I asked Sam Brakeley if he would allow me to do a short story on some of the walls and trails that he has done or should I say re-done.
I first noticed his work when he was hired to repair the Fairview Cemetery on Beaver Meadow Road. The name of his business is Hermit Woods Trailbuilders. The name came from a place called Hermit lake in central New Hampshire. Sam and his brothers would build trails as kids when visiting the lake. He said, "the joy I get from using trails inspired me to start a company. I enjoy building them and also repairing them."
Here are some thoughts/history on Hermit Woods Trailbuilders:
"I moved to the Upper Valley in 2012 and started Hermit Woods Trailbuilders, LLC soon after. I had worked with a number of trail-related non-profits before then and decided to go out on my own. We almost immediately became busy, giving support for Upper Valley Trails Alliance's VINS project, providing training for the Dartmouth College trail crew, and taking on a number of residential projects in the area and other trail projects further afield in New England.
Stone staircase on a Gile Mountain trail
I got into trails mostly because of the stone work. I loved the permanence of stone structures, their natural beauty and their feel. So simultaneously I began to take walling workshops, honing my skills while training under some very talented masons. After that apprenticeship, Hermit Woods contracted to do our first stone wall, and today they've become our bread and butter. We do 75-80% stone walls, patios and staircases, and only get out onto the trails occasionally now - still doing stonework there too.
Another stepping stone to adventure
This one is a staircase in North Hero , Vermont. Each one has a purpose
Stone work is 50% strength and 50% artistry. I love the combination. The feel of using my body outdoors, the sense of exhaustion I have at the end of the day, the ache in my muscles. And I also love the beauty of it. Fitting the stones together just so, creating order out of chaos using a few very simple rules and a lot of patience to build something beautiful that will last for a very long time.
Fairview Cemetary Wall before Sam's magic
Cemetary Wall as it appears now (a pretty stoic place indeed)
And finally I love the history of stone walls. Many of the ones we rebuild have been around for hundreds of years. Somebody, centuries ago, spent a lot of sweat and perhaps some blood to build them originally. Just now we're re-stacking them. Someday, hundreds of years later, somebody else might be handling the same stones I am now. That's a pretty neat feeling."
Retaining wall which needed to be retained or should I say retrained
Now that is what I call a retaining wall
No wall here ?
Oh there it is and what a beauty she is
New steps on Ballard Trail
Before Sam's magic
And the way it looks now
And more stairs
You can reach Sam at :
Owner, Hermit Woods Trailbuilders, LLC
Stay tuned, as I can see more walls and trails will be added to this story as they are built