New England, Part 5 (Yes, More Bridges)

On June 8, 2016 · 0 Comments

Bridges? Not another article about bridges gasped a sizable portion of the Twelve Mile Circle audience. Yes, I decided to feature more bridges, all from my latest journey. This time I added a bit of a twist. The first two bridges were more interesting than usual. Then I segued back to my standard fare of covered bridges that one should feel free to read about or simply look at the pretty pictures and move along. I won’t take it personally.

Willimantic Footbridge


Willimantic Footbridge

Steve from CTMQ and I continued trading tweets as my path finally hit Connecticut and we approached our in-person visit. I’d made it as far as Willimantic for lunch at Willimantic Brewing and would see Steve that evening. He noticed my lunchtime tweet and suggested I see a nearby geo-oddity. It was a bridge. He cited a Wikipedia page on the subject:

Willimantic Footbridge: Willimantic is the home of the Willimantic Footbridge (established in 1907), which is the only footbridge in the United States to connect two state highways, as well as crossing all three major forms of transportation (road, rail, and river).

It sounded fascinating and it was an easy walk so I strolled there after lunch (map). Wikipedia didn’t have a completely accurate listing however, a billionth example of why one shouldn’t place complete confidence in its claims. A marker at the base of the bridge said,

A landmark since 1906, the 635-foot-long footbridge connects the city’s commercial core with a residential area to the south. It is the only such structure east of the Mississippi to span sidewalks, vehicle traffic, an active railroad and a river…

The Willimantic Footbridge represented something remarkable either for the United States or for some portion thereof, I supposed. I walked from one end and back, then headed to my car for the onward journey towards Hartford. I never figured out why Willimantic even had a pedestrian bridge. It didn’t seem like it offered much of a shortcut. Maybe the larger crossings came later.


Walkway Over the Hudson


Walkway Over the Hudson

I debunked the Willimantic Footbridge claim the very next day. The-Very-Next-Day. I hadn’t planned to poke a hole in the pride and joy of Willimantic, it just happened. The Walkway Over the Hudson first appeared on 12MC in an article I called Impressive Pedestrian Bridges. It began as a railroad bridge, fell into decay, and blossomed again when preservationists converted it to pedestrian use, a linear park over the Hudson River. Guinness World Records proclaimed its 1.28 mile (2.06 kilometre) span "the world’s longest pedestrian bridge." I’d hope to see this ever since I started planning my trip. I knew we’d go there once we got to Poughkeepsie, New York (map).

Thoughts of Willimantic came to mind as I walked over the mighty Hudson. I passed above streets, several residential and even a highway. I passed over two sets of train tracks on either side of the river including one that serviced Amtrak. Of course I passed over the Hudson River itself, considerably more imposing than the diminutive Willimantic River. I supposed the marker in Willimantic must have been posted before 2009 when the Walkway Over the Hudson opened as a pedestrian passage. They needed to change it to read "the only such structure east of the Hudson," or something like that, although it wasn’t nearly as impressive. Or maybe they could qualify it by calling it the only such structure designed as a pedestrian bridge. Or maybe they could just pretend the Walkway Over the Hudson didn’t exist, which is probably what actually happened.


Days fell into themes. There was a day of geo-oddities, a day of history, a day of county counting, and a day of breweries. Our drive between races in Maine and New Hampshire was particularly brief so we had plenty of extra time to explore the countryside. Ironically, there wasn’t much to see besides the scenery. There were plenty of covered bridges though, all in close alignment while our path seemed followed the Contoocook River. I’d never hear of the Contoocook. It flowed for about 70 mi (110 km) through an attractive stretch of southern New Hampshire popular with anglers and boaters, a perfect backdrop for covered bridges.



Four bridges could be visited easily in less than an hour.

