Friday, December 18, 2015

Stuck in the mud.

Today certainly started out well ... exploring and taking pictures with my friends, Shawn and Scott. We went to an abandoned bar, an abandoned house and an abandoned hospital all before lunch. Lunch was at a small pub in Monticello and that was fun, too. Afterwards they had to hit the road so I kept exploring. After all, I still had a good three hours of daylight left.

Off I went. 

I knew there was an old abandoned camp nearby, off of Anawana Lake Rd, but I had not been there in over 10 years. I looked at Google Maps on my iPhone and then headed up Anawana Lake Rd. I passed a large white house and some smaller buidlings that all seemed to be abandoned. This was not the camp I was looking for, but it felt like I was in the right area.

In my mind, the road I was looking for would have been to the left of the big white house. I turned on to what looked like a driveway ... but it went further, behind the house and beyond the property into the woods.

Even if this might not be the road I was looking for, it certainly was interesting. What the hell is back there, anyway? I kept driving and passed two large empty containers. Not sure what was going on there.

By now, the road was no longer paved. I kept on going, anyway. It had quickly gone from gravel to mud. Not good. I'm not stupid. I quickly turned my car around to leave. Great, it wouldn't go forward, or backward. I was stuck in the mud. I'm an idiot.


It was only 1:40 in the afternoon and I was already stuck in the fucking mud.

Next thing ya know, my car starts sliding backwards. All I could think of was that if I could get to a dry spot I could at least drive the fuck out of there. Maybe I could drive through the woods. No such luck. My car slid and slid and slid until I was even further from where I needed to be.

Okay, time to stop fucking around. I'll be okay. I have a phone. I'm an adult. Tried to call my friend Shawn but the call wouldn't go through. I tried to send a text. No such luck. I called AAA several times and the call dropped each time. I was getting nervous and having trouble working my phone. My hands were shaking and my mouth was getting very dry. I had suddenly turned into a fumbling old person and the view from my windshield was scaring the shit out of me. 

I could see the abandoned white house in the distance so I couldn't be THAT far from the main road, could I? I kept trying and finally got through to someone at AAA and explained what happened. I also tried to explain where I was. I knew I was off of Anawana Lake Rd, about a mile into the woods, but how the hell would anyone know where that was? The voice on the phone asked me what I was doing there ... and if I was a surveyor. I said, "no, I thought I was on a road that connected with another road ... but apparenlty it doesn't."

I was starting to feel better ... 

... then the call dropped. 

Mother fuck. 

Out of frustration I got out of the car and walked through the mud to the main road. Every time I passed the big abandoned white house I wondered if someone was actually in there ... watching.  Damn, it was getting cold and stupid ass me didn't have anything but a sweatshirt. I looked at my iPhone and it was now 39°. I was shivering and prayed that every car heading up the road towards me was going to be the tow truck coming to my rescue. 

After a few minutes, my fucking phone had drained so fast that I thought I'd better go back to my truck and get my charger. The problem with that was, if the tow truck drove by while I was away from the road I'd be screwed. I went back to the car anyway, grabbed my charger and then walked back to the main road and stood there like a big moron. 

But wait a minute. Why was my goddamn phone dead?  My charger was completely drained. Holy shit! I walked back to the car and plugged my phone into the USB port and left it there. I was really getting pissed and frustrated but knew I had to be on the main road in order for the tow truck to spot me. For all I knew, they already drove by.

Within 20 minutes a tow truck from AAA finally showed up. Praise Jesus. The driver was a young kid and not a friendly one. He grunted at me and then drove as far as he could and stopped just before the gravel road turned into mud.

He got out of his truck and walked the rest of the distance. He took a few pictures with his phone and then came back. He told me that he couldn't help me cause if he did — his truck would also end up getting stuck in the mud. He said he'd send the pictures to his boss to see what they could do. Since there was no signal where we were ... HE LEFT and said he'd be back. 

I was alone again. 

It was about 3PM now and it was very cloudy. 

I just kept thinking, "What if he never comes back?" "What if it gets dark?" "What am I going to do?" "What is that banjo I keep hearing?"

I went back to my car again — this time to check on my phone. IT WAS ONLY 9% CHARGED. IT WAS NOT CHARGING. What the fuck is going on here? I had a total panic attack and tried to call my friend Javier. When he answered the phone I started rambling like a lunatic, as I watched the phone drain before my eyes. I told him what happened and that the tow truck dude had left but said he was coming back. I sent Javier my location and it went through. At least someone knew where I was if the tow truck dude never came back.

