|Two years ago, Yang and I made our first trip to Colebrook Reservoir on a brisk Halloween afternoon. What a treat!. After at least a year of drought, the old Rte. 8 was completely clear and dry of the water. We even saw part of the “ghost bridge” and the stone walls marking the boundaries of farms in what had once been a community displaced by the formation of the reservoir. That day, we saw our first slate-colored juncos of the season, while the fall colors were still in bloom. (Check out an earlier blog on our adventure here).
We came back last year, after an extremely rainy summer and discovered just how quickly a reservoir can fill up! Not even a trace of the road we traveled between a slope of boulders and the water. We were lucky the parking lot wasn’t swimming!
Ah, but 2022 brought another summer drought – and maybe the only good thing about the dearth of precipitation was that the way at Colebrook became so much clearer – though not nearly as clear as two years ago!
So, here’s my report, with photographic evidence! On a gorgeous September afternoon, we were able to take the road (old Rte. 8) down from the parking lot for a bit of a stroll, until the inundation of the low road cut us off. Were we daunted? Not we two Yangs! We scrambled over 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile of boulders flanking the waters. You can get a bit of a picture from this photo, though you can’t see quite how steep the slope was – it was too hard to take pictures and scramble at the same time!
Where the road rose on higher ground, it was clear of water. Unfortunately, there were gaps of low lying road that were inundated. So, we managed to circle around the submerged road through rock-strewn mud flats, where we saw all kinds of fauna tracks: deer, lynx, big herons. We also saw some neat flora, as well. I was taken with these nettles, some of which were accompanied by red berries. Anybody recognize them? We kept an eagle eye out for ticks! Also, for fellow MSTKies, we did watch out for snakes. None sighted – not even in the water.
It was fascinating to see how the wash of waters over the past few years had covered what was left of some of the road with gravel and how the flooded areas created islands of what had once been roads. Yang and I were both struck by how torn up the exposed blacktop had been since the last time we’d walked this road. When we went through a stand of trees, we found some big trees down that we had to climb over. No riding our bikes here the way we did two years ago when we had returned the day after Thanksgiving.
Last time we were here, we had walked out to a highway bridge from the 1950s that crossed a stream emptying into what was originally a river (now the reservoir). There was even a jetty to walk out on a little further along. Well, at least the bridge was still there, but water was almost even with it. Still we had a nice walk there and a little beyond, until the road dipped and the water filled in everything. As you can see, we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the bridge. The area seemed to have become the playground for female and juvenile male Common Mergansers. These ducks were having a grand time strolling about, splashing, and playing in the water.
Speaking of birds, Yang was disappointed not to see any Juncos (though it’s a bit early). Nevertheless, he more than made do with the many water birds we saw. Across the waters were Great Egrets, and on our side we saw several interesting types. On the left is one of the Spotted Sandpipers we saw, though we usually saw only one at a time. Maybe it was the same one a few times over? We also saw this Greater Yellow Legs. It might have been a Lesser Yellow Legs, but we didn’t have anything with which to compare him. Less than whom? There were plenty of Cormorants, too.
This was a pretty scene of the shore across the reservoir. I really enjoyed the view. Too bad we won’t be able to go back this year when the colors really go full-on autumn.
Of course, this is my favorite view.
I hope you’ll pardon me while I duck out now.
Well, here I go trying to create a new blog with WordPress’s Godawful new editor. Forgive me if this comes out crappy. It’s taken me forever to figure out how to switch back and forth between html editor and visual-nothing is clearly labeled or explained. I know this format is much uglier than the one I had previously. We’re all at the mercy of tasteless, unimaginative, homogenizing forces.
Anyway, let’s move on to a more enjoyable descent into darkness. Here’s a last gasp at wintry images with Part 2 of my report on the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams. Across the street from the original portion of the graveyard, lonely mountains rise up to close you you in and the rest of the world out on this grey day.
This is the newer portion of Hillside, and much more on an actual hillside. With the rolling slopes here, the graves, mostly 19th century, tilt and are almost upended as the ground has settled and shifted over the years-or is someone or something trying to push out?
