Visiting Vermont, Part One
One week ago today I packed up the car and began the trek north to Vermont and three days of just me, myself, and I. Hard to believe it's been a week already but I guess that time really does fly, doesn't it? Looking out the window today, I'm rather wishing that I had today's weather last Monday but all things considered, I think I did pretty good weather-wise as early March in New England can be a real gamble no matter what the weatherpeople are calling for!
Anywho, after making the what-now-seems-like-relatively short drive up past Hartford onto Interstate 91 North through Springfield, Massachusetts and then past the area where Amanda's friend Sami attends college, I found myself crossing over into Vermont where my first stop was at the Tourist Information center in Guilford.
This was probably one of the nicest rest stops/tourist info centers that I have ever seen and it most definitely screamed Vermont with its barn-like exterior and cozy interior complete with rocking chairs! There were more brochures for all parts of the state than I'd ever seen in one place before and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful as they asked where I was headed and made suggestions for stops along the way. Vermont was already scoring high points for friendly people and beautiful buildings and I was barely 10 minutes into the state!
After gathering up more brochures than I would certainly need for my trip (I couldn't help it, everything sounded great!), I climbed back into the car and pulled out the information I had on covered bridges in the area. After all, one of my main purposes for heading to Vermont was to take pictures of at least a few of the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the United States - 114 in all. Had I been making this trip 100 years ago I really would have been in Covered Bridge Heaven as there were over 600 of them then but the flood of 1927 left only about 200. Since then nearly half of those have been lost to fire or development but the remaining bridges are said to be among the nation's finest and I was going to by-golly hunt a few of them down!
With that in mind, I fired up the iPod, pointed the car north, and journeyed to Windsor - about 50 miles up I91 - in search of the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge that spans the Connecticut River. Technically this bridge belongs to New Hampshire as when one drives onto the bridge from the Windsor side of the river they are immediately in New Hampshire due to the defined boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont being at the western high-water mark of the river. Truth be told, it didn't matter to me who claimed the bridge, I just wanted to take pictures of it!
As it was, I ended up approaching the bridge from the New Hampshire side when I turned right instead of left approaching Windsor, a town that was first settled in August 1764 by Captain Steele Smith and his family from Farmington, Connecticut. As a side note here, there are A LOT of towns in Vermont that bear the same names as those here in Connecticut and for awhile there I found myself driving through the likes of Norwich, Plainfield, Groton, Ledyard, Hartford, Waterford, etc. Being kind of curious about that, I looked it up and it seems that Vermont was settled by a lot of people from Connecticut who moved there to get away from the repressiveness of the conservative congregational church. Made perfect sense to me! Anyhow, back to the bridge ...
Once upon a time, the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge was the longest covered bridge still standing in the United States but that honor has since been claimed by the ghastly looking (my opinion only!) Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ohio which spans 613 feet and was opened in 2008. The 449-1/2 foot long Cornish-Windsor Bridge was originally built in 1866 at a cost of $9,000 and rebuilt in 1988 at a cost of $4,450,000. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1970.
Sadly, it appears that New Hampshire needs to update its historical marker on this quintessential piece of New England architecture which is featured on the Town Bicentennial Medal struck in 1976 and is one of the most photographed covered bridges in the country.
For those that like tech specs, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge is of the Town Lattice Truss style and is rated for ten tons maximum load with two spans of 204' and 203', an overall width of 24', a roadway width of 19'6", and a maximum vertical clearance of 12'9". And it's busy! I was quite surprised at the number of cars going back and forth across the Connecticut River using this bridge - myself included when I drove back over to Vermont after taking pictures!
The above view is looking from the Cornish-Windsor Bridge north up the Connecticut River and, as you can see, it wasn't the best of days weather-wise. Matter of fact, it was pretty darned chilly standing by the riverbank as there was a pretty good breeze kicking up beneath the gray skies. Time to get back on the road and look for bridge #2 on my agenda which was supposed to be somewhere off of State Route 5 north of Windsor in the town of Hartland.
The Martin Mills Bridge crosses Lull's Brook and is also of the Town Lattice style. The bridge was built in 1881 and has a span of 135' and a width of 16'2" which makes it a one-lane bridge. The builder of the bridge, James F. Tasker, was also one the builders of the Cornish-Windsor Bridge.
My journey to the Martins Mill Bridge was also my first experience with one of Vermonts many dirt roads which was more mud than dirt. As I parked in the extremely muddy parking area near the bridge and stepped out into the puddles of mud, I congratulated myself for the first of many times on being smart enough to wear boots and not sneakers as is my norm! Little did I know what I was in for the next day when it came to dirt roads and Mudder Nature, as Vermont likes to call her!
As I finished taking pictures of the Martins Mill Bridge, a light rain began to fall so I decided that it would probably be best to continue up to Lyndonville - the site of my accommodations for the next two nights - which was still 80 miles to the north. I wanted to get there before nightfall so I'd be able to at least check out the lay of the land a little bit so I cranked the iPod back up, found my way back to Interstate 91, and continued on with my journey which I shall also continue with tomorrow!