This was the fourth and final bridge for my first outing, and it may be the most unusual of the whole series. It’s a railroad bridge called the Sulphite Covered Bridge because of the sulfur hauled over these tracks for the paper mills. People refer to it as “the upside-down bridge”. It meets (or met) the criteria for a covered bridge. The structure of the bridge was built over the Winnipesaukee River and then covered with a wood structure. The catch is that the train did not pass under the covering. The covering sat directly on the superstructure of the bridge and the rails were laid on top of the covering. The one historical photograph that I could find is below but the image is tiny.
It was a tricky bridge to make the photo. I parked in the town center on a warm, humid morning and hiked up the path to the bridge. It was only a quarter mile but was steep and felt further. When I reached the bridge, it was surrounded by forest. I found a path down to the river’s edge. Despite the heat, having long pants was helpful because the brush was pretty thick. I made one exposure; then made way back up through the brush and back down to my car.
The bridge was built by the Bridge and Building Department of the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1896. It’s the only remaining deck-covered railroad bridge in the United States. Train traffic stopped in 1973 and a fire in 1980 destroyed the wooden portion of the bridge. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
From the Bump Covered Bridge, I opted to take the scenic state route rather than the highway to get to the Squam River Covered Bridge in Ashland, NH. It was a quiet meandering twenty-minute drive. The bridge sits below Squam Lake and Little Squam Lake. The area is a popular summer tourist destination and was featured in the 1980s film On Golden Pond. From this spot, the lake empties into the Squam River.
According to the state’s book on historical covered bridges, the building of this bridge was a community effort. It’s a fairly modern bridge having been constructed in 1990. The existing steel and concrete bridge needed to be replaced and the state proposed a modern two-lane bridge. The town’s citizens wanted a one lane covered bridge on this spot and voted $35,000 at the town meeting to build one. Unfortunately, this was about a sixth of the cost of the bridge.
A branch of the town’s historical society called the Squam River Covered Bridge Committee worked to raise the rest of the money through typical fundraisers, such as bake sales and dinners. Ultimately, most of the balance was raised through the private donations of more than 500 donors. It was dedicated July 1, 1990.
I left Blair Bridge and traveled less than ten minutes to Bump Bridge. While Blaire bridge was on a busy road, the road to the second bridge was much more rural. As I drove, I wondered how it got its name. Was there a rather large bump in it or near it?
Once at the bridge, I could see how it got its name; it’s on Bumps Intervale Road. As I left my car, I could hear either a pack of coyotes howling away or a kennel of dogs howling for their breakfast. All I knew was that it was loud and rather close. I was hoping it was the kennel and not the coyotes. Eventually it died down. Whether it was coyotes or a kennel, they got what they wanted.
This bridge was much shorter than the first one I visited. It was 68 feet long not including the ramps leading to it on either side. It’s a pretty bridge in a nice location. There’s been a covered bridge on this spot on the Beebe River since 1877. This one was last built in 1972 after the previous bridge rotted out. Unlike many rebuilt bridges, Bump Bridge uses wooden timbers for support rather than stone abutments. I prefer the top picture because with all of the trees high up in the background, it looks like it’s way up in the hills.
Earlier in the week when I was chatting with my friend Anna, the topic of his bridge came up. She thought back to the movie Blair Witch Project and said it sounded spooky. I scoffed at this but perhaps there is something to it. The first covered bridge was built in 1829. It was torched by an arsonist who claimed that god had told him to do it. Then in 2011, a later version of the bridge was heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene. The bridge reopened in 2015 and I hoped that I could manage to get through my shoots today without any bad luck myself.
I counted and before beginning my official quest to photograph all 54 of New Hampshire’s historic covered bridges, I had only photographed twelve. And these twelve were the low hanging fruit. I’d taken their pictures when I was on travels for work or other things. Somehow, my boss never seemed to notice when I detoured a bit to shoot a photo of a covered bridge.
