Abandoned places (slow net connections beware)

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by markbvt, Sep 28, 2007.

  1. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    NOTE: Updated on Page 2, 28 May 2008; on Page 4, 27 July 2009; and on Page 7, 27 August 2013!

    Greetings everyone.

    I thought I'd make my first post on this forum about a couple of the interesting places I've ridden to this year. I'm fascinated by places that have been abandoned, and if they're challenging to get to, so much the better.

    First up is an old Air Force radar station. It was part of the NORAD early warning radar network, and was abandoned in 1963.

    This place is in the middle of nowhere. In order to get to the access road, you have to ride over 7 or 8 miles of dirt road. The access road itself is probably another 4 or 5 miles long and is gated three times, making it impossible to reach the radar site except on foot or by mountain bike or dual-sport motorcycle. The upper part of the access road was paved in 1962, but most of the inclined sections have turned into rutted gravel pits due to water erosion. These require attention be paid to avoid a spill many miles from help. Also, the lower part of the access road is unpaved and fairly rough. Easy enough for my Honda XR650L and my friend Jesse's Yamaha XT350, but street bikes wouldn't have such a good time of it.

    Jesse and I visited the site twice in May, once at the beginning of the month and again on Memorial Day (you'll see why we had to return in a moment). The second time we visited, the lowest gate was open, but the first time it wasn't and necessitated pushing our bikes through the woods to get around the gate. The second gate is located 3 or 4 miles up the road; this one has large boulders on either side and very little chance to get around the outside of these. However, there's just enough room between the left gatepost and the boulder next to it to squeeze a skinny bike through. We had to dismount our bikes and thread them through, one of us on each end. My XR650 just barely made it through (good thing the footpegs fold). Jesse's XT350 made it through a little more easily. On the other side of the gate, we mounted back up and continued riding, and we soon came to the third gate. This one was much like the previous, with piles of boulders on either end of the gate, but again there was a little space between the gatepost and the boulder. In this case it was just enough to be able to carefully ride through, left foot on the boulder and right one squeezing past the gatepost.

    Finally past the gates, we rode up the access road until we came to the radar base's administrative area. Note the radar buildings on top of the ridge in the background.
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    The admin area consists of a large mess/entertainment hall and a gymnasium surrounded by a number of quonset huts and outbuildings. Here's one of the quonset huts that evidently burned at some time in the past.
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    Other quonset huts have been demolished, leaving only their foundations and piles of rubble.
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    This is the mess/entertainment hall.
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    This used to be a tennis/volleyball court.
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    One of the things I found really fascinating about the admin area is that there's absolutely no sign of human presence aside from the deteriorating buildings. The site is so far from any population that there are no human-created sounds whatsoever. In this sort of situation, I found my mind playing tricks on me -- the wind in the trees sounded like a vehicle coming up the access road; the clanking of loose siding in the wind made me think someone else was walking around the site. Eerie.

    After exploring the admin area, we continued up the access road to see the actual radar site, but we soon found our path blocked by snow. At first we tried to ride through it, but it quickly got much too deep to even bother trying to hike through. This image is a bit deceptive -- in the middle of the road, the snow was a good foot or so deep.
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    Having been obstructed by the snow on our first trip, Jesse and I went back later in the month. By that time, the snow was gone, and we rode without issue up to the radar site on top of the mountain. The access road winds through dense trees; this is what we saw when it suddenly emerged into the mountaintop installation.
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    This was the main computer/systems building.
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    Generator room in the computer building.
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    Main computer room. The trenches in the floor housed all the cable runs for the computer equipment. It's a bit weird to think that the computer I'm typing this on has far more processing power than this entire room of equipment did in 1963.
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    Exterior of the computer building.
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    Basement of the generator room.
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    One of the outbuildings.
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    One of the smaller radar towers. Note the concrete conduit in the foreground. The Air Force never bothered to excavate underground cable runs; they just built conduits like this on the surface to house all the cables running from the towers to the computer building.
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    After exploring the outside of the site, we ventured inside the main tower. The first thing we found there was the support structure for the radome that used to sit on top of the tower.
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    This structure continued up through the second storey of the tower.
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    The third level. The dark doorway next to the elevator shaft is the staircase up which we came.
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    In one corner of the third level there's a doorway that opens onto a small balcony, with a ladder leading up to the roof. We chose not to climb that high due to very rickety-looking wooden railings and some missing floor grating. This is the view from the balcony.
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    After the ride up to the station, I compared notes with a friend who visited the site in the fall of 2006. It became clear that whoever currently owns the site is trying to reduce their liability -- sometime in the late fall or early spring, they went through and welded a lot of doors shut (we couldn't get into any of the other radar towers), and they seem to have torn down the quonset huts in the admin area in order to use their sheet metal to cover the doors and windows of many other buildings.

