So I did. A quick climb through the shattered window (and torn pant leg) later, I was inside and “urbexing.”
It’s hard to tell what the place was before the roof caved in. The weird part was the all the stuffed animals strewn about. Bags and bags of them, and they were everywhere: on the furniture, on the floor, on the balcony.
The place had just what I look for in photos: strong, deep shadows with shafts of light showing some intense color. It was a lot of fun.
He popped out of the woods right in front of me on the trail, all crazy-haired and bearded. He was an older man. Not homeless, but maybe. I didn’t even hear him approach, and that’s the danger when you hike alone. Any guy could pop out of the woods and ask for your credentials.
“Not anymore,” I said.
“Well something’s gnawing on the trees in the woods.” He pointed to a thick section of the forest. It’s no wonder I couldn’t see him before. “About knee high.”
He wouldn’t look me in the eye. No, he was somewhere else. Somewhere in those woods.
His hands gripped an iPod and a set of headphones. How long had he been in these woods? And how did he spot a gnawed tree, knee-high?
“Not rabbit, or deer. It’s too low to be a deer. Maybe woodchuck. I don’t know.”
I tried to seem interested. I even thought about taking his portrait, right there in the middle of the Barton Nature Area in Ann Arbor. It’d make for a great photo, this dude with his swollen lips and unwashed jacket.
“I’m trying to find a naturalist so I can drag them out in the woods to take a look,” he told me. “But you don’t qualify.“