The Housatonic River

IMG_8909-2Seven months in and we were long overdue for beginning our exploration of wild places together.

Not big adventures. Just mini-outings, enough to quench my thirst, enough to rile her senses, but safe enough for my little babe as we venture together on empty paths in old woods.

Our mini-exploration was to the nearby Housatonic River and its surrounding public land with ancient, historic forests thick and full in peak summer foliage. The Appalachian Trail can be picked up here along the river and is brewing as a future goal of mine. Definitely not all the way to Georgia or all the way up to Maine, but I’d like to scope it out all the same. Something I did not know until we moved here and the AT became my backyard: did you know there is something called the International Appalachian Trail that is an extension that goes through Canada, continuing into Greenland, picking back up in Europe and crossing into Morocco? Crazy hikers.

One thing I did not anticipate was how challenging it would be to photograph landscapes while wearing a baby. Not only can I not see my footing and have a heavy, 20lb+ counterweight on my front, but then I have to try and see around her head for focusing the camera, PLUS try and keep the camera steady in between her grabby hands. Challenge accepted. Here is the result of our first real adventure.

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The Housatonic River gets it’s name from the Mohican “usi-a-di-en-uk”, meaning beyond the mountain place and was also known as the Potatuck, or river of the falls, until the 18th century. The river and its surrounding lands were home to the Algonquian people. I imagine their relationship with the river and lands was very intimate and cyclical, as the Housatonic is the southernmost spawning river run for Atlantic Salmon and the people were known to burn the adjacent forests every autumn to keep the understory down.

Enter the 1800’s.

The river became industrialized and harnessed for its power in order to generate the paper, electric, textile and iron industries. By the 1900’s some 30 dams had been built all up and down the river. And so began the river’s pollution. General Electric became the major contributor of PCBs and later Monsanto. The river’s mercury levels are also much more elevated than normal with credit to the famed hatting industry in Danbury. Apparently the process of making hats is enough hazard that the term “hatters shake” was coined as a result of the tremors experienced by workers who had mercury poisoning rendering havoc to their nervous system.

All of these lovely pollutants flow merrily into the Long Island Sound.

Still, she is a beautiful river, historied and all.

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Oh and hey. I only lost my footing once, twisted my ankle and nearly bit it with baby and all. Except for I caught myself with the hand holding the camera. Thanks to Nikon’s tough camera body- no cracks, scratches or dings on the baby, me, or the camera.

Happy Friday, friends.


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