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Posts Tagged ‘Covered Bridges’

Ten years ago when I started this blog on the first day of spring in 2011, I remember thinking that I’d be lucky to keep it going for six months. After nearly a year with no real feedback or interest I decided to let it go when the year was up. And then the post below wrote itself; quite literally. People seemed to like it and two things happened: I started to concentrate on nature writing, and I started to use quotations by other nature writers regularly. The quotations seemed to say things I couldn’t and people enjoyed them; I have had more questions about them than any other part of this blog. I also realized that if I was going to write about nature, photos would help illustrate what I was saying, and that’s how the photos came about. So what you see here these days really came about because of the following post. Some of you have been here long enough to have already read it and I thank you for that, but you can skip it if you like. For the more recent readers, I hope you’ll like it.

Time Flowed Past Like The Water Of The River

My recent trip back in time to my boyhood haunts along the Ashuelot River in Keene, New Hampshire reminded me how lucky I was to grow up on a river. A river can teach a boy a lot about both nature and himself.

I learned how to identify skunk cabbage, cattails, pond lilies and much more along the river. I built a raft and set out for the Atlantic, but never even made it to the town line. (That was how I learned to recognize a foolish idea.) I learned how to read the tracks of muskrat, raccoon and deer, and how to be as still as a stone when they came to the river’s edge.

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. ~ John Lubbock

My first kiss came to me on the river’s banks and somewhere, the date is recorded on the trunk of a maple. My grandmother explained puppy love to me then, but her time would have been better spent explaining why the first broken heart is so much more painful than all of those that follow.

One day I walked south down river-farther than I had explored before-and found that an old oak had fallen and made a natural bridge out to a small, shaded island covered with soft mosses and ferns. One end was pointed like a boat, so the island became an imaginary ship that would take me anywhere I wanted to go. I never told my friends about the island; it became the place I went when I needed some alone time.

“Brooding” was what my grandmother said I did during the times I spent alone, but she mistook my occasional need of solitude and silence, when the low hum of a dragonfly’s wings could be heard from 10 yards off, for unhappiness. They were actually some of the happiest times I had known until one very wet spring when the high water washed away the oak tree bridge. I don’t think I have ever again experienced such a complete absence of humanity as I did on that island, and rare since has been the peace I found within that absence. Later on I learned that Henry David Thoreau once said “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” He, I thought, was a man who understood.

Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything. ~Henry David Thoreau

The old Boston and Maine Railroad crossed the river many times on its way south and long before my time these crossings were popular hangouts for men who liked to drink. My grandmother called them hobos, but people were drinking under those train trestles before the word hobo even came into being. I know that because they used to throw their bottles in the river-and then I came along a hundred or so years later and found them.

Digging antique bottles along a river bank is hard and sometimes dangerous work, but it can pay well. Since the river taught me that hard work earns money, off I went to earn more. Of course, work is habit forming-or at least the paycheck is-so there was no longer any time for lolling on its banks. The river and I grew apart.

But not entirely; though time has flowed past much like the water of the river, my return visit showed me that little had really changed-with either the river or myself. As I followed the trails along its banks I found that I still had the curiosity that used to spur me on to always want to see what was around the next bend. Before I realized it I had walked for miles. Maybe the curiosity that rivers instill in us is what keeps us young even as we age.


Be like a rock in the middle of a river, let all of the water flow around and past you
. ~ Zen Saying

So now you know what started all of this.  Will it go on for another ten years? That I can’t say, but with retirement now months rather than years away things will surely change. For years I’ve wondered why when I was a boy summer seemed to go on forever, and then I realized it was because there were no clocks in my life then. When school wasn’t in session I was free of time and life was simple; I woke when I woke and ate when I was hungry. I still saw friends and did chores, but nothing had to be done at any given time. So my first thing to do after I retire is to step out of time and be free of it again. Of course I’ll have appointments and things to do but mostly I’ll be free like that boy was. Suddenly there will be no hurry and summers will once again last forever.

Live this life in wonder, in wonder of the beauty, the magic, the true magnificence that surrounds you. It is all so beautiful, so wonderful. Let yourself wonder. ~Avina Celeste

Thanks for stopping in.

The photos of the train trestle and covered bridge are from the Cheshire County Historical Society.

The photo of Tree Bridge is by the U.S. National Park Service.

The photographer and date of the boy on a raft are unknown.

