Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea how cool rail trails were. I also didn’t know how popular they’ve become.
We have been walking in the general vicinity of the house we live in for about three years. It’s a great place to walk and we have really awesome trails right in the back yard. After three years though, I’ll tell you, it gets a little…err…umm…old. Good thing we live in an area that’s host to avid walkers and bikers. I think the outdoor enthusiast population around here is above average.
A few weeks ago, we felt like going for a walk. I wasn’t enthusiastic about doing the same old thing, so I suggested heading down to a surprise area for something new. Since there is mucho trust of any plan I concoct ending in absolute perfection, there was instant agreement and we got in the car. We were heading down to the “Airline State Park and Rail Trail.”
– The Airline State Park is a rail trail located in Connecticut. It follows a rail line that was known as the Air Line. It was conceived as a high speed passenger rail line from Boston to New York City, shaving 25 miles (40 km) off the old route. (Source)
– Since 1991, thousands of local residents and visitors have discovered the joy and beauty of the Air Line Rail Trail, a scenic and peaceful 50 mile stretch across eastern Connecticut, through the towns of East Hampton, Colchester, Hebron, Lebanon, Columbia, Windham, Chaplin, Hampton, Pomfret, Putnam, and Thompson. (Source)
– The Airline State Park Trail, located in eastern Connecticut, follows the old rail bed of the New York & New England Air Line Railroad, so named because it followed a straight line route, as if drawn through the air, between New York and Boston. Stretching for more than 50 miles, it is divided into three sections: South , North and Thompson. (Source)
Let’s just say, it’s really nice. It’s as level as any train track would be and it’s in excellent shape. The very first night we began walking on the trail, our jaws nearly hit the ground. There is one particular section that makes you feel like you are walking through a safari themed area of Disney World. There are rivers and swamps, birds, turtles, side trails, bridges, cliffs…almost anything natural you can think of that would be in this region of Connecticut. The next time we walk on that section of trail, I’ll be sure to take some video and photos.
One more thing…this rail trail is really popular. We weren’t ready to encounter so many serious participants of what we have here, but we were glad to see them. The neighbors enjoy walking and biking on this trail and it seems as though they are the type of people who would put up a fuss if anything ever happened to it.
We decided to go for a bike ride yesterday evening. Walking is kind of tough this time of year because of the bugs. You can either walk and swat flies the whole time or you can jump on a bike and outrun them. The bikes it was.
The section of trail we decided to ride on was about one and a half miles long, so it’s a three mile round trip. It’s not difficult and there are some really great natural features. The trail crosses two rivers (Judd Brook and the Jeremy River). There are also some nice steep declines to the river available if we decide to do some hiking in the Autumn.
Here’s the unfortunate part of yesterday’s bike ride. Just when I got to the very end of the section or what I otherwise know as the turnaround point, I realized I was losing air in my front tire. I was a mile and a half deep in the woods. Since I didn’t have a fully flat tire, just a slow, but quickening leak, I decided to head back a bit faster than I normally would. I’ll give you the ending of the story right now…I made it, but let me tell you that it’s not fun riding a bike with a flat tire. It’s loud and it takes a heck of a lot more energy than it normally would. Also, with all the extra energy I expended riding so fast, I burned more calories than I would have liked to.
When we got back, I took the tire off and patched the tube. There was a small hole caused by a thorn stuck in the tire. It’s probably been there for years because I have had to fill it up before, but this is the first time it really let loose. Since I always wanted to have road tires, instead of mountain bike tires, I ordered some this morning. I’ll write about that later on.
Riding the Airline Rail Trail From North Westchester To Colchester, CT
This is two rides merged into one. I only have two decent pictures of the second ride, so I figured this was just easier.
We have been astounded, that’s right, astounded at what we have been finding while riding on the Airline State Park and Rail Trail. Rivers, waterfalls, bridges, wetlands, big valleys with great views…it’s wonderful. I think the part that strikes me the most is how these old railroads cut right through nature. The areas are quiet and calm with the very infrequent biker or jogger passing by. It’s a treasure that many know about, but only a few take advantage of.
