Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Abandoned Sites’ Category

Railroad bridges

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 12, 2009

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Western New York is full of old railroad bridge abutments, if you don’t know what to look for you could miss these often times beautiful stone piles that are often jutted up against the back road you may be barreling down. I can see these stone piles that once supported railroad trestles from a mile away and they always evoke the same wonderment.

I always think about trains, constantly, when I am driving, I try to pick roads next to abandoned train tracks with the thought that I may come across an old roundtable, or water stop, or maybe an old abandoned bridge with a nice stone arch, quite rare in upstate New York because the stone is brittle, mostly limestone from Syracuse to Buffalo and Limestone crumbles easily, you cant climb the walls of the abandoned quarries of Leroy and Batavia, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes I stop at these bridge abutments and wonder what the bridge may have looked like, I dream about the passenger trains that used to service every town in America, how the population must have felt when the train “came” to their town. I try to see if the old telegraph poles are left, maybe I can even find some stray insulators lying around?

Often times the bridge supports will have a date, 1924, I seem to recall as being carved out the top of one of these stray stone structures that sits on the side of Route 31 around Lyons or was it Newark? Why was the bridge removed? Did it collapse? Was the line decommissioned and the bridge sold for scrap? Why are the tracks still visible on the elevated earth embankments? Shouldn’t they have been sold for scrap as well?

I especially like when the bridge supports are visible in water, evoking images in my head of a huge bridge. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has some of these as you cross the Susquehanna. What about the bridge supports visible on the Genesee River in Rochester right near the point of High Falls? They are so low and I cannot for the life of me figure out why a bridge would be all the way below the street level? Was there a tunnel? Its all a mystery to me.

Sometimes the stone supports are there and only half the bridge is there like that of the bridge near Avon, New York, just south of the original east west highway known as US highway 20, there is a stone arch bridge which is magnificent, I wish you would check it out sometimes, very impressive, although its hard to figure out where on earth the tracks came from.

Am I the only one fascinated with railroad bridge abutments and supports, that contain no bridge, only the memory of the bridge, for romantics like myself to imagine what was once there.

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Posted in Abandoned Sites, Rural America | 5 Comments »

The mills of Hamilton

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 3, 2009

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Every time I come up over the bridge I slow down to gaze at the beautiful expanse before me, I like to stop on the shoulder, but the high winds and crazy Canadian drivers deter me, and force me off the road to take a closer look, to gaze intently at the smokestacks making artificial clouds, the fire pouring forth from what I can only guess to be burn off stacks, buildings, piles of gravel and ships fill in the scene.

I am running across the street camera in hand, I am excited, the sky is bright blue, but it has that winter slanted light feel, it is dreary for most, but for me it holds some special qualities, qualities missed since moving south. The late day slanted light with tinges of orange and pink, reflecting off of the frozen inlet.

Ships are docked off in the distance, and the looming steel mills and oil refinery create this beautiful scene of industry and darkness. The light cannot penetrate this scene, the light can only show me the smokestacks and the looming buildings, with out of proportion triangulated roofs. Camera in hand I run back across the street, cold, numb hands and unsatisfied, I want to see more, I want to see the pipes and gangways and railroad tracks crisscrossing throughout these industrial complexes.

To most, Hamilton, Ontario evokes an image of blazing smokestacks and a huge portion of the Queen Elizabeth Way that is elevated, they merely glance at these smokestacks polluting the sky with their waste, as they hurry on to Toronto. I wonder who else stops to take in the sites and sounds of the industrial areas of Hamilton.

Very few places I have traveled to paint such a picture as the port of Hamilton does from the Skyway. People probably visit the museums and zoos and main streets, but who would get off and wander around the old and new steel factories, I would hardly call it a tourist district yet here I am going up and down side streets that dead end at guard booths with large signs telling me to KEEP OUT!

It not that disappointing for everywhere I look, railroad tracks snake off into the plants creating good romanticized shots for people like me whose lives revolve almost solely around the romantic idea of the long forgotten train.

Tracks embedded in cobblestone do it for me, the industrial areas of cities not yet paved with those common found materials of asphalt and concrete,. Cobblestone, evokes never actually remembered memories of trains, horse drawn wagons and grimy men with their lunch pails in hand off to another 12 hour shift at the plant. The Jungle describes what I want to remember but never actually experienced. I imagine ten ton buckets of molten steel being poured while men in overalls and hard hats scream above the din. The danger and the mystery all combine in my head, I wish I could see the inside, not have to dream about it.

I pass by an amazingly redone art deco entrance to a train car company, it is almost too good to be true, I snap pictures quickly as I begin to think of art deco and why every town from upstate NY to south Texas has an art deco movie theater, no idea why, maybe movies were the invention of the roaring 20s and to show the progress every town had to have one and they all had to have the art deco lines that ran along the big vertical sign hanging from the buildings façade.

I begin my journey east back on the highways with thoughts of factories filling my imagination.

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Wanderlust Rant

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 23, 2008

Edited by my new fan and inspiration Eli Perlow

My hand is out the window making waves in the afternoon sunlight, the free flowing air moving about my fingers as if they were stuck in the white sand along the Mexican coast, swishing and swooshing and enjoying the warmth. It’s so warm; I have shorts and a t-shirt on and it’s November. I am in my happy place, Grateful Dead blaring from my speakers as I meander on some forgotten byway, lost in time, devoid of other travelers because they prefer the sing-song of concrete and the fast windows-closed-motion of their box of steel hitting super sonic speeds that make all the fast food billboards look like a picket fence.

In Missouri it sure seemed that way, the picket fence scenario played out at 72 miles per hour on Interstate 44. I cruised along, paid no attention to much besides for the current song on the Ipod shuffle, another invention of the laziness permeating our society, the instant gratification reflective of the “I want it now not later” factions who control everything.

I don’t want to skip songs I don’t like, nor do I want to appreciate LPs or imports and random tracks at the end of albums which the album cover doesn’t reveal to even be in existence. Nope, I want it now, just like my picket fence of billboards mostly advertising truck stops that have all the amenities of a small city, including showers, casinos, cheap prostitutes and loads of food containing things like xanathan gum and hydroemaciatedemancipatedsomething with weird extracts ending in sucrose or gum. Can someone please tell me why potato chips need to have 89 ingredients – those being the plain ones?

And so I zip past these horrible neon cities in the night with their 40 gas pumps (pay at the pump laziness to boot). I see the moths hovering around these glowing towers of progress, these robots filling their steel behemoths to transport more big box items to the steel structures that hog the strip malls of their once charming facades. I am past that, thank God; I am out of Missouri and Indiana and Ohio. These places make me sick, a tribute to the fatness and uncaring aspects of our society. Even the back roads contain it; hop onto any US highway in the Midwest and they’re not accoutered by the old neon flashing motor court signs and abandoned gas stations with names like Jim’s Service offering full lubrication and tire fixings, or old beautiful forgotten homes on the verge of collapse with some little old lady watering her petunias – nope – the old US highway in the Midwest and mostly wherever you go has become a service road.

I can almost guarantee that if the brakes in cars become good enough or auto pilot in sedans ever comes to light, the Interstate highway system will become one mile after mile choice of strip plazas. You will merely tell your car how fat you want to get that day, or how much life you want to lose and – walla – you will arrive at the fast food destination of your choice. Brilliant, another way to keep the gas guzzling American automobile makers in business – they should have fizzled out 30 years ago. I almost feel as if the big 3 in Detroit are a symbol of everything we don’t want America to be; big ugly pigs who never change, a bunch of liberal hogwash you may say – but seriously, who wants to buy American?

