We could have chosen an easier path to take our bike, but we wanted to explore and find out how much had gotten done on the Trestle Trail portion of the path that crosses over into Connecticut. A bridge was recnetly opened over the Quinebaug River, right at the RI-CT line, taking travelers into the Mooseup Valley State Park trail in Connecticut. The rail trail right of way is clear, and we had no risk of getting lost. The raised rail bed is quite high above the surrounding land in places.
What was challenging was that the trail is really not ready for bicycles yet. Soft sand fills quite a lot of the path. Dirt bikes clearly frequent the right of way, causing deep ruts in nearby embankments. When we reached Plainfield Pike, Rt. 14A, the locked gate, meant to discourage dirt bikers, made it so we too, with our tandem bicycle, were unable to get around the gate. Other ways around the gate had been well-blocked with boulders and cement barriers. Investigating the other side of the road by foot, we found the rail trail right of way to be in very tough shape. We turned around.
However, all was not lost. On our way back, peddling along to where we had parked next to Lewis Farm Road, Coventry, RI, (only about a two mile distance from the blocked gate at 14A) we began spotting lady slippers. First one, then another, then bunches of three and more. Before we got back where we had started, we had lost count–probably thirty lady slippers bloomed right along the trail. A lovely surprise, which we had not noticed when we first passed through.
For now, this path is great for walking. We also saw a pair on horseback. Horses will do fine as well, though we do hope dirt bikes will be aware of the dangers of startling horses on a trail. We also noticed trail markings for the RI North South Trail and recall that prior to the bridge’s construction a substantial detour was required for hikers to take. The completion of the bridge makes this no longer necessary.
We parked next to the still undeveloped trail just off Lewis Farm Road in Coventry, a dirt road that turned out to be nice for riding our bike on. After getting back to our car, we decided to cross Lewis Farm road and head east on the rail right of way, closer to the finished Trestle Trail, and found even rougher going on this path. Humps and bumps from dirt bikes make this not much fun when riding a tandem. It had rained the night before, so the path was filled with large puddles.
This portion of trail had quite a lot of ballast remaining from when it supported railroads passing by. But the truly wonderful find was masses of mountain laurel along the trail and back into the adjacent woodlands. The flowers were in full blossom–truly glorious!
Some blossoms had begun falling, and nestled among the rich banks of ferns that lined the trail. While we chose to turn back, we were not sorry to have investigated this section of the trail.
We have spent a lot of time visiting nearby trails recently, so it was nice to get out and explore. Not always finding what you hoped for is part of the risk of exploring. But sometimes, when you are very lucky, you may find treasures that will keep you coming back again in the future. When this portion of rail trail is finished it will be truly spectacular. For now, it is best to explore on foot. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.