of its heyday. If you have ever rode Mount Washington’s Cog Railway in New Hampshire, this establishment was very similar….just on a much smaller scale. A trolley system ferried guests up the picturesque mountaintop to an old fashioned casino, luxurious hotel, and a gorgeous view of the Hudson River Valley. For decades, this place was a staple of the local community. But as we all know, time stands still for no one. Eventually, financial issues caused the downfall of the railway. And while she went out of business in the 1970’s, she was also added to the list of National Historical landmarks. Unfortunately, not much still stands of the attraction after a vicious case of alleged arson destroyed most of the buildings atop of the mountain. Now, all that remains of this former hotspot are the memories of what once was.

While on our trip to the Hudson River Valley, we decided to take a stop at the nearby Mount Beacon. Having just toured Bannerman Castle the day before, we thought it would be an appropriate follow-up. At first glances, this place appears to be like any other mountain hike. But if you take a closer look, there is so much more than meets the eye. The old train tracks still run down the side of the mountain, like a trail of tears from the former summit. About half-way up, a few old train trolleys rust into oblivion. Honestly, the train tracks are hard to photograph, due to the large amount of vegetation growing around them. A trail of rotting utility polls lead upward like a twisted trail of breadcrumbs. Atop of the mountain, the old wheelhouse lies in ruin. The brick hull of the building crumbles, whilst the heavy machinery inside is actually in pretty decent shape. Minus the myriad of graffiti, of course. But the hotel and casino are long gone, unfortunate victims of the fire that once consumed this lonely mountain. Funny enough, you can even get a great glimpse of Bannerman Castle itself from up here.

I wish I could say that there was more to see here. But this is definitely a piece for all the hikers. And trust me when I say, this was one Hell of a hike. But it also had one Hell of a payoff. It seems the old railway has finally met her doom at the top of Mount Beacon. While there are movements to restore it to its former glory, there is regrettably not much left to save here. The old train tracks are slowly being eaten alive by the forest around them. Where the hotel and casino once stood are now nothing more than ruins. The wheelhouse has become a target for the local vandals. And yet, the view from the top of the pinnacle’s highest peak is still bloody breathtaking. That, my friends, is one thing that will always set this place apart. The Hudson River Valley is truly one the most amazing places I have ever seen. And there is no better place to see it than atop this amazing mountain. Though time seems to march on without the Mount Beacon Railway, nobody will ever be able to take that away.

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” –Greg Child

 

New Day’s Dawn

The Abandoned Scott Tower

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It’s a new day. It’s a new year. It’s a new time. The dawn of 2019 is upon us. Funny enough, it never really feels any different than the previous year to me. At least, not right away that is. The only thing that really tells you its a new year is having to change the date whenever you sign a check. We make our fancy resolutions. We get drunk at our New Year’s Eve parties. We like to think things will be different this time around. But some things never really change. No matter how much we want them to. That’s why I’ve never been such a big fan of the whole “New Year” concept. Life changes faster than the weather around here. But I never needed a calendar to tell me that. But enough of the negativity. Happy New Year everyone! We usually go inactive during this season, but plans change. With the impending viciousness of the New England winter upon us, we took what might be our one last chance until Spring to have our first investigation of 2019. And this time, things were definitely a little bit different.

It gets me every time when I find a place like this having never heard of it before. I actually found out about it on reddit of all places. This is Scott Memorial Tower in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Standing atop Craft Hill, the tower was first built in 1942. The name Scott Tower was bestowed upon this place in honor of local hero Colonel Walter Scott. As part of a venture to build a new park for the area, picnic tables and other amenities sprouted up alongside the tower over the years. With two lookout points, the tower provided a beautiful view of Western Massachusetts. Thus it became one of the jewels of the local community. But this time of prosperity was not to last. A bypass of local highways ended up costing the park in a big way. Attendance steadily began to wain as her former patrons moved on to newer parks. And by the 1980’s, she had fallen into complete despair. There have been several attempts at a revival, but none have come to fruition. Ever since, the once grand tower now stands lost and lonely before her fallen kingdom.

