You can bike along Route 5 from Rumford Point to Andover and soak in the mountain views across the Ellis River Valley. The terrain is fairly flat as you ride along the fertile floodplain that once supported so many working farms. And there is a bike/breakdown lane for much of the way to avoid nervous encounters with logging trucks. It’s a great ride and one that I have done in the past, but today I chose to follow the secondary roads on the “backside” of the river.
These roads parallel Route 5 and pass through the tiny, bygone villages of North Rumford, South Andover and East Andover. They are mere collections of houses today –lacking any store, post office, school or church. But a practiced eye can see that the old farmhouses are too closely spaced in certain spots to be anything other than an attempt at community.
The South Arm Road from Andover to Richardson Lake, on the other hand, has a completely different feel. The pastoral identity is entirely gone as soon as you turn off Rt. 120 in Andover.
This is a road that feels, from the start, like a woods road that has graduated to a recreational access point for those seeking access to Richardson Lake. The narrow road rises (steeply at times) along the course of Black Brook and through a notch in the hills by that name. The narrow notch passes over the northern end of the Mahoosuc Range between Old Blue Mtn. and Sawyer Mtn. — the Appalachian Trail crosses the road here.
A few miles further on is the turn-off for South Arm Campground and a bit beyond that is the public boat launch on the South Arm of Richardson Lake. From here, a canoeist can access dozens of remote sites along the shores of Lower and Upper Richardson Lakes. And with a short carry around Upper Dam, similar sites in Mooselookmeguntic Lake are available. That’s all for Monday – tomorrow is a day off the trail.