Friday, May 1, 2009

Take a Walk down the Airline Rail Trail

We have been exploring our area lately, and I recently heard from a neighbor about a great trail right in our own backyard! The Airline Rail Trail is a hiking trail in Eastern Connecticut that at one time was a railway from New York City to Boston. There are two sections of the trail, one from East Hampton to Willimantic and the other from Willimantic to Thompson.

We are fortunate to have a number of points in our town from which we can access the trail. As you can see from the pictures, the rail lines were removed and the trail was created from the rail bed. The trail weaves through State parks, woodland, marshes, over rivers and brooks and has many great features, including covered bridges and viaducts.

We recently packed up the kids and headed about two miles out from the house to a trail head that is right around the corner. We got to try out the used double jogging stroller that we picked up while in Maine--it was great to have it! I packed us a nice picnic lunch, we all put on the first sunscreen of the season and headed down the trail.

Let me start by saying that this trail is just beautiful. There are so many little details that make it truly special. Right off the bat, we realized that at one point we were going over a little brook. Chris found a path down to it and was surprised to turn back to look up towards the trail and see this:

It is a culvert that the people who constructed the railine bed put in. Look at the craftsmanship! You just don't see this kind of construction in our public works system anymore!

There are a number of high bridges that cross over spans of water--we know that these were train trestles at one point.

I was recently reading book about circus trains and remember the author saying that when men working on the circus grew too old to do manual labor, that they would be tossed off the trains in the middle of the night when the trains were headed over spans like this!

With a number of stops to take a look at sights on the trail, the whole trip on this section was about 2 hours and 45 minutes. We didn't have a pedometer, but we know from where the trail crossed Old Colchester Rd. that we went about five miles. The kids fell asleep at the half-way point.

When we turned to head back, we found shallow water lining one side of the trail that was filled with frogs. We must have seen 20 different ones. After a few unscuccessful tries (I totally forgot how slimy frogs are, so there was some shrieking going on) I caught one for James to take a look at!

We passed a number of people walking, jogging and mountain biking. Everyone was really friendly. We were about two-thirds of the way back when we passed an older gentleman who told us about a turn-off where there was an old mill site. We stopped for a bit to explore. I took this picture of Chris from the other side of the river--just look at the stonework in this picture!

Then I tossed the camera to Chris (praying that my throw would get it across) and he took this picture of James and Ella and I:

James was fascinated by the little rapids, and he got to throw in a bunch of sticks and watch them make their way down the current.

Here is another view of the water--the sound of it rushing over the stones was so calming. We have a little brook in our backyard, but it isn't as wide as this.

On the way back James walked part of it (or I guess I should say "ran" part of it.) I love this photo that Chris took--my litle boy having fun in all of the glory of the Airline Rail trail.

I can't think of much else I would rather be doing than spending a few hours out in the fresh air and sunshine with my little family. We are very fortunate to have so much history and nature right outside our back door!

If you would like to learn more about the history of the trail and the railway that started it all, visit this link.


Ruth said...

What a great place to walk! We have a number of rail trails in our region and they are quite level for hiking. And one always finds interesting historical places along the way. Your children are fortunate to have parents like you. They are so sweet in the sleepy picture!

Sarah@VintageChic said...

That looks so neat!!! Another reason I wish we could visit that area!!!

Stephanie said...

oh my gosh...that sounds like the perfect place to explore. The pictures really remind me of Northern Minnesota. So gorgeous.

Regina Heater said...

Very cool!

Mary said...

That looks like such a great place to hike!

Jayne said...

What a great day and a beautiful place!

Larry said...

Wow-you guys made it pretty far.I've been along that trail at various access points. You took some nice photos too!