Sunday, August 9, 2009

Housatonic RR Rail to Trail Ride 8-9-09

Ryan & I went biking on the Housatonic Railroad Rail Trail Sunday. We started at Maple Drive in Monroe (near Wolfe Park). We parked down the street from this informally signed trail entrance so we wouldn't be impacting the neighbors. Armed with two working bikes, a mega-Monster, and a diet coke we set off exploring.

We crossed a small wooden bridge over the Pequonnock River & left the historic railbed as we followed the crushed stone path south through an industrial park (needs direction signs). The crushed stone has some wash-outs so be careful going down the hill. The industrial park road is Victoria Drive & is home to Swiss Army Knives. The ride along the edge of the open field was different & nice (some of the brush along the insides of the curves needs to be cleared for better sightlines). The path surface changed to bituminous pavement as we left the industrial park.

We crossed Rt. 111 & went down the drive toward Old Mine Park. There were only 2 cars in the parking lot. Hopefully Trumbull now allows non-residents to park here without ticketing. It seems like a waste to not allow the public to use a safe and convenient parking lot. Particularly given all the state & federal money that have gone into buying and building this greenway. All the Shelton Trail System is open to the public; Sheltonite or not. It seems more neighborly that way. The entrance to the rail-to-trail path is straight ahead at the end of the drive.

This Trumbull section of the path winds along comfortable curves through the trees with gentle grades. We passed an older couple using walking sticks who, while not handicapped, obviously were able to take advantage of the gentle grades to enjoy the park. The side slopes that had to be cut in were landscaped with grass or woodchips and looked attractive.

We crossed a number of boardwalks and bridges along this portion of the route. The 12' wide path goes straight onto the 12' boardwalk with nice cleared shoulders that allowed for a safe ride.

The path passes under the Rt. 25 bridges & parallels the Pequonnock River on the east side of Rt. 25. There was some elaborate graffetti under the bridge abutments. I can't say that I thought it was attractive, but Ryan admired the most creative artwork. I just wish that some of that energy could get channeled into more constructive uses, like trail maintenance.

Further south into Trumbull the surface of the path changed to stone dust & the traffic got busier. There were a lot of families out with smaller children, bicycles, & dogs. It was nice seeing people enjoy the greenway & saying hi. When it's busy you need to stay to the right so people can pass safely. A few people had trouble with this concept like the family above with the dog on the retractable leash taking up the whole path walking abreast. Most people understood that they should travel on the right, however we were able to get by these folks. We always let people know that we were "on your left" as we passed them so we wouldn't startle walkers or joggers.

This was a typical trail section on the southern end; big rock cut on the west side, and wooded slope down to the River on the east side. This is somewhat similar to what portions of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path will probably look like in places.

It was a nice ride, Ryan though this was a little monotonous, but OK. The northern section below Old Mine Park was more interesting.

This section was the most heavily used due to the best public parking. There were some well marked public spaces near the Tait Road entrance (near Daniels Farm Road & Rt. 127). There were a lot of strollers, joggers, bikers, families, and dog walkers enjoying the Path, as were we. It was a nice Sunday afternoon & we managed to get our ride in before the thunderstorms hit. This was a pleasant trip that I would recommend to others.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't know what the scoop is presently, but a few years back, well past the summer season and on a drizzly day, I parked my car in Old Mine Park to walk my dog. Mine was the only car there. When I returned to the car I had a $25 ticket on the windshield, like I was taking up space for the hundreds of people flocking to park there! I made sure that in the memo section of the check I made out to the town I noted "Police Donut Fund".
    The trail is really nice, and the improvements made in the past few years helped a lot to relieve the poor drainage and to provide continuity from Old Mine Park to Wolf Park. The new section by Victorinox bypassed a messy original path that was impeded by that nursery, which had taken great pains to discourage bikers and hikers by mudding up the area and placing balled fir trees close together behind their buildings (I don't know what the situation was, if there was a right-of-way or if it was actually their property, but if the former I guess the trail people folded and spent the money to bypass).
    If you were to continue from Maple Drive, through the entrance to Wolf Park, the trail continues through more woods, crossing Cutler's Farm Rd and Pepper St (There is ample parking at that intersection), past some farmland to a break in the original rail line where a condo development took over. You're dumped onto Pepper St. for a short stretch, then get back on the trail, cross Pepper St. one more time, then continue through the woods, paralleling the developing Pepper St. Industrial Park (acres and acres of beautiful forest cut down for this idiotic, and probably futile, venture, years in the making!) to the Newtown line, where the formal trail ends, and the river fades into swamp(if you continue down the narrow path a ways you will see the original rails still there on the left. The trail comes out to Swamp Rd. in Botsford. Be aware, beaucoup mosquitos!). Note that off-season you can park your car in Wolf Park.