Faith and Frost in Frontier Town

This is my one chance to try this.

My one and only chance, in this one and only location.

And if I screw this up… for sure, I’ll never get another opportunity.  Never.  Because the location will disappear as soon as the bulldozers and the demolition crews arrive.

I must prepare and I must persevere.

Background.

Several years ago, I had this idea of photographing a “star trails” image at the abandoned Frontier Town amusement park in Essex County.  After planning and plotting the scene, I eventually abandoned the concept and instead photographed a star trail in nearby Paradox Lake.  Result?  A nice bright red silk at the Big E photo competition for my efforts.

In 2014, I had this idea of photographing an infrared image at the abandoned Frontier Town amusement park in Essex County.  After planning and plotting the scene, I eventually chose a nearby waterfall on the other side of the Northway.  Result?  That picture, Aerochrome Falls, claimed some silks in 2015.

In 2016, I had this idea of photographing the Milky Way galaxy at the abandoned Frontier Town amusement park in Essex County.  After planning and plotting the scene, I eventually went a few miles up the road and photographed the galactic core at Hammond Pond in Mineville.  Result?  That picture, The Heavens Above, The Forest Below, claimed some silks in 2016.

In 2016, I had this idea of photographing the Perseid meteor shower at the abandoned Frontier Town amusement park in Essex County.  After planning and plotting the scene, I eventually took the picture at the reservoir in Corinth.  Result?  I caught a shooting star off the Big Dipper constellation.

Seems like every time I want to get a photo at Frontier Town, I instead come down with a bad case of cold feet and an inability to pull the trigger.

And right now … with my broken left foot still in a walking boot, and my eyes peeled for police and other issues … here I am.  One chance to get the shot I want.

Flashback.

Frontier Town has gone through a political quagmire since its closure in 1999.  The park’s buildings have fallen into disrepair and vandalism; the Town of North Hudson has tried to sell the land parcels at auction; someone bought the parcels, but the Town rescinded the sale in that they felt the price paid was way too low; and now there’s chatter about turning the land – minus the old buildings – into a connector for a hiking or snowmobile trail.  Or something.  Or anything.  There are plans to tear down the buildings, or at least prepare an asbestos abatement survey.  Or something.  Or anything.

But as of right now, Frontier Town is a mess.  Urban explorers traipse through the park.  Squatters and vagrants are reported to live in some of the abandoned buildings.  The locomotive that originally took visitors throughout the park is now rotting in a front lawn off of Exit 12 of I-90.  What was once one of Essex County’s most successful and profitable employers is now as distressed and forlorn as the ghost towns of the old Wild West.

I need to find beauty in the chaos; warmth in the ennui; a soul in the soulless.

I shouldn’t even be here.  I should be spending New Year’s Day in bed, resting my broken foot before I have surgery in three weeks’ time.  But here’s my theory.  It’s January 1.  There’s snow on the ground.  I can get shots of Frontier Town as if it would have looked had it been the alternate filming site for The Hateful Eight.  And there will be no other footprints in the snow save ones made by deer and moose.

And as I arrive at Exit 29 on the Adirondack Northway, I make a solemn promise.  I’m only here for any photos outside.  I will not enter any buildings.  I will not take any “souvenirs” from the park grounds.  And once I get the photo I want … I’m out of Essex County in nothing flat.

I arrive at a parking lot that once held dozens of Frontier Town family vehicles.  Aw, crud.  Nobody bothered to plow the parking lot.  Well, yeah, Miller, why snowplow a parking lot for an abandoned amusement park?

Only one choice.  I park along the side of the road and turn on my hazard lights.

The Pathway. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

The Pathway. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I can’t tell what types of animals made those snowy prints … I only hope that their diet consists of tree bark and nuts and not cameramen.

My original plan was to bring as many cameras as I could carry; heck, I even took Leica Green and Kodak Red on the trip.  But in the end, I used only one camera – my Nikon Df, with the Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.   And it’s with the Nikon Df – and with some trepidation – that I hobble down the snowy pathway towards the Frontier Town grounds.

