Archival Meeting

Reilly and I met with Gene Hyde and Colin Reeve, the Head of Special Collections and University Archivist and the Special Collections and Archives Specialist, respectively. In our meeting, we… Read More

Reilly and I met with Gene Hyde and Colin Reeve, the Head of Special Collections and University Archivist and the Special Collections and Archives Specialist, respectively. In our meeting, we discussed several potential sites in the Asheville areas to focus our archival research on.

We began by discussing the French Broad River, which begins in the southwestern corner of North Carolina and flows northeast from there through Asheville and into Tennessee. Not only is there a plethora of archival documents available related to the French Broad River that we would have access to, but the French Broad River has been intimately connected with the development of Asheville and the changing landscape of the city over the course of the past several hundred years.

In addition to the French Broad River, we also considered the Blue Ridge Parkway as a potential location for our project. Like the French Broad River, the Blue Ridge Parkway charts a course through North Carolina, passing just within reach of Asheville before stretching northward into Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway headquarters, which are located in Asheville, house the largest collection of archives on the Parkway, so we would have access to an assortment of documents to help with our research.

During our discussion with Gene and Colin, we touched on some of the challenges of conducting archival research on large sites like the French Broad River and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which both have a variety of archival sources to dig through. If we chose to base our project on one of these sites, we would eventually pick a smaller site within each of these two areas to direct our research.

Two of the other sites we discussed were the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and Sandy Mush, both of which are near Asheville. Bent Creek Experimental Forest is the largest experimental forest on the eastern coast of the United States 1. Sandy Mush was a tobacco farm before it was protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservatory. The UNCA archives has sources about both of these locations.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway and eventually choose one of these locations as the basis for our project. Since the headquarters of the Blue Ridge Parkway are located in Asheville, we will have access to a great deal of archival records about the Parkway. In the Experimental Forest, we can examine the impact of industrial logging and efforts undertaken to rehabilitate the forest.  


1. “USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station.” Bent Creek Experimental Forest, USDA,

College Archivist Visit

Natalie and I met with our college archivist last week to get a tour of our archives. Essentially our library’s special collection consists of three parts: the local archives, the Geneseo College Records/ Wadsworth Papers archives, and the rare books collection. While leading us around, the archivist pointed out maps, legal papers, catalogs of farmers … Continue reading College Archivist Visit

Natalie and I met with our college archivist last week to get a tour of our archives. Essentially our library’s special collection consists of three parts: the local archives, the Geneseo College Records/ Wadsworth Papers archives, and the rare books collection. While leading us around, the archivist pointed out maps, legal papers, catalogs of farmers and their properties, and so much more. The archives were almost magical in the ways the book spines were degrading, how close the shelves were to each other, and how specially these books were treated, being kept in a glass case and handled with trained hands. It was a wonderful tour, and I think I’ll get more enamored with the special archives as this class/ project processes.

We discussed 4 locations for our project: Letchworth Park, Consesus Lake, the Genesee canal, and collapsed portion of the old salt mine.

Letchworth Park is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” and it is the obvious first choice for a nature writing project. It’s a beautiful valley cut through by the Genesee river, full of trees, rocks, waterfalls, and the occasional landslide. In the archives there are some letters from the man that donated the land and who the park gets it’s name from. The downside, though, is that it’s been written about and studied a lot, and it might be difficult to write a new perspective on the park.

Consesus Lake is one of the finger lakes in NY and is located closely to Geneseo. Given it’s easy access (many students will rent apartments on the lake instead of in the town, because the commute is only about 10 minutes), we’d be able to do a lot of field work with the lake. Additionally, we could take oral histories of it from professors that have lived in the area for a long time. There’s one geology professor I know, who claimed to have skated the length of the lake once when it was frozen over. The lake, like many of the lakes in New York, is home to invasive zebra mussels, which would allow us to take a “humans changing environments” approach to the piece.

The Genesee Valley Canal, which was turned into a railroad and then renovated into a road, is another option that we’re considering. All iterations of the canal follow the idea of human imposing features into nature for the sake of convenience (in this case, for transportation), but I’m interested in the ways a canal varies from a railroad and varies from a road. The library has an archive of photos for us to start the project, and I’d be interested to dig through maps to catch the progression of the Genesee Valley Canal through its different transportation phases. Plus, the expansiveness of the road, remaining canal, and locks, would be give us a variety of places to our field work, which is exciting.

