As the weather warms, residents stuck inside at the moment may want to take advantage of these natural resources, which provide not only much-needed exercise but a chance to escape into nature for a while.
In the summer of 2018, The Cheshire Herald ran a series of articles detailing the different trails around town. We thought now would be a good time to revisit those experiences, sharing with you what we saw on some of the trails open to the public.
It’s important to remember that all social distancing protocols should be adhered to while hiking, and that reports of mass gatherings at these or any other open space areas of town could force their closure.
When one finds that the walls are closing in and the air inside is becoming a bit too stale, the natural reaction is to go outside for a walk.
Perhaps the family dog accompanies you, or maybe your “walk” entails two wheels and a helmet, as you bike up and down the roadways of Cheshire. Whatever the case may be, when cabin fever sets in, as it has for many around town these (unusual) days, escaping to the outdoors becomes imperative.
And, if you’re a walker, a runner, a biker, or anything in between, chances are you’ve made the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail your home for a while. This long stretch of paved trail, that runs near-parallel to Route 10, goes from one end of town to the other. It connects Cheshire with Hamden to the south, Southington to the north, and provides a little bit of something for everyone along the way.
In July of 2018, The Herald spent a few morning hours — hot, muggy, humid hours — walking a portion of the trail. Construction was still underway on the north end of the trail, and the section that would ultimately join Cheshire to Southington remained closed, but there was plenty to see along the way.
“Portions of the trail run through residential backyards, and some residents have created their own passageways from private properties to the path, whether it be a piece of wood laid over a small brook or a more elaborate walkway that leads from a landscaped backyard right to the pavement.
Some residences are clearly visible from the trail while others are hidden from view by rows of spruce trees or other vegetation. Yet, as one moves farther along the path, the more wooded it becomes,” reported The Herald.
“The sounds of neighborhoods fade away and are replaced by chirping birds and the random calls of other wildlife, many times hidden from view. The northern part of the trail eventually passes by a large marsh, where the green algae on the surface of the water (visible on the right side of the photo above) gives the entire area the look of an abstract painting. In fact, the water underneath is so still at times, only small disturbances from creatures beneath — a turtle raising itself up and then down again as it slowly swims from one shore to the next — reveals the marshes true nature,” the July 5, 2018 story continued.
The history of the trail goes back to the early 1800s, well before it was a trail at all. In 1821, a group of New Haven businessmen set a goal to build a canal in Connecticut in order to facilitate trade with New York State, which had just completed the Erie Canal. Ground was broken on the Connecticut canal in 1825 and it was completed in 1835.
However, the new waterway was short-lived. In 1847, with railroads making canals relatively obsolete, a rail bed was laid over the canal route, parts of which can still be seen today. The Canal Railroad was born, and would stay in operation until the 1980s when a flood destroyed a portion of the line and made it unusable.
There it sat until the 1990s, when construction on the trail, which follows the old rail line, was begun and the first sections were completed between Hamden and Cheshire. The trail has continued to expand and stretches from New Haven all the way up to Northampton, Massachusetts, spanning 84 miles.
The trail’s popularity may in large part be due to its accessibility. While several hiking trails across Cheshire require a certain level of skill and/or physical endurance, the Canal Trail runs a relatively flat course along miles of pavement, perfect for everyone — the slow walkers and the fast runners alike.
It also provides ample opportunity to see nature in action.
Walkers are routinely greeted by ducks and geese, as well as turtles slowly making their way across to or from one of the many ponds found along the trail. And if history is your interest, there are plenty of manmade remnants from bygone eras when the trail served as a thoroughfare for goods and services.
On our walk back in 2018, we came across Lilian Ward, as she strolled along the trail. When asked what it was that attracted her to walk on that particularly muggy morning, her answer seemed to speak for most on the trail that day.
“It’s beautiful. There is something different about it. In the (spring and summer), when the flowers are in bloom, it smells so nice, and people are so nice. I really like coming here.”