But that’s all past me, I am in the Ozarks, passing by stately looking mobile home parks with names like Breezy Corners or Spring Gardens, it’s great to see nice looking trailer parks. Growing up in NY you hear about trailer park trash, although the only place you see them is on Jerry Springer when you’re home sick from school because before the Price Is Right came on it was Jerry Springer or Montel or Rikki Lake. Jerry was best with his southern drawl trailer park trash, Mandy was fighting with Rick or someone named Ashley, those names that people in the East just don’t have. Then suddenly you see the real thing and there are regular people mowing their small lawns and flower pots hang next to those gun toting cowboy silhouettes that have mailboxes attached to them. It’s kind of odd to think that you can lie down and that’s your whole house, but then again, people in the cities; the cosmopolitan, artsy, cultured, and intellectual humans have even smaller places to call their own, and they don’t even own them.

The smell of fresh cut grass comes wafting through my window and I just want to stop and run around in the small patch of fresh cut grass between the road and the property line marked by a barbed wire fence with posted no hunting signs scattered about; it’s not like the East, in the East posted signs are every 10 feet, here it may be every 10 miles. I love fresh cut grass though, and I ease off the gas to slow down to wallow in its path.

I pass the state highway mowers and give a little nod. That’s another thing about country roads – everyone nods. It’s interesting, maybe it’s just to acknowledge their existence; or is it something more? It brings a personal aspect to the place, something people have lost. Don’t even get me started on the lack of general knowledge people have about their places of existence. Most people run from one place to another without taking the time to enjoy the journey, the road trips of today are destination trips. “Were going to California” brings epic visions of orange deserts in Utah and Arizona, Indian reservations, shimmering sunlight mirages blowing around in the distance. Swimming holes, weird truck stops, rock formations and mountain climbing, snow capped mountains and old broken down abandoned cars buried in the earth next to an old mine. But nowadays going to California means going to Los Angeles with a side trip to Las Vegas, all on blistering fast highways ignoring the beauty around them – not even a trip to Joshua Tree or Kings Canyon is in store and a trip down the PCH brings people to Malibu or something with a stop immortalized by digital pictures in front of the Pacific Coast Highway for proof to say they were there.

Talk about saying they were there – memories mean nothing as long as they are tagged on Facebook in their photoshopped glory, oh how I miss the days of the winding mechanized manual camera. The loud snap to acknowledge you actually photographed something. Setting up the picture, putting in the flash; how I long for days when people cared about the little things. Seems like everyone is lost in the views, views of their Blackberry while they do anything: it must be documented, I am going here or there or feel like this. This is probably because no one spends any time alone, they are always connected, connected to electrical devices or networks.

The Ozarks remind me of West Virginia, they are rounded hills dotted with houses and quarries, I haven’t been here since 2001 when I took my first wandering trip. I remember it quite well, I decided to head west and regrettably (I am not sure why) turned around once I hit the prairies; I know what you’re thinking – I think the exact same thing. Why would anyone put themselves through the hell of the Midwest only to turn around? I was in Nebraska and Kansas for Godsakes and I went down…I think I was scared, that was my first time out of the damned time zone, west would have meant the Rockies, I would wait another summer, but still I look back and wonder why I turned south towards Oklahoma and Texas.

I do remember coming out of Topeka and seeing the most beautiful and amazing site ever. I had entered the prairies and it was unlike anything I had ever seen, until I went to the Rockies for the first time. The grasslands outside of Topeka are endless, you can see for 50 miles based on the highway being above the prairie. I was shocked and awed and just stood there watching the blowing green grass with thousands of cattle dotting the horizon.

I also remember that it was the start of a lifetime of insatiable wanderlust, that’s what John Steinbeck calls it in Travels with Charley, he is absolutely right and it’s something of a curse. You see, I cannot sit still; I always need to be seeing and experiencing new places and people. I am like a professional wanderer, although I like to be in America mostly, I have found I like to experience this country like no other. I enjoy that it’s all the same country, same language – yet so vast and different. I want to experience it all and of course it contradicts my society, my community, my religion, all saying to settle down build a family and wander around your tiny back yard and local grocery store- I sometimes think marriage would be a nightmare for me, literally, homebound, I mean I could grab the car on a Sunday and drive 1000 miles and come back- I have been known for things like that- but it wouldn’t be the same.

I am on a one way road trip, although I just got a call from my dad announcing he was getting married and he needs me back in NY on December 14th. I am not happy about it, he’s been dating the same girl for 8 years and finally I leave for the West to fulfill my dreams and I am told to come right back. But still, I am headed west and it’s a dream come true – although I am not sure if it’s what I truly want or need. You see those truths always evade me, I get carried with the wind, it’s always been like that. I just kind of go with the flow, no plans really. I see my friends settled down or trying to settle down against their wills and I don’t want it – maybe I do, maybe I can handle it – but if my life is anything to go on, it doesn’t appear so. It appears that marriage will drive me insane. I have fallen in love before, but even that was scary, the settling down aspect scared the crap out of me – people always say “its time to settle down” but I just don’t think they understand. They try to and then they say stupid things like “once you get married you will have no time to travel or wander or ride your bike or hitchhike, etc…” and those words – although said with a kind smirk – have the exact opposite effect they are meant to have. Why would I ever want to get married or settle down then?

I am out of the mountains and into rolling farmland and then flatlands with scraggly bushes and dark flowing streams. I am nearing Oklahoma, another state that is interesting because it connects two different worlds, the Plains and the Rockies; it also borders so many states that it makes it interesting. I could probably walk through the panhandle and around so that I have walked through a bunch of states in a matter of a week or so, I think about this sort of thing all the time, just walking, for no purpose except to see or go. I drive, but when the money runs out I can imagine myself walking, kind of like Peter Jenkins in A Walk Across America, one look at my book collection and you could figure me out. My book collection would tell you that I am a solo journeyman with a mind of a businessman and entrepreneur, its true, all I tend to read is social history books on items like coal, gunpowder, cotton and steel. I also tend to read about great American businessmen and their lives, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Watson, Walton. Then I want to read about adventurers, anything really, give me books about polar expeditions, Hudson Bay Company stuff, frontier stories and the general hitchhiking and rail riding fantasies that I may have but never come to fruition. You may even call me a professional American Romantic, almost like a Jack Kerouac minus all the drugs and partying.

The air is even warmer now and the road is empty and flat and lined with strange looking bushes and trees, the brush is thick and the sun is slanting almost to the point where the land becomes orange, my favorite part of the day. I am thrust into Oklahoma and the speed limit becomes 70 miles per hour, this is on a 2 lane byway mind you, the type that has backed up traffic on the east coast going to some tourist destination like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Watkins Glenn in New York. I am just cruising along windows down – drivers tan beginning to creep up my window arm and thinking about Texas my new temporary home.

Oklahoma slips away and I am in Texas, I stop for evening prayers and notice the sweet smells, I love Texas I proclaim, rural Texas at least. I already know I don’t like Texas cities, but I can’t judge from being in Dallas twice and Houston once, everyone says the same thing, why Dallas, you have to go to Austin. My job is in Dallas I tell them, although I know I will not be there long, all I remember about Dallas was that it is big.

