The Building In The Woods

Newfoundland (Map)

November 2014 & June 2016


This cabin was very close to the start of the walk. It was such a lovely
sight that my mind instantly thought about wandering off on woods roads more often.

Sometime in 2014, my friend had let me know about an interesting abandoned building out in the woods. And on one of the last weekends before winter would set in, we finally left town and tackled the woods road which you must follow for 10km (6mi) to get there.

Or should I say we tried, after I decided against pushing the Intrepid up the very first hill we came too. At the time I thought it was 16km (10mi) round trip - which is long enough in itself, but it ended up being closer to 21km (12mi) in the end.

The trek involved a few bridges I loved, like the above one which was more photogenic than official.

(This bridge was washed out within a few months & replaced sometime in 2015.)

The hike wasn't all that hard since it was on a cabin access road and has to be passable for at least an ATV; but it was still a 2-2.5 hour hike on a chilly and wet day. About halfway there, while also wondering how much longer it would be, there were these wide puddles that we had to wander into the muddy fringes and sometimes entirely into the woods to get around.

While walking along, I was worried about running into people and having to talk to them about why we were out here, but by now we hadn't seen a soul for hours. There were only about 6 or 7 occupied cabins - all back beside the first half of the road - and it seemed that no one else was outside enjoying this 41°F (5°C) day.

As much as I like old ramshackle bridges, coming to this pile of timbers after about 2 hours, I decided this one was nowadays only good for photos. Thankfully there was a rock that someone must've placed midstream (just to the right of the above picture) where you could hop from one side onto the rock and let your momentum lead you into a second jump to the other side.

Returning on later trips with my mountain bike, I'd let go of the brakes and the downhill carried me through the water. At most, the creek is only about a foot deep.

There was a part of me that started to doubt we could be on the right path or the distance was only 16k, when lo and behold, a collection of buildings popped up ahead. It isn't until you're right at the clearing for these buildings that you see them, even if you imagine that you'll see the water tower from far away. This was November after all and even without the vegetation, I didn't spot the water tower until the trees spread outward from the dirt trail.

Unfortunately, the weather was really putting a damper on our excursion. By this time, the rain had picked up and some of it even had heft at times like wet snow does, bringing moisture to my hair and the place where my not long enough rain pants don't quite meet my hiking shoes.

This meant it was an exploration involving quickly looking around, putting on dry layers, eating food and being prudent with water consumption. I worried about the short day, a worry inflated by the dreary skies and the thought that daylight couldn't last much longer. The main building and the bedrooms were interesting and worthwhile, but not enough to risk an entirely moonlit walk back to the car.

So after all of that hiking, I spent about 20 minutes taking pictures.

I peered back at the water tower and the buildings as we left the property, wondering about all of this effort for such a quick exploration.

As for the walk back, the darkness grew, but thankfully things were going well enough to not have to stress too much about core temperatures or hypothermia. Without standing around or taking much for breaks, the effort in order to move forward and back towards the car was enough to keep warm, until the Intrepid could blast warm air from the car vents. The last hour was guided by flashlight and last bits of energy were expended towards focus, that is, until elation at finding the golden sedan waiting.

I went back the next weekend because I was unhappy with the previous weekend's pictures. Now that I was by myself, I didn't need to spend time walking - I could now cruise down this cabin access road on my bike at lightning speed!

Oh yeah: it had snowed on the Thursday between the two visits.

It hadn't snowed too much in Corner Brook & I always assume we get the worst amount of snow, well, because Corner Brook is atrocious in terms of snowfall amounts.

That being said, this road starts to reach about 250m in elevation near the abandoned buildings & there was some snow to be found throughout the ride. Mostly it was trouble in terms of trying to spot the medium-sized stones, a few of which clanged the back wheel or bumped the front wheel up and over. In addition, the puddles which I had to go into the woods to get around last weekend, were now more trouble with trying to keep my feet dry while carrying my bike through alders and snowy, flooded forest.

It was amazing how fast the trip seemed by bicycle. Sure, there were annoying parts of gasping for air as I pushed my bike up loose rock, but I'm always up for getting somewhere faster.

The last time I was here, I had such a strong feeling of the need to hurry and get back to the car safely. Today there was still a bit of that feeling with being out here in near-freezing temperatures and snow, but I reassured myself that everything was fine and I was free to explore at a leisurely pace.

As for what these buildings were in the first place, my friend claimed from the start that some source said this was an abandoned brothel - something that seemed odd when I saw it as a hashtag & unbelievable when I actually visited this place.

Did they bring ladies in on snowmobiles? Did the girls live out here for months at a time? Why would a brothel be so far from a town? How did they attract enough clients? Everyone from all around would come here and sleep with the same girls? etc., etc.

As best as I could tell, someone, whomever, came here the first time & found a few books about sex, a swanky bed and funky decor; then made this silly declaration that this is what the place must be. Forget any thoughts towards fact or logic, a brothel makes a good story and gathers social media likes!

(I feel silly making mention of this abandoned brothel declaration here since it doesn't seem to be rooted in anything besides hearsay.)

Nearly two years would go by since I rode my bike out here and then rolled downhill through the snow back to the car. In 20 months I hadn't learned anything more about these buildings, but had finally arrived at editing the 2014 photos.