The last site idea we have in mind was the collapsed section of the old salt mine. Geneseo is known for it’s Salt Mine, and that company is closely tied to the geology department, making it personally interesting to me. The American Rock Salt Company currently owns the active mine in Geneseo, but in the 1990’s another company owned a salt mine in Restoff, NY that collapsed, causing (or, as they say, due to) an earthquake. My understanding is that this collapse created a pond and flooded out the rest of the mine. The pond, I think, is still around and can be found on google images. The archivist showed us a section of papers, both legal and scientific that are about the salt mine collapse and can be used for the project.

Out of these four, my top two site locations are the Genesee Valley Canal and the collapsed salt mine. Between these too, I’m more interested in the salt mine, because I can see a conflict between different branches of scientists in it discussing its collapse, conflict between the miners and the corporation, and conflict between appreciating and abusing nature. I also think it’d be interesting to explore how the excavating of natural materials caused a pond to occur, and I’m interested to see how this pond varies from naturally occurring ponds. I have some hesitations with doing this project, though, given how it doesn’t seem very accessible for field work. I’d be happy to do the Genesee Valley Canal, though, because I like the idea of seeing how man-made structures change over time, and to see if that has an effect on the landscape. Of course, I’d be thrilled to do either project!

Bare Bones and Beginnings

I already knew where the museum was in Camrose. My first semester at Augustana, when I was driving to school every day and would spend most of the day in Camrose, I wandered the parks. I wandered along the streets. The aimless wandering, walking, is how I got to know the streets of West Lethbridge …

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I already knew where the museum was in Camrose. My first semester at Augustana, when I was driving to school every day and would spend most of the day in Camrose, I wandered the parks. I wandered along the streets. The aimless wandering, walking, is how I got to know the streets of West Lethbridge so well. How I have begun to familiarize myself with Stettler. And there is this little hidden path in Camrose. Behind the park across from the school, between the houses. It at first appears like a little square greenspace. But following the paved path leads into a gully surrounded by trees, the path crumbling away to a dirt trail. The sounds of the vehicles and neighbourhood melt away, revealing the sound of branches and leaves in the breeze. If you really look, the homes bordering the gully and fences are visible, but the height difference sinks you into a hidden natural area. Whether the gully was too low to fill in, whether it was carved out after the neighbourhood arose, or how it came to be remains a mystery. My walks away from campus will unconsciously take me multiple times through this gully, as if I am magnetically drawn to the bubble of silence within it, the disappearance of human noise. The far side of the gully steeply emerges onto a fairly main road, and both the recreation and community centres, along with the museum, rest on a large open space mostly populated with grass and parking lots. It is always strange to emerge into concrete and sky after the short walk in the gully.

At the museum on Friday, January 19th, I met Dariya for the first time. She already knew who I was. Not just from the long-winded, overly polite email which outlined my project ideas and a couple queries, no. Last spring, we had both been in one of Petr’s classes, one on Russia. In a tiny classroom in the Faith and Life building, with nothing but daylight and the odd breeze to keep us awake after lunch we would sit and listen to the tragedies of a country so far away, from a voice who spoke often from personal experience. I always sat in the same chair. I barely knew one classmate to my right who would follow me out to Creative Writing directly following Russia, and we would chat on occasion. When he attended, I knew the classmate to my left, who often worked the same shift in the cafeteria with me the semester before.  Dariya apparently sat behind me. I had never looked back. I asked if she recognized the messy bun and old sweatshirts and she laughed, because I showed up to the museum wearing exactly that.

We discussed a few places in Camrose which could work for the project, and she took me back into a tall entryway bordered with bookcases and caged by boxes. A push-bar set of double doors presumably led back to the glaring white sunlight outside. The little library, categorized roughly by subject, held an uncatalogued collection of local volumes. The open door beyond led to where other artifacts and documents were stored. She gestured to it once, saying we might be able to find photographs of the location once we were able to narrow down our chosen place. Without looking, my time in that little library was spent glancing towards that secret but open room containing histories and stories beyond my imagination.

