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Brrrrrrrrr! January 23, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Well now, this  is winter!   🙂

We got a fresh inch of snow overnight, not enough to shovel, just enough to freshen up the older snow pack. And with a daytime high in the ‘teens assuring clear, crisp air, it seemed like a good time to scout some river scenes.

I headed up the Cold river a bit after noon, beneath blue skies and scuttling clouds:


The valley is still a tangled mess from Irene, but winter disguises her scars.

I’ve always liked the way tumbling rivers look when they rise up around snow covered rocks, saturating their marsh mallow hats, turning them into emerald slushies, washing them down river like slow moving ghosts. This cold weather grows the well-anchored ones into wonderful ice islands:


Quartzite cobbles complement the color scheme, wavering from below the fast-moving surface:


A faster shutter speed captures the kinetics of the flow:


The wind was brutal, and after an hour of walking the river bank, my fingers had had enough, despite my beefy gloves, and I headed back to the car, noticing on my way down river that the moon was rising. At the car I put Gizmo and his little buddy Tele on the box and got this:


I packed it in, cranked the heat and ran a few errands.

My day ended with a drive home along the Deerfield river, where I snagged this shot of the frazil ice building it’s tortuous tangle as the sun disappeared behind the near hills:


That one’s from Elliot, with a degree and a half of tilt and a hand-held three-stop graduated ND filter. It took me all of fifteen minutes, by the end of which my tripod had frozen into the river, my fingertips were wooden and I had wind-whipped tears frozen to my cheeks.

Good thing I spent all those years climbing ice, or I wouldn’t have enjoyed that one bit!  😉

Well that’s all for now, friends. I have 909 shots from last weekend’s climbing competition to process, so I’m off to work!

Seldom Scene. April 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I took a walk yesterday, perhaps better characterized as a bushwack/hike, up the Cold river, away from Route 2 and out of view of the road.

In fact, it’s a place which very rarely sees human traffic; there are no paths beyond faint game trails.  I got there by forty minutes of traversing steep slopes and wading through rocky shallows.

The river was a magical mix of centuries of gradual change and the cataclysm of tropical storm Irene.  The steep valley had been scoured by the floods, with the outside of every bend eaten back to bedrock to a height of perhaps thirty feet above the current river level.

Still, time will heal this; it already looks somewhat normalized:

Along the way I found pools which will remain deep and cool in the heat of summer, with sandy, beach-like banks:

They’ll be wonderful to visit in the Dog Days, especially if I can get some adventurous others to join me there.

The Upper Cold. January 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The upper reaches of the Cold river lie in a deep valley, sheltered from the winter sun for all but a few hours a day.

I hiked down into that rift today, negotiating stream crossings, following bear tracks for a hundred yards (they were too melted out to photograph,) and finally descending the steep ledges hemming in the river.

The emerald green waters flowed nearly silently beneath pillows of snow clinging to the larger rocks, and I picked my way gingerly out among them, poking with my ski poles to ascertain the safety of my path.

I got only this for my efforts:

…not that it’s a bad shot, but I had hoped to come away with more.

Well, at least I got a little bit of exercise!

Progress Report. November 8, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Route 2, the Mohawk Trail in these parts, took a massive hit from the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, and looked like it might be closed for years.

But our can-do Governor Patrick threw down the gauntlet that it’d be open by December 15, and damn if they aren’t going to make that happen!

Here’s a shot of the progress at a huge wash-out in Florida where I spend many of my work days, the one I’ve posted before with hanging guardrails and pontificating politicians.  It looks different now,  thanks to the ’round-the-clock efforts of Northern Construction, working fourteen 12-hour shifts a week:

That’s looking downriver, whereas the “before” shots were looking upriver.  But you get the picture: that’s a buttload of gravel and stone you’re looking at.

Thanks to the unionized working folks (yes, there are women on the job too, though they’re few) who make our world go ’round.  They bust their asses for a daily wage while the people with the connection$ rake in the profits.  It’s nearly inconceivable to me that the Haves don’t appreciate the efforts of their workers enough to assure their futures, but in the grander scheme of things, that seems to be the case.  Union workers like these folks are under attack from their Corporate Overlords, albeit by way of the brown-shirt dimwits of the Tea Party.

At any rate, we might just make the December 15th target.

Thank you, my hard-working brothers and sisters.

The Damage Done. August 30, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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I got out for a bit yesterday, with the dual intention of finding a passable route westward for today’s travel to work.  The main route through the region (Route 2) was closed just west of town, so I ranged farther east, then north, in search of open roads.

Now, I’d already been stunned by the spectacle of high water and amazed at the wreckage of mud-encrusted Shelburne Falls, but with the water levels dropping, a whole new level of devastation was being revealed.

I got to Shelburne, then headed north on Route 112 through Colrain.  At the hamlet of Lyonsville, the first bridge was closed – the roadway, gone:

I back-tracked, knowing a long-cut through the hills.

Beyond the bridge was more destruction.  Dams:



Not gone, but nonetheless destroyed.  These high tension lines suspended a mangled tower over the North river.  They’re fully loaded, supplying a large part of the region with power, and can’t be shut down until a reach-around is arranged.  Good luck with that.

The road northward through Halifax, VT was, shall we say, “compromised:”

It’s over the State Line and so won’t be my job, but it’s worth noting that the miles of road in this condition in Southern Vermont are nearly uncountable.

Jacksonville, VT took a monstrous hit; they opened the Glory Hole at Whitingham Reservoir to avert a dam breach, but totaled a lot of the places downstream, including the Honore  (formerly North River) Winery:

It wouldn’t be there at all if the dam had let loose, so I’d say this mess qualifies as the Lesser of Several Evils.

I stopped to inquire about the way westward, and learned that it wasn’t going to happen – Wilmington was unreachable by land by any means.  Bennington, the next large city going west, was similarly unreachable.  National Guard helicopters were doing the essential lifting there.

I headed south at Readsboro, following the Deerfield back south into Massachusetts, making it as far as Dunbar Brook:

It’s gonna take more than asphalt to patch that pothole, I do believe.

A long ride over Monroe Bridge, astonishingly intact, led back through Rowe to the lower part of River Road, where Zoar Gap had reduced the road to one undercut lane.  Finally, I’d found a way out, via Whitcomb Hill Road.  That would be, um, sweet come winter.

With daylight fading I retreated to Charlemont, hoping to get a glimpse of what was keeping Route 2 from opening – it’s the main east-west artery in northern Massachusetts,  and sees a tremendous amount of commercial as well as private traffic.  I slipped on my yellow work vest and hard hat, passing the National Guard roadblock with a business-like wave, stopping to bullshit wth the local police who knew my work, and swerving slowly around the last group of local residents beyond the roadblock:

It was good to see people whose lives had been devastated turning the disaster into a rare opportunity to grill on the double yellow line.  They handed me a hot-dog on home-made jalepeno bread as I passed, admonishing me with a wink to “take pictures.”  They’d been up the road and knew I’d be impressed.

I was.

I know the Cold River along this beautiful stretch of Route 2 well, every swimming hole and sunning rock.  But not today.

Today, it was gone.  Gone!  All of it, the swimming holes, the forested shorelines, the valley I love so much I can taste it, gone.

Route 2, the lifeline of our county, miles of it, gone:

Car sized boulders and a forest’s worth of trees buried the pavement, filled the gaping holes, obliterated the way forward:

And the river was unrecognizable, its massive concrete retaining walls collapsed, its course altered for all time, its beautiful pools obliterated.

I don’t mind saying that I cried.  I’m still grieving as I write this, for the beauty which won’t be back in my lifetime, for the special places I’ll never see again, that no-one will ever see again.  Places I was so looking forward to seeing this Autumn are now lost forever, joining their ancestral mountain fathers in the sea, perhaps to rise again in a billion years, In Sh’Allah.

It’s my job to fix this sort of thing; roads and bridges, that’s what I do.  But when the money’s not there, fixing things takes a long, long time.  In the meantime, while I’m infinitely grateful that everyone I know and love survived this storm, everything  I love didn’t.  And I’m going to miss it.

I know, “It’s a big world.  Find other spots.”  Of course I will.  That’s what we do.

Back at the cold river, I turned and drove back down the valley, stopping for one more burger, served with courage and good cheer by folks who knew exactly what I was feeling:

After all, it’s their  river, too.

It’s Hot, But We’re Not! July 21, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This past weekend was a scorcher, especially in the lower climes, so I invited my Susan to join me for an afternoon at the Cold river.  Flowing as  it does through a high, narrow valley and getting less sun than the wider water courses in these parts, it’s of a scale which is easily assimilated by humble minds and lives up to its chilly name.

