Is this Place Really in Florida!?!


Bulow Sugar Plantation Ruins

This is the newest edition to the Ghost Towns of America series on craigdenis.com and it comes with quite a story…So I find myself up in Orlando, Florida in early May 2009 to be booked on an assisting gig in Atlanta, Georgia the next day. I am going to crash at the creep house for a night (cousin Tim’s pad) and meet a photographer at sunrise to carpool and roll up to Atlanta to pull a classic all nighter shoot. As soon as I walk in creep house door on Monday afternoon I get the call, sorry dude the job is canceled! Yeah, well that wouldn’t be the first time, curse of the freelanced lifestyle. I am really glad I drove 5 hours to find that out. Well the only problem is I already canceled a job that I was booked on for Wednesday and Thursday this week with another photographer and pissed that guy off. But hey, I took a job with a better day rate and more days, plus I gave this dude 5 days notice and I replaced myself with another assistant who was available and willing to take my place. Needless to say I don’t see this asshole calling me anymore, you could suck one pal I didn’t have to give you the courtesy of replacing myself! So I really got burned on this one not to mention I am short on cash at the moment. So what now, stay in Orlando for the night and head back to Miami in the Morning? Fuck that Tim & I decide to hit bars! While drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and shooting some pool and the shit, it dawned on my to make the best out of this situation. I am going to take a road trip tomorrow and check out these ruins that I have been meaning shoot. We get back to the creep house and I do a little research. It turns out this place is 84 miles north of where I am so there is no doubt that I am going to do this on Tuesday. I get up in the morning watch a little Star Wars with Tim and hit the road around 1. Pumped up about this opportunity I am cranking the Lord of the Rings soundtrack in my car as I turn off of exit 384 on I-95. Approachig the turn off for the Bulow Plantation Ruins I am getting pretty excited. It looks like an endless one lane sand road which goes for about a mile and a half through the dense jungle and a sign on the right states “Welcome to the Real Florida” A blue Land Rover approaches so I pull off almost into the bushes so it can pass. A leather skinned woman sticks her head out the window and says “Sorry but the park is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays” You have got to be fucking kidding me is this some kind of a joke!?! ” “Do you work here?” I ask, and she says “Yes, but the park is closed because we don’t get enough visitors to make it worth it to have any staff around, you will have to come back on Thursday.” My ass I am up here from Miami. I told her that really sucks and I would just drive to the end and turn around and I see the Land Rover disappear in a cloud of dust through my rear view. I continue to drive to the end of the road and I come to a road block of sorts, a few cars parked up on the right so I pull off and park for a while. Contemplating my next move I hear some voices in the woods, and a couple of red necks come funneling out of a little trail that goes around a lake, they don’t even acknowledge my presence and get in their two cars and drive off. So now I am the only one there. What do you think I did? I geared up grabbed my camera, an extra battery, a few cf cards and my beast of a tripod, jump that joke of a road block fence and push forward to see these ruins. My one concern is that I could definitely get arrested for trespassing that is with out question, but I have been screwed over so bad this week that I really didn’t care. It is a bit of a hike into forest to get to this place, about a half a mile or so. I could tell that this forest has been victim to a few fires because some of the tree trunks and vegetation are a bit charred. It is so quiet, the only thing that I hear are the sounds of my foot steps sinking into the sand-like soil and a few chirps of birds that appear to be warning me off. I was the only soul around for miles! I round the bend and there it is the ruins of this old sugar mill. It looks like a castle of sorts, not something you would find here in Florida but the reality is it was not a peaceful place in its time. Run by slaves this place does not give off the most peaceful vibes yet I hung out for about an hour and half taking it all in, clearing my head and of course photographing it. The historic society of Florida littered this place with information signs, chained off sections of it and even put a paved walking path through it, all of which I had a fun time removing in photoshop. That really ruins the experience of the place, but it is still a sight to see. After I had my fill, I trucked back to my car hoping that I would not find anyone waiting for me when I got there and boy did I leave at the right time. As I pull out and make my way back out of the one lane sand covered road who do I see. That leather skinned woman in the blue land rover in the distance coming right at me. I guess she is a care taker who lives on the premesis. I just road by gave her a quick not and shot right out. I think she knew what I was up to.
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