Hiking Through Camp Hero

As I mentioned in my post last week, Montauk is one of my favorite places ever. I love that it’s close enough to drive to for the day or for an extended stay - so no matter what time of year, it’s easy to escape the city when you need to.

There are so many little historical sites, restaurants, bars, and fun things to do out in Montauk that I definitely want to tell you all about. Places like Montauk Brewing Co., The Surf Lodge, the Montauk Lighthouse, and Gosman’s are popular destinations for visitors from all over, but what I want to tell you about today is a little off the beaten path.

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Ever watch the Netflix series Stranger Things? If you haven’t you are MISSING OUT, my friend. Basically it has to do with human experimentation, interdimensional travel, a unassuming small town, Dungeons and Dragons, and a spunky group of heroes under the age of 12. It’s fantastic, it’s set in the 80’s, just go watch it.

 Photo [ via ]

Photo [via]

Anyway, not a lot of people know this, but Stranger Things is loosely based off of one of my favorite spooky spots in Montauk, Camp Hero State Park. Located on Montauk Highway right before you enter the parking lot for the lighthouse, the sign for Camp Hero almost sneaks up on you, the driveway hidden in a mess of overgrown brush and trees.

It’s a New York State Park, so certain times of the day/year you’ll have to pay $10 to get in, but luckily I’ve always found a way to avoid that and still get to look around this creepy little outpost.

Unless you drive straight past the entrance to go visit the bluff overlook (which has such a beautiful view of the lighthouse and ocean), you can drive through the park to where the real fun stuff is like the radar tower, old battery dunn, and abandoned buildings that housed soldiers and other facilities when it was a military base in the 1940’s.

There’s a lot of really cool history behind Camp Hero and believe me, I could go on and on about not only its recorded history, but the stories and conspiracy theories that surround the abandoned base in the 1980’s, when many have come out and alleged to be a part of various psychological and time travel experiments called The Montauk Project underground.

If you want to dig a little deeper there, Wikipedia isn’t super helpful so visit this Dan’s Papers article where you’ll get a general overview of why this place is so shrouded in mystery.

My favorite thing to do is head straight for the picnic area past the tower to where there are a group of abandoned barracks, bunkers and various buildings (that may or may not be entrances to secret underground facilities). The majority are boarded up with ‘DO NOT ENTER’ plastered anywhere paint would possibly stick. While my love for the lore behind Camp Hero was definitely creating some internal paranoia about the place, something about walking around those ominously silent grounds made me not want to even try to enter.

I’ve been here several times before, but this was the first time I climbed up behind a few of these buildings and saw that one of them was completely broken down in the back, leaving a very accessible opening to a long, dark interior. The reality was the inside of what seemed like this sort of old armory was just covered in tags and debris - no ghosts, demogorgons, or men in white lab coats looking for any willing (or unwilling) human participants. But you better believe I snapped this picture and hauled ass out of there.

One of my favorite stories from last summer was right around this building below, when my friends and I had stopped by after a beach day at Ditch Plains. As we’re wont to do, we were snooping around for openings in these buildings to see what was inside.  

After trying to peek behind a piece of plywood hanging off the back, a gigantic black bird breaks the silence around us and swoops down, almost skimming the top of our heads. I decided, for my own sanity, that it was just an osprey we pissed off by being in its territory, but nevertheless it was terrifying.

Camp Hero is such an awesome place to go if you want to scare yourself and get lost in all those campfire tales, but also if you want to hop on some of the best and unfrequented hiking trails on the eastern end of Long Island.

When I was there last spring, the park was basically empty and the trees were still a little bare, making for a chilling walk up to the bluff overlook, but gave way to arguably one of the most beautiful view of the lighthouse ever. I hope this inspires you guys to go and explore the unseen parts of some more popular destinations - sometimes the creepy, the unknown and even the macabre make for the best stories.

When I Die, Bury Me at The Woodlands: Firefly 2017

So, I originally had some other posts scheduled for this week, but I wanted to tell you guys about my trip to Firefly Music Festival while it was all still fresh.

 I'm still in shock that I got THIS close to one of my favorite new artists, MISSIO.

I'm still in shock that I got THIS close to one of my favorite new artists, MISSIO.

 Firefly 2014, a selfie where we pretend not to be too exhausted and sunburnt to stand up - complete with the heavy Instagram filter.

