Posts Tagged ‘Farmington’

Feeding the Birds

The Abandoned Batterson Park

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Last September, we finally moved out of the city. It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Not just because of Covid, or the ever increasing crime rate. I just really missed the woods. I missed looking out my front door and seeing trees. I missed waking up to the sounds of birds singing. I missed looking up at the stars on dark nights. You get none of that in the city. One thing we started doing again was feeding the birds. In the city, you basically get the same batch of shrewd little birds day in and day out. But we thought, now that we’re out in the country, we might finally get some interesting avian visitors. But we were wrong. For the first few weeks, that is. We bought our bird seed. We set up our feeder. And we waited. But nobody came. The feeder stayed quiet for days on end. No birds would even come near it. Until one day a large redheaded woodpecker, whom I have come to call The Harbinger, showed up. He came from the woods in our backyard, as if driven by some otherworldly force. He ate from the feeder until he nearly burst. When he was finished, he perched himself up on the railing of our deck, and began to sing. His calls pierced through the trees and echoed through the forest. And before long, birds of all shapes and sizes began flocking to the feeder. All at once. They had heard the call, and they had come to feed.

Allow me to introduce the subject of our June article: the abandoned Batterson Park. This is another one that I have had my eye on for a long time and one that no other major explorers have covered. I have always been a sucker for abandoned parks. There’s just something really special about them and the stories of how they got this way. It’s just fascinating how a place like this eventually fades away from thought and time. Even after being enjoyed by so many for so long. First established in the early twentieth century, Batterson Park was created from land once designated as a reservoir. It is unique in that it covers three different towns. Though the park is officially under the Hartford system, it actually exists outside of the city limits. The landmass of the park stretches across parts of Farmington and New Britain. It is all centered around the large and aptly named Batterson Park Pond. But this uniqueness would eventually lead to the park’s downfall. For many years, the towns that Batterson Park belonged to were never able to reach a deal on who would be paying to maintain the park and its amenities. In the fall of 2015, the park was forced to close its doors for good due to budget cuts. It has remained shuttered and forgotten ever since. Many deals and sales have been proposed over the years, but nothing has yet to come to fruition.

As I mentioned to you earlier, this place had been on my radar for awhile. We just never quite had the time to check it out. But, since it’s just about summertime, we were in the market for some new shoes. And let me tell you, there is no better place for explorer shoes than REI in West Hartford. No, we aren’t getting paid to say that. They’re just that good. Check them out if your outdoorsy. Since it was a nice day, after shoe shopping, we decided to take a stop at the nearby abandoned Batterson Park. It is a quiet section of town. And arriving at the deserted park is a little perplexing. The gate is down. But there are several heavily trafficked paths around it. There are signs up saying that the park has been closed. But then there are other signs welcoming you to the park and listing its hours. Mixed messages. No matter. Sitting right alongside the beautiful Batterson Pond, the park is easily accessible. We weren’t too sure about being there at first, but after running into a few other young adults with their dogs, our worries were laid to rest. The abandoned park may be on the small side, but there is also quite a lot to see. Walking through the old gates, you are immediately greeted by a rotting sign. It lists the admission prices to the park from days long since past. My how times have changed. And as we continued down the road, things just got more interesting.

Things are quiet. Very quiet. There has clearly been some fire damage here, as one building near the entrance has been completely burned out. Most of the other buildings have been boarded up, but a few can still be accessed. Inside you will find nothing but old equipment and lots of chairs. The beach’s dock is still floating in the waters of the pond. Several old lifeguard chairs rot off to the side. A maintenance shed sits wide open, and it is full of old disused equipment. A basketball court and pavilion are slowly being overgrown. Forgotten grills and fire pits still stand amongst the brush. The main boathouse curiously still has a few boats under its roof, but they appear to be in good condition. Let’s keep it that way. Perhaps they are just being stored there. But the main star attraction, and the whole reason I am writing this article, is the sea of picnic tables. A little way’s down the main path, there are dozens of derelict picnic tables standing in formation. Their green paint is slowly peeling. Bushes and vegetation is engulfing them. And combined with the dead silence of the old park, they provide a very eerie spectacle to behold. They truly encapsulated the sad story of the abandoned park. A place that was once designed for recreation and fun, now lies empty and cold. The memories stacked up and locked away like these ghostly old picnic tables.

The abandoned Batterson Park was certainly a unique visit. Though there was not too much to see here, the silent army of forgotten picnic tables really provided a haunting window into this place’s long lost past. Plus the park appears to be relatively untouched by the outside world. For now, that is. Who knows what the future holds. It reminded me very much of our bird feeder when we first moved in. You see, we urban explorers are like the wild birds. When one of us finds something good, they usually let out a song of their own to beckon others to come get a taste. And though I do not consider myself The Harbinger, I know that by posting this article, many other explorers will soon be coming to take a look at Batterson Park. And one of the most interesting things I have noticed from feeding the birds is that there are two types of visitors. First, there is the Chickadee. They are beautiful yet simple birds. They come to the feeder, eat their share of food, and then sing a small song before flying off. But then, there is the Grackle. They are obnoxious and disruptive. They scare away the other birds, eat more than their share, and usually knock over our whole feeder. Ruining things for everyone. Most of you reading this, I know, will be quiet and respectful. Like the Chickadees. Some, however, will be loud and destructive. Like the Grackles. Which will you be?

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.”

Top 10 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

Posted: March 20, 2017 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Drive-In, abandoned home, Abandoned Hospital, Abandoned House, abandoned military bases, abandoned mill, abandoned new england, Abandoned Railway, Abandoned train station, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Berkshires, Bolton, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, dreams, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, Fortress, Forts, Graveyard, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, Massachusetts, Military, Military Forts, Mystery, nature, new england, Nike Missile Base, overgrown, photography, Portland, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Top 10 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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!

#10 – Mount Beacon Railway (Beacon, New York)

This may be this most difficult hike on the list, but it is also the most rewarding. In the absolutely beautiful town of Beacon, New York, lie the ruins of the old mountain railway. In the days long since passed, there was a train which ferried passengers to the top of Mount Beacon during the summer/fall seasons. At the summit was a casino and visitor center. Sadly, a terrible fire destroyed this former tourist attraction. Now you can follow the ghostly ruins of the old railway to the top, where you are rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view of the Hudson River Valley.

#9 – Cohasset Naval Annex (Hingham, Massachusetts)

Fair warning, there will be a lot of military installations in this piece. Located just east of the city of Boston, this former Naval base was once a cornerstone of the local community. It employed hundreds of locals, and served as a watchdog for the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. But, like many military bases from this timeframe, she eventually outlived her purpose and was converted into a state park. There is still plenty to see here, and a few bunkers are still accessible to the public.

#8 – Gillette Castle Railroad (East Haddam, CT)

Smack dab in the middle of one of the most popular parks in Connecticut lies a place that many have forgotten. Gillette Castle was once of the home of prolific stage actor William Gillette. Following his passing a decade ago, he left the grounds to the State of Connecticut to become a public park. But what many don’t know is that the estate once had its own small railway system. There isn’t too much left to see here, but the old train tunnel is a very cool place to walk through.

#7 – 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.

#6 – 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.

#5 – 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.

#4 – 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.

#3 – Nike Missile Site (Portland, CT)

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.

#2 – Rutland Prison Camp (Rutland, Massachusetts)

This place is consistently one of our most popular articles on this site. Located deep in what is now Rutland State Park, the ruins of this old prison lie off the beaten path. Many years ago, this place served as a county jail for small time offenders. They worked off their sentences doing menial tasks related to farm work. But when complications with the local wetlands arose, the prison was forced to close down. What remains are a few old buildings, a small tunnel system, and a very nice hike in. Check it out sometime.

