The Ripple: The Cure For All Things Pavement

The Cure for All Things Pavement

Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you! Tuning into this “wheel of time” is one way that we leave our pavement-based perception of place. If you are lucky, you’ll get to see mergansers, a sort of river loon, as they hunt for the same trout that are hunting the invertebrates.

Before there were roads, there were trails and before there were trails, there were rivers. The Nile and the Mississippi—can you see Cleopatra and Huck & Jim making their ways on these liquid highways? Have you heard the tale (more or less true) of how Native Americans followed the paths of deer that traveled up and down food-rich riparian corridors; and that Routes 5 & 7 were laid over such paths?

Once upon a time, people knew their places from the perspective of the river; and what is so wonderful is that this perspective is still available to those who pine for a way of seeing, and being, that is not pavement-based. This summer, you could float down the Deerfield or Connecticut Rivers—and you ought to!—but floating down means that you’ve already driven up it. Nothing wrong with that; in fact it can’t be avoided given our moment in time; but the proper way to get the feeling and the vision of being placed in a biome is to head upstream, like the Atlantic Shad are doing right now. (Reminder: the operators of the Holyoke and Turner’s Falls dams open their anadromous fish viewing stations around Mother’s Day, and—despite the fact that both dams are causing extinctions—they are worth visiting.)

If you want to change the way you and your family view your “place” by leaving the pavement and making your way up a river valley, you are lucky! —Because it just so happens that you live near the East Branch of Westfield River as it courses through the Hilltowns from Chesterfield to Huntington. This 8 +/- mile stretch of river is designated “Wild and Scenic” by the National Park Service, which means that it is beautiful and offers high quality habitat for wild critters.

There is no better time of year to be close to the East Branch than now, when the buds are bursting, the flowers are blooming and all the critters are out feasting and falling in love. Many of the benthic invertebrates (water bugs) are crawling out of the water on to the rocks, molting out of the husks of childhood and gaining wings; trout fishermen appear along with them, casting “flies” into pools that imitate the look of these bugs. Warmth loving birds are migrating from the south and fly up the rivers, enjoying this annual aerial banquet. Sitting on a river-boulder in the sun watching them flit and dart as they sate their hunger is a perfect way to enjoy the Spring; and it opens the door to profound meditations about how perfectly sequenced is the reappearance of the sun, the molting of invertebrates and arrival of southern birds. Tuning into this “wheel of time” is one way that we leave our pavement-based perception of place. If you are lucky, you’ll get to see mergansers, a sort of river loon, as they hunt for the same trout that are hunting the invertebrates.

To access the wild and scenic East Branch in Huntington, drive north on Route 112 from the Knightsville Dam and take your first right onto the bumpy but passable Old Worthington Road. About a mile later, you’ll come to the only right you can take and cross over the Little River on an Army Corps of Engineers’ dirt road that follows the East Branch. Park at the lot just below the locked gate.  This dirt road extends upriver all the way to the Chesterfield Gorge. You can ride a mountain bike, or walk; equestrians use the old road, too. You can spend an hour or two, enjoying a short jaunt, or park another car at the Gorge and spend a whole day walking upriver.

The East Branch river valley is the cure for all things pavement—and it awaits your spring migration.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: