Each spring for the last few years, my brother Curtis and I have pooled our resources for a week- long vacation to explore some part of the US that neither of us has ever visited before. We both live in Texas, but over 250 miles apart. So, we meet halfway between at our other brother’s home near Dallas and fly from DFW airport. At our chosen destination, we rent a large RV for our base camp and a small car for roaming around. This May, we decided to check out New England, a region I only knew a little about from American history classes.
On some of these vacations we have a national park or other specific destination in mind, but this year the goal was just to explore and see what we could find. In Boston we would tour the historical sites and we knew we wanted to make it a little ways into Maine for a Maine lobster meal within site of an Atlantic lighthouse, but for New Hampshire and Vermont I came up with a more general goal. These states are famous for their fall colors, but we were off season for that. So, I went with the next most photographed feature—covered wooden bridges. A recent hurricane damaged or destroyed a few, but there are still some beautiful examples if you’re willing to drive around the countryside to find them. But hey, that was our main goal all along.
Below is the bridge over the Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire. Well maintained, it was originally constructed in 1886. I’m just glad I don’t have to pronounce the name here.
In the small city of Bennington, Vermont, we were surprised to discover a museum dedicated solely to the subject of covered bridges, where we learned probably as much as anyone would want to know about these things. For example, did you know that local residents used to manually shovel snow inside the covered bridge in the winter? Otherwise, the horse-drawn sleighs of yesteryear would have had a hard time sliding through on the rough wooden surface. Also, some of the early covered bridges were intended for trains, until it became obvious that fire was a constant danger from the steam engines.
Here are two bridges still in use near the Bennington museum.
I’ll include one more bridge in New Hampshire. This one is a foot bridge built over a river gorge in 1938 from a single huge pine tree called the Sentinel Tree, which once stood nearby. You can clearly see the sturdy inner structure of roughhewn timbers in the second photo. This latticework of wood is what gave these bridges their support, while the protective roof provided for a long existence.
The covered bridges alone were worth the trip, but searching them out allowed us to wander through some of the most beautiful countryside in the US and meet some of our northern citizens. Good trip.
Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.