He did come back, thank God. 

He told me that it would cost $500 to get me out of the mud because my truck was too far from dry land for their cable to reach and he'd have to go get a bulldozer. 

I said, "fine" but inside I was screaming, "FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?"

He left again ... and said he'd be back. 

After 45 minutes I was starting to panic again. It would be dark by 4:30 and the thought of that was really freaking me out. I called AAA again and it went through. I asked what was going on and they said that someone should be back to help me soon.

Sure enough, the same kid came back only this time he had a flatbed truck, a buddy and a bulldozer. Neither one of those guys spoke to me or even looked at me. It was so strange. Maybe they were pissed cause I was ruining their afternoon. They got the bulldozer off of the flatbed truck and rode it down to where my truck was stuck. I walked behind them the entire way feeling like the worlds biggest loser. 

Tow truck dude got in my truck, and put it in neutral, while the other dude pulled it with the bulldozer. I prayed that I hadn't left "The Partridge Family Christmas Album" playing on the car stereo ... not that I even have it. 

Once again, and for the last time, I walked alllll the way back to the mother fucking road — following the bulldozer and my own freaking car. My shoes were covered in mud!

Once on the paved road, they unhooked the bulldozer and drove it back up on to the flatbed truck. I got in my car and handed over my credit card. That was it. Tow truck dude called it in and then handed it back to me. He mumbled, "Happy Holidays" with a lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.

I said, "Happy Holidays" back and drove out passed the big abandoned white house ...

... which I will have to go back to — and check out some day.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The House That Tried To Kill Me

Today I explored an abandoned farmhouse that I originally spotted on Google Earth. From the aerial view, I could tell it was going to be spectacular in person. It appeared to be far from the main road and far from where I would have to park — but that wasn't going to stop me. Once I got to the area, I figured out that I would have to walk about a mile to and from my car. No problem. I grabbed my phone and my camera and walked until I was standing in front of this incredible, old, dilapidated farmhouse. Love it when that happens. It was right out of a horror movie ... weathered and crumbling and surrounded by crazy-ass trees. 

The best part? The front door was open.

Before going in, I wanted to scope out the area. I wandered around the exterior of the house and took a few pictures. Out back I found an old discarded motorcycle that was prettty cool. 

After a few minutes of exploring, I approached the front of the house and headed in cautiously. Immediately inside the front door was the living room. One wall was completely gone and the ceiling above was caving in. It was as if the back half of the house had been completely chopped off. That tells you what kind of shape this house was in:BAD. That should have been my first clue to get the fuck out. #idiot #moron #dumbass

To my right was a old brick fireplace, a cluster of living room chairs, a table, a broken TV set and a bunch of old 8-track tapes. How long had this place been abandoned — 40, 50 years? I pictured it in the middle of the night and in all kinds of crazy weather: hot and humid summer days, thunderstorms ... snowstorms. Good Lord. In my head I saw it all whizzing by on fast-forward.
I made my way around the first floor and into another room that had a fireplace and set of stairs. It was so dark that I couldn't really tell how safe the floor was. I took a few pictures from the doorway, to be safe. I hate to use a flash if I don't have to, so I lit up the room with my flashlight.

In one area of the same room, on the floor, was a skeleton. I could clearly see a ribcage. What the fuck was it? I'm guessing a deer. Yes, it had to be a deer. But why would there be a dead deer inside this old farmhouse? Did it jump through a broken window, cut itself and then bleed to death at the bottom of the stairs? Very bizarre.

Not much else to see on the first floor so it was time to go upstairs. I went over to the main staircase near the front door. I could tell the stairs were fine despite the fact that this house was in such bad shape that it was crooked. It was like a freaking fun house.
The first bedroom I peeked in had an entire wall missing and I could see right into the woods. Kinda crazy. No way was I going to go into that bedroom. I took some shots from the doorway and then turned around and headed across the hall. 
I peeked around the corner and could see there was a room with a bunch of mattresses in it. I did not go into that room either because I did not trust the floor. Once again, I took a shot from the doorway. Wish I had found this house 10 years earlier!
I found two toothbrushes as well as two razors in the bathroom on the 2nd floor. I took a bunch of close ups. Nasty stuff!