It was only a few days after the New Year that we decided to visit Scott Tower. Being close by, and what was supposed to be good weather (we’ll get to that in a bit), we thought it would be a good time to check out this mysterious place. It was a bit of a spur of a moment type visit. We have explored a lot of places in the Western Massachusetts area over the last year. But this one was a bit different. Located in the now defunct Anniversary Hills park, the tower lies down a forgotten road in a quiet wood. The only other people we encountered on our journey were two elderly women and their three yappy dogs. Interestingly, the best way to the tower is through the now flourishing Community Field. Follow the old path under the highway, and you’ll find the tower. There is even some graffiti on the pavement to give you exact directions. Which was nice. Skeletons of picnic tables still haunt the forest. A once elegant staircase leads up the hill. The old stone spire looms like a ghostly shadow out of the forest. The grey skies provided an elegant backdrop for this ghostly monolith. But the large cellular tower nearby is a bit of a distraction.

I can honestly tell you that Scott Tower is in rough shape. The structure itself is still quite solid. Everything else, however, has fallen into shadow. It was deathly silent here. There was broken glass, garbage, and all sorts of horribly gross shit all over the ground. I’m talking used condoms, hypodermic needles, and bags full of God knows what. Almost every inch of reachable stone has been coated in graffiti. The staircase to the top of the tower is still open though. 21 year old me would’ve jumped at the chance to climb this thing. 27 year old me, however, had motion sickness by the time he reached the top. Seriously. The path to the pinnacle is narrow as Hell, and just seems to go on forever. Watch your step, too. Some steps are broken, and some are just plain gone. I had to lean on the railing the entire way up. There is one stop on the way up which serves as a nice reprieve. Plus its super dark inside, so bring a flashlight. When we finally did reach the top, it started snowing. Like crazy. So we were stuck up there for awhile just watching it fall. But on the brighter side, the view of the Mount Tom valley is just bloody breathtaking.

As far as we know, Scott Tower is completely legal to visit. There is even a sign on the front wall of the tower reading “Enter at Own Risk.” Heed this warning. Perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to its current state of decay. I highly recommend it to anyone in search of adventure. Just please be safe. The area is allegedly home to some rather unsavory characters. Especially at night. And climbing the tower itself is a bit of a beast, especially if you’re 6’3″ like myself. Always watch your step. One thing I will never forget about this place are the robins. It’s rare to see them during this time of year. And yet a flock of six robins followed us through our entire journey to and from the tower. They never made any noise. They just all sat in the trees and watched us. Curious, isn’t it? Given that robins are the harbingers of Spring around here, maybe this was a good omen. Obviously, winter has just begun. But maybe the presence of Connecticut’s state bird is the sign of some sort of New Day. We’ll see what happens.

Hail to the King

The Abandoned Hearthstone Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Happy Fall, everyone. It’s finally here. The leaves are changing colors. The nights are getting colder. The mornings are growing darker. And the scary movies are starting to pop up on television. Though it always feels like such a passing season, each moment of Fall comes with its own personal flair. In some ways, it just might be my personal favorite season. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. This one, however, in particular is special for us. Not only was it our eight year anniversary together, but we finally made it to a place that has haunted us for years. We have made many plans to go see it at many points during our six years of urban exploring. Yet somehow, especially with its looming potential demolition, we never quite made it to this hot-spot. Plus practically every urban explorer in the area has covered this place at least once. This is Hearthstone Castle, a true legend in these parts. If you are reading this, you have most likely heard of or visited this place. And now, after all these years, she finally makes an appearance here on our site.

The history of Hearthstone Castle is brief, but checkered. Located in Danbury, Connecticut, the castle was built in 1895 to a wealthy local family. For years she served as a residence and a summer home for her keepers, much like other places we have covered including Case Cabin and Bannerman Castle. Materials to create and furnish the castle were flown in from around the globe, helping to make this place a palace of luxury. She changed ownership and name many times over the years, before finally being sold to the town of Danbury in 1987. It was here that things began to take a dark turn for the castle. Though it was declared a National Historic Place, the property rapidly began to fall into disrepair. Nobody seemed quite sure what to do with the castle. Many proposals have come and gone with what would be next for the old castle even as nature slowly began to strike back. Today she sits completely abandoned, and has become a favorite place amongst the local urban explorer community.

We really weren’t planning on stopping at Hearthstone. Coming home from New York, we saw that we would be going straight through Danbury. It was a nice day out, and we really didn’t have anything else planned for our journey. And thus, we decided to stop and see the fabled castle. As a hiker and a hunter, finding Hearthstone was disappointing. You park your car. You walk into the woods. And there it is. There is no long hike. There is no hunt through the woods. Its just sitting right there, waiting for you. It was all just too damn easy. I can see why it is a favorite for so many explorers, since you don’t have to do much exploring to find it. And yet, the castle is simply breathtaking. The old stone architecture is unmatched. It is very reminiscent of the nearby Gillette Castle. Birds chirp from the ramparts. A fox scurries amongst the underbrush. And remarkably, not a single NO TRESPASSING or KEEP OUT sign was in sight. A couple random fences still stand, but other than that, the castle is just there for the taking.

I can honestly say that the years have not been kind to Hearthstone Castle. Though her tough stone facade remains unflinching, her interiors have been truly disemboweled. Everything has just been totally gutted. The floors are all gone. And those that still stand are shaky as all Hell. Broken glass and splinters of wood are all over the ground. A few beams from the higher levels still bisect the structure. Graffiti and vandalism runs rampant across the grounds, except for in the higher to reach places. Wild vines and vegetation grow in canopies across the walls and porches. The once great walls that were once occupied by the highest of society are now home to the wrath of nature and vandalism. If your tall, like myself, this place can be a little tricky to navigate. There are a lot of tight spots between the walls, the vegetation, and the debris. I can honestly see why this place has been scheduled for demolition. And yet, through it all, she still remains steadfastly beautiful.

 It was honestly really hard to tear myself away from Hearthstone Castle. I spent a long time just staring at it well after we had finished exploring, trying to take in every tiny detail. It just has a certain magic to it. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting more. When we finally did leave, I had to tell myself not to look back. This was genuinely hard to do. It was sad to think that this was the first, and will probably be the last time that I see the castle. With every year that passes, somebody of importance almost always says that it will be Hearthstone’s final year. Fences are put up. Plans are made. Yet nothing ever comes of it. But I guess that is just the brevity of existence. We’ve got to enjoy life one day at a time. When the time to say goodbye finally comes, it’s important not to look back. And one day Hearthstone Castle will fall, whether it be by the teeth of a bulldozer or the slow decay of time. But no matter what the future may hold for this magical place, it will always be a legend.

Arrested Decay

The Abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

On our last piece written for this site, we got a comment reading:

“Not your best effort :-(“

It really pissed me off. But it pissed me off because it was true. To be fair, it was just another one of our “Top 10 Movies” lists. But still. It made me realize that the quality of our posts has gone down in recent months. Articles were getting shorter and fewer in between. The places we visited weren’t as exciting as they used to be. It’s just that the older we get, the busier we get. That’s just the why life is. Sometimes being an adult sucks. Unfortunately, this means we have less and less time to go exploring. Especially as the blank spaces across the map are steadily being filled in. It’s becoming increasingly harder to find good spots to explore. But you guys deserve better. And so, we’re going to be better. And so this is a place that I personally chose as our comeback piece. It is a landmark that I’ve had my eye on for a long time, and it has truly become one of my favorite places I have ever visited. This, ladies and gents, is the abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry.

Located in the breath-taking town of Becket, Massachusetts, this location is nestled deep in the Berkshire Mountains community. Those of you who follow this site should know by now how much I love the Berkshires. The Chester-Hudson Quarry was a thriving granite business in the community starting in the mid-1800’s. Stone mined from the rich quarry was shipped off to be used all over the country. But, as is a recurring theme of these places, times always change. The need for such commodities eventually began to wane, especially with rising costs and an ever changing economy. With a steadily declining prosperity, the quarry was eventually shut down in the 1960’s. While the workers went home, they left behind many of their tools and equipment to weep in solitude. I don’t know they did this. Maybe they were hoping to return to work someday. But someday never came. Fear not, though. The grounds were saved from commercial development by the local Becket Land Trust.

Our visit to the abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry came on a beautiful misty day in early summer 2018. Full honesty: we visited this place on my 27th birthday. I usually hate my birthday, because everything just seems to go wrong. Luckily for me, today was not one of those days. The rain had luckily missed us during our trip, covering the grounds in a ghostly mist. We were the only visitors there that day, which is the way I like it. From the first steps into the preserve, this place looks like any other New England walking trail. But after a short hike in, you begin to see the remains of the old quarry. A few rusty structures still barely stand. Two mysteriously left behind old trucks slowly rot into the earth. The quarry itself is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You turn the corner from the old wreckage, and boom. There it is.  The water glistens vibrantly in the sun. The deep croaks of the bullfrogs echo across the rocky walls. And for a moment, or two, there is true tranquility to be found. I will truly never forget the first time I saw it.

