So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Signs of winter, thoughts of decay
Nothing like waking up to 3 inches of fresh snow. It's the winter that will not quit. In my travels today I picked up a hitchhiker. He had an enormous backpack and a skiboard. He was on his way to Mt. Washington to ski the headwall. I dropped him off at the Appalachian Mountain Club base lodge and wished him luck.
On the bright side, this cold snap has stopped snow melt, allowing rivers a chance to subside. Even so, flood warnings won't be lifted for another day. If we had one spring without road repair and maintenance, large sections would become impassable. It's only though constant effort that our mountain roads stay open.
That got me thinking. Most people don't realize how fast the works of man can disappear. One year of neglect and the roads have big gaps in them. Eventually the elements destroy larger and larger sections. Before long trees put down roots between the broken asphalt.
Just a few miles from me there used to be a thriving mining community of several thousand people. The miners hit a big vein of water. It became too expensive and dangerous to keep the mine pumped out. There are few clues that the town ever existed: some bits of concrete, a few large old blackened timbers by the railroad tracks, and tree covered mounds in the woods that used to be buildings.
New Hampshire has a number of these village sites where little remains. There were logging towns that cut down all the trees, mining towns that went bust, and then there were the hill farms. During the early days of settlement, many farms were established in the mountains. Cold air sinks, so a farm in the hills could get a couple more weeks of frost free growing season. Too bad the thin mountain soil was soon exhausted.
When western lands opened up, most of these farms were abandoned. There are few remains. Sometimes one can find a cellar hole or an old well. Once the roof on a house fails, it doesn't take long for the rest of the house to fall apart. Departing farmers often burned their houses down before leaving. They'd sift the ashes to recover the valuable nails to reuse.
Is it so different now? Think of all the abandoned houses that are being stripped for their copper wire, pipes, and other valuables. Detroit has lost whole neighborhoods, and they aren't alone. It doesn't happen much in the United States, but in other parts of the world people sledge hammer concrete buildings to get to the metal rebar inside. That's an awful lot of work to recover fairly low quality steel.
Between the ravages of nature and the salvagers, evidence of our civilization could disappear surprisingly fast. Imagine future archaeologists trying to piece together our civilization from the remains of half a toilet seat and the Chicago Picasso.
Soon enough the snow will melt, the sun will warm the land, and my thoughts will also thaw a bit. Maybe I should just embrace the cold, grab some skis, and climb a mountain.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.