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Walking Seasonal Roads

Reflections on a Dwelling Place

by Mary A Hood

Publication Year: 2012

Using the seasonal roads (passable only from spring to fall) of Steuben County, New York to establish setting, the author, a literary naturalist, contemplates the meaning of "place" as she walks the back roads, bringing nature to life.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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Introduction: The Road Less Traveled

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pp. 1-7

To write about roads as a nature writer and an environmentalist might seem paradoxical. The road in American literature has always been a symbol of masculine freedom and adventure. From Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road (1860) to Henry David Thoreau’s Walking (1862) to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957)...

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1. The Keep and the Hunt: Culver Creek Road

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pp. 8-16

Culver Creek runs high and loud in early spring. Snow melt rushes down the hills, fi lling the creek with liquid song. And every time we walk the road, the song is different. One day it might be a lively jig, another day a gulpy didgeridoo, and another a tinkling piano tune—all the different...

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2. Shunpiking, Whistle Pigs,and Hogweed: Burleson Road

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pp. 17-27

We usually begin walking Burleson Road from Turnpike Road. While strapping on our water bottles and binoculars in this quiet spot, I sometimes imagine the noise and chaos of the old turnpikes. I smell the pungent tar that was once used to lubricate the wheels and said to be so strong that when the air was still, it could be detected all the way to...

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3. Bobolinks Galore: Van Amburg Road

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pp. 28-35

Where the road bends in a graceful curve, an old clapboard house stands. Its weathered planks, red roof, and yellowtrimmed windows are shaded by a large oak tree. From the old oak hangs a wooden swing. There is a garden with a scarecrow, sometimes clothes on the line, and...

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4. Trout Lilies and Trillium: Hungry Hollow Road

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pp. 36-45

One fall morning a squeal from a culvert caused me to pause and walk over to check it out. To my surprise an enormous raccoon emerged from the creek, shook herself, made a growl of disapproval because she had been disturbed, and waddled off up the hill. Her paws were wet and muddy...

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5. One Potato, Two Potato,Three Potato, Four: Olmstead Hill-Allis Road

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pp. 46-53

Olmstead Hill Road becomes Allis Road as it runs along the ridge of Olmstead Hill. With some of the most beautiful vistas of the region, the road overlooks the hills and valleys of Avoca. Fields of potatoes, corn, oats, wheat, kidney beans and soybeans, alfalfa, and clover are as orderly...

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6. Seeing the Forests for the Trees: Robie Road

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pp. 54-63

The loop we most often walk begins with Robie Road, joins Sonora, then Kettle, and swings back to Robie. It crosses two state forests, Moss Hill State Forest and Birdseye Hollow State Forest in Lamoka Valley, a valley speckled with kettle lakes and ponds. Lamoka and Waneta are...

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7. Back to the Land: Harrisburg Hollow Road

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pp. 64-72

Late one afternoon on Harrisburg Hollow Road, I encountered a barred owl. I fi rst saw it on the wing as it fl ew down the road and into the dark woods. Walking toward where it entered the woods, I spotted it far back in...

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8. There Was a Crooked Lake: Urbana Road

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pp. 73-80

They drove up in their shiny new Lexus, knocked on my door, and introduced themselves as the Joneses (not their real names). They had come to my home to ask for easement rights. My partner and I had declined an earlier written request from their lawyer— we wanted to keep impacts...

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9. A Road for All Reasons: Mackey Road

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pp. 81-90

The road climbs uphill from the Conhocton River near Avoca, bends through woods, and runs along a small stream. Just beyond the fi nal upward curve, a natural gas facility sits nestled in the hillside. Beyond that posted signs indicate the woods belong to a private hunting club, and where...

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10. Happy Trails: Bocek Road

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pp. 91-95

Spiderwebs on a damp morning turn the woods into cut-glass crystal. The dew that collects on the silky threads transforms the fl y-traps into textured glass, and I think of my grandmother’s old sugar bowls. We walk Bocek when we feel the need for deep woods, because the road runs...

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11. In Land We Trust: Irish Hill and O’Brien Roads

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pp. 96-102

Irish Hill and O’Brien Roads make two sides of a triangle that climbs Rattlesnake Hill and passes through Moss Hill State Forest (NYSDEC 2011f). Deeply wooded and lined with old stone fences, the roads carry the legacy of the Irish families who settled and farmed the land in...

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12. Water, Water, Everywhere: Platt Hill Road

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pp. 103-112

One summer evening, I noticed a crushed plastic bottle on the roadside. The blue label read “Aquafi na Pure Water, Perfect Taste.” The ubiquitous hand of Pepsi Cola seems to be everywhere, I thought. I picked up the bottle and examined it closely; the label read “PWS,” which stands...

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13. The Pulteney Highlands: Ford, Baughman, Sturdevant, and Pizura Roads

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pp. 113-123

In the northeast corner of the county, the Pulteney Highlands provide seasonal roads that offer loops. Some of the roads overlook Italy Valley, some overlook Keuka Lake, and others run up and down the hillsides. Several cross the Drumm and the Hawk View farms with...

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14. A Graceland: Wagner and Holmes Roads

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pp. 124-128

The old sentinel oaks that line Holmes Road have watched the land for a hundred years. As young trees they saw the fi elds in potatoes, food that went directly from the land to the table. Today the fi elds grow corn for ethanol, feed for cattle, or soybeans for oil—crops that require...

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15. Home Sweet Home

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pp. 129-136

The ravens appeared as two black undulating waves against the branches. One bird cried, the other answered as they fl ew off—one, into the blue opening, and the other, deep into the foliage. Ravens are wary birds and with good reason. Once common in the region before European...

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pp. 137-140

Walking has inspired literary legacies, personal memories, epic journeys, mystical revelations, and so much more. Walking the seasonal roads of Steuben County has certainly inspired me to write about this remarkable place. Perhaps not offering the scale of mystical revelations...


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pp. 143-162


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pp. 163-175

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815651741
E-ISBN-10: 0815651740
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815609735
Print-ISBN-10: 0815609736

Page Count: 164
Illustrations: 9 black & white
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Natural history -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Roads -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Low-volume roads -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Scenic byways -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Hood, Mary A., 1944- -- Travel -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Walking -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Nature conservation -- New York (State) -- Steuben County.
  • Steuben County (N.Y.) -- Description and travel.
  • Steuben County (N.Y.) -- Environmental conditions.
  • Steuben County (N.Y.) -- History, Local.
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