Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Roads

I had this entry published originally in the Kings County Record and it received some positive feedback.  This was one of those endeavors that came together nicely and I hope you enjoy the read.  I was inspired after I hiked along a couple of roads that would be hard to discern now.  The scenery and mature woodlands were peaceful and the remnants of days past added to the peaceful mood I found myself in.

New Brunswick has a long history.  Part of that history is wrapped up in our roads.  Our logging and forestry activities resulted in many roads being developed and, subsequently once they were no longer needed, abandoned.  Traces of these roads can still be recognized and I love wandering on these trails. 
Sometimes it is easy to tell you're hiking on an old road.

In the early 20th century the larger roads were called King's Highways and now when I hike along them I feel like the king.  This time of year it is great to walk these roads as trees often hang over them and during the fall, as the sun shines bright in a crisp blue sky, you feel like you're walking a fragrant hall way in a colorful castle.

One such road runs between Sussex Corner and Waterford and I recently had a chance to walk a short section of it.  If you have ever driven the present road between Sussex Corner and Waterford you know that it is a beautiful drive but to walk the old road is another type of experience.  There is history embedded in the landscape, enormity in the topography, and excitement in the wildness.

As I started the hike my senses immediately heightened and my mind instantly slowed down.  I felt like I could see and anticipate everything.  As I approached an old meadow I instinctively slowed my pace and kept low.  As if on cue a couple of deer bounded away from the old spring they were enjoying.  I wished, rather oddly, that I could share the space with them, but I realize their animal instincts make that unlikely, and I wouldn't want them to lose their wild heart.

To find an old road might not be as hard as you think, especially if you head out to the Fundy Coast or any of the hills that were historically logged around the Sussex area.  If they happen to have a small drainage, try along there and look for a hard pack shelf.  There might be some gravel still showing or some old tracks still slightly visible.  Depending on the last time the road was used, the vegetation will provide some tell tale signs it was a road as well.  Alders and young spruce indicate that the road had been used not long ago, likely as a harvest or farm road.  Older roads might have birch or maples growing up.  The trees will be leaning to the center of the road, not because of the shoulder but because that is where they readily could find the sunshine that feeds them. 

Old roads, like roads of today, connected logging camps to mills, farms to summer pastures, and neighbor to neighbor.  These anthropogenic land marks leave behind clues to their past vitality and with a little imagination you can picture what the road may have looked like in the past.  I have a pretty wild imagination so I readily enjoy this aspect of these types of hikes.

Exploring the landscape around you can be rewarding for so many reasons.  Gaining an appreciation of the past and of the value of the landscape of the present might be one of the best rewards.  If you struggled with history in school then maybe this will be a great way to catch up.  See you in the woods.

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