Sunday, May 23, 2010

Over Hill, Over Dale

Honestly, anytime I venture into Farmington, I am surprised by its existence. That's how far from my daily consciousness the place is. A colleague once spoke of how the trails enabled her father to have an easy commute to work-- a factoid I quickly forgot as this little world had no relevance to my own. Then, after a different coworker raved about the trails -- she is over 60, had not ridden in a long time, and decided to hop on the trails one day, during which she easily, effortlessly rode about 20 miles -- I felt more inspired to see what exists on the other side of Death Avon Mountain.

She directed me to take Route 44, then Route 10, and park in a lot that would be visible fairly quickly. I found the Farmington Valley Trails Council site and stared at the intricate maps for awhile before having a duh moment. She meant going from her house on Route 44, not from Hartford. Finding the parking lot was probably the simplest navigation-related part of this adventure, and before I start hearing all kinds of judgment, Interstatement challenged me to bike to the trail from home before the end of summer. At the lot in Avon, we tried to plan our route by using the posted maps to guide us. In the future, we will print out maps to take along. Some sections of the trail were well-marked; others, not so much. I found myself yearning for the faded ECG emblems painted on the sidewalk in Hartford, if that tells you anything. The most confusing section we encountered was in an area undergoing construction. We kept looking for where the trail continued, only to learn later that we were riding a segment that uses the road. This stretch was not terribly long, but when you have no clue where the trail may or may not pick up, such things seem like an eternity. Just as I was ready for a fullblown meltdown (feeling lost, riding in direct sunlight, and having to pee), we arrived at Stratton Brook State Park. There, we found shade, the path, and a restroom with running water, hallelujah. This park has a beach, places to kill/torture fish, and a few cool bridges. Our original plan was to ride in a loop, going through Collinsville and so forth. So, we continued out of the park, expecting to find clear trails once more. This did not happen. We rode down a very rural road past about ten firetrucks, casually parked there, as if it were their natural setting. Just as I thought I could hear Dueling Banjos in the distance, we came to another small park with picnic tables and a sports field. There was a cool playground that was absolutely deserted.
I find it utterly depressed that kids would rather go to the newfangled plastic-everything-no-sharp-edges-playgrounds than to a little one (next to an equally deserted pond) where there is a metal backhoe with which to dig in the sand. It used to be that getting a bruised knee or removing a splinter was a routine event. Now, if a kid so much as has access to a metal slide, people panic. Being raised in a culture of fear makes it understandable why children are prone to obesity and videogame addiction; they simply are not allowed to have real fun.
We biked a little past the playground to see if there were any signs indicating where we were or if this was the trail. As the road turned into gravel, with no sign of ending, we said to hell with it and turned around. On the way back, we caught more of the bike trail that ran through Stratton Brook. Originally, we had missed the loop turn and had taken the trail North. It looks like it goes to or beyond the stateline, but we did not make it quite that far. This section runs along/through another park and has nice views of the Farmington River. I noted the picnic table which could come in handy on another day.

I was taken aback by how many cyclists were using this trail, as well as how many riders get their kicks apparently training for some race or another. If I want to sweat, I'll just ride downtown during Friday evening rush hour.

We obviously aborted our original plan, but shall return, at least to see if we can navigate the other half of the loop we did not quite get to attempt.