So I hop onto US highway 82 going west towards Paris, Texas and I hit cruise control. My car is running smooth and it feels good because I just hit 309,000 miles in the darned thing. I love reaction of the oil change guys, they hoot and howl for the other greased up guys to over and have a look, swinging their greasy rags they say wow wee, insane man. I am proud of my miles, those miles spent driving up the Alaska highway or down the up to Mount Rainier or across the flatlands of South Dakota, its all there in those cracked leather seats and that noisy engine, miles of a wanderer.

The transition happens all too quickly, kind of like in the East when you get that first snowstorm and everyone talks about how it was 80 degrees a week ago. I hit Paris and my world of rural back roads and trailer parks and abandoned hotels and gas stations ends. It ends with the first neon lighted gas station sign and continues to dwindle with Wal Mart, Home Depot and Sears, it continues to dwindle until I realize I am in the West with WataBurger and Jack in the Box, classic western burger joints. I am spit out onto Route 75 south towards Dallas and already I am wishing for the quaint roads of upstate New York lined with huge old growth sugar maples and ornate Victorian mansions with the beautiful wood carved railings.

Why did I ever come here, I begin to wonder as I pass strip mall after strip mall of continuous never changing offerings, I mean how many CVS pharmacies can you have already? It gets to a point where Missouri and its picket fence of billboards is nothing like this. Nothing I tell you, the whole craziness of the situation makes it a little interesting. Here I am driving 70 mph down a highway with service roads on either side packed with stores. It reminds me of New Jersey, except in NJ the service road is the highway.

I must say the highways are smooth and built for speed, but 50 miles before my new home I hit Dallas – random office buildings with shiny glass and huge parking behemoths, so people shouldn’t walk too far. I almost feel as if walkers are banned from Texas, it is not a walking state, it’s built for drivers. I pass under a huge interchange, in the East space is limited because the highways were built after the cities, not so in the West. The highway interchange I just passed under must have been a mile wide with ramps going everywhere.

I come to my exit and get off, but I am not off the highway, the service road is a highway with stores on it, welcome to Texas I proclaim as I get off and am thankful that at least gas is very cheap at $1.75 a gallon. I drive along another highway with slower speed limits and more stores to reach a side street finally, but once you leave the sanctuary of your newly built tree filled neighborhood you will have to go onto another highway just to get there.

Dallas is stifling and I haven’t even been here in their summer. Not stifling in a heat sort of way – as of yet at least – stifling in a “I need to escape this suburban hellhole but can’t” way. If you want to leave the city, leave the pull of the city or experience rural openness, you must drive and then keep driving on a superhighway until you finally reach farmland at which point it will have gotten dark and you must turn around. It’s already hurting my psyche, you see I find the wandering and I need to get out of this place – but don’t worry – Colorado is next and should provide for endless hours and days of wandering action.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips, Rural America | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Aletrnate route to Baltimore saves on tolls and traffic

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 30, 2008

Instead of traveling to Baltimore down the ever crowded and ugly NJ Turnpike I have decided to go around through Pennsylvania from now on. This means that from Monsey I drive south on 287 until 78 west and then take that through to Harrisburg and then down to Baltimore. It sounds like a pain in the tuchus, but really its only about 30 miles longer- never has any traffic and there is total round trip tolls are $3 as compared to at least 40 dollars in tolls and loads of traffic the other way.

This route also allows for some great wandering around old towns and villages and driving through beautiful farming country. South East Pa has some great old towns full of old factories, abandoned railroad tracks and once thriving main streets. The route also allows for some significant back road travel if you like and I do like.

This past time I got off the highway and Easton Pa just over the NJ border and wandered around the town on my bike. Its a beautiful old factory town with some amazing classic architecture on main street including a fountain on the middle of the town square turned traffic circle.

On the way back I got off in York-PA and took US 30 to US 222 which took me to US 22 and then north up route 57 to I-80 and back home. It was a beautiful route with rolling farmland, popping corn and nice old stone houses from the late 1700’s.

Harrisburg and Lancaster which could be on the way depending how you go are also great cities to wonder around. Harrisburg being the capital has some nice stately buildings as well as some great railroad yards. Lancaster has a very well preserved historic district and is thriving in most parts, even the ghetto has beautiful old homes.

The distance this way from Monsey to the Jewish community in Baltimore is 240 miles as opposed to 210 the other way- but here you can hit the cruise control and relax. I would even do it that way if I came from NYC.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips | 2 Comments »

For the sake of wandering

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 25, 2008

The tree was no ordinary one, it was enormous, and it was beautiful, but it was strange emotional in a way. Its branches were welcoming and the old ban tilting to its side as if it were about to fall made the picture just right. I switched my camera to black and white to enhance the beauty of this enormous old growth tree, that was right at the intersection of two dirt roads with no name on them. As if the roads were built with the tree in mind, bending a little in there windy ways to accommodate this massive Birch that stood in front of an old stately house that stood next to the tilted wooden barn. It was a proud tree and it put me in a cheery mood, although I was already in a cheery mood, the tree made it somewhat better.

I hopped in my car and chose to turn left at the tree continuing my odyssey of dirt road traveling. Its my thing you know, to drive up random roads and get lost, you never know what will be around the bend, behind that abandoned grain silo or over the next hill. Its quite interesting actually to just wander for the sake wandering, nowhere to go and no ideas where I actually am. Just driving down long forgotten roads past fallen over barns, old rusting farm equipment with small trees growing out of the wheels, leaning towers of grain silos and once grand now left to rot mansions. Trailer parks with trucks parked next to small patches of grass with small scenes of Nativity being played out next to cowboy silhouettes. Old cars sitting in a mowed around patch of weeds with faded for sale cards in the windows. Stop signs barely legible due to a scattering of bullet holes. Roads with ruts that will suck you up should you make any sudden moves. Swamps and dense thickets of deciduous trees, fast flowing creeks gurgling over rocks and deadfall, snow capped hills, and pine trees full of the last snow, gently tilting their trees and dispersing their loads to the ground below, adding to the snow drifts and covering up the deer tracks.

This is what I crave, driving down a muddy road, forests and fields passing by at 35 miles per hour, my wheels spitting mud and gravel onto the already browned snow on the side of the road right up against the forest. Struggling with the wheel and with the clutch, making sure I do not miss anything and do not skid off a cliff. Small pings coming from my undercarriage- little rocks hitting my car as I bump over the rutted road. People walking their dogs, in orange caps and camouflage jump suits, gentle waves at them and back at me as I pass.

The banjo is being picked at a steady pace and I am bobbing along excited at what the road will bring me. Just peacefully drifting to the sounds of the Kentucky Hills, bluegrass is the only music for this type of venture. It allows me to drift to the olden days. I imagine the road without power lines and homesteaders working the land, women in big dresses hauling water up from the well and the kids churning butter.

Paved roads interject the unpaved ones and I try as hard as possibly to only drive on dirt, my car is sandy colored and I am proud of the mud mess I have produced.

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Wandering old mill towns

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 19, 2008

Harmony Mills

There is something about mills, especially ones powered by water that make me slam the brakes and get out of the car for a closer look. In recent years I have developed an uncanny ability to scan the sides of fast flowing rivers and waterfalls for any signs of mill activity. Old sluices, bridge abutments and foundations near fast flowing water get me excited to say the least. I have been able to find a great many old mill sites and factories in my travels around Upstate NY mostly the Hudson Valley portion.

The Hudson valley was much more industrial then the rest of NY State because the valley created a watershed that collected all of the rivers flowing down from the Hudson Highlands, Catskills and Taconics. I find that all through the Hudson Valley there are loads of waterfalls with abandoned and restored mills. The towns of Catskill, Saugerties, Coeymans, Troy, and Cohoes are great reminders of what mill towns could become, with their old downtowns, grand stately mansions and of course large- usually abandoned or destroyed industrial areas.

