Western Massachusetts Abandoned Roads

A day arranged haphazardly, a text message, a call, a hand written sequence of names like an inadequate treasure map, a rendezvous, unloading the cars, bagels apples a third full peanut butter jar and a knife from the kitchen drawer. Hardly any of the almost disappeared forgotten once were will be marked but we have a sense from having independently looked at maps spanning a hundred years, and lost isn’t hereabouts bad or genuine. Talked about skinny tired bikes but yesterday was a drum corp rain, maybe we’re tired of the sound of mud scraping trapped against carbon brake surfaces, maybe we’re cowards. I said we should pack lights, but when you start the ride and the sun is balanced directly overhead like it will never fall you don’t think about how stunning, how enrapturing it will be when the limber rays are bent slanted as can be and you’re certainly not there yet, I resolve not to bother saying I was right but I will be and I’ll forget that I did.

And the New England floods and storms that happened and that we paid attention to for a few days mocked and knocked down unfragile seeming things, trees, bridges, stony bank shoulders. We reach a section of a track that we’ve been on before but the river hopped its rails and came through here instead, there’s a go around, a faint path to the right with a steep pitch into the trees, we take it, follow it for marveling minutes then look over and see where and that we should be on the other side, backtrack, yes, we remember this bridge, now just two fractured estranged edges and a glum eight foot diameter culvert clinging near where it used to have something to do.

Somehow the spans built in the 1940’s and 50’s stoically still endure, though here and there their green flaked painted railings are buckled and we even see one where a trunk has smashed metal apart like triumph. So hours and dirt and hours, a section of singletrack where we hop the blowdowns and gesture and point at the secret beaver work ponds, an old cemetery with a low stone fence on all sides but stacked higher flanking the entryway, Betsey 1849 died age 55, Susan at 15, John in 1860. We strain at the steep and stop talking but don’t remark on it later when conversation resumes, we can see far north into Vermont, suddenly farms with dogs that just watch, into the end of a day that doesn’t shut close like they will in a month, but that does retreat out of earshot. We cultivate some urgency and my wrists ache in cold to the start.