Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sign Post Medusa

[Above] Image Composite
Adirondack Mine

Winter is my slow time. Almost every day is a flat gray without contrast. With conditions less than ideal, I busy myself with media development projects that have been lingering since the summer while at the same time attempting to fulfill holiday print orders in hopes of having them delivered by Christmas. I have content for three websites to develop before the first of the year plus a few site redesigns and countless upgrades. Needless to say, I miss the summer’s possibilities for both adventure and photography almost as much as I miss warm trail runs. I hate sweating through cold winter workouts. Tomorrow, I am going to make an effort to get out and shoot some photos no matter what the atmospheric conditions are. I haven’t picked up my camera in almost 3 weeks.

I have a waterproof, helmet mounted DV camera on order. Every time the Brown Santa Claus (The UPS van) drives by without delivering my cam, I curse him under my breath by wishing heavy packages and obscure house numbers upon him. Seems like I have spent months out of my life waiting for either bike parts or photography equipment to be delivered out of the back of a UPS van. After I get the cam, I want to get out to Stratton and shoot some TGR rip-off video in one of those out of bounds broccoli forests on the upper mountain. Just 1 mile from the lodge its huge inland sea of parked SUV’s, the broccoli and rime ice covered snow mushrooms look like the deep back country. Getting off the high speed gondola at the summit is like stepping onto the surface of the moon. I need to get outside soon.

The following is from one of my ongoing projects.

Excerpt from The Inexact Science of Abandoned Places:
Urban Exploration in a Post-911 World:

The absolute silence of this remote portion of the Adirondack Park is eroded only by the irregular rhythm of a door left open to bang closed in the wind. Reports of an Adirondack “Ghost Town” have been circulating around the internet for years. There is little question as to its existence, only as to when the long silent structures of the titanium mining operation would fall victim to the wrecking ball. The rumors increase the urgency of getting there before any redevelopment is to begin.

“Don’t look at the NO TRESPASSING signs and they can’t hurt you.” I have used this phrase a lot over the years, mostly just before setting fat tire onto posted land to poach forbidden single track. The orange and black medusas on sign posts and need to be avoided at all costs. As we approached the gated entrance of the mine, I mumbled it again. Over the years, those 12 words have been transformed from a joke to a good luck piece for a non-superstitious person, my verbal talisman. We parked the car a few feet from the gate. On foot and carrying backpacks laden with camera gear, the option of a quick get away was an impossibility. We walked down the only road in or out hoping to talk our way out of any confrontation with security guards with the story that we were students doing research for a thesis.

Every time, without fail, I feel like I am being watched.

Upon first impression, the hollowed out structure of the smelting operation resembled the skeletal remains of an enormous, long dead beast. At one point in its history, this 5 square mile patch of real estate was the nexus of thousands of lives, serving as both the financial anchor and social web for not only employees, but their families and extended familes. The mine became a self contained planet isolated in a vacuum of pine forests and rural two lane highways. This small city housed a worker’s encampment, air strip, firehouse, medial aid station, and commissary alone with scores of science fiction-esque structures that served some highly specialized need. Almost completely self-contained, there was little need for workers and their families to venture far from the industrial landscape of the mine.

Walking through the maze of silent buildings, there is a palpable feeling that this place was abandoned all at once, almost like an escape in the middle of a perfectly normal workday. Time cards are still slipped into the slots of the rack next to the time clock which is stopped at 3:18 with no indication as to AM or PM. The floors and railings of the guardhouse and weigh station have been polished smooth by years of workdays. Tools still hang from peg boards on the walls of the machine shop, and vehicles half life into the diamond black soil. The inner chambers of the rusting, corrugated aluminum buildings beg to be explored.

The mine complex sits on a manmade reservoir of turquoise water, a blue jewel that stands out in the landscape of the Adirondacks where most water here is stained brown from tannic acid. The water appears to have an out of place purity among the rusting buildings of the complex. I am sure the water only looks clean as the mine is little more than an enormous scar on the planet’s skin. It is obvious that the environment here was milked of everything and left to wither away in silence. Hidden behind miles of buffer zone, destruction on a grand scale happened here, relatively unabated.

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