Abandoned cars sit sprawled out in a patch of woods in Pelham. Windshields smashed in, windows missing, headlights gone, metallic bodies rusted and decaying; they lie motionless, a demented traffic jam on that slow but inevitable road of erosion back to the earth.
One lies at an angle, resting against the stump of a tree. Another is overturned, one tire remaining, the others long gone. The axle of a third drives deep into the soil.
Autumn leaves fall gently on the wrecks, while shrubbery grows defiantly up through them. Several car seats are strewn about, their metal springs remaining where vinyl covers and cushions no longer do. Bullet holes riddle a driver’s-side door. Oak leaves and pine needles settle onto a dashboard.
All together, half a dozen or so automobiles—stripped down skeletons from another era—dot the forest floor like some long-lost, off-road auto wreck.
Only, there’s no road to be seen.
A thin path—not marked by blazes—leads to the cars from a trail about the width of an old logging road to the south. That larger path might have been wide enough to drive the cars along, but the thinner trail leading to the clearing is not.
On the other side of the cars is a larger path—likewise not marked—running up and down the hill. If the cars traveled this way once, the woods have since made their path unrecognizable.
Nearby, a no-trespassing sign straddles a swath of chain link fence, discouraging the more adventurous from exploring deeper up the wooded hillside.
Regardless of the route one follows to the abandoned automobiles, it takes at least 30 minutes on foot. Although the paths surrounding the automobiles are well-worn, it is common to explore the wreck without seeing another soul.
These woods have a labyrinthine quality. What seems to be the most direct trail one day inevitably misleads on the next. As the sun travels across the daytime sky and alters its path from season to season, the route to the cars in the clearing seems to shift as well, making exploration all the more enticing.
(Originally appeared in the Valley Advocate.)