Maggie at Steel Derrick Quarry during the hunting season

Gainer (noun)- acrobatic trick of performing a backwards somersault while still moving forward

Rockport may be known for its New England seaside quaintness and its picturesque downtown, a perhaps lesser known but equally charming are the quarries. A weekend ago Aaron and I went up to the closest quarry to us, Steel Derrick, with friends. Nearby a guy with Khal Drogo hair was doing impressive flips, including a couple gainers, from the highest point at the quarry edge. I’ve never quite understood how a person can practice doing a gainer or other complicated moves in the air. These actions can’t be broken down into parts and pulled together once a person has mastered the individual pieces. With a mix of doggy paddling and treading water, we watched the graceful Khal Drogo in awe.

Like almost all quarries, Steel Derrick has not always been this tranquil. Two hundred years ago, Aaron’s great-grandfather came to Rockport from Finland and mined the quarries alongside other Scandinavian immigrants. Throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century, Pigeon Hill Granite Company developed Steel Derrick Quarry and shipped stone to cities and towns on the East Coast of the U.S. One of those places was the Longfellow Bridge over the Charles River in Boston. The bridge will have been under rehabilitation for a decade by the time it is scheduled to fully reopen next year. Federal preservation regulations require that every visible part of the bridge, a National Register of Historic Place, has to be restored using the same technology and material used when the bridge was first built. With freshly cut granite from Rockport no longer available, historical preservationists and construction contractors were on the hunt for reclaimed stone. They found granite stripped from the Hines Memorial Bridge in Amesbury, MA- a perfect match of the classic Rockport salt-and-pepper grain stone for the iconic salt-and-pepper bridge.

Swimming in Steel Derrick requires a season pass for it is privately owned by Pigeon Hill Quarry Association, but walking around in the area doesn’t. In the surrounding woods, many abandoned tools and equipment can still be found.

Flat Ledge Quarry, Rockport’s water supply
Steel Derrick in the winter
Longfellow Bridge, also known as the “Salt-and-Pepper Bridge” for the shape of the central towers
The main piers are ornamented with the prows of Viking ships, referring to a purported voyage by a Norse explorer Leif Eriksson up the Charles River circa 1000 A.D.

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