This weekend Megan and I decided to go and try to locate a couple of ghost towns not far from here. Well, "not far" by Canadian standards, although it was still an hour and a half drive away!
The towns we were looking for were called Newfoundout and Balaclava, although Balaclava doesn't seem to be a ghost town as such, as there are newer homes, modern infrastructure and people living there. Still, we saw a neat old mill and a few other abandoned structures. Much more of interest was an abandoned town called Newfoundout, parts of which are still being used for hunting cabins and cattle grazing.
The road to Newfoundout was very pretty, especially with the fall colors.
Even though it was a bit chilly (about 8-10 degrees C) the sun was nice and warm, and shining through the yellow leaves made everything look like it was made of pure gold. Until we got to Mordor....
Well, ok, not really, it was just a bunch of evergreen trees, many of which aren't too lively that totally changed the mood! Fortunately it didn't last long and we were back to pretty stuff!
This road through the mountains was absolutely beautiful, as we could see through the odd clearing.
As we followed the trail suggested by the All Knowing Internets, we came to a fork in the road that we knew we were supposed to take a left on, so we did, because we really didn't want to know what was down the right fork, and what kind of people would tack this creepy doll to a tree as a warning!
It wasn't long until we started to see more and more hand piled rocks, and more ruins of old farm houses.
And the odd creepy tree!
Far from the Old West type ghost towns, most things here get reclaimed by Mother Nature pretty quickly and the wood buildings rot and fall down in a short amount of time after they are abandoned. The story of this area is a neat one though, although I suppose it doesn't really qualify as a "town" since only 13 families actually settled there. The government around the 1850's was pushing for more immigration into Canada and offered willing newcomers 100 acres of land, provided that the new owners fulfilled several requirements, such as building a house of a certain size, clearing a certain amount of land within a certain time frame (I think 12 acres within 4 years, but I could be mistaken), and using the land to grow crops. Unfortunately, as the land was not easy to clear due to uneven terrain, excessive amounts of rock and thick trees, and not great for farming (the land was largely used up within ten years) the land was all but abandoned by the 1940's. To make life there even less pleasant, children had to hike about six kilometers each way to get to school, over a shoddy, uneven and hilly road. 170 years later that road is passable with a car, but I was still happy to have a Jeep to do it in!
Most of the remaining structures we came across were wood buildings and rock walls, and I couldn't help but wonder how difficult these walls would have been to make. Sure they are simple piled stone, but they are several feet thick, several feet high and go on for hundreds of meters, and consist of literally thousands of stones, each likely weighing around 40-50 pounds! Considering they would have had to do all of this by hand, it is an amazing amount of work!
We also came across some piled stone foundations, which were really cool. These areas were largely populated by Scottish, Irish and Polish immigrants, and the stone foundations here are very reminiscent of the stone foundations along the Shubendacadie Canal near Halifax, which was also largely Scottish workers, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that this house belonged to a Scot at one point.
We found a few more remnants of piled stone foundations in this immediate area, so they were all either part of the same house, or for some reason several small houses were placed in close proximity. Unfortunately this is the one that was most visible, and the rest were obscured by fallen leaves and other detritus.
This was one of the more intact structures, about a kilometer away from the stone ones above. It was at one point a very fancy place, with a second story/loft, and what got to me most was the precision in which someone had cut the wood to overlay it with the other ones, The cut marks, probably done by an axe, were remarkably precise and fascinating.
Naturally this fascinated me and I took more than a few photos of the corners!
And here are some shots of the interior- you can see the logs that used to be the ceiling for the first floor, and the floor for the loft. Further you can see where walls had been placed much later than the original building, as family members may have used it as a hunting cabin when it was no longer a regular home, and before it was abandoned.
As I said, Mother Nature doesn't let things stand for long before reclaiming them, and you can see that one of the trees rooted inside the house is actually growing through the cracks in the walls, and branches are thriving outside the house.
Needless to say, we didn't go inside, as it wouldn't take much to collapse the remainder of the house. Guessing by the height of the second floor, I am guessing at least 1/3 of the house has already crumbled to the ground- you can see from the placement of the ladder outside just how far up the loft door must have been.
There were lots of other ruins around, although now they are almost impossible to identify as a barn, house or other structure, but you can see more of the log slotting in many of them. Needless to say, I found the different styles fascinating.
Notice the rounded notching in the logs in the above structure, versus the squared notching at the ends of the logs in the above structure- a sure sign of a different culture and their building habits, although for the life of me I couldn't tell you who was who. I'm not that well versed in historical architecture.
We also came across this one, that I think was a barn, but could have easily been a house. It was absolutely the most intact building we found, and showed different generations of building techniques, most obviously the wood walls and tin roof.
Even the older parts of this one looked newer than all of the other ruined houses we came across, so I am assuming that it was built much later on, and seems to be reasonably well maintained, likely because I think a farmer is using this area for cattle, and, even if the building isn't being used, no one wants it to fall and crush one of his cows.
Speaking of which...
We didn't go near that structure so as not to disturb the cows, although we did have a nice conversation with them from the other side of the fence. I doubt there would have been much to see in it anyway, but I kind of wished I had a drone (not for the first time that day!) so I could at least fly over it and see what was inside and not disturb the milk machines.
All in all it was a fun day, despite the fairly long drive, and we did get to see a lot of cool things. There are a few more photos HERE
if you want to have a look, or, if you are in the area, go and have a look yourself! It's worth the drive!