Trail Biking Farmington River Trail

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The Farmington River Trail
The Farmington River Trail
The Farmington River is a National Scenic Waterway enjoyed by fisherman, rafters, and whitewater paddlers.The bike trail along its banks compliments this national treasure. The trail is a 26 mile loop branching off from the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail which runs from New Haven across the State and into Massachusetts. Tucked along The Farmington River the River Trail meanders past 19th century mills, dams and waterfalls, rapids and ponds, forests and prairies.




Early Morning on The Farmington, Kenneth Casper, 2012
Early Morning on The Farmington, Kenneth Casper, 2012


Impressionism: Capturing the elusive qualities of light that flirt with the soul; capturing a moment that is timeless but tells time; capturing the essence of place without defining it. As New England became powered by the inventions of The Industrial Revolution, the views of New England provided by artists evolved in flavor and introduced subjective content.

"What does it mean to you?" Such a question has no meaning in the art and life of early America. But, it is the primary question we ask ourselves today as we browse contemporary art or scan across pastoral landscapes. That subjectivity and individualism that now guides our actions, decisions, and comprehension of the world - that question which defines our truth - that, which we call American Exceptionalism does not exist but for the works of Impressionists such as Dawson Dawson-Watson.

So, it was early in the morning  when Dawson-Watson sat between a railroad and a working river in 1864 and painted a question to himself - Early Morning on The Farmington - "what does it mean to me?" "Can I capture personal meaning in a view of the natural world?"

Turbine Gears, Farmington River, Colinsville CT, Farmington River Trail
Turbine Gears, Farmington River, Colinsville CT
You could say that my experience biking on The Farmington River Trail left an impression on me. So much so that I did the 30 mile loop and returned the next weekend to do it again.

The sights and scenes I encountered along my bike ride in central Connecticut wove together into a colorful view of New England communities. I began to see Rothko-like color abstractions in the reflections off the Farmington River. Rusted abandoned machinery of the industrious past, divorced from an intended purpose took on expressive forms painted in laughing colors.

What do the images mean to me? Nostalgia has a lot to do with it. There are memories encased here which are impossible for me to own. But, they feel like my own.

Maybe I am drawn to these discarded parts because my father was a metal worker who forged tools and parts like the ones before me. The turbine gears stand like monuments - like gravestones telling the short story of a life once lived.

I remember a conversation I had with him about investment molds, and the history of forging metals, and die casting. Elisha Root invented die casting here in Collinsville. Some of the shards of parts in these pictures were stamped by dies cast in nearby tool and die shops - descendants of Elisha Root.

Shortly after high school, I worked two summers in a die casting and metal stamping shop. I will always have a nostalgic love for the sweet smell of smoldering machine grease  and the ground shaking thump of the stamping hammers.

When I see these giant gears I can hear their dull metal clanking as though they were reanimated and alive again.

I laid back on the sandy beach beneath a man made waterfall and I began to hear an old America Singing:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-
hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morn-
ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs
I Hear America Singing, Walt Whitman - 1867


Collins Mill, Collinsville Connecticut, Farmington River Trail
Collins Mill, Collinsville Connecticut
Then, there are other memories that these pictures conjure. There is boyhood, growing up along The Milwaukee River the feeds The World's Toolbox. I read a good chunk of The Brothers Karamazov on the banks of The Milwaukee beneath a dam like the ones interspaced here. The Farmington and The Milwuakee have many similar qualities.

But, memories only go so far. The sweeter they are - the more they are bitter. The Farmington River Trail has enough abstract material to generate new memories. Instead of remembering those sunshiny days of the past, of jumping my dirt bike off piles of limestone in Lime Kiln Park, of great volumous books that I lost myself within - I can let those memories recede and do it all over again for the first time.  Maybe 30 years from now I will come back and the memories will be thick and noxious like paint.

Thirty miles on a bike at a leisurely pace will take you about 3 hours. But, why not make a day of it? Take your time and find that special quality - find out what it means to you.

I spent a few hours lounging and reading East of Eden by a little swimming hole while a rope swing swayed from its tree branch over a deep and crystal pond. The first golden leaves of Autumn gently fell to the river and were carried past at the same slow pace that defined my weekend. Time begins to expand, even as the day marches on and the shadows grow deeper.

I stopped in Collinsville for a cup of coffee at The LaSalle Market and Deli. I ended up lingering over a pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato waffle fries.

If you are biking through Collinsville, be sure to stop and walk around. This quintessential New England town offers the flavors and colors that have made this region famously charming. If you are just out for a walk, start your trip in Collinsville and you will not be sorry with the views. There is also a still millpond and a shop that rents kayaks.  The kayaking here appears safe and popular with families entertaining young children.

The trail itself is paved and wide. You are always within a short throw from the river and its scenery.

There are a few miles of the trail that go along roads. These roads are not pleasant and not for recreational bikers. There are no shoulders, the traffic travels fast, and there are sharp curves and corners. I would recommend riding with a helmet if you are going to do the full loop. Also, the trail markings are spotty at best on the roadways. Take printed out maps of the area. Cell phone coverage is hit and miss in these valleys. So, do not plan on relying on your GPS maps.

Try to arrive early in the morning anyways. There is a special quality of light at 7am in the Autumn that is unique to this place and time. Dawson Dawson-Watson's Impressionist masterpiece, Early Morning on The Farmington, Watson hangs in The Florence Griswald Museum nearby. But, there is nothing quite like actually being on The Farmington in the early morning.

Downtown Collinsville Connecticut, 2012, Farmington River Trail
Downtown Collinsville Connecticut, 2012



Farmington River Trail Overview

COUNTY: Hartford
COMMUNITIES: Farmington, Cheshire, Collinsville, Canton, Avon, Simsbury

TOTAL MILEAGE: 26 mile loop
PAVEMENT: Asphalt, Roads, Crushed Stone
DIFFICULTY: Easy

POINTS OF INTEREST: Farmington National Scenic River, Stratton Brook State Park, Avon Old Farms School for Boys, Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

Directions and Trail Map



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Address for your GPS: 1010 New Britain Avenue, Farmington Ct
|coordinates: N41.731227,W072.863284|
From Bridgeport1 Hour 15 Minutes
From New Haven1 Hour
From Hartford20 minutes
From New London1 hour
From Providence2 Hours
From New York1.5 Hours



Photos

Early Morning on the Farmington - 1886 - Dawson-Dawson Watson
Early Morning on the Farmington - 1886 - Dawson-Dawson Watson
Source: flogris.org via Kenneth on Pinterest


Turbine Parts, Farmington, Farmington River Trail
Turbine Parts, Farmington, Farmington River Trail

Turbine Parts, Farmington, Farmington River Trail
Turbine Parts, Farmington, Farmington River Trail


Farmington River Trail, Collinsville CT
Farmington River Trail, Collinsville CT
Farmington River Trail, Farmington CT
Farmington River Trail, Farmington CT
Farmington River Trail, Farmington CT
Farmington River Trail, Farmington CT
Farmington River Trail, Collinsville CT
Farmington River Trail, Collinsville CT
Turbine House, Collinsville CT
Turbine House, Collinsville CT
Turbine House, Collinsville CT
Turbine House, Collinsville CT
Turbine Control Parts, Farmington CT
Turbine Control Parts, Farmington CT


LaSalle Market, Collinsville Connecticut, Farmington River Trail
LaSalle Market, Collinsville Connecticut, Farmington River Trail


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