Several weeks ago, I used the doors at the Riverside Park Boat House for my contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors series. In that post, I talked about how the Hartford Riverside Recapture agency has done a great job of bringing the riverfront back to a well-deserved prominent position in the city. I mentioned that there is a way to hike around a series of paths and bridges and to see the river from many vantage points. For Father’s Day, our daughter took me on that hike.
I’m calling it a hike. I guess it’s more of a walk, the full loop is slightly over six miles but there is an option to go off-road, as it were. Also, Faith and I both have a way of taking the path less traveled whenever we think there might be a good photo opportunity over/up/behind there.
We started in the parking lot of Great River Park. From there, we headed south along the river and then east to the stairs leading up to the Charter Oak Bridge. Along the way, we passed an electrical transmission tower. So many photo opportunities there.
Faith and I have a longstanding agreement in place. If one of us gets seriously injured while trying to take a photo, the other will prevent that picture from falling into the hands of my wife. This started in 1999 with the photo of Faith standing under the sign at the right.
I pointed out the seriously large insulators at the top of the tower and the fact that the recently-mown grass was evidence that it’s safe to be under the tower. Still, that “Danger – High Voltage” sign haunted us with a message from wife and mother “they don’t put those signs there for decoration.” However, anyone with a camera, wife and mother included, knows that photo-op outweighs fear. The next 100 yards carried us across a small bridge that is decorated with several commemorative plaques. While many people simply stroll across, Faith and I stopped to admire the ironwork and the plaques. This is why nature hikes take so long.
As we were crossing the Charter Oak Bridge, we talked about how Connecticut, which is chronically mired in deficit spending, had the good sense to add a pedestrian walkway to this bridge. OK, maybe that’s one of the reasons the State is smothering in debt, but it’s a good reason.
The western stairs lead down to Charter Oak Landing. For those of you not familiar with Connecticut, the whole “Charter Oak” thing dates back to the 1600s. In 1682, The Charter was given to the founders in Connecticut by Charles II and, according to history:
The Charter was an extraordinary document because it gave the people of Connecticut a clear legal basis for their colony, provided for the absorption of New Haven Colony, and, most importantly, granted the “Governour and Company of the English Colony of Connecticut in New England in America” an exceedingly generous degree of self-government.
The Charter Oak was a couple-hundred-year-old White Oak tree in which the Charter was hidden in 1687 when Charles’ successor, James II decided that Connecticut and the rest of New England really needed to be on a shorter leash.
Unfortunately, the Charter Oak blew down in a storm in the 1800’s. I’m not sure if the site of Charter Oak Landing is anywhere near where the tree was, but there were restrooms so I thought it was in a very good place.
From there, the hike proceeded along a little bit of barely-improved trail and highway by-product as we walked up, alongside and under bits of I-91. Eventually, we made it to Mortenson Landing which is the most prominent feature of Riverside Recapture’s 30-year effort. This park-like area provides access to the river for hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Continuing north, we made our way to Riverside Park and beyond. The map talks about “unimproved” trails heading north from Riverside Park through the woods and alongside the river. Eventually, these trails will be extended up and over a former landfill (which will provide amazing views of the city and its new ballpark) and then connect with riverfront trails in Windsor, CT. If all goes well, I may live to see the day that these trails are connected with the Windsor Locks Canal Trail.
Lacking those connections today, we looped back through Riverside Park and made our way up and over the Founders Bridge which brought us back onto the path in Great River Park. From there, lunch and a beer at Maggie McFly’s and we were happy to call it a day.
For additional photos, please check out Faith’s album on Flickr.