As you would imagine, riding miles on these trails gives the rider a lot of time to think. Even if you are riding with someone, you aren’t necessarily side-by-side. One train of thought I have had on our last few rides have been about the people who actually made this old railroad. What a project and what an achievement. I wonder if they knew that one day all their hard work would be disassembled and what was left would be used as a recreational area for people to enjoy.
The first trip we took started in North Westchester on Rt. 149, right off Rt. 2. There is a parking lot there and on the night we took this ride, there were a few ladies chatting while sitting on a bench. I feel terrible because they were sitting there when we left and they were still there when we returned. That’s not why I feel terrible. This is: As I passed them by on our return trip, I said to one of them, “We just finished the entire rail trail.” Her face lit up and it looked like she was going to jump out of her skin. She was excited. I had to quickly yell out, “JUST KIDDING!!! I was just kidding, I am a horrible person.” I have a very dark side to me, as you can see.
I am guessing that from point to point on these two rides is about eight miles. On the second trip, we ended in Colchester, a few miles away from the center of East Hampton. Since there isn’t much to say as far as a story would go, let me just post some pictures and describe them on the way down. That would be easiest.
As promised, I took a picture of my bike on my new bike rack. I have decided that I really like this bike rack. While it’s kind of a pain to pull that pin out every time I want to open the rear hatch on the car, it certainly isn’t worth an extra hundred dollars to have a quick release handle. Also, it will get a bit easier as the pin wears in a bit. Right now, it’s kind of tight. Otherwise, the rack is strong and awesome.
As we rode along the rail trail from Rt. 149, and believe me, it wasn’t a very far ride, we were confronted with, or better yet, we encountered an area that gave me great pause. I stopped and as I paused, I decided to take out my camera for a few pictures. I kind of felt guilty stopping so soon because we had only ridden for about two minutes, but hey, you know?
What you should be looking at is the photo directly above. It’s a section of wetlands that is adjacent to River Road. It’s chock full of wildlife and the area can easily entertain nature lovers for hours. There’s even a bench for said lovers.
As we stood there for a while, we became kind of hypnotized by the slow motion action of the animals in the wetlands. Just as something would fly away or go under water, something else would take it’s place. I contemplated setting up a nice video camera to record for about a half hour. I’m sure people would get a kick out of that if it were done correctly.
As you can see, I am not sure if the bridge crossed the Salmon River or another one. One river joins another and…wait, you know what, it is the Salmon River. I just checked Google Earth and the other river is the Jeremy River. So there you go.
Also, the map of the Airline Rail Trail you see above was located in the dirt parking lot I talk about in a post below. It’s right before the “Former Airline Railroad Bridge at River Road, Colchester, CT.”
Lastly, there are many areas with really good looking ledge all along the trail. When the sun hits it just right…
These are actually photos from our second ride in this area. What you are looking at is called the “Lyman Viaduct” and it’s quite spectacular. I didn’t know these types of hills existed in this area, so when we crossed this section, we kind of just stopped and thought about it. That’s when the true appreciation of what we had in our own back yard kind of kicked in. It also made us think about what else we’ve been missing. You know, it takes effort finding these types of things. I should be more aggressive in this area of my life.
These pictures are from our ride back during the first trip. It was remarkable because looking at the same scenes, just at a different time of day completely changed things. The first picture of the three above is the same wetlands that I wrote about earlier. Beautiful, isn’t it? The second and third photos are from the same spot…I just turned a few degrees and then turned a few more.
I guess my point with all this is that we are really enjoying ourselves on this trail. It’s giving us some new perspective on the area we live and giving us some exercise as well.
I am sure that our rides will continue and I’m sure that my picture taking and writing will continue as well. So, if you like pictures and reading about rail trails, please be sure to stop on by again.