With forty-two bridges left, I decided to try to get four in a day. All four are within a half an hour’s drive of one another in the central part of the state between the Lakes Region and the White Mountains. Sunday, I got up and out the door by 4:30 AM to head off to the Blair Bridge in Campton, NH about an hour and a half away. I like the strategy of going to the furthest bridge first and then working backwards so that the drive home seems a bit shorter. Unfortunately, this meant the drive there felt long especially after not driving all that far for three months due to coronavirus.
I arrived there just after 6:00 AM. The bridge sits on a rather calm and shallow section of the Pemigewasset River. The bridge is 292 feet long and 20 feet wide. The odd thing about the bridge is that it’s on a road connecting the highway to a state road. Like most covered bridges, there is only one lane. If a car is coming through the bridge, you have to wait for it to come through before going ahead. It’s a busy road for a covered bridge but it must work for them to continue the tradition of having a covered bridge on this site.
This is a challenging year to be a photographer. Okay, it’s a challenging year to be anything. Before March, I finally arrived at a point where I felt some improvement in approaching people and making good images of them. The shoot I did at our town’s local ice fishing contest was among my most popular because of both the subject matter and the people. The last few months, I’ve posted daily but it’s been a steady rotation of still lifes and landscapes with the occasional small animal or bird for variety.
As social distancing rules relaxed in the US, I hoped to be able to get out to some local cities and the coast to try to get some variety in my images. Unfortunately, the news has reported that the coast is jammed with people and that parking restrictions aimed at limiting the number of people have caused problems. At this time, even though our area continues to have a relatively low incidence of COVID-19, other parts of the US that relaxed restrictions are seeing an increased incidence of coronavirus. The safe money says to stay close to home.
For a while, I’ve considered trying to photograph as many of New Hampshire’s fifty-four historic covered bridges as I can. It’s not easy. They are spread fairly far out. To get the four located in the northernmost part of the state along the Canadian border, I have to drive three and a half hours one way to arrive there. But, there’s not a lot else to do this summer. And let’s face it, this is something I can do without encountering throngs of people.
Using websites, I made a list of all the historic covered bridges and their locations. It’s easy to see groupings that go together logically for a single trip in which I could photograph three or four bridges at a time. And certainly, there will be other things to see along the way. The photographs here are of bridges that I had previously visited and made images of in my travels. They are the “low hanging fruit”. So let’s see if I can get all of them, shall we?
In these times we all have to work safely with what’s available to us.
All of the historic bridges that I’ve photographed can be seen on a new page at this site called Historic Covered Bridges of New Hampshire. You can find it here.
This bridge was difficult to shoot because the light at either end was not great and the riverbank was not accessible for taking pictures from the side. After playing around with it for a bit, I made this HDR image of the bridge’s interior. Look at that post and beam work. Isn’t it beautiful? Using HDR allowed the interior of the bridge to be lit without overexposeing the opening at the far end. There is an exterior photo below.
The other day, I posted an image of a farm house and barn that many people found appealing. It was the home of The Sloane’s, a family that founded the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, NH. This lovely outdoor chapel has a wonderful view of Mount Monadnock (seen here). The story goes that the family bought the farm and land with plans that their children could all build homes there. One son, Sandy, chose the spot where the chapel is located because a storm in 1938 took down enough trees to open up this view of the mountain. Unfortunately, Sandy died in World War II. In August 1945, the family wanted to hold a memorial service for their son. They chose the clearing where Sandy had planned to build his home for the location of the service. Soon, others began to ask to hold services there as well. Today, it is an ecumenical chapel with a bell tower and visitor center.
Since returning to school, my daily exercise has involved more hiking outside than going to the gym. I still try to hit the gym a couple of days a week, but it’s twenty minutes away compared to local trails only a few minutes up the road. Most days now, I am hiking on these trails. I think part of it comes from having really enjoyed exercising outside while I was living away this past summer. I miss taking walks in the park in El Salvador and looking at the volcano, but this is pretty special also.