Contoocook Railroad Bridge


Contoocook Railroad Bridge

With a river called Contoocook, one might naturally expect a town called Contoocook, and so it came to pass. A railroad came through that town and over that river, and it needed a bridge. This was the first time I’d seen a covered bridge built specifically for trains (map). An historic marker at the site explained,

Built in 1899 on the granite abutments of an older span, this is the world’s oldest surviving covered railroad bridge. It was probably designed by Boston & Maine Railroad engineer Jonathan Parker Snow (1848-1933) and built by carpenter David Hazelton (1832-1908). Under Snow, the Boston & Maine utilized wooden bridges on its branch lines until after 1900, longer than any other major railroad…

Remembering once again that Willimantic marker, I didn’t know whether I could trust the longevity claim or not. Who was I to doubt it though?


Rowell’s Bridge


Rowell's Bridge

Next came Hopkinton and Rowell’s Covered Bridge (map). This crossing was old, built in 1853, and still stood strong. We drove across it a couple of times and it seemed quite sturdy.


Henniker Bridge


Henniker Bridge

At the complete opposite end of history stood the Henniker Bridge, taking the name of the town where it stood (map). Its modern construction reflected traditional techniques so it was hard to tell that it dated only to 1972. This was more of an architectural statement than a utilitarian structure, a footpath between the main campus of New England College and nearby athletic fields on the other side of the Contoocook. It could be difficult to find parking on a busy campus although it wasn’t a problem here. The college dedicated a couple of 15-minute parking spots near the base of the bridge, behind Colby Hall, one of its residential buildings.


County Bridge


County Bridge

The final covered bridge on this brief excursion along the Contoocook River fell along our direct route without even a minor detour (map). We couldn’t have missed this bridge if we’d wanted to because we drove right across it on the way to our race at Greenfield State Park. Here the Contoocook marked the boundary between the towns of Hancock and Greenfield so that added slightly to my interest. This was a "newer" bridge too, albeit not quite as new as Henniker, being built in 1937.


New England articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

New England, Part 2 (Of Course Geo-oddities)

On May 29, 2016 · 3 Comments

Of course I had to visit Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The Twelve Mile Circle audience loved geo-oddities and I needed to deliver. I’d been to New England several times and I’ve plumbed its depths for nuggets repeatedly. What was left? Well, this lake with a really long name for one. That wasn’t the only remarkable feature in this corner where three states connected, this easily accessible area with an overabundance of lovely features all neatly aligned and waiting for my appearance. It became a day for geo-oddites.

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg


Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg offered 45 characters of awesomeness too good to pass up, or perhaps more accurately 45-ish characters as there were several different spelling variations. I’ve often seen this touted as the longest place name in the United States and I had to experience it in person. We trudged down to Massachusetts to check it out (map). The lake itself wasn’t all that remarkable; it was certainly a pretty gem sparkling in the early afternoon sun although it competed with many other wonderful lakes sprinkled about the countryside. Its real distinguishing feature was its name.

Many people have written about the unusual name and their accounts littered the Intertubes, including some appearing in respectable publications like the New York Times. Fact needed to be separated from fiction. The cold, hard truth was that Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg contained an element of fiction. Numerous sources traced its long-form name back to newspaperman Laurence J. Daly who edited the local periodical, The Webster Times. He’d concocted a fanciful tale on a slow news day in the early 20th Century about an agreement between Native American tribes, claiming the full translation meant "you fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fish in the middle." It sounded great but it wasn’t accurate.

It took a while but, gradually, the You-I-Nobody fantasy built a head of steam, aired on national radio broadcasts, rewritten in newspapers everywhere, and buoyed by a "Ripley’s Believe It or Not" illustration. People with Webster-area roots began mailing clips about Mr. Daly’s tale to the editor of the Webster Times, Laurence J. Daly, he recalled in my presence more than once.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the body of water officially as Chaubunagungamaug in the Geographic Names Information System. That was an impressive string of 17 characters although far short of 45. It also included some additional history.

In 1642, Woodward and Saffery, the first surveyors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called it "The Great Pond." In 1645, Connecticut Governor John Winthrop called it "The Lakes of Quabage." In a 1707 survey, John Chandler recorded the name as “Chaubunnagungamoug.”

