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Nothing gets my creative juices going like an impromptu adventure with cameras. My favorite professional Photo Blogger, Laura Mahoney of TouringNH invited me along Friday afternoon. The weather was cold, windy and overcast. We drove through snow-squalls and rain, bright sun and dismal gray light. What’s that saying about New England, “Don’t like the weather? Wait a minute!”

It took some doing to get ourselves psyched up for the first stop. I had visited the Cresson/Sawyer’s Crossing  and the Carleton covered bridges earlier this year and wrote about it here.  That first trip the weather was lovely and warm, I floated beneath the bridge in my kayak and looked up in wonder at its woodwork. This visit the drizzle was cold, the wind insistent and the Ashuelot River low and muddy.  Even these conditions couldn’t take away from the marvel of the construction. These first two bridges are very similar, so much so,  I was confused when I went through my photos initially and couldn’t tell them apart.  The Cresson has many small windows where as the Carleton has just two on the north side.

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From there we wound our way through the town of Swanzey, NH in search of more bridges. I’ve been asked “Why are they covered?” The simple answer is to protect the structures from the elements making them last longer. But when you think about New England in the winter, everyone would eventually be driving sleighs of some sort. The covered bridges required snow to be shoveled into them, so the runners didn’t stick!

I am now hooked on doing more research on the different styles of bridges. The choice of how many windows varies widely, but the placement of the portals make no sense to me. Perhaps it was just the architects’ whimsy that lead to the differences.

I loved this little bridge, the Coombs Bridge for its light feeling; less barn-style than the more workman-like Carleton and Cresson.

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The lattice-work inside the Coombs Bridge

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The Slate Bridge looks like it belongs in a Grandma Moses painting. Quintessential barn-red with white trim, it was destroyed by fire in 1993 and the restored version boasts a fire alarm. Lacking windows, it also has electric lights that seem to stay on all the time. I can’t imagine how devastating it must have been to watch the original burn.

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Laura and her trusty Jeep…we need a name for that vehicle!

Our last bridge of the day was the Thompson Bridge in West Swanzey. Here the river is wider; old brick factories line one shore and the sign says there was once a dam to power the woolen and wooden-ware mills. The dam is gone and but the bridge, with its interesting shaped entrance, light-filled passage and pedestrian walkway, made me think of summer days with beautiful carriages crossing the river.

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Beautiful red bridge, I promise, the light was fading…

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The pedestrian walkway

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Even the best laid plans go astray and trips with Laura, though loosely planned, always include unexpected side-trips. While searching for one particular bridge, we saw a dirt road, class 6 they’re called here, with the warning that it was not maintained, dead-end, pass-at-your-own-risk. That’s an open invitation that there is something to photograph.

The rain held off long enough for us to journey off the path and discover the remains of a mill. What caught my eye first was the stone work that proved to be the retaining wall for a dam to control what was now just a stream. Across the road, the stream wove its way through glacial boulders to the ruins of the mill. Even though it is November, the ferns are still green and mosses lend a subtle carpet of life to the woods.

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Mill foundations

At the mouth of Lake Swanzey, a good-sized pond really, we came upon more stone work and another dam.

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There was a sturdy bridge over the spill-way

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and the water continued on through a granite passage to a pipe under a nearby road

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I got up front and personal with the dam…

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Get outside! Dress for it, sharpen your gaze, think about what you are seeing. It is all gone in an instant…

14 comments on “Water Under the Bridge…

  1. Touring NH says:

    Swanzey was definitely a great adventure (except for the cold). I’m glad you came along and love seeing your take on the day! I’ll be interested to see what you learn about the architecture and different styles of bridges, maybe you can find out why so many of them are painted red. And yes, the jeep needs a name!

  2. I adore bridges. Your photographs of them – and especially the covered ones – are magical.

    1. Thank you! I’m touched. I love the different designs and the thoughts they provoke of a simpler time.

  3. i didn’t realize that you and Laura were making a habit of going on photo safaris. I’ve got some reading to catch up on!

    1. We spoke of you Alan and wished you were along to help identify some of the plants we came across. Let’s all going “touring” soon!

  4. mariekeates says:

    I think Thompson bridge is my favourite because it seems so much lighter than the others and there would still be good views along the river. I’m with you on finding odd paths, I just can’t help but investigate either 🙂

    1. Thanks Marie, do you know if there are any covered bridges in the UK? I know there are in China and assume there are others in other parts of the world.

      1. mariekeates says:

        I’ve never seen one here but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

      2. mariekeates says:

        Just Googled, there is one in Birkenhead, two in Oxford and one in Cambridge. Pretty thin on the ground here then 🙂

  5. That’s so interesting. I will look them up. Thanks!!

  6. julieallyn says:

    LOVE this Martha! The last photo with the red berries — wow. Mind if I road trip to NH sometime to take a few photos with you sometime?!? 🙂

    Liked this passage: made me think of summer days with beautiful carriages crossing the river. Great imagery — I can just picture it as well!

    1. A cross country blog session on covered bridges perhaps? They are so beautiful and architecturally so different, each and every one.

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