A light rain fell on the windshield as I approached my destination. As I spotted the tops of the coasters my adrenaline kicked in and I followed the road parallel with the fence, keeping a look out for a point of entry. It was soon clear that this decaying fortress was guarded by a ten-foot barbed wire fence without a single break in it anywhere. A tough challenge, but one I was not about to back away from. My tires left the road and I pulled into the woods, inching farther in until I was well hidden. Grabbing my bag, I snuck through the tall grass back to the road and assessed the situation. There wasn’t too much traffic so all I had to do was wait for a break and then make a mad dash to the fence, scale the chain link, hop over the barbed wire and land inside the grounds. I laughed at the thought. All I had to do?? Ah, the things we face all in the name of adventure. I chose a section of fence resting behind a rather large tree, making mental notes of key points to use as stepping stones to help me over. I crouched low in the grass as I spotted a car making its way toward me, waiting for my chance. Once the tail lights disappeared around a bend I took off running. The road was slick and I fumbled my way across to the big shady tree. The bark was soaked and I fought to hang on as I jumped to grab the lowest branch and threw my left foot up on an available notch. The wet rubber on the sole of my right boot worked against my efforts at climbing the chain link and when I had made it almost to the top my foot slipped free and I found myself dangling from the tree.
Suddenly, I heard the splash of water as a tire interupted a puddle somewhere down the road and I knew I didn’t have much time. If I was seen it would be over so it was now or never. Forgetting the disadvantages the rain offered, I shimmied my way up again. Once high enough, I leaned over the barbed wire and took hold of a decent sized branch, pulled my legs in, did my best olympic moves and swung over the fence, cringing at the thought of the pain I would feel if I didn’t clear the wire. To my delight the pain never surfaced and I let go of the branch and soared into a patch of neglected shrubbery just before the unsuspecting car sloshed past. When I was in the clear I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared my camera before making my way into the park. I soon came upon the back entrance of one of the park’s last remaining coasters and I stopped in mid stride to look up at the wooden relic. I watched as 3,506 feet of track unraveled before me, strategically twisting and turning to provide its passengers the ultimate thrill. As my eyes came back to ground level I spotted the machanic’s shed and began in my chosen direction. Walking closer to the coaster I stepped over wooden planks, broken bulbs and scattered cups from the concession stands. Reaching the door I was surprised when it pushed easily open and I found myself still in the outdoors.
The walls had been ripped away and discarded close by at the foot of a rickety looking staircase where passengers had once ascended to take their place in line to load the cars. I stumbled through the debris, making my way to the bottom step where I teetered on top of the wood pile as I debated whether I should trust the rotting wood. Inching my way up the stairs as they swayed slightly I thought to myself that maybe I should turn back, but imagining the view from the top was irresistible. Emerging onto the coaster’s platform I stood in the midst of sad destruction. There was no room for exploring the area as the center of the platform had given way, crashing to the ground below. The metal track sagged desperately without its support and from my safe postion I followed it with my eyes, taking in the damage. The initial incline which once proudly brought its passengers to the brink of excitement now towered spiritlessly beneath the ashen skies, its support beams forsaking their critical posts as they dangled in the wind before joining their counterparts in the rubble below. Further down, huge portions of the track disappeared in an implosion of eraticated wood and peeling paint. As I stood in awe something else caught my attention, something moving in the far off distance. As I squinted to see a few acres away the quick moving flash of metal came with the delayed sound of a truck door and a small group of men. From my perch high above the park, the realization that I wasn’t alone brought questions of my visibility and I quickly back stepped and took the stairs two at a time back to ground level.
The rain had begun to pick up and I wiped at the hair that clung to my face as I made a decision. Turn back now, after getting just a small taste of what lay ahead or continue on and take my chances? I wasn’t about to leave now so I took in my options. One of two ways were available, take the main boardwalk which would put me out in open or use the attractions themselves for hiding. With the sound of the workers drifting through the air and my insatiable curiosity, I left my hiding place and bolted toward a four-foot cement wall. Easy enough to catapult over into hiding once again, or so I thought until I discovered mid leap that the wall provided safety from a fifteen-foot drop off into a canal. My feet hit the slanted sides and I fell backwards as I watched my camera hit the cement next to me and begin tumbling toward a collective puddle of rain water on the floor of the channel. I did a running version of the crab walk in a race to beat it to the bottom but my ridiculous position paid off as I jumped in front of it and pulled it into my jacket just as I landed in the water and splashed exccessively as I waded through to the other side. The world ceased to exist as I gave my camera a once-over, looking passed the gouges and concerning myself with its ability to still turn on.
Luck was on my side as I listened to it come to life and in that moment I realized my clamorous efforts had left me soaking wet and quite possibly under suspicion. It was time to move. I looked around and found myself standing in the basin for what once was a log ride with nothing much to see. I spotted a ladder at the opposite end and thought to myself how nice that would have been, had there been one available a moment ago. I quickly closed the gap and climbed out of the trench, back into another patch of bushes. I was now standing in the picnic area as I scanned the dismantled pavilions and small concession stands. I knew I didn’t have much time so I set my sights on the main gate with its elegant architecture and long row of ticket booths. Staying under cover, I got as close to the front as I could before I was met with a wide open space again. I could hear the workers’ voices closer now but I took my chances and made a run for it. Landing inside the office buildings I looked around at the downfall brought on local party goers. Broken bottles and food wrappers littered the floor, along with plaster torn from the walls and decimated furniture. I found the front window with the perfect view of the ticket booths and crouched to get some shots. As I marveled at my camera’s stability after its fall, I heard the rumble of truck engines as they came up the drive right next to me. I pulled myself from view and hid under the counter, hoping they weren’t planning a search party. Not wanting to risk getting caught I stayed in position and listened as they discussed plans for which ride to dismantle next. When the makeshift meeting was over and the trucks drove off, I knew it was time for me to leave too. One close call too many had brought the adventure back to this Park long after its days of entertaining had passed. Soaking wet and exhausted, it was time to go home and count my welll earned bruises among my collection of memories. I may not have seen it all on this trip, but I will be heading back.
© Olivia Wolfe~2012