About 10 miles east of I-91, Route 2 crosses high over the Connecticut River atop the huge art deco French King Bridge, giving grand views over the surrounding landscape. From here east, the route becomes a mini freeway as it launches into a 40-mile stretch of almost nothing but forest; though nearly unimaginable today, some two-thirds of the landscape you see out your windows was totally deforested in the early 1800s. After some 150 years, that statistic has been reversed, although much of the forest along this stretch is relatively young, having grown up since a devastating hurricane in 1938 blew down nearly every pine tree in its path.
For most of the way across this part of central Massachusetts, the older two-lane alignment of the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) is still in use as Route 2A, running through a series of small towns like Orange, Athol, Templeton, and Gardner (pop. 20,430), which was once one of the busiest chair-making centers in the United States. The area’s industrial history is remembered by the town’s pride and joy, the onetime World’s Largest Chair, which sits on the front lawn of Gardner’s Elm Street elementary school.