In the hallway, on the second floor landing, was an old record player. That was an awesome find. I used to have one just like it. One of the speakers was there next to it and the other one was smashed on the floor. Love finding old stuff like that!

After drooling over the old record player, I made my way over to the stairs leading up to the third floor. Before heading up I walked around to the other side of the staircase to look at the underside and make sure it was sturdy and safe. It looked good. I went back to the other side where the stairs went up to the third floor. I looked up and snapped a picture.

Click. The next thing I remember was being outside in front of the house saying outloud, “You’re okay”, “You’re okay”, “You’re fine”, “You’re okay” ... the way grown ups talk to little kids when they fall. I was walking around in circles — trying to figure out what happened. I looked down at my hands and arms and they were covered with dirt. My left arm was cut and bleeding. I continued speaking outloud, “You’re okay”, “Nothing’s broken”, “You’re fine” …

I was so disoriented that I sat down. I was terrified to move at first, scared that something was broken or seriously wrong. I quickly took off my shirt and examined it for rips or blood or anything. There was nothing but specs of fine dirt. I started feeling my shoulders, my legs, my head. I couldn't really find anything seriously wrong. 

I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures to distract myself and pretend everything was fine. I took a picture in every direction. It also ocurred to me that my camera had survived the fall, as well. Good, cause IT WAS BRAND FUCKING NEW, as I had just picked it up earlier that morning from Best Buy. 

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my iPhone.

It was fine.

How is that possible?

And what the fuck happened?

One minute I'm on the second floor landing, looking up the stairs leading to the attic and then the next — I'm outside walking around in circles, with blood dripping down my arm.

According to the time stamp on my pictures, ten minutes had gone by from when I took the shot looking up to the attic and then outside after the fall.

I don’t remember much. I do have a vision of seeing my feet up in the air in front of me, but I'm not sure if that really happened or if I am imagining that, after the fact.

Ironic that I have been wearing a hard hat lately when I explore but this time I didn’t put it on. I think I was so anxious and excited to find this house that I wasn’t thinking straight. It also happened so fast that I didn't have a chance to tense up. 

When I saw the condition of this house I should have never even attempted to go upstairs. I mean, the back of the freaking house was missing, for Christ’s sake. #dumbass #moron #idiot 

And like I said, it was right out of a horror movie. Jason or Freddy or Michael  or Leatherface was surely going to jump out any minute now. 

After a good 30 minute rest, I stepped back in the doorway of the house to see where I had fallen and where I had landed. There was a pile of rotten wood on the ground — so rotten that it was like dirt. That was the dirt all over me and in my hair. Up above there was a dark space and a piece of carpeting dangling where I had fallen through. It had to be a 9-11 foot drop, in very close quarters — next to a broken window. #superdumbass! #completeidiot! #stupidmoron!

As I headed back to my car I sent a text to my friends, Randy, Shawn, Javier and Donna, to let them know what happened and that I was okay. I was still in a fog and had a long walk ahead of me.

Once back in the car I used wet wipes to clean up. Thank God for wet wipes! There was still a significant amount of dirt in my hair ... but I was okay. 

Frankly, I am not sure how I managed to NOT get seriously hurt. I really could have broken something or have been killed. It’s a miracle I did not land on my head or worse yet, fall through to the basement. 

Was there even a basement?

I think I need to go back and check. 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Catskill Game Farm



Another awesome day exploring. This time, Shawn and I went to the Catskill Game Farm — a once thriving zoo in Catskill, NY. It closed in 2006 after being open for 73 years. Shawn had been as a kid and had also taken his son there, when he was little. 

At the front gate we were immediately greeted by a friendly black cat and a nice, earthy couple who were friends of the owners. The couple opened the gate and then called the owners to let them know that we were hoping to look around. One of the owners, Cathy Ballone, said it was no problem as long as we signed a waiver. I guess they have lots of people interested in exploring their abandoned little zoo!

The giraffe building was large and very interesting. There was a bunch of stuff left behind inside including old signs and log books. There were bird cages on the second floor that still had bird shit in them, too. In one building we found an entire shelf of empty bottles of rum. We wondered if squatters were living in some of these abandoned structures or had this been "set up" for explorers like us.

