Wednesday, June 3, 2009
A Picnic In Time
We arranged to meet with my sister and her family atop Skinner Mountain Sunday for a spur of the moment, springtime picnic with a view. The summit was pretty well populated, as it's prone to be on these springtime weekends.
While it was still sunny at the top, from our new vantage point darker clouds could be seen looming in the distance.
We gauged the dark clouds' portentious-ness factor, weighed our chances of avoiding a rain storm, and judged them to be about fifty-fifty. Picnic on...
Unfortunately the more wind-protected tables looked like they were already taken by the other cautious weather-watchers. Undaunted we went old-school, and laid out a blanket right on the old green earth.
The breeze picked up a bit and the clouds muscled their way closer, so we wasted no time breaking out the food and getting down to it. Between sandwich bites we observed the dust now kicking up in the meadows far down below.
There was definitely some kind of weather front blowing through...
We increased our chewing pace, and even the conversation became more excited and rapid fire, as the breeze picked up into a steady wind. Soon small leaves were being pulled from bending branches and whipping about under rolling, darker clouds. My young niece began nervously (and justifiably) asking about the potential for lightning and even tornadoes...even while my younger nephew took the opposite tack, regaling in the billowing forces of nature.
With good timing the first raindrops were finally felt just as we were finishing up, and it was now a race to repack all our stuff as the gusts reached yet another notch and began plowing over the summit in a mild gale.
Only seconds left now; We hurried back down the trail to the summit house and reached it just as the soaking began.
The covered balcony provided some protection from the wet, and even better, the summit house itself was open. While there are usually some interesting artifacts from the 19th century to look at here, this time there was a bunch of very interesting local photographs on display. It was an exhibit hung all over the walls and set up individually or in books on the tables in the many-roomed house. Most if not all of the pics were local.
There were beautiful modern and artsy photos of the valley...
...as well as many fascinating, very old photos of local people, buildings, structures and landscapes. Visions of what has since become completely transformed or else completely lost...
They're all fascinating selections and contributions. I found a couple old pics particularly interesting; one shows route 9 right after crossing into Hadley, back when it was a straight dusty country lane passing through wide open, bucolic peacefulness. Also, it shows what is now the Norwottuck trail running parallel to it, just as it stands now, but in it's original incarnation as a rail line. So much change in so little time.
I'll check next time I'm on the trail, but the picture shows a whistle marker near the track that I'm pretty sure still stands.
Another picture right next to it shows the opposite direction, as if you turned right around. It shows what appears to be the same train bridge that carries the Norwottuck across the river now, and instead of the mighty Calvin Coolidge bridge, are two other truss bridges carrying the road over.
I could have looked through those pictures all day. But, family awaited. The rain had stopped, and everyone was back outside getting their final glimpses of the post-showered valley.
My sister and her brood finally had to get back home, and we parted company.
It looked like the sun was going to stay out now. The cooler air that followed the small weather front was refreshing, and we hung out for a little bit longer. A rarely seen osprey came soaring by on the breeze, circling above and affirming our decision to stay...
It was now mid to late afternoon and most of the people that hadn't already dispersed with the rain were filtering back into their cars. Hikers were gearing up to make their own treks down through the woods, or back across the crest of the range on the 7 sisters trail...
It was time for us to head back ourselves. There was some other stuff we needed to get done before the afternoon was up... and time waits for no man.