September 15, 2020

At first, the trail is narrow and rough.


Not all those who wander are lost.



The Southern New England Trunk Line Trail, or SNETT, was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1994.  It was built on a segment of the New Haven Railroad’s Midland Division, which operated between Boston and Putnam, CT.  Today, SNETT runs west 22 miles from Franklin, Massachusetts, to the Connecticut state line just south of Webster.  From the Northeastern Connecticut state border, the trail is known as the Air Line Rail Trail and runs a further 54.6 miles west to East Hampton, CT, in the middle of the state.  That’s a total of 76.6 miles of trail!  I’m tempted to walk the rest of it one day, but for now, we’re going to walk only that part that runs from less than a mile from the Connecticut border to Franklin.  It is level, fairly straight and paved with gravel – at least the part of it that we’re following today.  Many believe that the railroad tracks were laid for commuting from northern Connecticut to northern Massachusetts.  In fact, the route was used to haul ice from Wallum Lake, south of Douglas, to Connecticut.  The route was originally planned as a regular railroad, but its financier died when the Titanic sank in April 1912.

Our end point is Douglas, about 7.8 mile away.  Douglas was settled by English settlers in 1715 and the name of Douglas was given to the territory of the town in 1746.  It was named after a prominent Boston doctor, Dr. William Douglass who gave some money to the residents to develop the town.  The surrounding forest gave rise to a woodcutting industry and the Douglas axe company.  There was also a woolen manufacturing company that was prominent in the history of the place.  General Lafayette stopped in Douglas during the Revolutionary War, to change horses, on his way to join General Washington in Boston.  Today, Douglas has a population of 8,794 and lies in the 5,907-acre Douglas State Forest, a state recreational area.

We start out on Mike’s Way and the temperature is a pleasant 65 degrees or so.  It rained during the night and the ground is damp, but there aren’t any large puddles of standing water.  We walk less than a mile and we come across the SNETT.  The trail is paved with gravel and isn’t muddy at all.  The roadbed runs in a straight line as far as the eye can see, dissolving in the distance into a haze of foliage.  The bed is raised above the surrounding swampland and lined with trees and bushes.  The shade they provide is contiguous except where the trail runs through the surrounding swamp.  I expected it to be very buggy, but, although there were some mosquitoes, it wasn’t bad at all.

Waldo’s demeanor changes a lot as we walk along.  He’s paying attention to what’s around him and picking up sticks to carry along as he trots his way down the path.  He’s wagging his tail and he’s no longer pulling so hard at the end of the leash.  You can tell he’s having a good time.  The shade and a light breeze add to the cooler temperatures for a really pleasant trip.  We work up a bit of a sweat, but nothing like what we were doing in the recent past.  Waldo drinks the water I offer him only once and doesn’t drink much.

The four of us walk along, the humans exchanging pleasantries as we go.  Christine finds a sassafras leaf and a clinker, a bit of steam locomotive coal, and we talk about each.  Christine is very observant and notices a lot I pass by in ignorance.

We pass four other people on our way to Douglas.  Three are out walking their dogs.  They are local residents who use the trail often.  Before I got Waldo, I had no idea how nice it was to have a good trail to walk on nearby to where I live.  And these trails are all over the country.  Whoever came up with the idea is a genius.  The fourth person we passed was a fisherman towing a kayak on a trolley to a small lake that abuts the trail.

The rest of our journey into Douglas is on a bed that’s raised some forty feet above the surrounding forest with manmade landfill.  That must have taken a lot of effort and money to accomplish.  We end our walk in a forest.  Looking to the east, I can see what the next leg of our journey looks like.  It’s verdant, fecund and shady.

That walk is something I, and I’m sure, Waldo, are looking forward to.


In places, the trail widens and is gravel.

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