Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

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.”

Fallen Attraction

The Abandoned Gillette Castle Railroad

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

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.

Imaginary Monsters

The Abandoned Downs Road

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Our imaginations can be fickle things. Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us. Sometimes we can play tricks on our minds. Is it the truth of the mind or the truth of the eyes that can be trusted most? There is a place where the two find a strange sort of middle ground: where both reality and fantasy become one strange amalgamation. The woods of Bethany, Connecticut, are certainly one of the most haunting forests I have ever trekked through. And I was an Eagle Scout. Nestled deep within their fiery core lies a place that time seems to have forgotten. It is a place that has seen more myths and stories pop up about it than any other abandoned place we’ve visited – Downs Road.

There really isn’t much to say about the history of Downs Road. It is a wooded stretch of road that once connected the towns of Bethany and Hamden, Connecticut. But some hundred years ago, a bypass occurred that left a fraction of the road abandoned. Since then, it has become a mythical breeding ground of rumors, urban legends, and haunting. Stories of ghosts, monsters, and all sorts of paranormal madness have been told over the years. Some say they have seen ghosts and other spirits haunting the forest. Others claim to have encountered a wild feral group of humans. It is unclear how or why all of these stories came to be. But clearly people are seeing and/or experiencing something on this lost lonely road.

We made the trek to Downs Road during the early days of Summer 2017. A fierce and torrential rain had just subsided, giving way to clear blue skies. We parked at the Bethany end of the road, greeted by several old stop signs and a yellow gate. The property is apparently owned by the local water company, but we did not find any NO TRESPASSING signs along the road. A walk down it is like a walk into a dreamland. A mere few steps along the path plunges you into a peacefully lively forest. The road is paved at certain points, yet mostly rubble at others. Running alongside it are many old crumbling foundations from days long since passed. The mysterious woods run wild as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes our eyes see what we want them to see. As I passed through the abandoned Downs Road, I could not shake the feeling that I was being watched. Shadows darted around the corners of the tall trees. Though only a short distance from civilization, the forest is as quiet as a tomb. And while we encountered no monsters on our trip, there is certainly a foreboding presence about this place.  I’m not sure what people are seeing out here in these mysterious woods. But it is undeniable that there is some sort of mystique about this place that separates it from all others. Maybe all the legends and stories just give it a bad rep. Or maybe it is something more…

 

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.

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.

One Day Too Late

The Abandoned Ladd School

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Let me start this off by saying that this was a spontaneous visit. We didn’t really plan on searching for this lost legend, it just happened to be on our way. Rhode Island is one of my favorite places to visit in all of New England. I make several trips a year up there to work on movies, but its rare we go up there together to explore abandoned places. We had just finished our exploration of the Enchanted Forest, and were on our way to an audition of mine. I had heard many stories about the Ladd School. Some said that it had been demolished years ago. Others said that pieces of it still stood. A quick stop at Google Maps and around the web proved to be inconclusive. Some said it had been destroyed. Others said that certain buildings could still be seen and explored. With its location a mere stone’s throw away from us, we decided to check it out. It appears now that we were too late.

Much like most mental institutions in the area, the Ladd School has seen many different names and purposes over the years. Before earning its current name, the facility was formerly known as “The Exeter School” and “The Rhode Island School for the Feeble Minded.” Opening in the early 1900’s, the institution began as an experimental program to train the intellectually disabled on basic life and farm skills. But over the years the Ladd School evolved into something else entirely. Unfortunately, much like most similar institutions, she suffered from overcrowding, public disapproval, and scandals. She limped on up until 1993, when her doors were finally closed for good. For years, she was left empty and desolate. She became a hotspot for local ghost hunters and independent film makers. The order for her demolition finally came a few years later. Certain buildings were razed, others found life by being re-purposed.

When we arrived on the grounds on that chilly early March day, it was hard to believe that this was once one of the most well known schools in the area. The grounds are unrecognizable today. We drive around for a long time without finding anything that even resembling the stories we had read. There was a large soccer field there. A few multi-purpose buildings stood around. Large groups of people were jogging and/or walking around the grounds. We almost thought we were in the wrong place. Until we came upon a quiet pocket of the area. Standing far off from any visitors was a memorial for the old grounds. Protected by a stone wall, it almost looked like a graveyard. But in the center of it all sits a plaque detailing the history of the Ladd School. It appears that this may be all that is left of the now famous school. There may be more evidence out there, but we weren’t able to find it. It seems that the old Ladd School is gone. All that remains is this quiet memorial, and memories long since passed.