The more we wandered, the more we realized how freaking big this place is. It seemed to be never ending. There were empty animal shelters everywhere. Each one had it's own fenced off area for whatever animals were once kept there. One shelter in the back of the property was different though. It seemed to have been converted into a small cabin with personal touches added like a collection of animal tails and animal traps that were hanging on the exterior wall. Did someone live in there? Maybe the earthy couple we met at the front gate?

We quickly made our way from one animal shelter to another - until we found ourselves at the base of the hill outside of a very large building that was obviously the zoo's cafeteria. We peeked in the window. The menu board was still up over the main counter. (A grilled cheese sandwich back in 2006 cost $3.50).

From the cafeteria we hit the buildings nearby. The bird house was a long narrow building and consisted of one long hallway with cages on either side. There were no birds anymore but each cage was full of all kinds of stuff being stored. Not sure who's stuff, or how long it had been there — but there seemed to be a little bit of everything: office supplies, toys, framed pictures, cameras, garden gnomes, shoes and one of those walker things from The Empire Strikes Back. 

The building next to the bird house was more like a long, open ended garage. Inside was a bunch of junk including a collection of bird houses, a hot tub and a red convertible. So strange. We never expected such a random variety of stuff at an old zoo.

From there we walked down to what was "the animal nursery", stopping first at the zoo's train station and ticket booth. Amazing that after all these years there were still some tickets scattered around and a handwritten script taped to the wall. You could imagine one of the employees reading that script over the loud speaker as guests waited outside to board the train.

Loved all the small scale buildings in this area. It was like a playground for the animals, and now us. Interesting to see "We sell Kodak Film" signs everywhere, as well. I guess some people were still buying film back in 2006. 

We also found a sign that read, "Animals now shedding, hence their ragged appearance" and took some shots with that, which was pretty funny. 

In the far back right of the property is what used to be the "Big Cat Exhibit". There were chewed up balls in the pen from the tigers that had once occupied that area. Despite how many years had passed since the zoo closed, it really felt like the animals had all just wandered off, and disappeared. 

More animal shelters lined the path to the Rhino building. Another huge and unique building. On the ground level were the pens for the rhino, but there was a spiral staircase that went to a spooky lower level that contained several more animal pens. It was dark and creepy down there. There were Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans everywhere and also some left over Halloween decorations. 

Upstairs we found a noose and a creepy doll. There was also a generator outside and an old stereo in the hallway. Lots of chairs, as well — and handwritten signs that said, "Do not feed the dogs". Was this the location for a Halloween party?

From there we headed towards "the lower feeding ground", which is pretty much in the center of the zoo. We could see that there were peacocks in one of the enclosures up ahead. Odd to see real animals at a zoo that was closed. 

As soon as we spotted the peacocks, we also spotted two large dogs. 

Oh shit. 

As the dogs made their way around the peacock enclosure Shawn started to climb the nearby gate that said, "Turn Right To Animal Nursery"!  We truly both thought that we were about to be mauled to death. I completely froze as one of the dogs came running towards us, barking. I pointed at him and said, "no! no! no! stay! good boy!" The dog went from barking, to wagging his tail. Whew... he was friendly. The other dog, a great dane, was much larger. Holy crap. He spotted us as well and came running over. Again, we were damn lucky both of the dogs were friendly! Praise Jesus! 

We were relieved that the dogs were friendly but knew they must belong to the folks that own the propery. We continued exploring and lost the dogs along the way. I guess they got board with us. 

In one of the old refreshment stands we found a bunch of old postcards advertising the zoo. Creepy and cool at the same time. Kind of surprised they were there after all these years. And someone was definitely using beer cans for target practice. We found a string of them with holes in them. The building near them had a pool table and foose ball table.

Next stop was the miniature golf area. I think the miniature golf building was one of my favorites. The roof literally had moss growing on it. It was right out of a movie. 

While heading back to the front of the zoo, we ran into Cathy's husband, Ben. He was on a contraption that looked like a pick-up truck with a bulldozer coming out of the back of it. He was digging up old fence posts one by one. He stopped and talked with us for a few minutes. Kind of surreal to be exploring this place and stroll on past the owner who was working so hard, all by himself. He talked about trying to convert the place into an RV Park of sorts, with some animals roaming around as well. Seemed like an overwhelming undertaking to us but we wished him luck.

Overall, great day with a self-guided tour of a very cool place! Hope the Ballone's can turn this place back into something that everyone can enjoy.