Yesterday was 55 degrees and rain, so I decided against riding my bike and getting it all rusty and instead went to Cohoes to walk around. Cohoes is just north of Albany on the Mohawk River- otherwise known as part of the famous Erie Canal. The river drops 75 feet at Cohoes falls and they are 2000 feet across making them the second largest in the state. You can find higher in many places, but wider is unheard of.

Naturally it is the place of a large mill complex known as Harmony Mills. They were great textile mills in the 1870s, but of course with the invention of modern machines- like most great industrial enterprises they are not used. In fact they were recently bought by some Israeli real estate developers to make into lofts, and other uses, including self storage and offices.

The Harmony Mills complex is a breathtaking site. They are enormous and beautifully built. I am a huge fan of the brickwork on these buildings with classic red industrial brick and arched windows. The windows mostly appear to be original, I assume because it is a national historic site. There are many other buildings to compliment the mill site- which is at least 1/4 mile long. I had a field day imagining what it was like inside. 3100 people worked there and made Cohoes a company town. I especially like the fact there are sections remaining of the old diversion canal, which every mill must have to divert water away from the falls to power the mill wheels- or what we may call turbines.

I wandered around took tons of pictures and then walked around where the company housing used to be. The buildings are small and not fancy at all. The owner of the mills’ house is beautiful- but as far as I could tell privately owned. I walked around searching for an old shul- which I am sure existed at one time or another. I usually search for old shuls in forgotten towns, its one of my things.

I have some other recommendations if wandering around mill towns actually interests you. North Adams in Massachusetts is amazing and complete with at least 50 mills along the Hoosick River. Lowell also in MA was the site of the largest textile mills in the world at one point- I have never been- but plan to go one of these days. High Falls NY– right near Route 32 junction in Rosendale- is also a very cool town. There are the old aqueducts over the falls for a canal as well as a bunch of very old locks and such. Oh Amsterdam NY is one of my favorite towns and is located about 30 miles west of Albany.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Catskills, Rural America | 3 Comments »

Yesterdays wanderings…

Posted by Frum Hiker on January 23, 2008

So yesterday I had some free time and decided to check out some abandoned stuff that I knew existed already. Every time I drive on Route 32 north of New Paltz about halfway to Kingston, I drive down this hill which takes you past all this limestone outcroppings, and into the town of Rosendale. I have always sen this really interesting formation and until yesterday had never stopped to take a closer look.

Right away I could tell that the formation was not natural, and looked as if it were a mine of some sort. It was essentially a huge cave filled partially with water which was frozen and very col looking considering the the way the sun was reflecting on it. After several pictures and wandering around inside the caves someone kicked me out saying that it was for my safety, he confirmed that the formations were limestone mines which were used to make Rosendale Cement which was used to make the Brooklyn Bridge. He told me that a little up the road on route 213 there was a mine that was much larger and was 3 levels. I found it later on but the no trespassing signs and rather chilly wind was enough of a deterrence.

Then a bit later I was driving north on Route 9w of Saugerties and noticed an abandoned brick house up the sides of one of the hills far enough away from any road to make it worth my while, meaning it had to abandoned for a while. Sure enough, after a short hike across some railroad tracks and through a bunch of thorny bushes I came across the house with a few abandoned cars scattered about one from the 80s and one from 70s.

The house was gutted and filled with old newspapers, but I walked along the old road bed that led to the house and discovered an old dump and sifted through the contents to try and find old bottles and anything of interest, I found half of an old Ford buried up one of the hills and tried to figure out where the old road came from and went and when it may have been abandoned.

I have some pictures I wil post of these two interesting things I went to yesterday.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Catskills, Rural America | 1 Comment »

Road Trip 2007 part 1

Posted by Frum Hiker on September 12, 2007

Sunday, August 26:
Today I woke up at about 6:55 am and went with my host to shachris, I was kind of excited to get to the west already, but at the same time kind of sad to leave the community of Minneapolis. After a quick breakfast of some more cookies and grabbing a bunch of leftovers to be eaten later that day I embarked Minneapolis on highway 212 west which would take me straight across Minnesota and South Dakota into my favorite state of Montana. I cruised along the outskirts of Minneapolis and was then plunged into rural America complete with its grain elevators, long straight freight trains and wavy fields of wheat and corn. I passed through small settlements who’s only purpose of existence was due to the fact someone had decided to erect a train depot or grain elevator in the middle of the prairie, which starts somewhere west of Minneapolis and continues straight through to the middle of Montana.

I drove right into South Dakota marveling at the long flat plains that were filled with corn, I noticed that every gas station- even the most rural of them had E-85 fuel. I drove due west on 212 until there came a detour and I had to go around, so I decided to take highway 14 which goes through Pierre, the capitol. Good choice, although I had driven through the prairies many times, they interest me every time. Maybe because when driving west it is the first example of the extreme geography as compared to the east coast. The flatness of the expanse has got to be driven to appreciate and it does get lonely out there.

Just outside of Pierre the land changed, hills began to form and suddenly I was dropping down huge grassy slopes into the city of Pierre, an old dusty western town with not much to it. Almost every town west of the Mississippi is the same, a dusty main street that is wide and has cars parked sideways, a large grain elevator and a couple of tracks and sidings running down along main street. These towns are built of the prairie and are usually visible from miles before due to their outcropping of trees, which are a rare commodity in the great plains.

The large grassy hills continued and then the Nebraska style badland sandstone formations began. Large dusty washbowls and meandering dry creek beds were seen everywhere. The farmland changed from corn to livestock and ranches dotted the landscape for hundreds of miles. The frequency of the towns changed from every ten miles to every 30-40 miles and I was in the west. I drove through Sturgis just to check out the site of the world famous Motorcycle Rally that takes place every summer. I skipped out on the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, having been there years ago and not finding it too special.

I entered Montana cutting through the eastern corner of Wyoming while driving along the same route 212 that I was on in Minnesota. The land was vast and open, nothing for miles and I relished in it, though having just experienced shabbos I was kind of lonely. I stopped at a roadside table for my leftovers and while munching on them I wondered if any other Jews had ever sat at this exact spot. I looked down while I was engaged in learning from this new Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen sefer I had just bought and low and behold a magen david was carved out into the table. I found this totally surreal and unbelievable especially due to the fact that it had been painted over yet continued to be seen through the paint.

I drove over some low high desert mountain passes and started to look for spots to sleep in the low light. After not fining anything worthy I settled on a patch of sand on a road next to the interstate, I didn’t mind the cars too much, but at 3 in the morning when I freight train rolled by 100 feet from me- I realized the mistake I always make, never camp anywhere near an active line and always check if it is. You can literally feel the train shaking the ground if you are sleeping on it.

Monday, August 27:
I woke up bright and early after a real crappy nights sleep, cooked up some oatmeal on my stove and set out towards Billings. Hopped into the visitor center grabbed some free maps and then wandered the downtown a bit. I wasn’t on the trip to be near man made objects so I hopped on the Interstate and then Route 212 going towards Red Lodge. The drive was real flat once again through high desert, but off in the distance I could see the mountains rising real high, I was real excited at this point.

Red Lodge is a beautiful old western town, with its brick store fronts all dating from the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. These towns either die or become tourist traps, there is no in between. Red Lodge is a gateway to the Beartooth Wilderness area and near Yellowstone. One can tell immediately by the presence of out of state license plates and foreign cars that this is not a locals only town. The stores though charming are also geared towards the tourist. I hopped into a book store bought a more detail trail map of the area and then wandered around the historic district.

