Posts Tagged ‘hiking trails’

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

 

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/

Winter is Coming

The Abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

Winter is coming. The leaves have fallen from the trees. The temperature has dropped. It started snowing on my ride into the studio this morning, which I was totally not expecting. If you’re not familiar with it, New England’s winter can be unpredictable and unforgiving. One day it will be beautiful, the next it will be brutal. Plus with the chaos of the holiday season fast approaching, things usually slow down for us a bit here at Abandoned Wonders. Winter is just not a great time for exploring. So we decided to get one last big adventure in before the outdoor season comes to an end. And what better place than the abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry?

Located in the nearby Rocky Hill, Connecticut, Quarry Park was a place I had never heard of. Credit to this find actually goes to onlyinyourstate.com, which is an excellent place to find fun hikes and places to visit. They recently included this park in one of their articles,  and being so close to us, we naturally had to go check it out. For years, Rocky Hill Quarry was a large and profitable business. But times change. Following the closure of the quarry in the 1950’s, the land was eventually rechristened as Quarry Park. With an excellent view of the town and a nice two-mile hike, it is well worth a visit. But it is what’s left of the old quarry that make this place interesting.

The first item to greet you on the walk are the ruins of what is identified on the map as a 1936 Buick, which is now only a rusted hunk of metal. Much further down the line, off a side trail, is what we believe is called The Cave. A short, but rather steep, climb up the rock face will bring you to the first real signs of the abandoned quarry. A few pieces of old machinery rot into the earth, but an old tunnel runs into the side of the cliff. Inside is just one large empty room. Though it is clearly frequented by someone given the contents we found inside. And, much like most stops on this trip, everything was coated in colorful graffiti.

A bit farther down the trail are what remains of the old compressor house and machinery. At quick glance, this place looked very much like some old ancient ruins. With its large stone pillars and intricate design, it makes for a very interesting sight. The layers of vibrant graffiti almost breathe new life into these old structures. The compressor house itself is large and open inside, with a big window in the middle of the ceiling. Many of its old items (including a door, mattress, tools, and a lawnmower) lie strewn about outside it. All kinds of old metal and rocks coat the ground, so always watch your step.

If this is the last place we get to visit this season, I will not be disappointed. The abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry is more than worth a look. Despite the cold, it was a really nice hike and we were able to get some excellent photographs. It is a very unique place, reminding me very much of Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island. Here massive stone structures are a relic from another era, that show no signs of breaking down. And the colorful coat of graffiti makes what should be a dreary place into a far more fascinating one. So if you have time, definitely consider visiting this one sometime soon. After all, winter is coming.

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.

Imaginary Monsters

The Abandoned Downs Road

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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…

 

Up Horsebarn Hill

The Abandoned UCONN Ski Slope

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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.