Various translations of the shorter string, Chaubunnagungamoug, referenced the Algonquian language spoken by local Nipmuc Indians, and generated meanings such as Place of the Boundaries or Lake Divided by Islands. GNIS also recognized Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg and similar spellings as legitimate variants. Did I actually visit the place with the longest name in the United States? Well, maybe. I didn’t have to go out of my way to experience it so it wasn’t like it involved any special effort.


CTMARI Tripoint


CTMARI Tripoint

I was much more interested in some unfinished business, the only object skipped in 2012 during an epic Craziest Geo-Oddity Adventure Ever. I hit every conceivable geographic feature of importance in Connecticut on a single day as I circled the state with Steve from Connecticut Museum Quest (now simply CTMQ). I truly believed that we were the first people ever to undertake that quest and it may never be surpassed. The Connecticut-Massachusetts-Rhode Island tripoint had been on our original itinerary (map) and we failed to capture it. We had to abandon our final objective with daylight running short and exhaustion kicking-in. I seemed to recall being quietly content with that decision at the time. We’d seen enough.

Steve reminded me of our omission when I put out a call for my 2016 travel plans. The CTMARI Tripoint absolutely had to make the cut. The goal was never about Lake Chargogga-whatever, it just happened to fall along a convenient line as I charted our course towards Connecticut’s Quiet Corner where I could reach the tripoint. I relied upon Steve’s CTMARI page for directions and you should too. Not only did it include the clearest, easiest path to the tripoint, it also included an account of the Great East Thompson Train Wreck of 1891, "The only time in US railroading history that FOUR trains crashed into each other!" Go over there and read it. I’ll wait.

We followed Steve’s recommendations, had a relaxing walk through the woods, and arrived at the tripoint just as expected. The cellular network extended nicely to this corner despite its perceived remoteness and I fired-off a self-congratulatory tweet with photo to the world. I could now finally call the journey to all Connecticut Extremes complete.


Jerimoth Hill


Jerimoth Hill

I’m certainly no peak bagger although I’ve managed to summit a few state highpoints over the years, usually those requiring minimal effort because I’m lazy and unmotivated. It’s always an added bonus if I can drive all the way to the top. I think my total stood at 6 state highpoints prior to this trip: Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Tennessee. Plus the District of Columbia. Then I added Rhode Island.

Jerimoth Hill would never be described as a challenging summit requiring great technical expertise. Literally, it was merely one crest amongst many rolling hills at the far northwestern corner of Rhode Island (map). It happened to extend a few feet higher than others nearby when someone drew artificial lines a few centuries ago to create a colony that later became a state. Still, at 811 feet (247 metres), Rhode Island had a higher elevation than Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware and Florida. It used to be a running joke in the highpointer community that fewer people had reached the summit of lowly Jerimoth Hill than the peak of Mt. Everest. A crotchety landowner blocked access to the summit at the the point of a gun for decades, eventually allowing people to visit on special days once or twice a year. He passed away several years ago and it became the property of the state of Rhode Island after a series of real estate transactions. Now anyone can park by the side of Old Hartford Pike and walk a gentle trail through fragrant pine forest a few hundred yards to the marker.

In reality it’s completely unremarkable and practically indistinguishable from any other knoll nearby. However, I gave the Rhode Island highpointers all due credit for doing their best to make their summit special. I got the sense that their treatment was more than a little tongue-in-cheek, with its stone cairns, summit register box and Himalayan prayer flags like one would expect on much more exalted mountaintops. Still, Jerimoth Hill counted as a state highpoint just as much as Denali and I doubt I’ll ever travel to Alaska and climb to 20,310 feet (6,190 m). I took my short stroll through the woods to a small boulder and I deemed it a success.


Easy Road Trip



Best of all, these three geo-oddities were aligned neatly and in close proximity. Anyone should be able to replicate my feat. I imagined it might be a nice day-trip for 12MC readers from Boston or Hartford.


