Blood Hill Road
We live on a single lane, Class VI road that winds its way up a fairly steep hill and then meanders around and gently ascends to tee with a different road, one that leads to breathtaking distant views.
Our house has no distant view. We live near the beginning of the road, which has no street sign, yet locals and our UPS driver know it’s Blood Hill Road.
Just before the turn onto our dirt road, a life-sized black-and-white cow sculpture stands at the edge of our artist neighbor’s property. The cow’s silly grin exposes rows of large square teeth. When we give people directions to our house, we say, “Make the first left after the smiling cow.”
We’ve lived on Blood Hill Road now for a little more than a year. We soon learned that the town does not maintain the road, so in winter we deal with ice and later with potholes and washouts. Fortunately, a business at the top of the hill takes on most of the maintenance.
The previous owners had a post office box as does the only other resident on the road. I initially thought they were too embarrassed by the name of the road to use it as a mailing address. I was wrong. The post office does not deliver mail to Blood Hill Road, and now we, too, get our mail from a post office box.
So why the name? When we asked around, locals said the Bloods lived at the top of the hill. You can still see their cellar hole.
Who were the Bloods? What happened to them? Nobody seems to know, and I can’t find mention of them in the town’s historical records. When I search Google for the origins of the surname, I find three possibilities.
An affectionate term for a blood relative
An occupational name for physicians, who bled patients as a cure
Descendants of a Welshman, Thomas Blood, who lived in the 1600s and attempted to steal the crown jewels.
Regardless of how the Bloods got their name, I decide to check out where they used to live. It’s a 20-minute walk to the cellar hole from our house. I take my golden doodle Moxie with me because to her, a walk is the next best thing to a treat, and sometimes she prefers a walk. I pull a vest over her head and securely fasten a leash to it because if Moxie had to choose among a treat, a walk, or chasing cars, she’d likely pick cars. The occasional pickup or 4-wheel drive Subaru that might pass us would send her into a whirlwind of uncontrollable ecstatic chase.
The right side of the road is owned by the only other residents, Pete and Pam. They own the land up the steepest part of the road. As I slowly ascend, stopping occasionally to catch my breath, I smile at Pete’s collection of objects placed at intervals along his side of the road. There are flamingos, a wrought-iron outline of a violin with red-framed sunglasses hanging from its scroll, a masked face on a clay pot, a metal folding chair with a plastic, red-flowered cushion, and my favorite because it’s at the top of the hill and means my steep climb is over--a pink telephone attached to a tree trunk.
As the road levels, I breathe easier and look to the left at the abandoned yellow road grader. When we were looking at our house and considering buying, the grader was where we came to get cell phone coverage.
The next stretch of road is a gentle climb, and the road surface is relatively smooth. I hear a distant woodpecker and even more distant loons calling. The wind blows high in the trees.
Eventually we come to a tee in the road. The right side of the tee is another Class IV road that leads to a wedding venue known for distant views so dizzyingly perfect, they can bring on a near-religious experience. The left side of the tee is the continuation of Blood Hill Road. It quickly deteriorates into one unnavigable by normal vehicles and overhung with encroaching forest.
I turn left and let Moxie off leash. She happily splashes in puddles from last night’s rain. A short way up the muddy extension of Blood Hill Road is a former lumber operation on the left and a parking area for hikers on the right, whose trail is yet another Class VI road off Blood Hill leading downhill to a creek that feeds into the town lake.
The Blood’s cellar hole is up ahead. I navigate through mud as Blood Hill Road begins its descent. The road is chewed up with deep ruts from tires the size of garage doors on giant vehicles meant to drag tree trunks uphill.
Surely the Bloods would be appalled at the change to their peaceful spot at the top of the hill-- their hill--the one named for them. It’s peaceful now as I stand by the L-shaped cellar hole. Four mature trees grow from the basement floor. Massive rocks form the foundation, cut to fit smoothly like a granite jigsaw puzzle.
On either side of the road are stone walls, outlining fields the Bloods used for crops or livestock, now overgrown with full-sized trees.
I hear the woodpecker again, a large one from the sound of its rapid-fire tapping. Maybe a pileated.
I turn to go. Strangely, I feel akin to the people, who long ago, decided to move to a wild and beautiful hill, one not easily accessed, but worth the trouble it took to stake a claim and make it their own.