New State of Mind
Hockanum River Trail: New State Road, Manchester
~2.8 miles, December 2016
If you are reading my thru-hike of the Hockanum River Trail in order (generally south to north), you have already read the Laurel Marsh Trail page. If you haven’t, it’s a fun one and you should. I’ll wait. Better yet, start at the beginning with the HRT introduction and catch up.
After finishing up with Laurel Marsh in the pre-dawn chill of a 15-degree morning, I crossed route 44 over to the New State Road Trail. You can park at the Howell Cheney Tech School lot if you’d like.
This “trail” is more of a network of trails that encircles a mile of the Hockanum River. There are a whole bunch of side trails and spur trails along the way.
And ultimately, if you’re intrepid, you can continue north on the HRLPC Trails up to the Hilliard and/or the Hackett Trails (and beyond).
I hiked clockwise from the high school lot and before we get going, I must again say that the amount of work that goes into these HRLPC trails is heroic. Although it was December and the summer growth was long gone, I can see that half of this property is overrun with Japanese knotweed and other crap.
Out of necessity, the trail meanders up to route 44 near the I-84 exit. As a few cars passed me, I imagined the early morning drivers wondering what the heck a guy was doing walking around the marshes and woods along the interstate.
Little do they know that I’d be out for an hour already.
I dipped back into the woods on the other side of the Hockanum River, now traveling north – generally paralleling the nearby highway. I passed a sign warning of coyotes but quickly forgot about it as I once again became enamored with the trail construction on the HRT.
Why not put a long, curving flight of stairs (with “railing”) down to a little bridge by the river?
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the level of building that goes into these little urban trails. In East Hartford it was all boardwalk. Miles and miles of boardwalk. Now in Manchester, we’re seeing some new and different things. I love it.
For the next several minutes I hiked along the river with some ducks as my only company. The sun was finally now peeking fully over the horizon which allowed me to take in this rather massive bridge:
The Hockanum folks says that it was “built by the Cheney Technical School Students IN THEIR SHOP and trucked here.” I’m not sure why they are yelling at us, but thank you to the kids who put this thing together for hikers’ enjoyment.
As I mentioned, there are a few route choices along the way. In wetter times, there are often “upper routes” available to avoid getting muddy feet. The only problem with taking those routes, which I didn’t, is that you’d miss these wondrous bridges and boardwalks and – oh just you wait…
As the trail approaches it’s northern reaches, there is an option to hike out a gravel road towards some apartments and then down New State Road. I have no idea why you would choose that route unless you live up there or something.
Staying down near the river, you can go check out “Sycamore Park” which is… a little area with a few large sycamores down by the river.
True story: as I passed the gravel road up to the town paved road, there are some little municipal buildings and stuff there. There was a white van and people were milling about. Mind you, it was 16 degrees and pretty early on a Sunday. So, it appeared to me, that yes, someone was literally living in a van down by the river.
But like I said, I avoided that area. Up next was Daffodil Island. I’m sure Daffodil Island is wondrous in May. (Although I believe they’ve only planted a handful of bulbs by the benches.) If you’re looking for a true “island experience,” you’re not going to get that here. this thing stretches the definition of what an island truly is.
After the island and across yet another bridge, I was treated to the best part of the New State Trail. I alluded to this earler – and I’d seen it from the other side of the river on my way up…
Yes! This is pure Andean stuff here in urban Manchester near the highway. A ladder has been secured into the eroding hillside to take hikers down (or up) the steep slope.
It’s an actual ladder. And it’s been part of the New State Road Trail for years. Once to the bottom of it and now truly heading back towards my car, the trail utilizes a string of precariously placed planks (with handrails again!) perched about the meandering Hockanum.
And fun! These things go one for a few hundred feet too, before the trail sort of settles down in some floodplain and open areas near the power lines.
Phew! That was fun.
The remainder of the the trail is flat somewhat convoluted with the power lines and multiple choices through the fields, just before reconnecting with the river again to take me back to my car.
Once again, I was blown away with the time and effort that the builders put into these trails. Continuing north, you may choose either the Hackett or Hilliard Trail.