    I don't know what has happened with this site in the meantime. I have a feeling that many of the buildings may have been torn down over the summer, probably mostly due to asbestos contamination concerns. I consider this a real shame, as the site is a fascinating reminder of our Cold War history. I was pleased to be able to visit it on Memorial Day.

    And speaking of asbestos, that brings me to the next interesting site I visited, but I'll have to wait to post that until a little later today.

    --mark
    #1
  2. OldManDragon

    OldManDragon Adventurer

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    That is a fascinating report! I enjoy finding old "secret" sites too. There is an old Lockheed site in Dawson County Ga. where they experimented with nuclear tech back in the '50s and '60s. We found the radiation warning symbols on an old map of the Dawson Forest wildlife management area and then asked some locals what it meant. They said no buildings were left, but there were some concrete pads, pipes, etc. One never knows what one will find just around the next bend...
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    That's quite the abandoned mess! I'd be afraid something would come crashing down on my head while in there! Thanks for the pics and report :thumb
    #3
  4. RandomZ

    RandomZ Been here awhile

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    Wow, that's pretty cool. I've recently been pretty fascinated with abdoned places. Where is that located?
    #4
  5. UJM

    UJM Adventurer

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    Great pics, thanks for sharing. I can totally understand why you had to make the 2nd trip back.

    Ever since I was a kid, I've loved finding and exploring abandoned buildings.

    I have a question, in your 2nd picture of the radar site, it looks like there's a newish windvane and solar panel on the roof of the building. Or am I not seeing that right?

    In any case, great post.
    #5
  6. Wallace

    Wallace Seat belt tight babe?

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    Fascinating stuff,Thanks for sharing.

    Is that a solar panel on one of the larger towers....:dunno
    #6
  7. ridingAK

    ridingAK On the Road Less Taken...

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    Those are great pics. As I was looking at them I kept thinking about all the asbestos in them. It's sad that so many historical building are in danger of being torn down because of all the asbestos they used back then.:cry
    #7
  8. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    The keen eyes of UJM and Wallace are exactly right -- there's a small windvane and a solar panel on the roof of the largest radar tower. The site is apparently owned by a company that's doing windfarm feasibility studies. There was a proposal (rejected last year) to turn the site into a windfarm comprising four large windmills; I haven't been able to find out for sure whether the same company still owns the site and is doing further studies (the proposal last year was rejected due to insufficient environmental impact studies), or whether the site has been sold to another energy company that's doing further studies.

    The site's located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, an area in which there's quite a lot of current or proposed windfarm activity at present.

    On to location number 2. On September 1 I went for a ride with a few members of my Triumph RAT pack that included a stop at an abandoned asbestos mine in Eden Mills, VT. This mine at one point produced 96% of the United States' asbestos. I'm sure some of their product ended up at the radar base.

    Approaching the mine from a mile or so out, the trees lining the road open up and you can see the mountains of tailings left over from the mining operation. This image doesn't do justice to the size of the pile. It's absolutely huge.
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    We rode in through the mine's main entrance gate, which was open, and parked our bikes in the main administrative area. As we were riding in, the site's caretaker was waving us off, but as soon as we got off our bikes and introduced ourselves, he became very friendly and let us walk around a bit to take pictures. Obviously we couldn't enter any of the buildings though.

    To my surprise, it turned out that the mine was active up until the early '90s, when it was finally shut down.