So I emailed Curtis earlier today. A few options are:

-The Normal School (now Rosehaven) and how this changed over the years. I have found in my preliminary search at the Museum some information on this, about the construction of the building, uses, its change to a seniors home. We could look further into landscaping and architecture, but to me I don’t see it so much as a natural landscape, though the history of the land it is on is a possibility.

-Mirror Slough (now Mirror Lake). This one would be very interesting, considering the changes this ‘natural’ area has undergone. I was not able to find too much information on this place, however, at the museum, though they likely have images over the years of the transformation. We could also contact Parks and possibly the City who may have archives on projects related to this park and its upkeep and development over the years. We could likely also speak with park planners who could give insight into future plans for the park (considering the road construction) and possibly past intentions and how those turned out. We are absolutely allowed to pursue oral histories for this course.

-Rotary Four Seasons Park. I have found history of the ski jump and a bit on the train trestle through this park, and I believe the Rotary Club would likely keep its own archives and have more information. Oral histories are also a possibility here.

-Augustana Campus over the years. Lots of information on this one, though it is not one of my favourites. I think there is an appeal in doing something beyond our campus, but this is always an option because of the plethora of resources.

-Railroads in Camrose. Railroads as environmental challenges? As I stated above, I found a bit of info on the train trestle, and in the books I searched there was info about railroad development and importance in Camrose. Railroad companies would likely also have their own archives which we could inquire into. I know from experience a bit about railroad interaction with environment, and it would be interesting to look into the impacts on the local environment, and how environments change around railroad tracks.

Of course, the ones I am excited about are the parks and railroads. The first two because of their natural element… the third just because I am a railroad nut.

I cannot narrow the list down to just two until I have a chance to speak with Curtis in person and hear his ideas. I hope that will be alright. But I greatly look forward to this project. And I do want to weave in oral histories into the project if we come across individuals with knowledge who are willing to open up and share. I think it would add unique video/audio elements to the website, as well as give a more personal layer to historical accounts of a place.

I realize I am most comfortable with words. When dealing with digital platforms, such as this blog, images look gorgeous, but I struggle with finding the perfect ones to express what I think. This will be an element of the course I strive to grow in: looking for the opportunities to take the perfect pictures in my environments, and then learning to become more comfortable with artistically weaving them into the digital projects.


Archive Report

Going into the archives at Geneseo was really eye-opening for me because I had no idea just how many resources our library held. Liz, our archivist walked us around the… Read More

Going into the archives at Geneseo was really eye-opening for me because I had no idea just how many resources our library held. Liz, our archivist walked us around the Special Collections section of the library, showing us old maps with all the property owners, old historic architecture drawings and various other things such as papers in the Wadsworth collection showing property transactions and data on the town. Some of the stuff Liz showed us was not exactly pertinent to what we will be doing this semester, but it was really interesting to see the impressive quantity of old records that the library held and how detailed and personal things were.

When discussing the four places that most interested us, Lizzie and I decided upon the following: Letchworth State Park, the most obvious place because of its proximity and grand scale of nature it provides; the Retsof mine area, an old salt mine that collapsed and eventually filled with water; the Conesus lake area; and the old Genesee Valley Canal area, which eventually turned into a railroad and now is a greenway.

Letchworth is a place that I know will provide both the impressive scenic views that can inspire any kind of art, and also a wide variety of archival materials to work with. The library itself has lots of materials in its Genesee Valley Historical Collection and there is also a museum in the state park that I am sure will have lots of stuff we can work with. Letchworth intrigues me because of its grand scale of beauty and placehood. Its designation as a state park and the “Grand Canyon of the East” give it a place firmly set in the scope of “nature” in the past, present and future, which is nice to both observe how people used and viewed it as a place of nature.  I have been to Letchworth many times and its extreme beauty of the canyons and waterfalls are sure to inspire interesting and beautiful writing. Given the scope of this place, both geographically and its natural intensity, and the scope of its available archives though, I know working with this place will take a lot of narrowing down and creativity to create something new and different.

