April 19, 2020, Over the hills near home in South Royalton
The sky was clear and bright when I awoke at 4:45 AM and I immediately remembered the short article in yesterdays paper (E-edition) about the planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars with the Moon which was occurring this April (and not to be seen again for 20 years). I was outside at 5 AM with binoculars and saw the three planets clearly in the eastern sky but did not see the waning sliver of the moon as it approaches its new moon – disappearance phase.
The three celestial bodies were exactly as described with Jupiter the brightest by far, higher in the sky and furthest south. With binoculars I could just imagine the rings of Saturn (or perhaps it was my imagination) and the slightly red tint of Mars.
It seemed like the perfect day for a road trip — and not the one that was originally planned for this spring. We are hunkered down socially distancing from others during this Covid 19 Pandemic. As the title of this blog indicates it takes place on Vermont Class IV roads: i.e. town right of ways which are no longer maintained (and in various states of disrepair) and are open to travel by any legally registered vehicle unless they are posted. If you haven’t already guessed, this is not the usual road trip.
There is no Teardrop RV, and no Forester either. It is a strictly bipedal trip (a.k.a. “a hike” for me) or a quadrupedal jaunt for Piper. Are you ready to come along? As you look at the map below of trails near our home you will see two loops which are highlighted. I may hike these loops singly or in conjunction with unhighlighted trails shown.
As we ascended the 550 feet of elevation to a no-name-hill to the north of our home we had a nice view of McIntosh Pond and a glimpse of the old “Smith Farm Homestead” nearby. It is an aerobic exercise for me so I proceeded at an easy pace but Piper was in a hurry and urged me onward.
Once at the top we headed along the ridge to the north a quarter mile off the trail and found the half acre patch of Ramps (wild leeks) which appear on the forest floor this time of year. They provide a taste of spring when prepared as Pesto, salad dressing or cooked in a stir fry. Close enough for easy access (and harvest) from the trail yet out of sight from the general population who are not aware of this treasure.
Descending down the back (west) side of the hill brings us back on the Class IV Road which has been used (abused) by “Four Wheelers” driven (usually) by young males who like to “Go Mudding” in the spring time. Their ATV’s or pick-ups come out covered with mud-their badge of honor at not having gotten stuck. The damage to this fragile abandoned road is so extensive that portions of the road no longer accommodate foot travel where deep pools of water reach to both sides.
Shortly we come to an ancient stone chamber named the Calendar I site because it is believed to be a ceremonial site used by the ancients to mark the day of the Equinoxes twice a year. Their true origins of the Calendar sites are still in question as the links below suggest.
Were they built by ancient Celtic inhabitants around 1000 BC as Harvard Professor Barry Fell suggests? https://planetvermont.com/pvq/v9n2/megaliths.html
Were they Native American Ceremonial sites as Archaeoastronomer Byron Dix would have us believe? https://www.geomancy.org/index.php/sacred-space/old-sacred-spaces/new-england/calendar-1-and-2
Or are they root cellars as Vermont State Archeologist Giovanna Neudorfer writes: https://vermonthistory.org/journal/misc/StoneChambers.pdf
As you look at the following photos you will note that the sun does shine deeply into the chamber on this day which is two days before the Vernal Equinox. Also, the presence of a spring flowing from the ground nearby (a year round water source) would be a desirable feature for a ceremonial site where people might congregate for many days in a row at various times of the year.
Further along the southern loop of trails highlighted on the map is the original homestead sited adjacent to McIntosh Pond. The photo below was taken several weeks ago; the pond is located to the right and does not show here. Our land was purchased from the man who owned the homestead at the time.
And finally, we return home to this blue house on the hill.