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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the mouth of Lake Swanzey, a good-sized pond really, we came upon more stone work and another dam.
Get outside! Dress for it, sharpen your gaze, think about what you are seeing. It is all gone in an instant…