#1 – Chester-Hudson Quarry (Beckett, Massachusetts)

There are honestly few abandoned places that stick with me as much as this one does. Seriously. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Abandoned in the 1920’s, the Chester-Hudson Quarry was once one of the largest distributors of stone in all of New England. Following her closure, a noble group of conservationists were able to save the land from real-estate developers and preserve it as a public park. The ruins of the quarry are kept in a state of “arrested decay.” This means they are not repaired, but are maintained just enough so they don’t completely fall apart. It is a very nice walk, just watch out for salamanders.

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.

Into the Cages

The Abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I have always hated seeing animals in cages, for as long as I can remember. Few things in life make me sadder than that. As a kid, I never liked going to the zoo or even the aquarium. Whereas most children found seeing the animals to be quite a fun and exciting experience, I felt only despair. Seeing what was once a wild animal trapped inside a cage always brought about feelings of sadness and anger. I can’t really explain it. I mean, not all cages are bad. Zoos aren’t the only ones to keep animals in cages. Animal shelters and rescue facilities keep their residents in cages, but for better reasons. Healing of injured animals or protecting endangered ones are a noble task indeed. But still, the thought of freedom being taken away is a dark one. And the image of cage can be a frightening one, especially when its been abandoned for many years.

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Our subject of this piece is a peculiar one: the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter in Farmington, Connecticut. It is a far cry from most of the pieces we have done on here. First established in the early 1930’s, the purpose of the shelter has varied over the years. The rustic log shelter that has since become its signature was originally designed and built by the historic Civilian Conservation Corps. It has ranged from being a roadside attraction to being a wildlife sanctuary. One of its nobler pursuits was being home for wildlife rehabilitation. The sanctuary was based in the Shade Swamp, and featured a variety of enclosures for injured wildlife. It sadly went under during the 1960’s, and has been more or less abandoned ever since. A stroke of luck, however, came in 1986 when the shelter was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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We made the trek to the abandoned shelter in the waning days of summer 2016. The heat was beginning to die down, and the first glimpses of the fall season were just sprouting up. Sitting alongside the heavily trafficked US 6 North, the Shade Swamp Shelter is not difficult to find. It is almost hard to believe what is hidden back there when you first see it. The area surrounding it is teaming with traffic, busy intersections, and office buildings. But here in the swamp, everything is quiet. Upon arrival, there is a small pull-up spot where a few cars can be parked. Luckily, we were the only visitors there that day. You are then greeted with the old structure of the shelter itself. Though it has clearly been taken care of, there is also sadly evidence of vandalism and a recent fire inside of it. Given its age though, I’d say she looks pretty good. But it is further down the trail that the true hidden gems of this place lie.

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A short walk down the winding and nearly overgrown nature trail, we found the cages. Rusted to all Hell and in varying ranges of decay, there are nearly two dozen large pen cages lining either side of the trail. The ones on the right side are smaller, and feature stone dens at the back. The ones on the left side are much larger and have blue painted exteriors. Off the beaten path there is one bigger enclosure that is far different from the others, and was in the worst shape. The rusty fence is still up in a few places, and a few gagged pieces of metal are still nailed to a few of the trees. Be careful where you step. The trail will lead you further into the swamp, but circles back in one big loop. After the cages, you will find a few old relic from the sanctuary’s heyday, but nothing truly of note. The strange aura and mystique of these large abandoned enclosures are enough of a sight to see. You can even set foot inside a few of them, if you are brave enough.

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What is it about cages that make them so unsettling? Is it the thought of being trapped with nowhere to hide? Or is it something more? Perhaps the very notion of that precious freedom that we all seem to take for granted being taken away is what makes them so unsettling. Anyhow, the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter is a great visit for anyone looking for a good hike and adventure seekers. There are no abandoned buildings or asylums here: just the remnants of a place long forgotten. It literally sits a few meager yards from a hustling and bustling community. But everything is silenced by the aura of the swamp. Chipmunks and birds roam freely here, making their homes into these old enclosures. Their world is seemingly untouched by ours out here. And though these cages now sit empty, they stand as a grim reminder of what was and what could have been.