There are hazard and warning signs all over the place.  Do not enter any buildings.  Entering the grounds without proper permission is a cause for arrest.

Still, I continue forward, hoping that anybody who could arrest me was still sleeping off that New Year’s Eve hangover.  Keep going, Miller … don’t waste any time.

And then … I arrive on the Frontier Town grounds.

The old buildings of Main Street are still here.  They’re deteriorated and distressed, they’re decimated and dessicated.  There have been threats and promises that the buildings would disappear soon.  They’re fire hazards.  They’re health hazards.  They’re probably full of asbestos and termites and squatters and meth-heads.

But what they don’t have are footprints.  At least not human footprints.

Get the photo, Miller.  You didn’t drive two hours just to stare at the buildings and go home.

And…

Western Outfitters. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Western Outfitters. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Bull’s-eye.  I got the shot and it looks great.

Okay, time to go…

No, wait.  I know there’s a chapel around here somewhere.

And at that moment, I had three choices.  I could either:

  • (a) leave right now with the photo I snagged.
  • (b) leave right now before the cops arrive.
  • (c) leave right now and not get arrested.

And in the end, I chose Option D.  If i didn’t find the chapel in five minutes, with a good location to photograph it, then I would leave.

I trudged through the snow.  My left foot is still immobilized in the walking boot, and I tell myself, as long as I’m not feeling any pain doing this, this photo is going to be worth it.  And if I don’t get any other photos here, I at least snagged the Western Outfitters shot.

One glance to my left … and there’s the chapel.

I walk towards a small pathway.  There’s snow and overgrowth and distress around the chapel.

But in that snow and overgrowth and distress…

Chapel in the snow. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f3.8 lens, flipped to black and white. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Chapel in the snow. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f3.8 lens, flipped to black and white. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Holy … no, Chuck, don’t use that next word, especially when you’re describing a house of worship.

Okay… let’s move a little more to the left.  There must be an entranceway to the front of the chapel.

Yep, just as I thought … it’s snowed over.  There’s snow and branches and foliage and …

And…

Before I knew it, my hands had raised the Nikon Df to my eye, and my finger was pressing that shutter button like I was shooting aliens in a Space Invaders video game.

And I got this photo for my efforts.

Faith and Frost. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Say hello to a photo I’m calling Faith and Frost.

Mental fist pump.  I got the photo I wanted, even if it wasn’t the photo I originally envisioned.  Short pile for sure.  FOR SURE.

And now I need to make like a hockey stick and get the puck out of here.

I hobble back up the hill.  I can still do this.  Left foot is starting to ache.  Shut up, left foot, you’re getting surgery in three weeks, you’ll be fine.  This photo couldn’t wait.

I can see my Chevrolet in the distance.  Hazard lights are still on.  I check around the car.  No immobilization boots on my wheels.  No parking tickets.  I’m safe.

I get in my car.  Pulling onto the road.  One left turn and I’ll be on Route 9, and then I can take Blue Ridge Road to the Northway and I’m home free…

Oh crap.  Is that a cop car, zooming up Route 9?

Please don’t pull me over… please don’t pull me over… I keep thinking to myself, if there’s any trouble, I’ll simply get on my knees and plead for mercy.  I’ll show them my broken foot, look Officer, have pity on me.  Look, it’s either that or I’ll be starting 2017 by making license plates or something.

Oh crap.  The cop car’s lights start flashing.  Someone find a power drill, because I’m about to get screwed.

And then, suddenly… the cop car races past me, driving away.

Okay, heart.  Get back in my chest cavity.

I drive off.  I-87, there you are.  And once I get on the Northway, I don’t stop until I hit Albany, like I was the Lone Ranger and my car was Silver.

Whew.

What a way to start off 2017.

But with the photo I acquired that morning … a shot that I’m calling Faith and Frost

This effort makes it all worth the adventure.

And I don’t need to visit the Frontier Town campus any more.

Because … I got the photo I wanted.

Yippie-ki-yai-yay!

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