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Travelogue F31

September 21, 2015

We spent that last morning in the mist. We had risen with the sun, lost to the gloom, and set off in search of a series of small Vermont falls. A short outing and three covered bridges later, we found ourselves again on the backwoods roads in the driving rain. Between roadwork and low visibility, the road fell away before us, and we had little choice but slow to a creep. The rain eventually slackened, and my companion decided that breakfast and warm drinks were in order. The mist returned, we drew at once farther from and nearer our goal, for it seemed that with each small town through which we passed we arrived invariably half an hour before the doors were to open.

Instead of waiting about, we pressed on and, at last, fell back into step with the world around. Exhausted, either from the early hour or from the other’s presence, we exchanged few words that morning, other than a comment or two on the modern bourgeois interior typical of Northeastern cafés. If the early morning start stood at odds with my companion’s complaining in days prior of how the nation speeds up the clocks, I made no reference to this seeming inconsistency and, instead, contented myself with picking at the hole burned in my skin by the sun.

Back at the Burlington waterfront, numerous information boards paid witness to the area’s history. One board features two images with captions relating the lumber industry’s unfolding on the lake. Before the arrival of barges, the logs to be transported served themselves as the means of their conveyance to Québec City mills. For, in winter, loggers built rafts from the very logs which they had cut, such that, with the thaw, the rafts floated north to mills, where, once processed, the wood travelled across the Atlantic to the European continent to fuel 18th and 19th century building boom. Although in not so many words, the sign told the tale of a voyage which consumed the very thing that made it possible or, still more precisely, of the vessel which could not but consume itself in the voyage.

Also to be found was information on a unique horseferry at one time plying the Champlain waters, now lying beneath them. More economical than steamboats in the first half of the 19th century, in that it required less wood to build, fewer engineers to operate and repairmen to maintain, the horseferry, unlike its river counterpart, made use of a central turntable to either side of which one of two horses walked in opposite directions. The table’s turning was translated via a series of gears below deck into propulsion for its paddle wheel aft. The ferry, now resting beneath the lake, was scuttled, the reason for its scuttling lost in a manner unavailable to its wooden carcass.

I would give a great deal to know what else has been lost to the lake waters. Referring himself to a panel, my companion waved me over and highlighted for me the lake’s fame as a wooden ship graveyard.

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