    This is one of the buildings in the admin area.
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    I love this rusted dump truck.
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    Breaker buildings and conveyors between them.
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    The pile of tailings as seen from the other side (as compared to the approach pictures). Note how erosion has formed gullies and washed out parts of the conveyor.
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    Some old signs.
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    Garage building.
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    Water has filled the pit; note the intense color.
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    Views along the conveyor toward the mountain of tailings.
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    Rusting steam shovel.
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    The maw of the rock crusher. Freshly mined ore would be dropped in here to be crushed and then transported along the conveyors pictured above.
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    Our bikes parked in the admin area.
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    This was another fascinating site to visit, but while I was there I was wishing I'd brought along a respirator. There were fluffy white piles of asbestos lying underneath joints in the conveyors where it had fallen through. Fortunately the ground was damp, so there was no dust blowing around.

    Ironically, two weeks after this ride, we took another over the Kancamagus Highway in NH and stopped for lunch at Fandangles in North Conway. As we were finishing up our food, the hostess came around and asked everyone to leave the building. The electrical panel in the basement had caught fire, and as we watched over the next couple hours, the building burned down in front of us. The yin and yang of asbestos one ride and fire the next was a wonderful bit of ironic symmetry, but I hope Fandangles gets rebuilt because they make the best burgers ever.

    It's always an adventure riding with us. :)

    --mark
    #8
  9. anonny

    anonny What could go wrong?

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    Most excellent!
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  10. psychsurf

    psychsurf Been here awhile

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    Great pics, I love that kind of stuff!
    #10
  11. GSdreamer

    GSdreamer Mtn. Man

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    Very Cool!
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  12. PigRyder

    PigRyder Adventurer

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    Excellent examples of abandoned history. One of my favorite destinations was Bodie Ghost Town north of Mammoth California. Fun twisties to get out there and plenty of dirt roads and mountain passes in the area....

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    Or on the same trip we stayed at a campground with natural hotsprings....

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    Cool post, I'm sure plenty of people have pics from secluded destinations.
    #12
  13. raider

    raider Big red dog

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    Wow! That was really interesting. It's amazing to think that in 1963, the powers-that-be were convinced full-scale war between the USSR and USA was an inevitability. At that time, they probably weren't far wrong either.

    I love abandoned places too, particularly being there alone. There's a ghostly feeling of connection with the past when you just stop and stand silently in a place where people used to be. I think places have a memory, just like people, and when they're left alone too long, they get anxious to share it with you.

    Unfortunately, most Australian abandoned places I've been to have long ago been reclaimed by the bush - so not good for photography.

    Thanks for sharing!
    #13
  14. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    Hey thanks for the Ride Report.
    I've been looking at that Radar Area on the map for a while, and had planned on checking it out.
    It is true that the site is being proposed for Wind Power Generating.

    I was going to combine that place with the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant in a Ride Report this summer but never got around to it.

    But I've got a good "abandoned place" Ride Report planned for October.
    Q~
    #14
  15. OldAndBusted

    OldAndBusted Needs a little work...

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    beautiful stuff. i love the roads less traveled. being a NORAD radar station, i'm a little disappointed the graffiti artists hadn't sprayed POE/OPE/EOP somewhere.

    makes me wish i had a little dualsport to check those places out. maybe some day i'll find some knobbies for my antique and try it :)
    #15
  16. timk519

    timk519 Long timer

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    Fascinating report, thanks for sharing!
    #16
  17. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Your cell phone probably has more grunt than that computer did :D

    Do you have the coordinates for the place?
    #17
  18. truck6driver

    truck6driver The Fireman

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    I showed the pic's of the radar site to my father. He could not be sure from the amount of damage and decay, but he thinks he visited the site when he was in the Air Force in the late 50's. He was escorting a Major around while waiting to get out on a medical after 3 years. Looks cool though. All the military sites around me are still active (that means you get shot for going around gates).
    I enjoyed the pics! Keep them coming, since I am without a mount until Feb.

    RH
    #18
  19. Damir

    Damir AKA Pudla

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    #19
  20. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Damir, thanks for the link! That was fascinating.

    MichaelJ, no coordinates, the only GPS I've got is a street one, and I wasn't using it on this trip. Sorry!

    --mark
    #20