Lazy, summer days bring to mind walks by the river. And, that sentiment holds especially true in Ellington where the meandering Hockanum River flows through.
The trail system in town comprises of three different treks – each with its own unique highlights. But, I centered my hike on the Windermere Trail – a mile-and-a-half path in and out of the forest that explores the small nooks and crannies of the river and its lush surroundings.
The hike follows the river downstream and shadows an old rail bed via a level trek into the woods. Peppered along the winding trail and its offshoots are a handful of benches in choice spots that allow hikers a moment to rest and enjoy the river.
My favorite spots are usually by the water and this trail doesn’t disappoint. A large pond full of cattails offers some of its own highlights. And, another spot just atop a knoll gives hikers a view of the river and marsh – although by this time of year it’s a bit obstructed because of the greenery.
A side trail here takes hikers deeper into the swamp. But, it ends abruptly in a cluster of overgrowth that is impassable most of the year.
The area also has a rich, industrial history that can be seen just off the main trail and into the marsh. That’s where remnants of decades-old excavations can be found - most likely from the hey-dey of railroad construction during the 1800s.
The industrial vibe is just as strong further down the main path as it wanders behind an industrial park. Blueberry bushes and vernal pools are said to dot the area. And, although I had no trouble finding the pools of water, I couldn’t quite spot the blueberries.
A footbridge carried me from the woods to a brief clearing before sending me back into the tree line. It offers another view of a pond and its wildlife (including a black snake I found seeking cover from the hot sun).
Despite all the wonderful tidbits on this trek, the true star of this journey is the river itself. I followed its curvy march closely. The trees by its bank offered a cool reprieve from the steamy, summer air. And, I reveled in the time spent listening to the Hockanum’s slow bubble downstream.
There are many moments like this to choose from. So, pick wisely and enjoy…….because your journey back to modern life is just around the corner.
Trail Directions: Take I-84 E to Exit 64-65 for CT-83 N. Turn left onto Thrall Rd. Turn left onto Dart Hill Rd. Turn right onto Skinner Rd. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto CT-286 S. Turn right onto Windermere Ave. Parking is on the right.
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy