Hockanum River Trail: Pitkin, Manchester
~1 mile, 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 Adams Mill 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.
Sprinkled in the rather excellent HRWA trails in Manchester are a few… let’s say… less exciting ones. Hackett, Hilliard, and this one. Now, by 2027 this may very well be remedied. These shorter trails may be connected to longer trails, thus making the Hockanum River Trail network one continuous stretch from the Connecticut River in East Hartford up into Ellington.
More or less.
Regardless, the Pitkin Trail exists as it is and we hiked it.
Starting at the parking lot at the southwestern end of Union Pond, we crossed Union Street and headed into the woods along the Hockanum River.
The HRWA, an organization I’ve come to love through these urban trails, describes the Pitkin Trail thusly:
This trail is one of the most scenic, hilly and tranquil of all those along the Hockanum River. The path winds through a lush green forest valley totally away from all intrusions of traffic noise.
I hate to be a wet blanket, but this just isn’t true. The highlight of this short out-and-back walk is a giant old pipe. But I would like them to say some more:
…past a bench with a spectacular view upstream, close to and high above the Hockanum, for very scenic vistas everywhere. The virgin forest setting is enchanting. Then the path follows behind a few homes, and then close behind the Minimart off North Main Street.
I like that. Some incredibly overstated imagery followed by the fact that the trail’s turnaround is “close behind a Minimart.” That’s the Hockanum Trail in Manchester. And that’s why it’s awesome.
As you can see from my pictures, the notion that there are “scenic vistas everywhere” is a bit crazy.
The main “attraction” along the trail are the remnants of past industry in the area. Bricks and sandstone blocks from the late 18th-century Pitkin Cotton Mill – the first in Connecticut.
After a few decades of operation, the mill was purchased by the Cheney Brothers (of course) who used the sandstone bricks to build their ribbon mill complex a few blocks away. The Cheneys built a hydroelectic complex near the trail and that’s where the giant pipe I’ve mentioned comes from.
The Pitkin Trail is unique historically as well with the existence of segments of a large steel pipe, over 6 feet in diameter, which carried water from the Union Pond Dam down to the brick Cheney Brothers power plant on North Main Street. Old timers recall seeing water spraying and freezing out of rusted holes in the pipe in the early 1900s when it was in use.
Those are some serious old-timers! Anyway, that’s the story of the pipe.
Upon returning to the parking lot, we went down the steps to view the overflow over the Union Pond dam. Calvin was more interested in checking out the “campsite” under the bridge, however. Um, son, that’s someone’s house.
Calvin was confused. And so, it was time for a life lesson on homelessness and the many reasons for it. He asked all the right questions and suggested we give the man some food. (He wasn’t “home”) so Calvin put a granola bar and a banana on his shopping cart.
I have no idea if the food remained for its intended recipient. Or if the intended recipient trusted it. (I didn’t leave a note.) But regardless, I was proud of Calvin’s sense of kindness and empathy for a guy who is living under a bridge in suburban Manchester.
I’m doing something right I guess.
Continue on to Section 16, Union Pond