So I spent about 10 hours on the internet, running searches with and without quotation marks, upon a variety of queries, using names and possible names for this place, and finding nothing. I read scientific papers with vague references to nearby land features, I looked up books at the library that were unfortunately only in St. John's & I read whole facebook pages of comments and pictures looking for any reference to this place.

10 hours later, nothing.

Having enough of the internet and its failure here, I decided to simply bike back out to the start of this cabin access road and ask whichever cabin owner I came to, since surely they would know the real history.

Unfortunately, I started up the road and found no one outside any of the cabins.

So I kept on, until I was close enough that I figured I would just bike out here again & hunt for clues. The solution really couldn't be that complicated.

I went in the main house of the complex, finding that someone had been looting wooden panels and cabinets over the last couple of years.

Ignoring that development, what had been a pile of books on the floor and in a cabinet, was now almost all on the floor. I took my time to kick them about and pick up the ones without black mold, while looking for old letters or inscriptions on the front cover.

It seemed like there were fewer books now and very few that were in passable condition. I moved along without finding anything.

Normally I'm not one for inspecting every little thing & trying to piece a place together. I'm much more likely to go home and find out these things on the internet or in book. It was a bit of fun on this third visit to be much more observant and meticulous than normal. I peered into a half-falling down shed, trying to make sense of the tools and random mechanical junk. I then went over to another building that on previous visits I thought from afar was a sawmill & didn't bother with, but instead found a chicken coop or small pig pen?

The floor was rotten with a 4ft drop to the ground below, so I couldn't explore much besides the doorway and window holes. White bags which looked to be bags of grain feed were strewn about the middle of the small building.

In the end, my detective work only turned up more questions.

One couple drove through the property on ATV and we exchanged head nods but nothing else. Kicking myself for not flagging them down with questions, I wasn't about to let this happen again. Another couple then pulled up on an ATV to the shore of a nearby pond. Walking over, I asked if they knew what these buildings were and learned that it used to be a happening lodge in the 1980s. It even had a heart-shaped bed in the honeymoon suite and many people from the nearby town would come out here to spend the night or the entire weekend in one of the 6 rooms.

It turns out that the heart-shaped bed was for romantic getaways and even the odd honeymoon. It wasn't for ladies of the night to exchange money for sex with multiple partners! What a discovery.

During my first two visits here, I checked out the 6 rooms and found them tacky, but that was the only indication towards this being a house of ill repute.

There were pictures on the wall but what kind of brothel would dig into its profits to buy pictures to hang? And this is assuming that I was still convinced this could be anywhere close to a lucrative brothel.

The man on the ATV also told me that there was even a lounge (Newfoundlandese for a rural or neighbourhood bar) here and that the pool table was still in the end wing of the motel building.

I could see one point towards the brothel fallacy in the lounge, in that I have no idea why there are all of these hair styling chairs inside. If one liked to blindly speculate, they would say that the ladies needed their hair done, while I'd guess that the owner attended the closing auction of a hair salon or beauty school?

Imagine back to the time this place was open as a lounge though. Was there a rural Newfoundland lounge with the only seats being beauty chairs?! Amazing.

I guess there were some wooden school chairs for the hard tickets that’d refuse to sit in a salon chair. Personally I think it'd be pretty nice to sit back with my feet up and a Dominion ale in a comfy salon chair missing its space helmet top.

Heck, I'd drink/relax even with the space helmet top!

In the last picture you can see the narrow hallway that leads to the one collapsed portion amongst all of these buildings. Of course amongst a few boring rooms, the main house and ancillary buildings, the one that is collapsed is the interesting building connected to the lounge.

The entire roof was crunched down like a bun on a patty here, leaving no space to see what was in this room except for a narrow tunnel on the wall closest to the lounge.

The man on the ATV told me that this also used to be the site of a logging camp, where the logs were floated on the nearby lake towards the adjacent river, to be caught by a boom & later shipped further down the river.

I was told, "there's bits of metal, y'know, old drums and axles if you go a bit further down the road."

Walking away from the main buildings, I found the base of some old vehicle and a giant strut where the river curved south, although I'm unsure if this is where he was actually talking about (I wasn't all that far from the lodge at this point). I had always assumed there would be next to nothing left at any of the myriad of logging camps that used to dot Western & Central Newfoundland, but I guess there was some machinery to what I thought was almost entirely log cabins and non-mechanized hand labour.

The old logging river. I was told that parts of the dam were still here,
but it was hard to tell what was old dam & what was a failed bridge for ATVers.

The last thing the ATV man told me was that this place closed in the 80s, after the fellow who owned it suffered a heart attack and fell along the shore or partially into the lodge's river. This place has been falling into ruin over all of those years since, while the family can't come to an agreement about how to divide the land.

I guess when a man can build a lounge well enough to support a heavy pool table after all these years, having the motel rooms still standing is nothing.

I would finish up by dancing across the river from rock to rock, to check out one last tiny building, where yet again I found no clue towards its original purpose.

Crossing the river and grabbing my bike, I was happy to have finally found out why this place was here. It was time to ease my way back to the car with an air of accomplishment.


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