Firefly 2014, a selfie where we pretend not to be too exhausted and sunburnt to stand up - complete with the heavy Instagram filter.

For those of you that know me, you know that I’m pretty unabashedly obsessed with this festival. It happens around the second or third week of June annually, at The Woodlands in Dover, Delaware.

Saying I’ve compared it to Christmas would not be a lie.

It started back in 2011, but I’ve been going every summer since 2014 when the Foo Fighters, Outkast and Jack Johnson headlined. Without getting too mushy, it was definitely a weekend that changed my life and made me fall so much harder in love with live music.

Over the years of trial and error, we learned a thing or two about how (and how not) to camp for 5 days without, you know, dying of starvation or heat. When I’d tell people I was sleeping on the ground in Delaware, in 90 degree weather for five nights, an almost resounding response was, “well it’s nice knowing you.”

But for one reason or another, we keep coming back. Through the many highs and many lows, a group of us decide to pack our cars to the brim with coolers, tents, beer, and each other, and make that four hour drive to escape from reality for just a few days a year. We leave our problems, inhibitions, and judgements at the gate and dive into the little utopia the people at Red Frog Events so lovingly create for us year after year.

If you’ve never been to a multi-day music festival, it might be hard to understand just how far your energy and stamina have to stretch to survive from first to last set (a feat I almost never conquer). Between the lack of sleep, intense heat, and the abundance of ice cold beer, the long weekend often blurs together. So much happens in that span of time, and every year I try my absolute hardest to take it all in.

There’s no way a blog post with a couple of photos could even begin to describe what it was like being there, how amazing the performances were, and how wonderful it is to be there with friends old and new. But I’ll try and indulge that just a little with some of my favorite parts of the festival, to give you guys a little taste of Firefly.

Let me begin this by saying that there was absolutely NO show that I did not enjoy at Firefly - there hardly ever is year to year. Aside from any unfortunate technical difficulties, artists play their hearts out, and being in the crowd with other fans is indescribable. I do, however, want to point out how amazing DREAMERS where at their Friday afternoon set at The Coffee House. 

This stage is definitely one of, if not the smallest, and lets you get really close to the mucisians, which is awesome. There were a few bands who played this stage alone, but it also acts as a secondary stage where a bigger band will play a stripped down or shorter set. I was so happy DREAMERS did two, because there was no was I was making it into the festival by 1:00 for the first one in the ridiculous heat.

Their song "Sweet Disaster" is one I immediately fell in love with when I heard it on AltNation this past year, and I'm so happy I got to hear this band live. 

Bishop Briggs is the next performance that I really wanted to mention. This, like DREAMERS at The Coffee House, was her smaller performance. This set was at my absolute favorite Firefly stage, The Treehouse, which is also much smaller and seems so far away from the rest of the festival, tucked into the surrounding Woodlands.

If you haven't listened to her, DO IT RIGHT NOW. I was lucky enough to see her at Pandora Live a few months ago, and while I didn't think it was possible, she got better. She has the most unbelievable vocal range and such a unique sound - songs you can dance to, bob your head to, or scream along with. I have a feeling she's going to become one of those endearing alt-rock acts that blow up the world like Twenty One Pilots did (and I am so there for it).

An honorable mention I'd like to include before my last "favorite" show, is the Malibu Beach House, right near the Main Stage and the Pavilion. This pop-up bar was actually added last year when Malibu became one of the sponsors, and to my delight, returned once more!

There are two levels and two actual bars in this roped off area, so crowds and lines were really minimal, from what I saw. They served up ice cold, tropical drinks under the cover of a tin roof where you could relax and cool off under a few of their fans, or like, do the limbo with other drunk festival goers if that's your thing.

(It was my thing)

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Now I'm not going to lie - the drinks were insanely expensive. Like, rooftop in NYC expensive. But I kind of threw caution to the wind and enjoyed a few Dark and Stormies on their upper deck that gave a perfect view of the Main Stage. I had split up with my friends at this point, so I got a chance to hang out with a bunch of new people and watch AFI perform from that awesome spot.

I can honestly say I've never been moved by a musical performance the way I had by Sir Sly's set at The Porch stage on Sunday, just a few hours before the festival closed its gates. Like a lot of the smaller bands that played at Firefly this year, I'd only really discovered them a couple months ago, so I was amazed at what an experience their set was.

