Part of the fun of hiking is the chance to check-out building remains, ghost towns, and abandoned structures one may encounter. The northeast has quite a long and intricate history, and every stone wall, old house, and dilapidated barn is a piece of this elaborate puzzle. There is often a lot more to discover than what meets the eye, and sometimes the key is right at your feet ;). A detailed topographical map is ideal when scouting for these locations.
The first spot I wanted to check-out was about 100 hundred yards off the Ives’ Trail, but there was some trail work to do. A 60 ft/18 meter tall Chestnut Oak came down, blocking the path and proving to be quite the barricade. A new path was made to go around the obstacle, but this meant some awkward crawling under the upper branches that were in the way. Now to put the Gränsfors and bucksaw to work :).
I cut off the two upward branches with my bucksaw and used the axe to remove the lower branch with two “v” notches. I then moved the logs out of the way so that they would line the edges of the new path. The other end of the tree showed the unmistakeable evidence of Oak Borer beetles…the heartwood was completely eaten away, nothing but sawdust left. However, the wood in the upper branches was still in good shape, no noticeable decay to be seen, and it even smelled a bit fresh. My Gränsfors sailed through it, notice the large chips it made :D.
Now that that’s sorted, onward we go! Half a mile further, and I reached my turn-off, a section with dense Mountain Laurel undergrowth. The thicket gradually transitioned into a clearing, and there before me lay the remains of a building foundation.
Only one corner was visible. I have no clue what structure this once was, but I doubt it is older than the 1900s, considering that the foundation was made of concrete. There were two shovel heads left behind, presumably by treasure hunters, and an old glass bottle. For whatever reason, I got a weird, uncomfortable feeling in the back of my head after a few minutes, so I turned around and moved on to my second location a mile and a half away.
Just up the trail, I came across two doe Whitetails browsing for mosses.
This one wasn’t shy and posed for a photo…the other (behind the tree on left) was a bit timid.
As I neared the second site, I noticed several boulders with these drill marks showing.
Apparently, this is the old-fashioned way stones used to be cut for masonry – one man would hold the drill bit while another pounds on the top with a sledge hammer, turning it after every blow. A series of these holes is made no more than 2 inches/5 cm from each other, and then metal wedges are hammered in to break apart the rock into the desired shape. As far as I know, this technique is not used anymore in masonry, except for historical reproductions by specialists.
And here we are at what I think was once a spring-house. Portions of two walls remain (bottom left and middle in photo), both constructed out of local field stones and mortar. As you can see, the walls were built into the large boulder (itself acting as a back wall)…this would keep the interior cool in all seasons. There is also a nearby stream just off to the right, which would provide the means to maintain refrigeration. Inside, you would see a channel of flowing water where products such as milk were kept from spoiling in the days before electricity. Of course, I’m just theorising…for all I know, it could’ve been nothing more than a simple root cellar.
This whole region is full of fragments of our past, and we treasure our past dearly and seek to preserve what pieces we can. It would definitely be interesting to find out more about these bits of local history :).