The Retsof mine area is an area Lizzie brought to my attention, and before she talked to me about it I had no idea it existed. The mine collapsed in 1994, caused by (or causing) an earthquake,  which led to sinkholes popping up and the mine filling with water. Lizzie showed me the place on Google Earth and you can see a square-shaped lake within some trees and surrounded by farmland now. This place is cool because it is a strange sort of nature that was accidentally and dangerously formed by man. The library has some legal papers on the mine, so there is definitely some archival information out there, but I think this spot in particular presents the most challenges regarding research.  The uniqueness and instability of this place interests me though, and I think it would be particularly cool to look at this place in the context of Anthropocene.

Conesus Lake is a place I have also been to many times and have done some nature writing there because I find it very peaceful and beautiful. Lizzie and I thought of this place when we were meeting with Liz because she mentioned some materials the library has in the Genesee Valley Historical Collection. I like the idea of doing a project on Conesus Lake mostly because it is personally one of my favorite places that I have a lot of good memories regarding, but also because it might be cool also looking at it in the context of Anthropocene because of its algae problems and invasive species such as zebra mussels.

The final place is the site that I know the least about, yet I am very intrigued by it. This place was once the Genesee Valley Canal, then turned into a railroad, then morphed into a greenway. I have never been to this place, but I am interested to see if this place has a lot of remnants of its past lives. I think Lizzie and I will be able to find a fair amount of information about this place because of all the government funded projects surrounding it and the library has a section on their webpage now entitled 20th Century Remains of Genesee Valley Canal, so I am hoping we could find a fair amount of cool stuff surrounding this place. I think when looking at the surface of each of these places, this might be my favorite one because I think it challenges the definition of nature by its close association with man. This place is cool to me because it changes and morphs to fit the changing needs of society and I think it offers a lot of opportunity for nifty technological things that could emphasize and parallel the change with the events of man.

Glacial Grooves & Haunted Hoosac

A huge problem we had trying to meet with our archivist was actually meeting with an archivist, as well as getting access to information that would help us with the project. We were able to meet with reference librarians at the local public library and look at the information contained in the vault, however archive …

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A huge problem we had trying to meet with our archivist was actually meeting with an archivist, as well as getting access to information that would help us with the project. We were able to meet with reference librarians at the local public library and look at the information contained in the vault, however archive materials were limited (no surprise there).

There was also some issue with trying to explain exactly what we were doing as an overall project. It was difficult to explain how we would be using the information while we didn’t exactly know what it was we were looking for in the sites. Deciding which sites we wanted to look at was difficult as well, due to the fact that we were not sure what information was available to us. We tried to name a few locations, such as Mt. Greylock (tallest point in Massachusetts), however there was no information on that particular location.

We asked about Natural Bridge State Park, and there happened to be some information in the vault. There was mostly old information such as pamphlets which described the location, the trails around the location, and other small amounts of information. There was a few books but those did not contain much information, only some quick facts in the first ten or so pages, with the last thirty or so pages being completely blank.

Other options for this location include actually going to the location as well, as there are tours offered, so more information can be gathered through other means (not solely by archives).

Another location we thought of, however not until much later, is the Hoosac Tunnel (there are multiple spellings for this location including Hoosic, Hoosack, Hoosick, and probably a dozen more). The location itself is full of much history, lore, and even ghost stories, which adds some mystery to the entire area.

The location itself is a railroad tunnel, and seeing as North Adams is a hub for all things train, this seems like a really good idea to explore the archives. Although we haven’t seen the physical archive materials for this location as of yet, there is some online archives as well as a literal train museum which can no doubt help us.

Other locations we discussed included the following, with some of the reasoning behind it

  • Mt. Greylock – Location of J.K. Rowling’s Ilvermorny School (American School for Wizardry). The tallest point in Massachusetts. A “fun” fact: Mt. Greylock is not actually a mountain, it is about 8 feet short of being considered an actual mountain.
  • Natural Bridge State Park  – Beautiful location with easy access and cool rocks! Access into the gorge possible to see the natural bridges from the bottom. Includes glacial striations (or ‘grooves’) – the tracks from glaciers moving!
  • Harriman Dam, Whitingham, VT – “Morning glory” spill way, reservoir. Very cool looking! Although in VT it is about 40 minutes from us so we decided against this idea pretty quickly.
  • The Bridge of Flowers – man made bridge which is covered in a flower garden. Self explanatory, however does not bloom fully till late spring/summer. (We’re definitely going anyway, even if we’re not writing about it!)
  • Hoosac Tunnel / Railroad – North Adams is big for their railroad so my initial idea was just “railroad.” The Hoosac Tunnel became the focus at that point due to the fact that it is surrounded by so much lore/history/ghost stories/etc. The entire location is very interesting and also nearby, which is good. There will be a lot of information that we can gather about this location as well.

