On my commute to work I pedal over the mini-coolidge bridge, I guess it could be called the Charles G. Dawes vice bridge.
Sometimes I stop and look north (away from Silent Cal’s bridge). I’m always impressed by the J. Elwell Conservation area stretching up river. A few years ago a guy I played ultimate with told me that he used to paddle across to the island on summer nights to escape the heat. It struck me as an inhospitable place full of mosquitoes and mud, but he seemed to enjoy it.
This sand bar turned island is actually rapidly growing, and because of illegal riprapping may someday become a part of Hadley (to read more consult Laurie Sander’s excellent coverage of Northampton’s conservation areas). The river eats away at the Northampton side and deposits silt at the island’s northern tip. Slowly it slouches towards Hadley.
Most of us miss this bit of the wild valley. Moving quickly along route 9 in a car one can glide past the bits of wildness around us. Even at the relatively sedate pace I manage on my Canondale, commuting tends to blind me to the non-threatening parts of the world. I am not blind to cars, they’re terrifying. When I see a young lady texting with one hand and balancing a cigarette with the hand she’s trying to steer one ton of metal and superheated gas, as I did this morning, I perk right up and stay the hell out of the way.
I do vary my commuting route so as to keep the terrorists at bay, or if I’m going somewhere different. Riding through new places I tend to appreciate the terrain a bit more.
Over the past month my route has led along the Hadley side of the river down route 47 south towards, well, the South. I don’t usually get that far, but on the way I’ve noticed some extraordinary farmland and beautiful views. Mitch’s marina, though not a beautiful view, is near (or pehaps on) the site of what used to be a ferry across the river. Though the Coolidge bridge and the Dawes vice-bridge are probably good for inter-town commerce, a ferry would suit me fine most days.
I also pass some trailheads. On a cool morning this week I was seized by a need to stop and talk to a man about a horse. After we finished our conversation, I stopped and looked up.
This photo in no way does justice to the quiet path that lay before me. I chose not to chain my bike and head up, as I had a meeting. But it made me realize that I have missed hiking this summer. Sure I have close interactions with the soil and plants when I’m pawing through them in the garden, but the garden is a negotiation between me and nature; the woods should be essentially wild. The forest garden in front of me that morning weeds itself and ends up damned near perfect. It’s also much cooler than the open fields near by.
So this weekend I’m going to find some time to get out in the woods because I miss them. I’m going to climb a hill and look at a view or maybe just walk around and listen to some unmanaged nature.
Below is a picture of my friend’s cat. His name is Sam and he doesn’t approve of any of this.