Like most performers, frontman Landon Jacobs began with a few songs we all knew, a few songs we danced along with, then drastically changed pace. He introduced this next song as a tribute to his mom, who'd recently passed, and one that he'd never played in front of an audience until now.

It was such a beautiful song, and while I tried my best to hold it together, I totally lost it when the crowd erupted in applause midway through, and he choked back tears as well. Without sounding too hippy-ish, it was one of those "power of music" kind of moments that reminded me why people come to these kind of events. I'd like to think it's the feeling the creators had in mind when they first conceptualized Firefly.

I can only guess that his emotional performance paired with the looming sadness of this weekend coming to an end is what really made it memorable. I can't put a word to how it made me feel - it was such an intense mix of emotions - but I know it's something that will stay with me forever.

I barely even scraped the surface of how amazing this weekend was, and I feel like I'd just be wasting my time trying to accurately paint a picture of it for you. I guess all I can really say is that, as long as you go in with an open mind and you're ready to sweat, sleep on the ground, and blow out your ear drums in the name of music, you can't miss it. 

Until next year!

Escape From New York: The High Line

Hey everyone! I know, I know I promised a regular Monday/Thursday schedule - unfortunately I dropped the ball yesterday. I was running around prepping for my trip to Firefly Music Festival this week! I'm excited to post about that when I get back, but without further ado, here's a little look at my first full walk down the High Line on Manhattan's West Side.

Last week, I got tickets to the Whitney Biennial, which has since ended, but you should go watch their video series about the stories behind the exhibit anyway! It was incredible. The Whitney happens to be right at the end of the High Line, so I wanted to walk it from start to finish, about 1.5 miles from west 34th St. to Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District.

For those of you not familiar, the High Line, or High Line Park, is an elevated garden built on the now abandoned train tracks that once accommodated the West Side Line. From the elevated path, you're able to walk through some of the city's most beautiful (and expensive) neighborhoods, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, as well as all the new construction being done at the Hudson Yards (which looks amazing, by the way).

Along the way, if you go from the North to South entrance like I did, you'll begin with views of the Hudson River and pass by various art installations nestled within the greenery and the trees as you make your way down the West Side.

 This victrola played sounds of the ocean (I think?) in a little seating area between giant fruit trees!

This victrola played sounds of the ocean (I think?) in a little seating area between giant fruit trees!

 These 'Giant's Shoes' were hidden in the heavily wooded area near the birch trees.

These 'Giant's Shoes' were hidden in the heavily wooded area near the birch trees.

 My friends and I struggled to figure out what these were, but settled on the theory of casted dinosaur prints.

My friends and I struggled to figure out what these were, but settled on the theory of casted dinosaur prints.

 This creepy little dude prompted the, "...so is this...art?" conversation, as he was just kind of chilling at one of the tables near Gansevoort St. By far the funniest and most terrifying piece of art we came upon.

This creepy little dude prompted the, "...so is this...art?" conversation, as he was just kind of chilling at one of the tables near Gansevoort St. By far the funniest and most terrifying piece of art we came upon.

My absolute favorite part was about halfway through; we came to a part where the promenade widened and was turned into an open, grassy field. It was a great place to stop and rest, take a photo, and enjoy looking up at the skyline without being pushed by people in the street or, you know, run over.

One thing that I really loved about the aesthetic of the High Line is that a lot of the flora took on a haphazard look (though I'm sure that was fully intended), and kind of gives me "plants recolonize urban space after apocalypse ravages human life" vibes.

Bleak? Sorry. 

All joking aside, I really, really love it. While I enjoy gardens and anything natural as much as the next person, I've never been a huge fan of super manicured lawns and landscapes. There's something about a gorgeous field of wildflowers, or buttercups popping out from between the cracks in a sidewalk that are more striking than any perfectly pruned shrubbery will ever be.

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Only having seen it once before, I was so happy I decided to walk the entirety of High Line Park. The walkway is definitely a really great place to people watch, and provides a welcome change of scenery if city streets are all you see day in and day out. Its unobstructed city views, various art installations, and surprisingly quiet atmosphere make this truly one of the most unique spaces in New York - or any city for that matter.

While much like Central Park in the sense that tourists and locals seem to coexist in perfect harmony, a refreshing aspect about this park is the lack of gimmicky stands, attractions or lines you might see at New York's other major sites. It simply exists as a tiny little jungle above it all, there for you to sit, relax and escape - even if it's just for a minute.