It will be interesting to discover more about the locations we have chosen, the Hoosac Tunnel and the Natural Bridges. Being in this area there is a lot of information that one just picks up simply from day-to-day conversation. It will be interesting to separate rumor and lore from truth that we will discover while conducting research into the areas.


Trying to find locations was more difficult than I had originally thought it to be. When meeting with the local reference librarian, we had to have locations already in mind… Read More

Trying to find locations was more difficult than I had originally thought it to be. When meeting with the local reference librarian, we had to have locations already in mind in hopes that there would be something in the archives (referred to as the “vault”) on those locations. Most sites we found were located in a pamphlet for the Natural Bridge State Park, which was the one site that the reference librarian was certain there would be information on in the vault. Some locations that we found after taking a look at the tourist pamphlet were: the Hoosic River and the Hoosac Tunnel.

Hoosic River (Hoosic having many different spellings from the Algonquin name originally given to it) was not something that we focused on at the time of our meeting but does have several possibilities to explore for this project. The Hoosic River Revival in North Adams wishes to re-establish the river into our community after having fifteen foot high walls built around it as a way of flood prevention. While I am almost certain that there have been no recent developments regarding the revitalization project for the Hoosic River it would be interesting to get accounts from those who started this project about the river and learn about what the river once offered the community compared to the situation it is currently in by being hidden behind these man-made barriers. However, we could hit a lot of roadblocks with Hoosic River as there seems to be little information beyond environmental writings.

The Hoosac Tunnel is a well known railroad tunnel with an immense amount of history attached to it. With this location we have the possibility to discuss not only the land that it passes through but the railroad industry, local history, and the technology and machinery that was used to bore through to create the tunnel. Without having deeper research to look into as of right now, it’s difficult to see just how much we can delve into but regarding the immense amount of history behind this location I imagine there being plenty in the archives. 

One of the first locations that came to mind for this project was Mount Greylock. This location is promising when considering the proximity to campus, as well as the recent discussions and attitudes towards the location because of its mention by J.K. Rowling. This area provides several different activities for visitors from hiking, to camping, to hunting, and to snowmobiling. Despite being such a well-known location that is associated with our area, it does not seem like there would be a lot to discuss or look at with Mount Greylock as our focus.

Natural Bridge State Park was the one location that we were able to find some information on from the vault with the help of the reference librarian. Though most of the information we were given were newspaper clippings of advertisements or information about a change in hours, this location has a lot of possibility as a focus for this project. This piece of land has a sixty foot gorge as a result from glacial erosion as well as a natural white marble arch. Another bonus is the piece of literature that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about the location back in 1838. It would be interesting to compile what Hawthorne wrote about Natural Bridge, as well as other visitors’ experiences, along with our own to track how this location has, or has not, changed in regards to not only the landscape but also what the location means to community members.

I feel that the best locations for this project would be the Natural Bridge State Park and the Hoosac Tunnel. With both locations we can delve into other aspects along environmental factors both past and present.

Narrowing Our Options Down

Yesterday, Katie and I met with our archives on campus in the library. We began by discussing our visions for the project. We wanted a location with many trees that… Read More

Yesterday, Katie and I met with our archives on campus in the library. We began by discussing our visions for the project. We wanted a location with many trees that was at least semi-secluded from the city of Asheville. We wanted it to have historical background while allowing us to discover new aspects about it. Personally I wanted to use this site not only for this class, but as a retreat from society that I could spend time in and soak up the outdoors. Our archives mentioned many different locations some of them being the French Broad river, Sandy Mush, Blue Ridge Parkway, Bent Creek Experimental Forest and some other locations that were a bit too far away to access weekly.

