Thursday, June 3, 2010

Photo Essay: Santa's Village Theme Park, Abandoned

I drove from LA to Palm Springs yesterday, a drive I was not looking forward to down the congested 10E freeway. I asked my friend Vance, "Is there any other way to get down there besides 10?" and he crinkled his face and said, "Not really."

But looking at the map, I thought maybe I could bypass 10 to the north by taking 210E, and divert even farther north up into the San Bernardino Mountains for a leisurely, scenic drive instead of a hectic, boring one. Besides, it would give me a chance to snoop around and see if I could find the ruins of the old Santa's Village theme park in Skyforest, CA. That was worth adding an hour or two to my trip.

Crawling along the winding route 18 playfully nicknamed "Rim of the World," I spotted an outcropping of color on the left-hand side, and veered off into the forest. Instead of the spooky, abandoned park enshrouded in evergreens I expected, to my dismay, the park grounds have been taken over by an entirely different industry: logging. There are trucks and logs everywhere. And it is an active site, intermingled with gingerbread houses and candy canes.

There are a couple of things you can see from the driveway (that's covered in No Trespassing signs), mostly colorful buildings.

Despite the warning of a dog, I tip-toed down the wood-chipped path sprinkled with acorns to snap some quick shots of more buildings, and a few remaining rides. I didn't have time to be artful with my photography, as much as I wanted to be. I just had to document as much as I could before a dog or human started barking at me to leave.

I didn't pay much attention to the "Private Property" signs until I snuck towards the back of the park and saw what looked like a relatively recently-restored residence, with cars parked out front, and signs of everyday life. I was faced with anachronism after anachronism - not only the Christmas theme in summer, but the living and working in abandonment, letting the abandonment stand as though frozen in time but making a life in its empty spaces. I was reminded of the colonies of fish that make submerged subway trains their homes in the artificial reefs created off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

But how often do people do that? Humans are usually so preoccupied with building and destroying, with little attempt at making the most of what they've already got.

My inner nine year old thinks that if I ever got my hands on the grounds of an abandoned amusement park, I would totally live in it.

So therefore I was respectful of Santa's Village's (new?) owners, snooped as unobtrusively as I could, and then got the hell out before being discovered.

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