Not wanting to waste too much time I found the hiking store Sylvan Peak and went in to buy some bear spray and get some tips for good day hikes to acclimatize to the area. I was only about 5500 feet up, but the plateau is mostly above 10,000 which would do wonders for my head if I started out up there. The guys at Sylvan Peak were awesome, we spoke of the grizzly population in the area and of good day hikes and mountain bike rides in the area.

I took one of the guys tips and drove up towards the ski mountain and hiked to Timberline Lake which was simply amazing. I parked on a trail head on this smooth dirt road that snaked through a deep and narrow canyon. I hiked up the trail which gained 2,000 feet to top out at 8,000 feet. The trail was not too steep and offered great views at select moments, rather then east coast style where the only views come at the top.

When the trail leveled out slightly I started climbing gradually through a higher canyon that would take me to my eventual destination. I was kind of freaked out hiking solo in grizzly country, without the proper weapon which I would say to be a .44 or .357 magnum at my side, instead I had this huge bottle of bear spray, a huge high pressure pepper spray. While hiking I sang Jewish songs which because of the way they are structured can be sang over and over again, after all I didn’t want to stumble on some bears of mountain lions.

When I leveled out on this open ridge I came to a smallish lake that was surrounded by short steep cliffs, this wasn’t what I had come for. I kept going walking across rocks of this narrow fast moving creek. Then suddenly I crested the short hill from the other lake and was confronted with one of the reasons I love Montana. Before lay this perfectly clear glacial lake, rising about 200 feet out of the lake was a granite cliff and in back of that was what I would venture to call an amphitheater of rock, on all sides without breaks it surrounded me. The tops had snow patches and I could hear water running gushing forth from under them feeding the large lake I stood in awe before. Not wanting to ruin the moment I whipped out my siddur and davened a very heartfelt mincha, wondering the whole time if I was the first person to ever daven to Hashem on this very spot, thanking him for the wonders he created for us.

I sat all by myself relishing the silent wonder of this beauty and sat with a huge smile and hakoras hatov for all this. I then hiked down and cooked some dinner. Pasta and sauce was the fare, actually there isn’t much variety with me. I have pasta, chili, and rice and beans, and a few of those galil stuffed peppers and eggplant in a can.

I then found a great campsite next to a fast flowing, gurgling brook and set up my tent. My tent was moldy but due to the threat of rain I didn’t want to risk going tentless. I do try and sleep in the open whenever possible, its more convenient to go to the bathroom and a bit more interesting especially when the wolves and coyotes are singing in the night. I slept very soundly that night, all alone in the woods of Montana.

Tuesday, August 28:
I was surprised that it hadn’t rained the night before as I had dreaded. I truly hate waking up inside a tent during the onslaught of rain, fully knowing that you have to rub the sleep from your eyes and brave the cold rain and take down the tent and have it growing mold and dripping all over the back of the car.

I woke up with a clear head and glad to have gotten a great sleep and rid of the pounding head I had gone to sleep with. The day was mostly cloudy, with pockets of blue and sun shining through. I davened, ate a protein bar for breakfast and took down my tent. I hopped in my car and drove up the dirt road a few miles and went to a trailhead that I was told was great for mountain biking. It was called the silver run trail system, the trail lead into this grassy valley that eventually became a thick wooded canyon with a fastflowing stream through the center of it.

I rode my bike up this windy jeep road and marveled at the smooth hill sides that were devoid of any vegetation save for a few scruffy sage brush outcroppings here and there. I love sagebrush and when I realized I could make a bracha on it I did, it smells phenomenal so I figured I could rock me some “boray minay besumins” on some sagebrush. I had this whole idea in me about raising up the eternal sparks of kedusha as a Rabbi by the name of Ari Dreilich in Edmonton had told me last year. In fact I viewed a lot of my purpose of the whole trip, other then having a great time amongst Gods creations, to be this mission of elevating places that had never seen a frum yid before. I do figure that everything has its purpose, so maybe this is mine who knows. So any chance I had to make a bracha or daven off the beaten path I would do it, so I carried a siddur and sometimes seforim in my hiking or biking pack.

I rode up the jeep road until I came to a very narrow path leading into the dense woods. I rode up this as well, cursing under my breath at the altitude and uphill that would not let up. Where was my downhill or flat trail I wandered as I pushed my bike up some very steep hills, I wasn’t too excited about coming down such steep stuff, while at the same worrying a bear wasn’t waiting around the corner for me.

After what seemed like eternity I made it to the top of the hill, which rewarded decent views of the surrounding tree topped hills. I mounted my bike and began my decent on the other side. The trail on the downhill was way more gradual, with huge turns and long straight aways allowing me to really launch off the small jumps in the trail and go real fast. It was an amazing downhill, winding past big pine trees and huge boulders. Several stream crossings splashed water onto me and I had to ride through some mud pits.

At the bottom back at my car I noticed that the weather had turned sour, wind was whipping up huge clouds threatening rain, obscuring the views and making the air quite cold. I decided to forego the hike I had planned. I ate some canned eggplant and decided what to do. I decided on taking a drive towards Cody Wyoming just 60 miles away. I drove into Red Lodge and turned on my phone which had been off for the past several days. I called up the chabad of Montana and asked if I could stay there for shabbos. To my disappointment, the Rabbi said he would be out of town for the next few weeks.

Suddenly my plans were changed, I had planned on being in Bozeman for shabbos, but now I couldn’t. So I thought about other possibilities, such as doing it by myself in a town, right away I realized that labor day weekend prices would be higher and the chances of finding a hotel would be slim. The costs of food, and the loneliness of a shabbos by yourself without friends, family or a shull would be hard as well. I then thought about other chabad houses. It would be either Spokane, Washington or Boise Idaho. Both were about the same distance with Spokane being a bit closer. I settled on Spokane and called up, I was a bit nervous, because I usually have Lubavitcher call up for me, since many of them are weary of having strangers just shack up for a weekend. For some reason I just called without bothering friends to call for me. Luckily the Rabbi was extremely friendly and welcomed me to stay as long as I liked.

I quickly shut my phone and drove towards Cody. About 10 miles outside town I happened upon an abandoned mining complex, for those of you who know me, this brought a welling up of excitement within me. There is nothing I like more then wandering around old industrial complexes, mines included. That is exactly what I did for a few hours mind you, I found some great old furnaces made in the foundries of Erie Pa and just wandered and tried to figure out when it was abandoned and why. Rightway I was able to tell it was a coal mine, and I did not know that Montana had coal. I know that gold and copper are huge in Montana, but coal? I later found out that it was called the Smith Mine and it was abandoned in 1943 after one of Montana’s deadliest disasters.

I drove down to Cody on this gorgeous road that took me past lush farms that bordered up on dry desert fields that were completely flat until they jutted up against huge mountains in the distance. It was the classic western feel, and I loved it. I drove with the windows down, shirt off working on my seatbelt tan line and listened to country music.

I walked around Cody for a short while, the weather had cleared up and I itched to be out of the town atmosphere and back in the rural wilderness setting. I drove towards Beartooth pass, intending on hiking and exploring the area the next day. While driving up the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, I passed some beautiful red rock formations surrounded by lush greenery, reminding me of Utah. I then came across a beautiful jeep road that went up one of the ridges that had red rock on them, so I took my bike off my roof and started to ride up the road, which eventually lead me to this ridge overlooking a huge valley. Unfortunately the road eneded only after about 45 minutes of riding, but it was beautiful and well worth the ride. It ended at a ranch, and parked next to the barbed wire fence that seemed to stretch to eternity, was a truck made entirely of wood, even the bumpers were made of logs.

