Deer season (var: rifle) opened 2 weeks ago, half an hour before sunrise on Saturday the 10th. Because the woods behind our place are ample and amply populated with deer, they make for a popular hunting spot. And while most hunters are well-trained and conscientious, the thought of wandering out there with a sprightly dog (even blazed in fluorescent orange) is not terribly appealing. So for the 16 days of deer season, me and the dog have to go elsewhere to stretch our legs. It defeats the purpose, somewhat, to have to drive to take a walk, but it's just a part of the cycle of things. And there's a really cool place to go walking when our woods aren't an option (mud season is another time to avoid them).
Seven or eight miles south of here, the river that runs past our door (the West River) is choked in spectacular fashion by the Ball Mountain Dam, built and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. There's a mile and a half of road in to it from Route 30, also the work of the ACoE. Maintained to high standards for constant access to the dam – routinely paved, always plowed in winter – with convenient parking, very limited traffic, and otherwise pristine exposure to the elements, it's a pretty swell spot to take a walk. And popular because of it (especially when the woods are off limits).
The dam was built in the 50s/60s, long before I moved to Vermont (likely started before I was born). But it must have been an awesome sight to watch its progress. For anyone that needs to go geek on it, there's some cool stuff here. For example, you can access the gate logs and see the huge spike during and after TS Irene last year (08/28/2011). Otherwise, the sign posted along the road tells most of the story:
There's a catwalk out to the tower, with impressive views in all directions (a little dizzying even for those without a fear of heights).
In the photo just above, what looks like a low wall to the right is actually the spillway. The wall is probably 15 or 20 feet high. For a better perspective on the whole operation, check this out. The last time the dam filled enough to run over the spillway was in April 1987 (that's the high water mark on the tower). This photo (from the ACoE) shows the dam full up:
No high water there lately (I'm trying to remember the last time it rained?). I took Macy and her sister Juniper down for a walk on Friday; they were both going a little mad without their regular runs in the woods, so letting them spin laps was good for everyone concerned.
There were a few other groups out working off their stuffing and pie, and other orange-clad dogs to socialize with.
Rifle season officially ends in about 15 minutes from now (half an hour after sunset). But Macy was restless and tugging at my coat, so I broke the rules and went for a short trot out back just to let her unwind. It was either the smartest or the stupidest thing to do: you'd think the hunters would've had enough by now, but anyone desperate enough to still be out stalking might very well take some reckless chances. It was mighty quiet, though. Until Macy took off chasing something and dropped down into the brook. I heard ice breaking and water splashing and expected to find a wet cold dog, but just as I crested the bank I saw two whitetails making good time off in the distance, and Macy standing close by, watching, panting.