The thing about New Year’s resolutions is that everyone vows to exercise more, but hello, it’s January and 2 degrees outside and who really enjoys a 3-mile jog on a treadmill? Not me.
So this year, I decided to save my fitness goals until springtime when I’m practically bolting out the door at the smallest excuse to be outside. A walk in the wintertime is work. A walk in the spring is a joy.
Of course, spring was a long time coming around these parts, and I got myself all excited when a friend told me about a local Rails-to-Trails project in my area of the state called the Air Line State Park Trail. So I ran right out there at the beginning of April (right after that crazy “Are you kidding me? It’s April!” snowstorm we had). The day was crisp, but the sun was shining and it was so nice to be outdoors that I hardly cared that the scenery wasn’t exactly a poster-perfect image of glorious springtime.
Of course, then when I got home and was ready to write my post, I realized that everything in every photos was a lovely shade of…brown.
Hmmm. So I tabled the post and planned to go back once the weather warmed and things started blossoming.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Yeah.
I’m still hoping to get back there soon, but in the meantime, you can use your imagination, right? 🙂
So anyway, like I was saying, a friend mentioned the trail to me and I immediately started doing some Googling, er, research. Turns out this trail has a very interesting history. Here’s a snipit from the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) website:
Though the rails are long gone, this rail bed once offered fashionable, rapid transit from New York to Boston. Those who travel the corridor today witness the same inspiring panoramas and absorb the same solitude that has greeted travelers since the line was constructed. Stretching across eastern Connecticut from Thompson to East Hampton, this linear trail dates from the 1870s, and today draws walkers, hikers, horseback riders and bikers from across the state for the views, the relaxation and the solitude.
You can read more about the history of the “Air Line” here. I just love the idea of Rails-to-Trails, don’t you? It’s like the ultimate recycling project 🙂
This CT trail in its entirety is 50 miles long, so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to walk the whole thing this trip (you know, just a hunch). Since I live in Glastonbury, the closest point (I think; geography is not my strong suit) for me is in Hebron. So I looked up that section of the trail and tried to figure out a good starting point. This is the map you’ll find on the DEEP’s website (click here to get your own copy):
As you may have suspected, the “P” in the red box means there’s a parking area. A little more research on the website brought me to the conclusion that the large parking area right off Rt 85 (Church Street) was going to be our best bet.
For some reason, this map seems to indicate that the parking area is on the east side of Church Street (or will be on your left as you head south on Rt 85/Church Street from Glastonbury and points north). That’s not actually the case. If you are coming from that direction like I was, look for the parking area on your righthand side. It’s right there on the side of the road, and it’s huge. You won’t miss it.
Conveniently located in the center of the lot is an opening in that wooden rail that is plenty big enough to fit a stroller through.
Boo was at preschool this morning, but my little guy was ready for an adventure. Well, truthfully, he was ready to take a nap in his stroller as I went on an adventure 🙂
Here’s a closeup of the ground. It’s not paved, but it is pretty stroller-friendly. You definitely don’t need a heavy duty jogging stroller or anything. I love my Baby Jogger City Mini. It goes everywhere I need to go 🙂
Since the trail is dog-friendly too, we were also able to bring my other “baby,” or as we like to call him, our kid with fur 🙂 Ain’t he cute?
There is a trail guide & map posted at the entrance to the trail. After that direction debacle at Wintergreen Woods in Wethersfield last year, I always check the map now 🙂 You can head either way on the trail here. We decided to go south towards Colchester.
Here’s a little more information about the trail and what is, and is not, permitted. This is from the DEEP website:
It’s worth noting that the latter indicates that horses are allowed on the trail as well. Just thought I’d point that out for any of our equestrian enthusiasts out there (me included).
The section of the trail that runs through Hebron is about 3.5 miles, running from Lebanon to Colchester. The trail guide & map also has some additional information about landmarks and habitats along different sections of the trail. We were near the marsh area, which is apparently a great place to spot all kinds of animal life like deer, beaver, turtles, birds, etc. Of course, on the sort-of chilly, day after a freak April snowstorm that we were there, it mostly looked like this:
We did see some birds around, but I think nature was pretty much still in hibernation mode at that point. I can’t wait to go back and see what it looks like now though. I’m guessing there will be a whole lot more animal action.
Along the trail, you’ll encounter mile markers like this one:
I always find that helpful so I know when it’s time to turn back 🙂
You might come across a place to rest and enjoy the scenery (or maybe feed the baby or give your wee one a snack).
I know it’s early in the season and perhaps the crowds have not yet descended, but I was very impressed with how clean and well-maintained the trail is. Another appealing feature of a Rails-to-Trails path is that it’s relatively flat because at one point it had to be level enough to build a train track on it. That makes this trail equally great for walking, jogging, biking, maybe even pulling the kiddos in one of those nifty bike trailers that Mandy mentioned in her latest post, or even letting the little ones stroll along with you.
I’m so glad to have discovered this wonderful walking trail–hey, I might actually have a shot at keeping my New Year’s fitness resolutions! And now that spring has actually sprung, I can’t wait to go back and enjoy the beautiful views as well. I promise to post a few (more appealing) pics when I do!
Have you been to the Air Line Trail? What’s your favorite section?
The trail runs through East Hampton, Colchester, Hebron, Lebanon, Windham, Chaplin, Hampton, Pomfret, Thompson. Click here to find the section nearest you.
ph. 860-295-9523 (Department of Environmental Protection Eastern Headquarters)
8:00 a.m. to sunset (per the website; the posting at the trail just said ” area closed at sunset”)
Trail access and parking (at least the parking where I was in Hebron) is FREE!
- Stroller Friendly: YES! This section of the trail (and others, it seems) consists of a “stone dust” (gravel) surface that is just fine for a stroller. You might want to bring something a little sturdier than that $20 umbrella stroller you’ve got permanently stashed in your trunk, but no need to to all jogging stroller crazy. A good sun shade will be helpful though.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES! Personally, I think stroller cup holders are one of the greatest inventions of the century. Just bring a mug with a tight fitting lid so when the stroller gets jostled around a little bit as it bumps along the gravel trail you won’t lose a drop of that precious brew (or, you know, burn your hand or something…a secondary problem).
- Baby Changing Station: NO.
- Restrooms: None that I saw, but perhaps there will be a porta-potty added now that the spring/summer season is here. I’ll try to scope that out. There is a pizza place just up the road from the parking area on Church Street, so in a pinch, you can always head there, use the facilities and grab a little lunch after your walk.
- Parking: FREE parking at various spots along the trail. Some areas are sizable; others only have room for one or two cars.
- Food for Sale: NO (unless you count the pizza place down the road 🙂 )
- Outside Food Allowed: YES.
- Cash Required: NO
- Dress Code: No need for hiking shoes or boots, but closed toe shoes or sneakers would probably be preferable to anything open that would allow pieces of the gravel to sneak in. Ouch. Parts of the trail are shaded and parts are in open sun, so you might want to bring hats for yourself and your little one(s).
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. The trail is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Be sure to bring sunblock and possibly bug spray. I was there too early in the season for bugs, but it is a marsh over there. Just sayin.
- Dogs must be on a leash (no more than 7 feet long) at all times. Bring your own waste disposal materials for picking up after your dog as I did not see any available there. I actually don’t even recall seeing a trash can.
- Click here for detailed information about the different sections of the Air Line Trail (including parking info).
- For a list of all the official Connecticut Greenways (including other Rails-to-Trails locations) click here.
- Check out other Rails-to-Trails projects nationwide here.
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