I drove towards Cooke City Montana, which is near one of the entrances for Yellowstone National Park. I looked for campsites at this point and found a primitive national forest campsite set right next to a beautiful mostly dry river, the river was a wide expanse of gravel and bigger rocks deposited in their moorings by the last springs snowmelt. A small sliver of water churned through a narrow passageway, gurgling its way downward with mighty speed. I set up my tent, since it felt like it would get pretty cold that night. I only set up tents usually if I am in the woods, it is likely to rain or snow, or it will be cold, tents are great for keeping one warm and trapping the heat.

I went to daven mincha in the fading light and had a great view of Pilot Peak, which is a very distinct mountain since its spire is narrow and point straight up. I read one of my books for an hour or so and hopped in my tent. Later that night when I woke up to go to the bathroom I marveled at how bright it was outside and the way the moon lit uo everything around me.

Wednesday, August 29:

Once again upon awakening I marveled at Pilot Peak, it was one of the coolest mountains I had ever seen. I cooked up some Kashi and loaded my car excited about going to hike up on the Beartooth Plateau. The drive up the pass is amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone, even if they are not fond of hiking. One need not hike in to the woods to appreciate such beauty. The environment changes constantly and you are rewarded with amazing views that are completely different with every switchback. The road is very challenging due to its lack of guardrails and it is closed in the winter.

I stopped at the trailhead that was recommended to me by the shop in Red Lodge. Island Lake was the name I was told was the perfect high altitude hike, it was supposed to be relatively flat, with the most rewarding views anywhere on the plateau, I was not disappointed. I threw my boots on and filled my pack and hopped onto this narrow sliver of a trail that could be seen rolling through fields and meadows a mile ahead of me. It was breathtaking to say the least, on all sides towering mountains covered in rock and snow met the flowing green fields and thin forests that were scattered about. About a mile or so into the hike I had an epiphany, I could totally ride my bike on this trail I thought, and so I tuned around and got my bike. A good choice, since it offered both beauty and a great ride down some challenging terrain. During the entire ride I kept thinking to myself, I cannot believe I am riding on a trail like in the magazines, down a great trail surrounded by majestic vistas.

Toward the end of the ride I met a National Park Ranger and stopped to chat with him. He works in Rocky Mountain now, but for over 20 years he worked in Yellowstone and still has a house nearby. I chat about the same things with these fellows every time I happen upon them. I love hearing their wildlife opinions and stories, especially on bear and mountain lion attacks. He told me about a study they did at Yellowstone, where this ranger would sit in this fire tower overlooking a very active grizzly section of the park, popular hiking trails also crisscrossed the area, giving the researcher a vantage point of humans and bears. He found something interesting in the study, basically that humans were almost never aware of the bears while the opposite was true of the bears. We spoke of the area and its beauty, he took a picture of me with my bike and the back round and I was off to my car.

I continued up the pass marveling at its height and beauty and snapping quite a few pictures of the surrounding mountains and glaciers on the hills. I then stopped for lunch at this rest area and popped open a can of chilli and ate it with some crackers. Two cyclists were loading their bikes on their truck and I chatted with them about biking the pass, which was a huge ride up and down. They told me that most of the drivers were relatively friendly and those that weren’t, got the finger and some expletives. These guys were old and the pass was huge, quite insane I may say.

I then drove down the pass, through Red Lodge and off to the lowlands eventually towards the northwest corner of the state. I drove north west and drove some beautiful country, huge treeless hills with tall grazing grass and bales of hay. I then hopped on interstate 90 for a bit, jumping over Bozeman, which I have spent many days in before. Bozeman is beautiful, but too commercialized for the wealthy to own their dream ranches. I used to love hanging out their with its beautiful main street, and tons of hot chicks wandering around. Bozeman is home to some of the most gorgeous girls and they are all into the outdoors like you would not believe.

I drove out towards Virginia City, which is this old silver mining town that has been preserved from its heyday. I drove into the actual town as it was getting dark and asked some folks for directions how to get in to the woods to camp. They directed me up what looked like a 4 wheel drive road and what turned out to be. Kind of sucks, because I realized they were screwing with me a bit too late, I carefully came back down the road, which was passable, but clearance was definitely recommended.

I drove back out of town and pulled out at a pull off and threw down my sleeping bag and mat, I didn’t need a tent. The night was clear and mild, when the moon came out, it became real bright. It was amazing, and when the coyotes started howling it was really special. I love the howling of coyotes and wolves, it is always so eerie. For some reason I couldn’t sleep, so I just lay back and looked at the stars and listened to the howling coyotes, and occasional livestock moo. My sleep was not too great.

Thursday, August 30:
I wandered around the wood planked sidewalks of Virginia City, marveling at the old shops and multiple national historic landmark signs explaining what each building functioned as. I am usually not one for tourist districts, but old mining towns get the best of me no mater what. It happens to be that I prefer anything that is in its natural state, and would rather things rot and decay then be turned into sites where people jump out of their rental cars and grab a few pictures before going off to some fast food restaurant for lunch. This is probably why I detest national parks so much, I just don’t like the crowded nature of them, most of them, not all of them are a big mob of people holding cameras and car keys as they rush to the roadside attractions of beauty without going much further then 200 feet away from their cars or RV’s. I also don’t like to pay to see what should be for free. This is why I avoid Yellowstone whenever I pass near, although its sister park to the south is not as bad, I usually stay in Montana, because crowds never come to this state.

After Virginia City I drove north towards Butte with anticipation. The only time I had been there had been several years back and it was getting dark and the weather was crap. Butte was home to the worlds largest copper mine, and in effect has this huge collection of old buildings including a bunch of industrial stuff, mines are still active in the area and there are these huge elevator shafts all over the town. The town to me is perfect, and I wanted to document the downtown, or historic uptown as they call it.

On the way to Butte I stopped at a pull off to eat some food, I noticed a trail leading into the woods and upon closer inspection found it had tracks of mountain bikes on it. Next thing I knew it, I was riding up a sandy trail through a forest that had signs of recent fire damage. I rode up the trail for about an hour until I reached a viewpoint over looking the desert and dry hills all around, I then rode until I hit the Continental Divide trail. I then sat up at the top and chilled, then I rode down. I rode down real fast, singing the whole time so I wouldn’t run into any bears at 35 miles per hour. At the bottom I had this huge euphoric sense from the amazing ride I just did. There were two angels at the bottom of the trail, well almost angels. There were two beautiful girls sitting near my car with their bikes strewn around them. These two hotties were road riding and I sat down with them and talked about our rides. They noted the road bike on my roof, and I confirmed my dual riding types. After I watched their tight bodied selves riding back down the pass they had ridden up I realized that they had in a backward way offered me to come riding with them. I guess its good for my soul I didn’t take a hint, it would have been very distracting to ride behind two beautiful golden girls in spandex.

Right in Butte I stopped at Wal Mart for an oil change and had a chat with the guy taking my information. He said he ground rails in New York a while back, he worked up near Batavia and being that I know the area well we talked of the area a bit. He told me Butte was a real rough town, and that miners in general are a rough bunch.

He wasn’t joking, the second I got into Butte I noticed a few things, a lot of derelicts hanging around and tons of pawn shops. When there are lots of pawn shops that can only mean one thing, poor desperate folks who need money for bad habits usually. I personally like it, because it preserves the town and keeps it from development, the type of development that chases the real folks out and brings in tourists and vacationers.

The “urban” area of Butte is rather large for a small city, further proof of its lost importance. Many large hotels of 10 stories with their old signs dot the landscape, red brick is the dominating feature here and many of the buildings have different style fire escapes, I loved it. Old advertisements are also plastered to many of the sides of buildings, another thing I love to find and take pictures of. I saw a few interesting things which also are a commonality in old mining towns, I saw a building that stated in blocks on the roof “socialist hall” and I also saw a lot of signs of a diverse ethnic community, proof that many folks came for work.

I spent a whole lot of time in Butte and then finally after many pictures and hours I decided to go up to Missoula, my all time favorite town in the west, and I would move there is they had a Jewish community. Missoula is the quintessential college town, and since it stands against a big mountain range with tons of riding, climbing, hiking, skiing and whitewater it makes it ideal for someone like me and the thousands of other outdoor nuts that go to school there.

Missoula has a bunch of main streets and all the stores are organic/outdoors type of places. It is one of the only liberal towns in the entire area, meaning between Minneapolis and Seattle. I tend to like liberal towns best, those towns that everyone has an Impeach Bush sticker on their car and rainbow flags are hanging from peoples houses. Per capita bike shops, used book stores and trendy coffee shops are quite high and it seems as if there are more bikes then cars.

I pulled off the road for gas and when I was finished this guy who looked like a Palestinian got out of his car and noted my yarmulke, his accent said Indian, but his Montana license plates fooled me. Her then told me that he had just spent 10 days in Israel and said it was the best time he ever had, surprisingly he was not Muslim, instead he was a Sikh and he lived in Missoula, but his ex-girlfriend was Jewish and apparently becoming religious and encouraged him to visit her in Jerusalem. I chatted with Indi for about san hour or so and then asked him fro some trail tips in the area.

I then drove up Pettit Canyon and rode the trails there. They were desert style once again, since most of Montana is desert with dry and sandy soil. I rode up and rode down this amazing downhill that wound down the hill with jumps and burm turns, I rode it twice and then went to this swimming hole I was at once years back.

The Water was too cold for a shower, so I asked these two fly fisherman on camping tips, they recommended I go up this dirty road, which turned out to be a real shitty road. I had to drove about 45 to cancel out the huge washboard sections that ratteled my car like a pinball machine. Then I made it out ot this beautiful campsite only to realize it cost money. I do not believe in paying to camp and hence I drove back to this old section of the road I was originally on. I camped at a dead end overlooking the Blackfoot River.

Friday, August 31:

I was excited the whole day about shabbos, finally I would sleep in a bed and finally I would take a shower and eat some real food. There is nothing quite like a shabbos spent while on the road, it really makes you appreciate what shabbos should be. I drove to Missoula and wandered around the downtown, and then went to a coffee shop to use the net. I then drove out towards Idaho and eventually to Spokane where I would spend shabbos.

While driving through the last bit of Montana I saw a makeshift sign on the side of the highway that proclaimed this little hamlet I was about to pass through had a used bookstore with 100,000 used books. As if the heavens were calling I immediately got off and entered into this small town with no stores it appeared, in fact I passed it originally and then made a u-turn realizing my mistake.

This ramshackle house that didn’t look like it could physically house 100,000 books, did just that. The aisles were narrow and the lighting poor, but that only enhanced the effect, you see the book store is something that cannot be mimicked in an internet experience. One must experience the musty smells, weird folks and crusty browning pages to really appreciate the aisles of books that were held up very high by some unseen nails. I took several pictures of the store and chatted with the owner for the better part of an hour.

It is funny how when you tell people what you are up to you get one of several reactions. There is the, “wow I wish I could do what you were doing, I wish I could just go.” Then there is the “you better do it while your young or you will never get a chance.” And then the look of understanding and content-ness that so few people have, the look that says, I did exactly the same thing and finally found my way. It seems that my trip always brings out the longing to just pick up and travel that so many Americans dream of doing but never get around to. I finally found a used copy of Travels with Charley, and the second part of Peter Jenkins Walk Across America.

I then continued onto Idaho, Idaho was the first place I was a little weary in wearing my yarmulke and tzitzis so publicly. It may have been my perceptions from the famous Aryan Nation incidents in Haden Lake just north of Coeur D’Alene where I was very near. Whatever may be I walked around the rough old mining town of Wallace and felt the eyes of the rather trashy youths on me. It is very rare that I feel uncomfortable with the whole public Jewish displays. I have worn my yarmulmke and tzitzis publicly in pretty much every part of the country, no one ever says anything, once in a while I hear people say, what’s up with those strings?

I went into a museum in Wallace and it had the last traffic light from Interstate 90 which was removed from Wallace in 1991 when they built their viaduct over the town. Interesting to think that the I90 was not a full interstate until 1991. I drove on to Spokane marveling at the beauty of Coeur D’Alene which is a city surrounded by a huge lake. I drove into Spokane and instantly felt uncomfortable at its size, since I had been alone in small towns all week I was not prepared for four lanes and sunken freeways. Spokane is about quarter million people. I got my hosts some flowers and then drove on up the hill to Chabad of Spokane.

Shabbos in Spokane:
My hosts were extremely friendly and the fresh challah was the greatest thing in the world. In fact everything was super fresh, since nothing was actually available kosher wise in the city. The food and hospitality was incredible as well as their determination to bring yiddishkeit to the city. The city lacks a mikveh and the Rabbi wants to build one, although it will cost $250,000 if he gets the one he wants. For now his wife must use the one in Seattle 300 miles away.

The accommodations were phenomenal and I actually felt wanted. In some chabad houses it seems a bit unwanted when you crash by them. But here I had my own side of the house with a great bed and great shower I couldn’t ask for more. On shabbos I walked around the neighborhood and marveled at the strangeness of Spokane. The cars were interesting, old Hondas from the 70s, next to huge monster trucks, parked right next to a Saab. Then you had dirt roads as streets, and one block over there would be a huge gated community with BMW and Volvo cars streaming in and out.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, general Outdoors, Hiking, Jews, Mountain Biking, Road Trips, Rural America | 5 Comments »

My facination with forgotten and old things

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 1, 2007

Today I stopped by a book sale under a striped tent in the historic village of Grahamsville which sits snugly right up against the wall that begins the Catskill Mountains. I drove by and debated pulling a u-turn to browse through some cheap books at the Library sale. I love books, especially when the chance to own some books that are probably out of print. I came to a stop right in front of the tent that was set up on a lawn next to the Library, two women were putting things in order and paid me no mind as I gave a quick glance at the soft cover fiction. I then made my way to the non-fiction side and glanced in the old cardboard boxes once used for corn or ketchup bottles, their lettering had been slightly scraped off surely from the multiple uses they had gone through seeing that last stalk of corn freshly plucked from a farmers field by one of those huge on Deere threshing machines that look more like torture devices then farm equipment.

I carefully browsed through the books and came across something of interest, a book of reference for Congress from 1934, my mind instantly said “cool” and I plucked it from the stack and sent a plume of dust flying through the air. It even has the Congressional members addresses in the back. I then found a memoir book with a letter written to the receiver of the book obviously a gift at some point. It was signed 1874, wow I thought, something 130 years old for 50 cents- I cant miss out on this one. I then found a copy of Silent Spring and a book of industrial revolution engineering. All together I spent $1.50, I then sat down on the grass and took a closer look at my goodies.

