Who Are We But Albatross?

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Adirondacks, Outdoors

As many of you know, two weeks ago, on June 23rd, I was hit by a car for the first time. Well, sort of hit anyway, the car just clipped the back wheel of my bike enough to send me careening into and over a guard rail, and landing in a lump on the shoulder of 490. The bike was a wreck, basically totaled, after having it for all of 10 minutes; I’d just bought it from Jason at a Euro 2012 soccer party. I didn’t know I was a wreck yet. It didn’t hurt *that* much for some reason, as I climbed back up to the crash site, where the damn driver of that SUV (a black Escalade with Ohio plates, if anyone cares) waited to ask me if I was all right. He didn’t even wait for my answer, just gunned it back onto 490 and told me to go fuck myself (stay classy, Cincinnati!) never to be seen again. I didn’t even call the cops, not sure why, part of it was I didn’t want to go to court, some of it was not wanting my parents to know I’d been hit, or even that I had a bike, and I really didn’t see the point I guess when I didn’t even remember the number on the Cadillac’s plates, and he was long gone anyways.

No, I just sat on the side of South Goodman for a while wondering what the fuck just happened, probably in shock, soaking up the June sunlight and bleeding into the sidewalk. I’m not quite sure how long I was there before Jake just happened to find me, still laying on the sidewalk next to three-quarters of a bike. As the evening went on, to a bit of shock I actually felt almost normal, and we even fixed the bike, gave it a new back wheel and built it into a single speed in his garage. That’s really the way it is around here, most of my friends are pretty much fearless I think, at least it seems that way to me… with the bike whole again, we rode around the city for a while, and I even managed to get back to my plans for the night, taking in Real Beer Week at the Old Toad, downing at least 40 little “tasters” in a night really adds up, but fuck it, I got hit by a car, I wasn’t about to let last call end my night. My friends were ready to go home so I just invited a group of buskers playing on Alexander out instead, said we could drink and jam some on the roof of my building, and I assume we did.

I woke up Sunday afternoon crumpled up on my roof in a torrential rain, not really wanting to or being able to move as the thunder crashed around me. Shit. I’d completely forgotten about being injured, all I realized was I was hungover as fuck, and this rain was cold.

Monday wasn’t much better… I’d started to figure out what was hurting, nothing was broken because it all moved after enough tries, but nothing really felt right either, my shoulder and hip were both half-locked in position and seemed like they were about to go giant and purple with swelling. I went to work anyway, mostly because I work at a hospital, and figured maybe one of the doctors I deliver the mail to might know what was wrong. I actually did see a doctor, and a very relevant one, a sports physician for the hockey team, who said all I had was bone bruises, and if I were on his team I’d be good to play that night, as long as I could get through the pain. Not really the answer I was looking for, I thought maybe something was dislocated or torn or something and there’d be a treatment, but I took it for what it was, and just started hoping I’d stop hurting in the next 5 days, so I could still finally make it to the Adirondacks.

By the time I made it to Lake Placid, I was convinced I was nearly cured, nothing really hurt at all anymore, and Christian thought I looked as good as ever, so we went on our hike anyway exactly as planned, or at least as our plans always evolve, starting right out the first night on some ungodly marathon.

Everything still seemed good through the night and morning up to Mt Marcy, in fact I even felt like I was in better shape than any other year I’d made that climb. We reached the summit just after sunrise, while the fog was just melting off the lower slopes


There really is no feeling quite like a successful climb, looking out at all below us

The fog stayed with us for most of the day, as we climbed Haystack, Skylight, Grey Peak (below) and Mt Redfield.
Grey Peak

The sixth peak of the day, Cliff, finally got the better of me, as my hip started acting up (predictably, probably) 28 miles and far too many vertical feet into the day, and I was stuck maybe 30 feet below the summit, on the final cliff, just on account of not being able to bend that far anymore… It was dark again by the time we made it to the Flowed Lands, but at least I was still in one piece.

For a while longer anyway… I finally took a fall, and an awful one, in a nasty section of Avalanche pass. It felt all too much like a repeat of the first one, landing right back on my bad shoulder and bad hip, and getting dinged in the head this time by a leftover falling rock just for good measure. Just like last time, it didn’t hurt so much right away. About the only thing that changed was my head filling up with weird music, and a constant chorus of “Who are we but albatross?”, a disembodied line from some song I can only assume hasn’t been written yet (upon further review, Google comes up with nothing).

We finally staggered back to our campsite just after (another) sunrise, covering 6 peaks and 43 miles in just over 30 hours (ouch!), falling just a bit short of our goal of going farther and higher than in 2010. I didn’t want to admit it yet, but after that fall, I could tell it would be a season ender. A few hours of sleep confirmed this (along with an awful sunburn from sleeping the day away on the beach!), and when I figured out that a shower had turned into giant raindrops made of pain, the trip was over for me. I was upset enough about the pain, but on top of it all the guilt was almost worse. I’d already decided in 2010 I was done with these mountains, I knew i’d probably never get the chance to go back (it was enough of a surprise this even happened), and I had to ruin it by not only showing up coming off an injury when I should probably have stayed home, but having to get dragged out of there too, I’ll be amazed if this isn’t my last climbing trip, certainly my last one with the one person who’s been willing to go with me all these times.

At least, if there’s any positive out of all this bullshit, it’s that I can still ride a bike without everything hurting. But I still can’t quite escape the feeling that I got exactly what I deserved on this one. Ouch!

The Earth Ran Dry

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Adirondacks, Industrial, North Country

Thirty-four years ago, Star Lake, New York, once a thriving Adirondack town with a population of a few thousand, a golf club, a drive-in movie theater, and everything else you’d expect in rural New England, collapsed. It had always been a company town, ever since the 1890s when the Sykes family controlled most of the logging in the then town of Clifton, and continuing through decades of stability between the paper mill at Newton Falls, and Benson Mines closer to the village, employing hundreds of union workers and quite literally building the town. Then in 1977 the mines closed, never to return, and only a few months later, by the summer of 1978, Newton Falls closed for what would be the first of many times in its troubled history.

As one might expect for a place that has been gone for so long, Benson Mines is wide open now, left to rot and gradually fall back to nature. A minor earthquake in 2000 led to breaching of the water table, and the mine pit filled in, becoming Lake Benson. The greater majority of the buildings still remain, and are unlikely to see any future use.

Looking back at the entrance, at the corner of routes 3 and 60

Building 1 contained the mine’s front offices and laboratories

The rest of the buildings, 31 in all, were strictly industrial, although their exact functions were gutted with the rest of the equipment
Building 6

All that machinery ended up in neat little compacted cubes, headed for a scrap yard they never reached

One thing that remained surprisingly intact is the complex’s electrical wiring

I think this was a copy machine of some type, it seems to be just the right size to accept blueprints, and is sitting on top of a blueprint/map cabinet

Finally, just some more beautiful destruction, a place falling down entirely on its own, without human assistance or vandalism

They All Fall Down

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Adirondacks, Amusement, Industrial, North Country

Another return trip, this time to the Adirondacks, once again, with UR UrbEx. As one might expect, the place looks almost exactly the same as it always did. I won’t bore you with more overview photos of Frontier Town, since it’s just what it was last year… I tried to focus more on details this year, as the place falls down there’s less and less left to see though.

Abandoned pianos are so much fun. Especially when there’s no risk of getting caught and you can actually “play” them (which usually amounts to absolute noise, but still…)

What’s left of Main Street – Nature has basically won!

The church is probably the most authentic and most solid structure in all of Frontier Town

This is the house where Teddy Roosevelt found out he had become President after McKinley’s assassination in 1901. It has seen far better days.

Once More To The Lake

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Adirondacks, Industrial, North Country, Outdoors

I never thought I’d be able to say it about this spot, but it came painfully clear from the first night: the glory days were over. Far from living up to its name, the 3rd½ Annual UR UrbEx Semi-Cold Sesqui-Awesome ExploroCamping Extravaganza felt like hollowly going through the motions of something that once was special. Gone are the hipsters and artists, here are the new order, the engineers. Even when it comes time for the traditions from old Concrete, the sausage roast, the pomegranates, tetherboating — the rules are what they are, and rule us in our time of freedom and release. So once the new leaders were safe asleep, the fires started again beneath these boreal stars, and we sang the songs that remind us of the good times, and the songs that remind us of the better times.

Starry Night

In the morning we headed out to Benson mines again, the spirit of exploration quashed by the randomly selected groups of six we would be to stay together in, and the crackle of walkie-talkies taking frequent attendances. I took a bunch of terrible photos (no surprise given the overall mood here), and a few decent ones like this
Not so bad?

and this

At lunch we regrouped and I managed to talk some much needed adventure into the group; we would spend the afternoon in the more photogenic and contained Upper Benson Mine, then climb a mountain after dark to watch the meteors. I’ve been to Upper Benson enough times that I stopped shooting anything but HDR. Cover your eyes if you’re not a fan!

The rest of my weekend photos (50% less HDR) are here!

Benson Mines

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Adirondacks, Industrial, North Country

Benson’s Mines wasn’t anything new to me, I’d already been a few times last year, and seen most of the upper complex. But like any good location, it’s full of secrets. This time, those secrets included an entire second complex on the other side of “Lake” Benson (the body of water created by the flooded mine). Much more isolated, this lower Benson would have survived in much better condition except for the out buildings being destroyed by fire in 1974.

These leftover mine tracks go everywhere around the property, the particularly circular ones still hosting 4-wheeler racing, and the rest being excellent ways to spend an hour or two completely lost!

I think “do not enter” is implied here

What are these for? They are baskets on chains that raise and lower from the ceiling.

This used to be connected by a massive building that was the Lower Works

A quick pass through Building 6 on the way out
Building 6