We're just home from ten miles of rough road travel on bicycles along the river from our home in Vermont down into Massachusetts.
Our town road crew has stepped it up nicely at getting at least part of the Vermont road passable all this week. Every house down along the river now has access. A pretty darn good accomplishment since dear Irene was two weeks ago today. Everyone seems to have their vehicles now parked at their own homes, instead of a mile or half mile away, sidelined.
There's still one mile of road on the Vermont side hugging the river that is wiped out. We carried our bicycles over that part. Culverts shot, stones slabs thrown like styrofoam, culverts beached. It's primeval in there, relatively wild, it's always been one of my favorite locations on the river. The ledge is ledgier, the woods are soaked and thicker, the road just sidewinds and asks forgiveness to get a little further if you please, especially in the depth of winter. There are no houses in these parts.
If you think our Vermont part of the river is bad, take a look down in Massachusetts. We had to carry our bicycles for a good half of two miles before we hit the main road, which is still a back road spur as far as any road commission is concerned. For me it's where Dennison Lumber used to be, where I used to go for sawed hemlock and poplar and v-joint pine and spruce flooring and bags of mortar and 25 pounds of nails once upon a time in my work. The sawmill is over with long ago but I could see when we finally got down there that the river had kept away from making any serious damage.
Where we're headed to is the Ten Mile Bridge that is the go-between for the towns of Colrain and Leyden, Massachusetts. We heard the legendary Octagon House was about all gone with the flood and it's almost too sad for words to express anything more for what this must mean for that family. I had my camera and was taking films and photographs all the way down on this travel but I couldn't bring myself to take a photograph of where that house had once stood. It seemed cruel. We stood on the bridge awhile and just imagined what the river looked like cutting out a treacherous path. The scars are all fresh.
Up from the bridge and back on the Colrain side we figured now was as good a time as any to go visit my old friend Chuck Lynde way up high on the mountain of Avery Road. If I knew he was as high as he was, stuck fast on a dead end of a mountain, I might have come another day. But I've been saying we would visit one of these days and I've been saying it for almost 40 years, so we picked post-Irene to come and say hello. It's a hike-the-bike about a mile straight up hill to get to Chuck's fort, with houses along the way mainly lived in by his extended family of many brothers and an elder mother's homestead where Chuck harbors his two logging trucks, various pickups and dumpers, wood-splitters, conveyor belt, and I noticed when passing an old Coca-Cola icebox chest on the front porch. Exactly like the one we would pull our cold glass bottles of Coke out of as kids, once upon a time, anywhere in America. 10 cents. It's a tidy two storey house in need of painting is mom's place. A glory view from that perch straight ahead into Vermont.
Up at Chuck's we found him in Sunday morning attire — hefty blue gym shorts and nothing else. Brawn body tan from logging all summer. He lifted his grandson into his arms and welcomed us inside like all good country people always do and we took a tour of the fort he's been telling me about all these years. An old woodstove about in every room, except maybe the bathroom, some hooked up, some not. Of the three wild cats we met "Tom", the oldest. Chucky's woodshed is almost empty because he's been delivering wood for months on end to everyone else except himself. The typical backcountry m.o. for most workers. Afterwards, coming down off the mountain and seeing the backside of his mother's place, I spotted the open pole barn spilling full of good blond firewood. Take care of mom.
The road repair in Massachusetts along the river is going to be a mammoth project. There's a giant Volvo backhoe parked on safe land with a monolith storage of all size stone and large rock which has been hauled out this way for probably the past two weeks by the looks of things. It looks like great methodical plans are in the works.
When returning up river we met a jogger on a better part of the road during our three hour outing. As I glided past her, and she was running hard, our eyes met and I said what I believe was the same feeling for both of us at that moment, "Nothing like a beautiful day." She returned a beautiful smile.
photos © bob arnold
we've now bicycled or hiked on-foot from the Hinesburg section of Guilford, down through Green River, including around Pulpit Mountain, further into Colrain and Leyden, Massachusetts following the river and Irene's path all along the way — in some ways this has allowed being a witness and cleansed the spectacle of post hurricane.