Our archives provide us an overview of our options. The French Broad seemed like an accessible and highly documented location. There are many books and historical events located there such as a local protest that prevented it from being dammed. Though this site is very close to our house and has much accessible documents it did not appeal to us because we wanted to go out and discover more secluded and unknown sites in our area. We had the opposite problem with Sandy Mush. Personally I couldn’t find any information about it on the internet and have not gotten a chance to stop by our archive office again. The Blue Ridge Parkways is very close to my heart and perhaps not coincidentally my homes, running through both Asheville and Charlottesville. We found out in our meeting that it actually has its own archive here in Asheville that we are going to check out hopefully this week. Lastly, Bent Creek is a government run experiential forest that studies the effects of forest regrowth.

Out of these four options we were able to narrow it down even further to the latter; Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the Blue Ridge mountains. Bent Creek contains about 6,000 acres of Pisgah National Forest and is the oldest experimental forest east of the Mississippi. The USDA government website states this about the forest “It was established in 1925 for the purpose of conducting research on silvicultural practices that would aid in the rehabilitation of cutover, abused lands and promote sustainable forestry, and also to provide a field demonstration of forest management practice.” This peaked our interest. Not only is it full of trees and escapes the city of Asheville, it has an interesting purpose and background worth studying and investigating. The expanse of archives accessible to us about the Blue Ridge mountains on the other hand is an interesting allure. I have grown up in the shadow of these mountains and continue to be in their presence while in college. I have spent weekend camping and hiking trips but I realized I’ve never studied their historical background or voice as we put in class yesterday. I think it would be beneficial to be in this class and in life to investigate a small region of these mountains.

So within the next few days Katie and I will visit these locations and hopefully find more clarity on with site will be the best for this project!


Sense of Place in the Anthropocene

I grew up in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest under the languid drip of raindrops on oak leaves, cascading from perpetually overcast skies. Beneath the canopy of Oregon’s old growth forests lay a different world, the floors of which were almost untouched by the sun, blanketed in a carpet of fallen needles that sunk beneath footsteps, the air quiet and saturated with the smell of rain and moss and fir. In these forests, time seemed to pass on slow feet as if the creatures there knew a different pace of time, measured by the lives of trees that grew for hundreds of years.

These rain-soaked forests sheltered the tiny town where I grew up. My family lived in a home dwarfed by the land upon which it sat, which held a grove of young spruce trees, oaks, maples, a redwood and space for my mother’s gardens. That piece of earth held my brother and me for most of our childhood, which we spent running barefoot after garter snakes and skinning our knees on the oak trees we tried to climb. School was half an hour away, the trip there a study of the trails of raindrops that ran across our car’s windows. Another hour past school and we could reach the Pacific coast, where it was too cold to swim but not too cold to camp; at night, the distant drum of the ocean might find its way between the zippers and the mesh windows of our tent, filling our dreams with the mysterious power of the sea. Oregon is a diverse landscape ranging from deserts to forest to mountains to coast and I lived near its west coast, in a region of rain, and the tall trees it nourished.

As a child living and growing in the landscape of western Oregon, I felt deep resonance with the places there where I laid my roots. Home to me are days filled with incessant rain drumming tirelessly on the roof, a ceaseless, cleansing rain that makes me feel as if I could stretch my leaves skyward to bask in the light of shy sunbeams. Home is the earthly smell of this rain and the deep green, eerily beautiful glow of a moss covered forest where I would stand with the trees, hushed beneath falling drops. Home is the deep sense of belonging, the intimate connection I feel knowing myself to be a part of that landscape, not a passerby, but a piece of the green-blue mosaic of western Oregon.

Although I felt a deep sense of place and connection to the landscape of western Oregon, and to the mountains of western North Carolina that I later moved to, I also felt a sense of sostalgia, a term described by Glenn Albrecht and quoted by Robert Macfarlane in Generation Anthropocene. I feel sostalgic when walking through old growth forests; in experiencing how forests would have been several hundred years ago, it is heartbreaking to confront loss the of ancient trees and the ecosystems they cradled. I experience the pain of this loss most acutely in the Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina where, a hundred years ago, the forests were dominated by American chestnuts. The pain of this change stems not only from the death of most of these trees, but also because, as Macfarlane describes, “a familiar place” has been “rendered unrecognizable”. There are few people alive today who remember the American chestnut forests of eastern North America; that landscape is no longer familiar and has been lost, to some extent, from the American imagination.

In a rapidly changing world, there are echos of how the landscape used to look, in observing the growth patterns of oaks that have spread across the Appalachians and in, as Richardson writes, “the ghosts of flora and fauna” that are found in the western Lake District of England (Richardson, as quoted by Macfarlane). In this understanding, the earth holds very real memories of what has lived upon it and is shaped by the imprints of past life. In defining the epoch of the Anthropocene, we acknowledge the imprints that human activity will leave on the earth or, maybe more accurately, the scars we carve in the Earth’s skin as we “bor[e]” for oil and “remove mountain tops to get at the coal they contain” (Macfarlane). As Macfarlane explains, our footprints will leave a deep imprint on Earth for thousands of years.

The Road That Meets Salmon River State Forest

A long stretch of road, running into the distance, curving out of sight. Trees as far as the eye can see, stretching miles in every direction. The trees, some like giants stretching up into the sky, curve out and then up, creating a barrier from the outside world. In the early mornings, fog lazily shifts …

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A long stretch of road, running into the distance, curving out of sight. Trees as far as the eye can see, stretching miles in every direction. The trees, some like giants stretching up into the sky, curve out and then up, creating a barrier from the outside world.

In the early mornings, fog lazily shifts over the asphalt, moving through the trees like waves. The area is quiet, nearly silent, save the sound of a lone car engine or the sound of waking birds. During the warm evenings, peepers hop over the road, soaking up moisture from the air on their travels to the marshes and streams in the forest.

The road stretches on for about a mile before any houses come into view. The houses, with driveways so long one cannot see them from the road, unless it is winter, when there are no longer leaves on the trees.

When the nights are long and dark, the road takes on a very different atmosphere. The only light in the area is the light of your own headlights, and with how the road curves, nearly impossible to see deer or other wildlife before they run in front of the car.

Photo by Adam Ramsay
IG: adamramsay


Twelve years ago, during the warm summer nights, frogs covered the roads on the drive home. There was no way not to run them over with our car. As the years passed, the number of frogs dwindled. We’re lucky if we see one on the drive, maybe two if we are really lucky, for the entire summer. I never questioned the disappearing frogs till years later. It seemed as though they disappeared in a single year, like a snap of the fingers, they were gone.

Other creatures I had never seen, such as the salmon with which the forest got its name. More creatures I saw less and less: the snakes which ate the voles that dug up our yard, the hawks that ate the snakes. Squirrels. Where did the squirrels go? Even the orioles my mother likes to feed, some years they don’t come by, even when she leaves oranges for them in the bird bath.

The road splits two forests. One on the left, Salmon River State Forest, and the right, a commercial lot that’s been bought, sold and re-sold, so many times it is unclear who owns it anymore, or what they plan on doing with it. Talks of golf courses. Hotels. Mini golf courses. More houses. Another farm or two.

The years pass and there are more cars on the road. It’s rare now that you are the only one on the road. Accidents become more common. More get frustrated when you go the speed limit, passing you on a double yellow line. The town seems, more than ever, to quickly fix the roads when they look worn down. They added a rumble strip to the middle of the road to stop people from passing or maybe just driving in the center of the road (which didn’t work).

Nowadays, it is rare if you don’t see trash on either side of the road. Filled, white, ten gallon plastic trash bags. McDonald’s bags. Empty to-go cups with the top popped off, plastic straw lying two feet away. Lottery tickets in the dozens, thrown out of car window, scattered all over the asphalt.

This place is different, changing. The forest changes as the world changes.

As I got older, the forest became less magical, less mystical than it was before. I learned more about the land, of overfishing which sent the salmon away. Of the drought coming in full force, increasing the number of gypsy moths in the area, changing how the trees look, changing how the summer sounds. This including the history of gypsy moths, the invasive species we failed to eradicate.

Lastly, of the frogs, as they started to disappear, as they continue to disappear. In my freshman year of college I learned about the struggle of the frogs, of species of frogs and bats which are becoming extinct, dying rapidly due to a fungus of some sort, all over the world. As I read about it, it hit me, some ten years after I had seen the frogs last.

From this, the word solastalgia hit me without knowing that the word existed. It was disheartening and tragic, that I had witnessed something that, quite possibly, no one realized what was happening.

The land is changing, moving into something else. Quite possibly ten years from now, there might be a mini golf course or something else across from the place where the road meets the forest.

Or, maybe, as I’ve heard rumors of the salmon returning, maybe something else will happen. Something better, something different. All I know is that the forest has changed because of people. The influence we have placed on this place has changed it. Either through the copious amounts of trash or the disappearing frogs, something much like the anthropocene, however on a smaller scale.


Great Pond, Belgrade

Great Pond, Belgrade I grew up spending my summers at my grandparent’s “summer home” in Belgrade, Maine. Foster’s Point to be exact. One moment you’re on a paved main road… Read More

Great Pond, Belgrade

I grew up spending my summers at my grandparent’s “summer home” in Belgrade, Maine. Foster’s Point to be exact. One moment you’re on a paved main road driving through Belgrade and the next you’ve turned right and up a dirt path, straight into the woods. But what I remember from when I was little is different from what I’ve noticed my last two summers there.

The dirt road at night, 2016

We’d slowly make our way down the thin one lane dirt road to the house, making comments about the drop off on either side, lined with dense trees. If you were to look up expecting to be greeted by a clear blue sky, you’d be disappointed. The sky was barely visible but you could see rays of light shining through the vibrant green leaves. The road had an entirely different feel at night, and for a seven year old it was absolutely terrifying. It gave the feeling of being trapped by the trees, of being surrounded by only darkness. Driving down the road thirteen years later after leaving a horror movie with your family was a different kind of terrifying that resulted in lots of yelling, jumping, and fights over what kind of animal just skittered in front of the car. The road is one of the only things that has remained constant.

In the summer there was always just the slightest breeze to keep you comfortable until the rain that was sure to follow in the evening. I learned early on that taking walks down the dirt road were better in the early morning than in the late evening if you didn’t want to constantly swat insects away from your face. I wish that I had appreciated those walks when I was younger. The walk to the point was always interesting, but only when I look back on it now. There were rocks to kick, lichen to admire, blueberries to pick, houses on the right, endless trees to the left. Veering off the path to walk through the trees was different because there was no path. No one walked through the trees on the left. There were ticks, ditches to fall into, unseen roots waiting to be tripped over, fallen trees waiting to be climbed over, and hidden blueberry bushes scattered throughout the woods.

From what I remember, the point used to be accessible.

My grandparent’s dock, taken from the second dock, 2017

There wasn’t a real difference from walking out the back door of the house and down to the water, except for the view. And if the water was low enough you could see a line of rocks leading straight to Blueberry Island. But there’s a house there now. Last time I took a walk to the point a car was parked there. And the walk to and back from the point isn’t so spectacular anymore. The trees are gone. They’ve cleared out most of the forest. My cousin accidentally ran through the clearing (not knowing it was private property) and he said it’s much larger than I imagined it to be. I’m not sure what it’s for but some people assume more houses, others are thinking some sort of parking lot or a paved road. The walk to the point, now a parking spot, is now lined with houses and water on the right, and an empty area once occupied by an abundance of trees, broken branches from heavy snowfall, soft ground to sink into, and plants I still don’t know the name of, and some plastic bags and bottles tucked away behind fallen trees and rocks next to the road. I don’t ever recall seeing this much plastic when I was little. But then again, when I was really little I thought that the fuel sitting on the water was “pretty” because of the rainbow it would make.

Blueberry Island, taken from the boat, 2017

Blueberry Island. The bushes were so full that you could touch a blueberry bush and the small wild Maine blueberries would fall straight into your metal pail. We always made sure to leave enough on the bushes for next year. But I suppose we weren’t the only people who had tied our canoes to the trees and climbed over the steep edge of the tiny island for a snack later. This past year, I didn’t pick any blueberries because I couldn’t find any. And the few that I did find, I left on the bush in hopes that maybe next year there would be more and that the blueberries could find a home on the island again. I lost hope for Blueberry Hill. My family didn’t even bother going to visit after we heard that it was over picked. Nothing left. Bare blueberry bushes.

Until the last three summers when I started going back to the house on Foster’s Point, I wondered what happened in all the years that I was away. But now I know. The land was used. Not properly cared for– just used. But I wonder, has it always been like this?



Me, in front of the boathouse that is no longer there