The Dean of Trails
Hockanum River Trail: Martin Park, East Hartford
~0.4 miles, May 2019
If you are reading my thru-hike of the Hockanum River Trail in order (generally south to north), you have already read the Elm Street Trail page. If you haven’t, it’s a fun one and you should. Better yet, start at the beginning with the HRT introduction and catch up.
This page is titled “The Dean of Trails.” We’re at Martin Park. Dean Martin. The Hockanum River Trail is a goofy, misunderstood slightly out of place trail. And it’s big in France.
Okay, yeah, it’s a stretch. You know what’s also a stretch? Calling this short little trail bit a segment. But that’s what the fine folks at the Hockanum River Watershed Association do, so I will follow suit. (I can’t in good conscience always do this though, as some of their “sections” are, like, 2 minute walks.)
At least the Martin Park trail is a loop – one half being the official HRT and the other half being more of a “local people like to walk along the river and have beaten a path” type trail. I hiked it all, of course. Here’s the official description:
This trail segment goes downstream to merge with the Elm Street trail segment, or upstream over a spectacular 90-foot arched footbridge across the river. It continues upstream through mature forest, then goes down a flight of steps on the left, toward the river. At the bottom of the steps it proceeds right, under the Hillside Street Bridge, to end at the parking lot.
Let’s start with that “spectacular 90-foot arched footbridge.” As you know by now, if you’ve read anything else I’ve written about the Hock, they love their engineering. Whether it’s miles and miles of massive boardwalk or unnecessary stairs or questionable sidehill supports, the HRT has it in spades.
There are a few of these impossibly nice bridges along the trail as well – heck, there’s even a huge (by Connecticut standards) suspension bridge up in Vernon! My word with this trail.
My friend Brendan is fond of calling them “overbuilt,” and I tend to agree with him. This bridge takes hikers… pretty much nowhere really. The main trail from the bridge to Hillside Avenue is nice enough. Well cleared and all that.
But at the road, which is very near the bridge, the trail goes down some steps, under HRT underpass number… I don’t know, let’s say 200, and then just ends. That’s it. And how many Martin Park picnickers and Historical Society of East Hartford museum goers venture all the way to the far reaches of the park to find this trail to cross the bridge and walk the wholly uneventful walk to Hillside Avenue?
Probably 7 people a year.
Furthermore, the trail north from Hillside only “officially” goes a few hundred yards before it “officially” peters out. You can easily continue on though, but we’ll get to that in the next section. For now, we’ll loop back across Hillside Avenue, back down the stairs, and walk the unofficial Hockanum River Trail along the Hockanum River itself.
Nothing exciting happened along this short stretch either, but then I returned to Martin Park and got to cross the crazy bridge again. Wahoo!
Continue on to Sections 5&6, Hillside Street to Olde Roberts Trails