I cradled the book with the inscription from 1874 and thought about all the hands or generations of people that had read or touched this book. I thought about who might have originally wrote that and how fortunate I was to own something of such age. I then thought about how I must be the only 25 year old guy who is interested in something of the sort. Normal guys my age do not pursue things of yesteryear and rather enjoy the days ahead with a constant yearning for whatever new and flashy is in style at the time.

I remember as a child walking on these abandoned railroad tracks that were in this park along the Saw Mill River Parkway just north of New York City. I can remember the two straight lines of rusted rail barely showing through the thickets and small trees that had taken over since the last trains, in my imagination steam, had sped through these woods. The telegraph poles still stood in some places and shiny insulators of green and white sometimes hung on for dear life as the vines tried to pull them and their wires down to earth.

My father would talk about the insulators a lot and how they were worth money since most of them had been shot down by young kids in the country looking for stuff to shoot. He would talk about how they were the best thing to make sure the wires did not touch the wooden poles, these were the days before rubber he would chime in. He would talk about why there was tons of coal scattered about the woods and how the train burned coal to move, its mostly in a blur now.

I remember visiting old towns in far off places, flung away from the interstates and tourists left to rust and go back into the earth when folks moved onto better places. The big old Victorian mansions with their sweeping verandas and ornate roof detail. The old roadside cemeteries that have long been forgotten and are marked only by a mowed circle and some old slanting head stones with barely legible dates. My father would trace the dates with his hand to figure out how old they were, he even took pictures.

Is this where my love of old forgotten things came from, my love of old motels with those blinking neon signs that have long since been converted into low income weekly residences since the interstates took their business and gave it to the chain motel. My love of the old train station sitting next to a rail road bed devoid of tracks and the only sign that it is a station comes from the two lines between the tall grass that signify the grasses unwillingness to grow where those iron bars had been. My love of the old car sticking its head out from underneath some trees that are growing through its hood, with its empty engine compartment and the windows long since smashed and shot out, flattened white walled tires and graffiti scrawled across its exterior. Or the thrill of passing by an old dilapidated barn that is on the verge of collapse and seeing an old Ford with a dusty old tarp covering it and shielding from its inevitable destruction.

Is this where my love of factories came from, those red bricked Romanesque arched windowed monoliths with huge blackened smoke stacks protruding from their fiery depths, with machinery the size of houses packed inside. The thrills of walking through these industrial behemoths that once spewed toxins and all sorts of pollutants in the air in the name of progress and higher living standards. Figuring out when they were abandoned and what type of goods they produced.

Is this where my love for anything Art Deco came from, those straight modern lines signifying the roaring 20’s and the speak easy and prohibition. The beautiful gas stations of the era and the Syracuse train station of note. Is this where my fascination with old bottles, post cards, books, photographs, coins, baseball cards and many other things of old, came from.

I remember when I moved out and had the freedom of a car with a full tank of gas. I would wander for days, weeks or just a few hours through the country side searching for anything old and forgotten. Towns that had seen better days were my favorite and western New York was full of them. Towns that served one purpose, to get the grain to the market, so they revolved around the trains that came to pick up the grain from the silos or elevators that stood trackside. The trains declined and trucking took over, no more a need for the actual town. Interstates also led to the demise of the small town once a haven for weary travelers seeking a cup of coffee and some fresh pie- instead they took their meals the uniform way at Dennys or McDonalds.

I would wander around the old grain districts of Buffalo and wonder what it was like during the heyday of the grain industry there. I would wander the old rail road yards of Salamanca and Elmira and look for insulators and hop on board old abandoned trains. I love the tracks, I love simply walking on them or driving over them, I am addicted to rail road tracks, the lore and the adventure, I don’t know why?

I found old boats and old cars and old restaurants and old hotels. Old hotel signs are especially intriguing as well as old diners or gas stations. Old pumps are hardto find in the east, but in the west they are in abundance still. Go to the southwest that is where they are I tell ya. Blinking neon hotel signs, old gas stations with those big bay windows and glass blocks. Urban renewal downtowns with a mix of ugly 1960’s era buildings and the old ornate buildings.

Old books, old magazines with ads for Packard cars and RCA radios, happy ads of a different time. Articles about the creating of Alaska as a state, books with old letters in them. Anything old and lost and forgotten, why is that the case.

Old roads, I mean highways and roads, road beds anything that tells me a road once existed in this very spot but is long gone. Cuts through the trees with power lnes following and a clear indication of a road. Maybe I pass over a river and look to the side and see old bridge pillars. I stop get out of my car, camera and tripod in hand and go to investigate. Why was the road moved? Does the road bed still exist, are there clues as to what the surface was made out of? Maybe I will find some old signs or relics of the old road. US routes are best for this, since they are still federal roads in a pure sense, though the state maintains them- they are still the same numbers in every state. Routes 9, 20 and 6 immediately come to mind.

Route 6 in fact is interesting in the Harriman State Park area, there it has changed from original, you can see it through the trees, a overgrown relatively winding road. I have not investigated it yet, I will, it is heavily traveled. I wonder when they switched the route, was it all at once or just chunks?

The old US highways also have the best motels, ice cream stands, old signs, advertisements, gas stations, architecture and diners. I promise, drive down route 209 which goes from Kingston NY to Port Jervis and points beyond NY state, there are multiple examples of this fine old architecture and interesting sites. I love to drive the old routes that have been turned into streets. I can also spot where the road used to go based on power lines, power lines always follow the road. The power lines go off the road and you will surely see that there is an old road bed of some sort, crumbling concrete poking through the weeds.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips, Rural America | 2 Comments »

Seeking information about old square factory chimney Parksville- NY

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 24, 2007

I was wandering some back roads in Sullivan County today and came across a very tall square industrial chimney which was sticking out of the brush off of Cooley Road near Parksville. I am trying to find out any sort of history surrounding this location. As some of you may know, I am a big fan of anything industrial especially factory ruins. I enjoy photographing it and figuring out what was there at one point. Cities like Buffalo and Detroit are my playgrounds, though wandering ruins can be dangerous as well as freaky. In NY state the hudson valley features lots of ruins and old buildings scattering the shores.

To come across something like this far away from any industrial center is rare. I know of one abandoned mill on the shores of the Delaware- north of Narrowsburg on Route 97. Its actually a beautiful building and mostly in tact save for the roof. Red brick with Romanesque arches all around, and visible ducts where the mills power used to run through underneath its massive structure.

This factory remnant in Parksville is removed from any source of hydro power, no roads lead to it save for a trail developed by the DEC for fishing. Upon close inspection the chimney looks resembles that of a small blast furnace. It is made of short red bricks, the small tiny kind in a normal pattern. The bricks are not named, but scattered about the site are loose bricks with the name “Hedges” stamped on one side.

I noticed there were several iron bars sticking up here and there, and there were two large round barrel sort of things stuck into the ground. Like massive round wooden flowerpots. It was interesting, they were filled with water and about 4 feet deep. The trees and overgrowth around the site appeared to be about 50 years old, no old growth trees, but relatively thick birch and oak dotted the area.

The chimney itself was the type with an inner core, leading me to believe that it was the part of a kiln for making bricks. Some bricks have fallen down revealing an inner core and an outer core. On the bottom of the chimney are several arches which open up to the inside.

If anyone has any sort of information on this ruin I would love to hear it. History, old pictures, anything.

Please email me frumsatire@gmail.com

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Catskills | 1 Comment »