One of the neat things about tackling a new county for a big year is that you get to explore many new places. In reviewing the Lamoille County map online and in a printed atlas (I need to get some topo maps), looking for interesting back roads and features, I came across a tiny body of water called Russ Pond just over the County line, not far from the highway. There was nothing online about it other than a map, showing it with a trail leading to it.
With visions of flocks of unmolested waterfowl at a secret place, I took the dog on a hike to it the other day. I didn’t see any ducks or grebes but found an interesting mystery.
So, up the steep road we trekked and soon were away from the highway noise and hearing Yellow-rumps and the other usual suspects. There was no evidence of recent travel but there was one small tree that had fallen across the path with a saw cut from perhaps this winter. We came into an opening and up ahead, several large I-beams lay in the field. I thought that a bridge might be up ahead but was puzzled by them.
We pushed ahead about a quarter-mile and through the sparse trees, I saw a big rusty structure that at first looked to me like some sort of an industrial building — but as I got closer it turned out to be a massive A-frame skeleton built on ledge, anchored by a large reinforced concrete base. Eerie to say the least — no sign of recent activity.
Since birding was the objective of the trip, I scanned the small pond, finding nothing on the water but one aluminum boat lying on the shore. Penny went down to check it out.
I went down to the water and watched a Belted Kingfisher, oblivious to us, fishing on the far bank. It was very still except for a few warblers and peepers — and a pretty little pond.
I walked back to the truck, after seeing my first Black-throated Blue Warbler for the county, wondering what the deal was with this place. Did someone die? All sorts of scenarios came to mind — but why haul skyscraper-style I-beams up a mountain and leave everything?
I searched for Russ Pond history online — nada — and decided to do a little research next time in the County. So, yesterday morning, I stopped by the highway garage — they were out working somewhere — but found a young man working at the volunteer fire company building. He didn’t know much about the place but said, “The guy who will know, if anyone does, is Warren over at the store.”
Warren Miller is a fixture in the County, a long-time resident who has operated the Elmore Country Store for ages, and who knows everyone. I know him by name and dropped by, explained my birding trip and asked if he knew Russ Pond. He responded, “Haven’t been up there in years, but the place is owned by a doctor from Nova Scotia. He wanted a little piece of Vermont so I sold him 504 acres, for cheap money back then — about $80,000.”
I asked him about the massive structure and he related that the guy’s brother-in-law was a steelworker (which brings up all sorts of steel beam acquisition scenarios) and that the doc wanted to build something that could withstand anything. Guess plans changed – there it sits.
I expected to have to get into tax records or go on a long chase for information but in the time it took to order a coffee and muffin, I had my answer. No bodies, nothing newsworthy, but still a good example of some of the interesting things you stumble into into when you get off the beaten paths of Vermont. Looking at the photo of the pond, I can see why the doc bought it.