Albion, Michigan is one of those towns that was hit hard by the flight of rust belt industry. One big employer leaves and the whole town gasps.

There’s the college. And a few taverns to grab a bite to eat. A few manufacturers here and there.

But there’s also quite a few of abandoned spots in town – a glimpse at what this place used to look like, not so long ago.

Abandoned Albion: Wood and Brick

Some of these structures were built to last. Strong brick and wood. It probably means they’ll last for decades.

They’ll probably outlast their original owners.

Abandoned Albion: Peeling Away

But others? The paint’s peeling. The wood is splintering. The glass is shattering.

It’s all going to hell, fading in the sun and the seasons.

Abandoned Albion: Shattered

There’s that old adage about one broken window in a neighborhood can’t be tolerated, or else more will appear. Here, though, people just drive past.

Abandoned Albion: For Sale

Jesus fading in the window. Boards protecting the inside from the sun’s rays and onlookers’ curiosity.

I don’t see this stuff as ruin porn or a fetishization of the Rust Belt Economy that’s dying (or in some places, dead). For me, it’s cool history.

Some of these places have a story, and lives attached to them. Who were they? What did they do here? How long did they hold out? Where are they now?

A Rare Landscape

A Rare Landscape

I don’t take many landscape photographs. Landscapes are lovely to see, when done right (read: not obnoxious HDR), but it’s probably the patience required that turns me off. You have to wait for the right combo of weather and subject.

But toward the end of summer, things line up just right, especially in my daily commute, and especially near where I live. The fall light, the earlier sunrises, the mist covering the fields – it’s all great for photos.

This one is a country block from my house. I caught it on the way home from the Jackson County Fair, in early August, and snapped it with my Canon EOS M (and edited with VSCO Film 04). Not bad for a little mirrorless camera with a pancake lens.

Landscapes still don’t interest me all that much, but I take advantage of the scenery when I see it.

Abandoned Irish Hills

Abandoned Irish Hills: Go Karts

Used to be that the Irish Hills, a section of US-12 between Detroit and Chicago, was quite the tourist attraction.

As a kid, my family often went to Stagecoach Stop and Prehistoric Forest, and played putt-putt and drove go karts at the little amusement parks. Even back then there was a level of hokeyness – but it didn’t matter. Those places were tons of fun.

Abandoned Irish Hills: Arcade

But now, it’s all shutting down. There are a few attractions that are still humming along. The majority, though, lie in disrepair (or worse).

In high school, my dad and step mom were married at Stagecoach Stop’s little chapel, and their reception was held in the old timey tavern.

Abandoned Irish Hills: Lonestar

Stagecoach was a bustling place back in the day. You could watch a gun fight in the town square, grab some ice cream, pet a goat in the petting zoo, and even stay overnight in the motel. There was a working lumber mill, and horse rides, and a drive-through haunted Halloween tour.

Now those places are overgrown and fading away.

Driving down US-12 now, and passing through the Irish Hills, it feels like a ghost town. It’s almost like a run-down part of town, with all the windows broken out and no one left to protect it. Eventually, I’m sure, these roadside attractions will be mowed down completely.

Abandoned Irish Hills: Bridge Over Track

Maybe the dinosaurs at Prehistoric Forest will survive. But more and more each year that place gets eaten by vegetation.

So last fall I took a drive out there, seemingly back in time, to capture some of those attractions I remembered from childhood. Before they disappeared.

Abandoned Irish Hills: Stagecoach Courtyard

At Stagecoach, I ran into a couple that was hosting a garage sale of sorts on the property. Most of the area was closed off, but I asked if I could walk around to grab some photos, and they said “yes.”

Abandoned Irish Hills: Fun Center

The Irish Hills Fun Center, a general amusement park with putt-putt and go karts, was completely abandoned. The kart track was still in decent shape, but the rest of the property was fading fast.

Prehistoric Forest, the true goal of my trip last fall, has been known as a target for vandalism. With motion sensors and cameras guarding the place, it was risky to try to grab photos of the place. When I drove past, there was a utility truck and a man taking measurements, so I played it safe and drove on.

Word is that the place has been sold. Who knows what will happen to it.

Abandoned Irish Hills: Twin Towers

It was weird to see a place that was so bustling turn into such a dead spot. I may take another drive out there this fall to see what’s changed – if anything.

(See the rest of the set on Flickr)

About every year, I need a mountain fix. To fly away from our flat-ish peninsula state and land somewhere above sea level.

Luckily, I’ve kept to that pretty consistently. I’ve used mountain states to escape, to reflect – and to drive.

Rocky Mountain National Park 565

The driving is therapeutic, too. I take in the countryside by mostly driving through it – with little stops along the way to get out and explore.

Rocky Mountain National Park 550

It’s not my style to stay in any one place for very long while traveling. I hit the highlights and move on to the next thing in fairly rapid succession.

Hiking Colorado: Dense Pathway

But it’s important to absorb the highlights. Especially with mountain scenery. Soak it all up.

Michigan is a fantastic state. I love living here and traveling here. Seeing the lakes and the woods and the wilderness. Michigan, though, doesn’t have mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Park 552

Colorado has mountains. Virtually a whole state full of them.

And every once in a while, I get the itch to see them.

(Photos edited with VSCO Film 04.)


Can’t say enough about this song, and this album, by Keep Shelly in Athens. 

Got “Recollection” as a freebie on Amazon MP3 a while back, and put September 16 – the day At Home came out – on my calendar as a must-buy. Now I’m gobbling up everything Keep Shelly in Athens does.

For the video, I had always pictured something a little sunnier in my head: clouds and lens flares and Polaroid color schemes. I guess for that you can check out the promo video.

Anyway. This song has been on repeat since August. Glad to see they made a proper video for it.