We parked at a spot which has room for only one car (ours!) in a half-mile stretch, so we wouldn’t see another soul.

And we didn’t.  We walked the short distance down to the boulder-strewn river bed:

…and set to exploring.

It was magical; Susan got deeply into building delicate stone towers:

…while I scoped out the scene for photos.  The place was rich with opportunities, and I was soon hunkered down amongst the rocks, framing shots of the rich range of colors on display:

The predominant rock type here is schist, but there are chunks of blue-green serpentine as well.  I like the complexity of this rock, with its angular features on a micro scale:

…and its colorful weathering:

There are also a lot of big round quartzite boulders, which display a weathering pattern known as “spalling,” and look like they’ve been carved with a round chisel:

As a black and white image, I think that shot evokes old India ink drawings.

Eventually we got down to the hard work of the day: holding down the big boulders and keeping a bit of the sun off them:

It was grueling, enduring the hypnotic pink noise of the burbling cascades and all.

But hey, somebody’s  got to do it, and we volunteered!    😉

Big Snow, High And Low. January 13, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Got a whopper over the past two days, with snow totals ranging widely, but generally being impressive.

Down in the valleys we got walloped; here the Cold River barely makes it up for air beneath a weighty blanket:

…while up higher, this wind-swept meadow in Windsor sleeps tight beneath changing skies:

If you’ve been here since the beginning, you’ve doubtless seen variants ad nauseam of this scene, as it’s one of my favorites and draws me back through the seasons.  Pardon my repetitions, but it’s just what I do in my quest to get it right.

At any rate, it was a pretty substantial snowfall, and I’m diggin’ it.

Along The Cold River. October 16, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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So this morning I headed out before sunrise, not expecting to catch a glorious dawn, but rather to get some fall colors without the direct light of the sun on them.

I needn’t have rushed; as soon as I left the driveway it began to rain, the wind picked up and I considered turning around – but hey, what else was I going to do at this time of day?

So I went up the valley through blowing mists to see what I could see (kinda like the bear going over the mountain!)  And this is what I saw, through repeated moppings of the lens.

The Cold river from the Black Brook bridge:

Sorry ’bout the uniformly gray skies here, but it was what it was.

A closer look at the river:

A little farther down river, at the State Forest campground, the trails were deserted:

A picnic area seemed to have gone to sleep for the season…

…with only me and the moss there to enjoy the silence:

Those last two were courtesy of Elliot, one for perspective and one for an attempt at foreground/background focusing.  Given the low light level, I thought the result was satisfactory (with room for improvement.)

Then it was back to the farm for a late breakfast by the wood-stove, two of the simple pleasures of the season.

Have a nice weekend.  🙂



The Cold, Cold River. May 11, 2009

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Our local Cold River is a seasonal thing, raging during the Spring thaw and swelling preposterously during periods of heavy Autumn rain.

But mostly, it’s a small, rocky creek in a deep, narrow valley.  And morning finds it casting off its quilt of mists and vapours, consolidating itself into a stream once again after an unobserved night off:

Cold fog

The transit runs both ways, with the river’s exhalations moistening the sky as the sun concentrates on vaporizing the aqueous world below:

foggy Cold river

I have to admit to loving it here, at the risk of proving myself to be provincial.  It’s not the most magnificent example of anything, it’s just what I know.

And I like it.

What A Day That Was! February 10, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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From stillness, silent and tranquil, to full-on blizzard conditions in the blink of an eye; from squinting-bright sun and blue sky to blackness at noon; it was an amazing day.

I took this shot of the Cold River in the calm before the storm, with just a few snow flakes swirling around:


…and the water below rich with green and orange.


Then, in the blink of an eye, the wind came up and I was engulfed in a tempest of driven snow, instantly plastering my face, packing my pockets, and coating my camera even as I struggled to get it off the tripod and into my coat. I managed to not turn it off, to not retract the wet lense until I got it dry to the best of my on-the-road ability. But it scared me silly – my camera, such as it is, is my “baby” these days, and the thought of destroying it makes me quiver in fear!

I drove on westward hoping to get above the weather, and sure enough, I found bright sun in the High Country. Everything was fresh and white – even the power lines were wearing a new coat!


Half an hour later I was pulled over to the side of Vermont Route 100 in a total white-out, not knowing if I was on or off the road.

Quite a day, indeed!