Update, July 2017. While most people don't want to know what goes into starting an adventure and travel blog, usually for good reason, for me, it was sharing information on unique spots that exist world-wide to inspire people, and preserve the locations for posterity. Five years ago, this was one of the spots I has that I knew was off-the-map, and wanted to put out there. In my albeit wordy description of the place in 2012, I didn't know much about it, but shared what I knew. Like many spots, interest never materialized, and I went on to other locations and other things. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself back in the area, and went back to see how the spot was faring. The answer was overall fine, except for the ravages of decay over five years. Without really thinking about it, I shared the images again on social media and moved on, only to find that now, the spot had interest, as the comments below attest. What we know now is that it was a glue factory - and the smell was horrendous. Anything more than that is the province of speculation. :) I'm posting some updated photos here from 2017, and again, the usual warnings about the risks decaying structures and people in abandoned areas. While it isn't say, a national park, I'd again note that each off-the-grid site deserves a proper amount of respect in its own right. And, I'd like to say thanks for the interest in this and any other post you've viewed, and keep exploring. The original 2012 post follows the 2017 photos below.
Right now, there’s a perception that the term “adventure” only refers to epic feats of swashbuckling derring-do that only can be accomplished on the highest mountains, the deepest oceans, the driest deserts, the wettest jungles, and in situations where one has lost at least one appendage, member of the group. I’m not going to lie: while I do love those situations where I lost a leg and had to make shoes out of duct tape to get down a massive snow covered peak after rescuing eight baby goats, and while I have massive respect and admiration for anyone who accomplishes anything epic, that’s not what adventure should mean in my book. Think about it for a second – life is rough, life is tough, and life is full of those existential moments of boredom that bothered people like Albert Camus.
This is my point: everyone needs adventure to stay sane during the “waiting for Godot” type moments that are everywhere in modern life, from traffic jams and in any cubicle farm. This is also why the popular perception of adventure is bad. Adventure is extreme, adventure is this, adventure is that. No. Wrong. Adventure is what you make it. Do you remember being a kid? Everything was an adventure. Everything had wonder. You know what I wonder? Where is that mentality in day-to-day life? Where is that wonder; and where is that desire to explore? Because you know what? Adventure isn’t epic, necessarily. Adventure isn’t extreme, necessarily. What adventure is, is everywhere.
Enter Chatham, Ontario, a small town located in Canada. Depending on how you look at it, I’ve had the fortune – or misfortune to spend a lot of time there. Let me tell you about Chatham. It’s a small town – not five people small, but it’s not Toronto. It’s in Southern Ontario. It’s flat. It’s surrounded by farmland. There’s no mountains. There’s no ocean – but the Thames River does run through it! In the summer it’s humid and hot, and in the winter, well, come on – it’s CANADA – there’s snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, black ice, and negative temperatures no matter which temperature scale you use. Chatham’s biggest claim to fame is that during the War of 1812, a key battle occurred on the banks of the Thames where Tecumseh, perhaps the most charismatic Indian leader of the time, and British supporter, was killed by American troops.
Aside from that, Chatham’s got factories, some great local bands – but that’s about it.
How do I know so much about Chatham? Why do I know so much about Chatham? As to the first, I’ve got family there – lots of family. As to the second, I’ve spent time there: a lot of time there. Without getting into lots of personal details about my life, which aren’t relevant to you, the reader, suffice to say, I know more about Chatham than you. Over Thanksgiving I again had cause to be in Chatham. At first, based on my description above, you, the reader, might assume that I was upset by this turn of events as there are no outdoor activities in Chatham. You might also assume that I was being punished by having to go to Chatham during American Thanksgiving (because remember, Thanksgiving’s an American holiday. Canadians do celebrate a similar holiday but it’s on a completely different day as its Canadian Thanksgiving).
But - rather than marinate in negativity about my trip to Chatham for a variety of reasons, I embraced it for a number of equally important reasons, and because I figured that I would find some sort of adventure in Chatham. Really. I honestly thought that. No sarcasm, I promise. So, when I got to my hotel, I asked the clerk what was off the beaten bath in Chatham. Unfortunately, this meant that I then had to hear about all of the things that I could do in the surrounding area that I had already done. After explaining to the clerk that I was a Chatham expert, and after learning that he had nothing more to share since he was from London, Ontario, things appeared grim. At this point, many people would assume that as they had been to this area multiple times and knew everything about it, there were no adventures to be had.
Not me. The next day, as I was jogging around the city, I saw two large smokestacks in the distance. Since I was heading that direction, I decided to see what it was. Maybe it was some new factory, or manufacturing plant. But as I drew closer, I realized it wasn’t a new factory, because new factories aren’t located in heavily forested areas without roads or sidewalks. And now, if you know me, you know I had to find out what was going on, because now this was an adventure. I crossed the railroad tracks, and plunged through the forest and underbrush to find the ruin that you, the reader have been observing in my photos. For an abandoned ruin, the first thing I noticed was that it was well, pretty clean. I’ve been in plenty of abandoned places, and there’s usually a fair amount of trash, broken glass, and various other unsavory items.
This factory, while it had some graffiti – some of which was not so good – was mostly clean (for a ruin) – and even more ominously, was quiet. In short order, I saw the ovens, and at that point, I knew I was having an adventure. I’ve never seen anything like those ovens before, and I’m not sure I’d really want to. They were just flat out creepy. At two feet wide and two feet high, and approximately six to seven feet deep, they were the perfect size for well, humans. When you see something like that, with no explanation, in a ruin, you start to wonder what had been going on at the location. More importantly, you know it’s an adventure – albeit a creepy, Walking Dead/Chernobyl Diaries/B-Grade Horror Movie adventure – but an adventure nonetheless.
After exploring the ruin, I returned back to town in one piece, and immediately began texting my relatives pictures of it. And here’s where the story gets crazy: none of them knew what it was. None. By the time I left town, I had asked over seven people - most of which had lived in the city for over twenty years what this place was. Six of out of the seven people didn’t even know the structure was in the town. The seventh knew it was in the town, but didn’t know what it was. So what is it that I’m showing you pictures of? Well, I still don’t know. But I know it’s an adventure. The closest thing I could find for information about this place is HERE, which also gives you directions as to how to get there. Also, one short word of caution: I was told that this area wasn’t in the best part of town. While it seemed fairly safe to me during daylight hours, as always, take proper precautions when exploring ruins.
But this proves my point. Adventure is where you find it. You just have to take the time to find it, whether its half an hour of your day, or months of your life. If I can find adventure in the rustbelt in the dead of winter, I know you can find it anywhere. As for the residents of Chatham: I say, get out and find that adventure – whether it’s this, or the haunted Milner House, or something else that even I don’t know about. As for the rest of us: use your eyes, and if you need tips, or suggestions about adventures that are out there, there’s always my “Strange Spots and Other Myths”!