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We’ve had all kinds of weather extremes here lately, from heat and humidity to torrential rains, so I’ve been spending time at the Ashuelot River. The banks of the river are always cooler when it’s hot and after heavy rains the rapids really get rolling, and I like to watch them.  Since I spend so much time here and so many of my photos are taken here, I thought I’d do a post with a little background information of the area.

1. Ashuelot Rapids

This stretch of river is easy to get to and there are many good photo opportunities here-from the rapids to the many wildflowers that grow on the river banks. There are 4 small rapids that were built when a 250 year old timber crib dam was removed in 2010. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services created the rapids by laying very large boulders side to side across the riverbed in a crescent shape.

2. Swanzey Dam Removal

The timber crib dam was owned by the Homestead Woolen Mill, which is the large brick building in the background. The dam was built in revolutionary war times to power the mill, which in its heyday made many different kinds of textiles. Removing this dam opened up 20 miles of river and now brook and rainbow trout are caught here regularly. Salmon have also been caught and someone said they saw an eagle this spring.

Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Division of Habitat Conservation, Open Rivers Initiative.

3. Ashuelot Rapids

When we’ve had a lot of rain if you stand in the right spot at the right rapid, you can see some fine waves. Since there are a few seconds of delay between when you press the shutter release and when the wave crests, getting shots of waves cresting and crashing is really hit and miss. Every time I try to anticipate what the river will do it does just the opposite, and that’s what makes trying to get a shot I’m happy with so much fun.

 4. Riverside

This view is looking downriver at two of the rapids and the shoreline that floods regularly, but where many wildflowers grow.

5. Thompson Bridge

 Slightly upriver from the rapids is the Thompson covered bridge, named after playwright Denmon Thompson, who was a native son, and built in 1832. This bridge is a truss style bridge with two spans that meet on a center support. One span covers 64 feet and the other 63.5 feet, making the total length 136 feet 10 inches long. It once had two covered walkways, but now has only one on the upriver side. It can be seen on the left in the photo. The bridge is so close to the mill building that I had my back against it when I took this photo. Town records indicate that there has been a bridge in this spot since at least 1789.

 6. Thompson Bridge

This view of the bridge shows the covered walkway. At the far end is where I perch to take many of the river photos that appear on this blog. The covered walkway comes in handy when it’s raining. Many wildflowers grow on the steep embankment on this side of the river, just below where I was standing when I took this photo.

7. Thompson Bridge

This view from downriver shows the stone center support for the two spans. The bridge design is known as “Town lattice,” patented by Connecticut architect Ithiel Town in the early 1800s. The Thompson Bridge is considered by many to be the most beautiful covered bridge in New England.

 8. Thompson Bridge

The open lattice work lets a lot of light into the bridge and this is unusual because many covered bridges are dark and cave like.  In the 1800s being able to see this much light inside a covered bridge would have been the talk of the town.

 9. Ashuelot Jetty 2

At the same time that the old dam was being removed stone jetties were built upriver from the bridge to protect its abutments. These jetties, one on each side of the bridge, direct the strength of the current and prevent erosion of the abutments at each end of the bridge. If you look closely at the white water at the far end of the jetty you can see the ripples of the current flowing in towards the middle of the river.

10. Ashuelot Wildflowers

This view from the bridge shows just a few of the wildflowers that grow on the river bank near the jetty in the previous photo. The town of Swanzey is planning on building a park in this area so the future of these plants is unknown at present. I thought the lupines growing here were our endangered wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) but after going back and counting leaflets and looking for leaf hairs, now I’m not so sure that they aren’t a natural hybrid. I’m hoping I can save some of their seeds and grow them in my own yard and get to know them a little better.

11. Clouds Over the Ashuelot

Flowers, rapids, and solitude aren’t the only reasons I come to this part of the river. The view downriver from the bridge is wide open and you can catch an occasional beautiful sunset here. I also like to come here to watch storms roll in.

12. Lori's Painting

 Local artist Lori Woodward was also taken with the view from the Thompson Bridge and did this painting from one of the photos that she saw on this blog. There is an upcoming exhibit of paintings and photos of the Ashuelot River at the Cheshire County Historical Society and this painting will be part of it. Lori works in acrylic, watercolors and oils. If you’re an art lover interested in collecting fine art, or just like looking at beautiful landscape paintings, you can visit Lori’s website by clicking here.

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Thanks for stopping in.

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