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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.

. . . naw, I'll wait for the sun.

-Sixbears

13 comments:

  1. A few miles from my home is a section of "The Northwestern Pike," later called US 50. It goes down the southern side of a hill, while the newer four-lane version goes down the northern side. I've traveled on that two-lane section when it was a busy highway. Today, it's an unassuming woodland trail, mostly covered with brush and has 4-6 inches of forest duff over the hidden concrete below.

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    1. Human life spans are short, yet we can see big changes in our few decades.

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  2. Out West though things stay around a lot longer. There are a few buildings out in New Mexico I remember seeing before I was a teenager that looked exactly the same when I went back 30 years later. Same with some structures out in Western Kansas and South Dakota. Those states also bucked the old 21 drinking age and stayed 18 for years because they didn't need the federal highway money.

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    1. That dry air makes all the difference. Things seem to mummify rather than rot.

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  3. Nature is quick to take back her land.

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  4. hello, I am not up on this blog thing, I can not find how To sent you the copper plates for your heating system. I need some directions?

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  5. Hello I am not Knowledgeable on this blog thing. I need an address to send the copper plates for you water system. A little direction needed thanks
    hnb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. my e-mail is at the bottom of the blog. email me directly at sixbears@hotmail.com

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  6. yes it is a wonder how many civilizations rose and fell in the loing dim past, some so uterrly destroyed that not even hints exist of their existences

    even the whole earth will vaporize some distant time from now..

    so enjoy your life as best as you can because you and me be again stardust some future time

    wow babe!

    Wildflower

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    Replies
    1. Wow indeed! We best not take all this civilization stuff too seriously.

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  7. Romes population plummeted after the fall of the empire and four hundred years later the population was one twentith of its peak. All that remained were the shells of the grand architecture that the locals no longer had the technology to rebuild, let alone the money or manpower.
    I have the uncomfortable feeling that our biggest legacy four hundred years from now will be all the plastic detritus blowing like tumbleweeds across the landscape. Something our descendents will not thank is for.

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    Replies
    1. Sad to think of all the plastic junk we'll leave behind.

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