The adventure does not start and end within the walls of an abandonement, but rather spans the time between the moment you turn the key in the ignition and when you finally return home. The experience lies in getting to your location, or in this case, getting lost. It is my choice to always take the road less traveled, as there is more to see here than on some highway which only offers the same view of the mundane. With the GPS in hand we set out on our trip and spent the morning following the winding roads through the Pennsylvania mountains. Autumn had brought our surroundings to life with vibrant colors and a crisp feeling to the air as my bare toes rested outside the window on the side mirror, the sun warmed my face and the wind played with the hair on the nape of my neck. I was so enticed by the view that when I checked the GPS for our next scheduled turn I found that the landscape had interfered with the signals and we were without our guide. Relying fully on today’s technology left us without a map so the game of wandering through the mountains began, choosing our fate at each dusty stop sign with the decision to go Left or Right.
My attention left the sights outside my window as I laid back in my seat repostioning the phone in hopes to get a signal. No such luck so I tried one last effort and held it outward into the wind. The sun reflected off the screen and I tried desperately to see without leaving my comfortable spot. As we rounded a bend in the road the screen darkened with cloud cover and I smiled in victory at the chance to check our whereabouts. But it was not clouds I saw in the reflection and I sat up and tipped my sunglasses for a better view. Instead, it showed a glimpse of a massive formation and I looked up as I felt the car roll to a slow and steady stop. We had come to rest at the foot of this stone beauty and I sat up and pulled my feet inside the car as I stared up in awe. My thought process quickly switched gears from fascination to the insatiable need to capture this exquisite sight so I pulled on my boots, grabbed my camera and clambered out of the car, walking into the monstrous shadow cast off by the structure.
What I had happened upon was a historic viaduct which saw completion in 1848 for the Erie Railroad. Although its elevation only reached 100 feet it felt as though it stretched upward forever as I stood in the shade at the base of its majestic design. I learned later that I was witnessing just a miniscule stretch in the 1,040 foot length of what is the oldest stone railway bridge in Pennsylvania today. Through the course of the next century since it came to grace the skyline it has drawn the curiosity of countless artists and photographers through paintings and stories created over time until I, too, was drawn in by its beauty. As it came into view within my camera’s lens I was captivated by its silent splendor standing high above the changing leaves of the valley and I know as the sun finds it way back and the sky opens up with all the warmth of summer I plan to get lost again in these mountains in my quest to capture another stretch of history. It was this finding that developed the name behind my photographs as getting lost is never a drudgery for an explorer when you choose to venture Off the Beaten Path.
© Olivia Wolfe~2012