New England articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

By George, Part 2

On May 1, 2016 · 1 Comments

With numerous places named for British Kings George I, II and III already examined and set-aside in the previous article, it was time to turn my attention to IV, V and VI. This would be more difficult. The first set of Georges ruled for a contiguous period of more than a century, from 1714 to 1820, an era coinciding with a rapid growth of the British Empire. The remaining three ruled for half that time with a large gap in between while the Empire began to unravel. There were considerably fewer opportunities to name places for those Georges. Most of the names had already been bestowed within the Empire and new territories weren’t being added much anymore. Also, opportunities in the United States and other places dried-up after their independence. Even so I still found a few examples scattered amongst other areas of the world although sometimes I needed to get creative.

George IV (reigned 1820-1830)


Church of Our Lady Guelph, Ontario
Church of Our Lady Guelph, Ontario by Patty O’Hearn Kickham on Flickr (cc)

That creativity extended to the City of Guelph in Ontario, Canada (map). Guelph? Yes, Guelph was named for King George IV. The University of Guelph explained the logic:

Where did the name GUELPH originate? The city of Guelph was named in 1827 to honour the British Empire’s King George IV, whose family name was Gwelf. The spelling has been changed to today’s "Guelph" — but it’s pronounced just as it was 170 years ago: gwelf (rhymes with self). The origin of the city’s name is also why you might hear Guelph referred to as "The Royal City." Of course, we just refer to it as ‘home.’

I decided to provide another example just in case readers felt a bit cheated by the reference to Guelph. Purists in the audience probably wanted to see something named George instead. How about Georgian Bay (map)? This corner of Lake Huron on the Canadian side of the border sat east of Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. It was quite sizable with a surface area of fifteen thousand square kilometres (just a little smaller than Kuwait), so George IV got at least one geographic feature of note named for him. Indeed, I confirmed that it was true.

Examples began to taper quickly from there. Lots of cities named streets for George IV, including a nice elevated one in Edinburgh, Scotland. However his decade long reign limited the availability of naming opportunities.


George V (reigned 1910-1936)


La nuit Avenue Georges V à PARIS (kbg Sylvie_3)
La nuit Avenue Georges V à PARIS by Voyage_50mm_Pentax on Flickr (cc)

The First World War was a horrific conflict that ravaged Western Europe although it did result in something that met the criteria for this article, a swanky street in Paris named for George V. The street originally went by Avenue d’Alma. The French decided to honor George V for his support to the nation during the war and changed its name to Avenue George V on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918 (map). It wasn’t a long road, less than a kilometre, although it was exceedingly prestigious as would befit the ruler of an important ally. It formed one side of Paris’ Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) when paired with Ave. Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées, an area considered "the most luxurious place on the right bank." This also provided a home to the magnificent George V Four Seasons Hotel, a 1928 Art Deco masterpiece. These were all served by the adjacent George V station on the Paris Metro subway.

Additionally, George V gained a lake named for him located directly on the equator in Uganda (map) although he was still Prince George at the time. I thought that should still count even though he wasn’t yet king. I had to take what I could get. There weren’t many examples.


George VI (reigned 1936-1952)


Looking out while over the George VI ice shelf
Looking out while over the George VI ice shelf by NASA ICE (cc)

What blank spaces on the map could the British possibly be able to fill by 1936 when George VI came to the throne? Why, places in Antarctica of course! It might have been a bit removed from the beaten track although the territory was immense, as were the naming opportunities

Lincoln Ellsworth was born into a wealthy Chicago family and had the financial means to become an Antarctic explorer. His groundbreaking 1935 expedition by airplane "covered a distance of 2200 miles of which 1200 miles was over previously unexplored territory." and he "was able to photograph the major fault depression" along his route. The British Graham Land Expedition reached the rift overland by sled the following year, traveling 200 miles "down the channel separating Alexander Island from the Peninsula." This expedition named this area King George VI Sound (map). Most of the sound was covered by ice, and that became the King George VI Ice Shelf. It was big too, stretching 300 miles (483 km). The scale was downright impressive. George VI did alright with that deal, all things considered.

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12 Mile Circle:
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