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Maine-to-Florida Canadian Border Sign: We get a sense of direction and a chuckle at the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Canaan, Vermont )
Big Bucks Pittsburg, New Hampshire: Hard to tell if Big Bucks Road is rich with deer, moose, or dollars, in Pittsburg, New Hampshire. )
We Sell Generally Everything: When you’re on the way to the end of the road, it’s a good thing to find a store that has “generally everything.” )
Pittsburg New Hampshire logo: For eight years in the 19th century, Pittsburg, New Hampshire, called itself the Indian Stream Republic—an independent nation. )
45th Parallel: North of Pittsburg, NH, a marker declares the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and North Pole. (Connecticut is at the 41st. parallel.) )
Third Lake: Colors begin in mid-September in the valley surrounding the Third Connecticut Lake. The lake is a half-mile from the Canadian border. Together, four lakes cascade to form the headwaters of the 410-mile long Connecticut River. All photos courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
Second Connecticut Lake Dam: The three Connecticut Lakes were dammed in the 1930s to control flooding. The Second Connecticut Lake Dam is at 1850’ elevation. It is only one of 16 dams on the main river. )
First Connecticut Lake island: Meadows and forests surround First Connecticut Lake just north of the hamlet of Pittsburg, NH. It is the southernmost headwaters lake at 1650’ elevation. )
Downhill: After seeing the terrain, we got a sense of how the river that runs wide between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme begins the 410-mile journey to Long Island Sound. )
Columbia Bridge: The Columbia Bridge carries traffic a quiet portion of the Connecticut River. It is a 145-foot span between Columbia, NH and Lemington, VT. )
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Did you get the fall foliage newsflash? The hills and valleys surrounding the headwaters of our own Connecticut River are among the first places in the United States to light up. More than 400 miles north, one of our best-known regional phenomena—fall color—starts in late September.
If you’ve never visited the headwaters of the Connecticut River, it’s a five-hour and one-lightyear journey into a rolling landscape where fall colors are only one source of interest. (The residents are another source of local color. Please read on.)
It’s at the end of the United States road map, if not exactly the end of the road. There, the Connecticut River starts at Fourth Connecticut Lake, a one-acre pond at elevation 2,670 feet. It’s accessible only on foot, about 900 feet from Chartierville, Quebec, and a half-mile from the nearest United States road.
It’s hard to believe a little pond is the genesis of an 11,000 square mile watershed. It’s a bit easier to comprehend 400 feet downhill at scenic (and much larger) Third Connecticut Lake, at elevation 2,200 feet. There, people fished from small non-motorized boats as morning sun brought balmy temperatures and caused steam to dance on the lake surface.
As we traveled south (and downhill) on Route 3, the Second and First Lakes added to the cascade. Dams control both lakes’ outflow, the first 2 of 16 dams on the main part of the river. For more Connecticut River facts, visit www.ctriver.org.
As for that other source of local color, the people seem to know how to keep it light.
At Third Connecticut Lake, we saw walkers wrapped in towels on their way to the clothing-optional beach.
At the Canadian border crossing at Route 253 in Canaan, Vermont, for instance, a road sign points one way to Maine, the other to Florida. (The Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz couldn’t say it better.)
In the hamlet of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, the town hall still displays a symbol of its eight years (1832-1840) as the independent Indian Stream Republic.
We crossed the official 45th parallel marker at Stewartstown, New Hampshire, and learned we were equally distant from the North Pole and the equator.
We visited Young’s General Store, where they sold “generally everything.” Nearby, the sign for Big Bucks Road invites speculation.
The trip offered what all good travel does: Plenty of eye candy, some laughs, and lots of brain food.
Final note: According to several sources, peak foliage will be a bit later this year than last. Find interactive foliage forecasts and maps at www.NewEngland.com and, for Connecticut, at www.ct.gov/deep.
Enjoy the journey!
Kathy Connolly writes and speaks about land care, landscapes, and horticulture. Contact her through her website: www.SpeakingofLandscapes.com.
The 2019 edition of the Clinton Chamber Guide has arrived.
The annual guide to the CT River Valley has arrived.