I call this revisited because I am revisiting this adventure after almost a full year. Why almost a full year? Because I never got around to it till now that's why. I do what I want.

But now ... the back history:

The Pipes, Prospect Park, Masonic Gardains, Juniper HIl.

It all means the same thing: a huge, lawless, empty property sitting on Juniper Hill, the highest point of land in Shrewsbury, at one point home to the carpet tycoon immigrant, Matthew J. Whittall.

 


Juniper Hall, circa 1927
www.prospectfriends.org


May, 2005

 

Juniper Hall cost $80,000 to make in 1912. following the death of Matthew J. Whitall, it was a hospital for many decades until 1976.

In its hayday, the gardens of the mansion were famously known for allowing public visitors and 'picking parties'. In 1976, the entire 70+ acre property was bought by the town. The mansion was razed, water towers were built, the gardens became overgrown, and eventually the water towers were left unused and empty.

Today, the gardens are trapped in a limbo somewhere between abandonment and restoration. There are serious efforts to bring back the glory of the gardens, which would be both fantastic and tragic.

I also include a tour of the gardens that I made over a year ago, which I once promised as a 'preview'. It's a little rough, I agree.

 

This article is a 3-parter. In short:

Goal: Climb one of the water towers.

Problem: 30-odd feet of wall between the ground and the ladder.

 

This is part 1. Attempted in May 2005, more on a whim more than anything.

Kar James and I went together. We brought 50 feet of nylon rope, a reel of fishing wire, and a tree pruner.

The plan was to attach the rope to the end of wire, throw the reel through the bottommost rung, then just shimmy up the rope like a squirrel I suppose.

The tree pruner was our alibi. So in the case of anyone questioning what 3 dudes were doing hanging around abandoned water towers with a coil of rope and a tree pruner, we could say we were pruning trees.

The plan was a horrific blunder. Everything except the pruner failed. The pruner alibi did work, as ridiculous as it was.

James was manning the camera that day. He did a good job, that James.

And up we trudge, as purposefully as anyone else ever trudged.

As mentioned , the entire property of the former Masonic has been was going through renovations, so there would be stacks of chopped branches every hundred feet or so.

This gardens of Masonic are a haven for late-night drunken campfires, as if you couldn't guess.

Evidence of the previous life of the pipes is littered around the property.

James took some damn artistic pictures while we were here. This is my favorite of the bunch, so I include a high-res, 1280 x 1024 version. Click to view.

The Pipes.

The towers are huge, huge things, covered by the graffiti tags of our ex-schoolmates.

A barbed-wire fence surrounds the towers, which is more for show than anything else...

...because the golden rule of breaking into property is: There is always, always a way in. ALWAYS. You just have to know where to look.

In the case of The Pipes, the way in is through a ditch under a corner of the fence, which just barely lets you crawl under.

Just barely crawl under the fence. Get as close to the ground as you can, because those sharp chain linked daggers are just itching to rip open your backside. I've only torn one jacket on the underside of that fence, which I consider to be a great success.

Knotting the rope.

I'm not sure we could have picked a more unsuitable rope for climbing. Thin nylon is not at all suitable for climbing in the least. We might have predicted this if we had given the plan maybe five minutes of thought.

The reel of fishing wire, complements of James' dad.

It took 20 full minutes of throwing before we could get it over the bottom ladder rung . Every time we missed, it would crack against the hollow tower and send a loud metallic bang throughout the woods. Geniuses.

To pass the time, we took turns standing in the ankle-deep poison ivy patch and watched the others throw the metal reel against the side of the tower.

I had poison ivy for weeks after this day. Not a lie.

and there were mosquitoes.

Another hurdle was pulling the rope through the ladder rung, which was far more difficult than anticipated. I know for a fact that we messed up at least once and had to restart the throwing and the banging and the swearing and the hatred.

Lamest plan ever.

So ridiculous this plan was. Soooooo ridiculous. It turned into a failure the moment we bought that nylon rope. It suffered from poor planning, poor execution, but most of all, shit rope.

The Pipes were the victors that day. We know it, we accept it.

We fail.

Life lesson learned:

  1. Rope is not a solution
  2. Less noise and less time
  3. Sandals are not proper climbing footwear

Continue to part 2

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