Atop the hill overlooking the quarry are the remains of the rope system. These were once used to lift large rocks from the quarry for processing. It is a bit of a walk to get to, mostly through the mud and tall grass. But it provides an excellent view of the entire grounds. Much like the town of Bodie, California, the Chester-Hudson Quarry sits in a state of what is called “Arrested Decay,” also known as a “Preserved Ruin.” The structures are not repaired, but they are kept from falling into complete deterioration. It seems to be an ever growing trend across the country. People are looking to preserve what they can while they can. The old lifting machines are quite rusted, but the stiff-arm derrick of the old quarry was, in fact, restored by the local volunteers of the Becket Land Trust. The whole notion gives this place a very unique, almost “abandoned museum” type feel to it. Plaques and info-panels have even been added in some places. Clearly, this place is very loved and well cared for by its owners.

The Chester-Hudson Quarry is completely legal to visit, and I highly suggest this place to all of our readers who are hikers. It may not be pure-blood urban exploration, but it’s still pretty amazing. Personally, it was especially nice to see during the very early days of summer. There is just so much here to see and experience. Sometimes it’s hidden amongst the underbrush. Sometimes it’s right on the trail. A word of caution though to all potential visitors: Salamanders. Salamanders everywhere. We must’ve counted over a hundred small fiery orange salamanders on our walk through these woods. They were just bloody everywhere. So watch your step. They didn’t show up until half way through our visit. But once we started seeing them, they just wound up being everywhere. As summer begins to come into full swing, there really is something magical about this place. It has a hauntingly mystical quality about it, and really is one of the most special places we have ever explored.

BQ5

If you would like to learn more about the Becket Land Trust, please visit their official website – https://becketlandtrust.org/

For Roads Untraveled

The Abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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.”

Fallen Attraction

The Abandoned Gillette Castle Railroad

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

In the absence of light, darkness prevails. When there is no heat, there is only cold. And without love, there is nothing left but despair. It’s funny because Gillette Castle, along with Hublien Tower, was one of my favorite places to visit when I was a kid. A short half-hour drive away, it was one of those magical places to visit and get ice cream at during the heydays of summertime. With its winding trails and classical feel, it truly is a sight to see. I honestly believed I had hiked every inch of this park. But I was wrong. Lost deep in the woods and along the rocky banks of the Connecticut River is the fallen attraction of this fabled place – The Gillette Castle Railroad.

Located in picturesque East Haddam, Connecticut, Gillette Castle was the luxurious and mystical castle of prolific actor William Gillette. With no children to leave his estate to, Gillette left the grounds to the state of Connecticut after his passing. Today it is enjoyed by many for its hiking and wonderful view of the Connecticut River. But unbeknownst to most, myself included for a time, is that there once stood a railroad around the estate. Though it was a small train, which can now be viewed at the Visitor’s Center, tracks once covered the entire grounds to carry visitors from place to place. When it was originally sold off, most of the tracks were ripped up and the old railroad disappeared…but not completely.

We made our trip to Gillette Castle on one of the final weekends of summertime 2017. The park was just as lively as I had remembered it. But far down one of the quieter sides of the grounds lie the remains of the railroad. An old bridge has been closed down for being unstable. Another has collapsed into the underbrush. Far down the cliffs by the roaring Connecticut River stand several old pieces of track and framework. Old rusty barrels rot into the fertile forest floor. But the star of the show is by far the old tunnel. Though it may not run as long as we had hoped, inside is pure unadulterated darkness. With its entrance nearly lost to the woods around it, its certainly a fun little walk through.

A special shout-out of this piece goes to our reader who called himself “Mike.” A few weeks ago, he contacted us with several suggestions of places to visit in his area including the Gillette Castle Railroad. And this place really didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, we really don’t get as much fan interaction as we would like. And we love it when people tell us their stories or suggest places for us to explore. It makes this hobby just a little bit more fun and meaningful. I wish that I had been able to see this railroad during its heyday, but alas, it is no more. Though this is more of a hiking piece, the old train tunnel really is pretty cool. And just as this place was highly recommended for us to visit, I encourage you to do the same.

Welcome Home

The Abandoned Marlborough Commons

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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.