And those slopes are pretty darned high, too, with gravestones and monuments, bleakly, implacably towering upward from an earth both browned by autumn and frosted by snow.
This cemetery has it’s share of intriguing, impressive statuary, but the brutal western Massachusetts winds, rain, and snow have not been kind to them, gradually wearing them down to softened blurs in many cases. The dove embracing this shrouded cross has lost its distinctive features and now softly merges into the cross’s drapery. The child and the lamb, representing her innocence, have melted into the seat of broken rocks symbolizing her life cut too short, too soon. A relief that should have preserved a woman’s identity in endurable stone for eternity has blurred her features into gentle vagueness. Even her identity in the form of name, family, and birth and death dates have been smoothed away to soft whiteness. A book of life’s secrets has subsumed its truths into a creamy blank of pages melted together, marked only by the stain of mold and decay. Or might this be an edition of the Necronomicon?
Of course there are also still striking images of angels and symbolic broken columns, some standing relentless against nature’s assault by winds, weather, and devouring by lichen and mold.
Some are less successful than others in resisting the assaulting elements, but are no less beautiful.
There was only one large mausoleum in this portion of the cemetery-but it is impressive, especially for the art deco angel guarding the resting bodies of the family beneath. There’s a wonderful starkness in its rising near the crest of the rolling hill, the dark tree grasping hungry branches at the sky beyond it.
And here is a closeup of the angel. Regard the myriad layers of feathers creating a shield of wings behind its head, seeming both like a peacock’s tail in full extension and a wall of tongues of flames.
The day had been cold, but not bitterly so. The ground betrayed the tracks of deer, racoon, and perhaps more predatory mammals. It was an isolated spot where no human seemed to have ventured to grieve or pay veneration for a very long time. In fact, this day this cemetery seemed like a place lost to time, to human connections. Thank goodness I saw this cute guy and not some colour out of space.
The Saturday after the elections, to get away from all the stress, Yang and I took a four-mile hike on the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail. It was something! The trail leads through woods in Chester to one of the oldest set of stone railroad bridges in the country. And some of these bridges are still in use! Here is the first of these arched granite bridges that we saw, one that is still used. We just missed the train going over it.
To get to the other arch bridges, you have to do some hiking through the forests. The paths run along the river and then up and down some semi-tough slopes. However, the work is certainly worth it. There were some cool views of woods, streams, and rock formations.
Before we got to the other bridges, we came across some interesting abandoned or ruined structures. We could see this tower piercing through the denuded trees not too far off to the right of the trail as we started. I’m not sure what it is, so if anyone has an idea, let me know. We would have investigated on the way back – there was a drive off the trail – but we were really bushed.
I don’t know what this rock wall was originally. A foundation? A pen? A border demarcation? Can’t tell you. Cool, though, isn’t it?
We were able to check out two of the abandoned bridges. These were built around 1840, using blue-stone granite. This part of the line was eventually abandoned along with the bridges because in following the river, the rails had to take too sharp a curve for the speed of the trains. Disaster prevailed. To get to this bridge, we walked along where the old rail bed was, between high walls of rock that had been blasted and dug out in the early/mid-1800s. At the bridge, the tunnel of rock opened into a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. There was still some color in the trees, so I could just imagine how gorgeous the vista would have been even a week earlier.
In this shot, you can see the handsome Yang sitting near the edge-I made sure his insurance was paid up before the hike. Click on the picture and look below him to the right to see the river. Above that, note the rest of the mountains to get an idea of how high up we are. To the left, you can see the path that came out of the rail bed we walked up between walls of rock.
This picture can give you an even better idea of how high up the bridge is. It’s taken on the same side of the bridge as the shot of Yang above, but from the other end of the bridge. Click on the picture and notice the tiny patches of blue at the bottom, on the river bank. Those tiny things are two people! Pretty far down, huh? The acoustics are darned good, though. We could hear those two girls laughing and joking as if they were right there on the bridge with us.
Here’s a shot of the other abandoned bridge, also on the same line. Though I didn’t get a picture of the surrounding hills, the view of them from here was also impressive, even with fall’s glory of color having passed. This trail is certainly worth a return trip at almost any time of year-well, maybe not through winter snows!
Click here for more information on the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail.