View from the White Trail bluff
Longtime Connecticut resident and former world heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney once said that “to enjoy good health, you must exercise.”
Tunney was right and Cromwell residents know this first hand. The town is home to a half dozen indoor workout facilities and there are more options in neighboring towns. However, the real question is---where can Cromwellians go if they want to exercise while enjoying the abundant sunshine that our solar deity bestows on us each summer?
Luckily the town offers a few beautifully landscape parks for the residence to visit. Pierson Park is centrally located and gives locals a place to work out those winter kinks with a variety of activities. Park goers can be seen walking the paved path around the park or playing basketball, softball, football, and the occasional game of cricket.
Watrous Park offers the same activities and also includes tennis courts, volleyball, and a wider variety of walking trails. It also features a skate park for those looking to emulate Marty McFly. Both parks are kids friendly and have options for the whole family.
The town’s parks are a great way to get in a quick workout or to spend an afternoon watching the kids work off that sugar high. But if you’re looking for a higher elevation and a more relaxing atmosphere, the place to visit is River Highland State Park.
The park is nicely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city and offers hiking, breathtaking views, and a lot of history. The park is relatively new, becoming a state park in 2001, but the historical significance of the land dates back hundreds of years when steamboats would patrol the Connecticut River, which is the backdrop to this great park.
The modest park is 172 total acres and approximately five miles in distance if you walk, run, or crawl all of the well-manicured trails. There are routes for all fitness levels and a map at the park’s entrance indicates the length and direction of each trail. All of the trails are well marked and the paths are maintained better than some state roads.
Getting to the park is a bit of a chore, but it’s worth the difficulty due to the charm and beauty that awaits you. The easiest route to the park is to turn on Golf Club Road off of Route 99. Take a right onto Field Road at the end of Gold Club Road and you’ll pass the TPC River Highland Golf, which hosts the Travelers Championship each year. Field Road will turn right in another mile and the park entrance is located just beyond the railroad tracks. The park’s sign cannot be seen from the road so, if you’re like me, you may pass this hidden gem a handful of times before arriving at your destination. There is plenty of room for parking and, even though it’s a state park, there is no fee, which is great for those on an exercising budget.
Once at the park you will see a color-coded map of the area. Keep in mind that this is the only map available, but no need to worry it’s nearly impossible to get lost. I find it useful to take a photo of the trail map on my phone before beginning the hike. This way you can refer back to the picture if you get lost in the woods. But remember, don't text and hike. It not against the law, but Mother Earth frowns upon it.
The park has several trails to choose from, each offering their own uniqueness. The white trail will take you to the ridgeline and give you the best views. There are several spots along this trail to stop and snap spectacular photos of the river from a bird’s eye view. From these lookout points you can see the sandy shoreline below, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can scale down the side of the crevasse to reach the sand. The decline is deceptively steep and there is a safer, more direct route to reach the water.
The yellow trail is the most direct to the river’s edge and follows a quaint stream through the woods. The trail branches off of the white trail and, after a series of narrow wooden bridges, will lead you to the camping area located directly in front of the river. The campsite features picnic tables, fire pits, and an outhouse filled with spiders the size of silver dollars. Kayakers and canoers are permitted to camp in this area for a nominal fee.
This area of the trail is also rich in history and surrounded by controversy. The high bluffs and sudden descent down to the shoreline create a geological phenomenon called a blowhole. On certain days a whistling sound can be heard that is either the act of good or evil depending on who you asked. Tradition is that the Native American would visit this location to hear the “wind being caught by the spirt of the earth.” However, original colonist called this spot the Devil’s Blowhole, believing that it was an act of Satan. Who’s right, who knows? It might be best to Ask Jeeves to settle this longstanding debate.
The other trails, which include the red and green trails, will take you deep into the woods. They are nice hikes as well, but the bugs during the summer will eat you alive if you’re unprotected by repellent. A few of the bugs are so big you’d swear they were SyFy original’s Mansquito himself.
The worst of the bugs are the hippelates, also known as eye flies, which sole purpose seems to be landing on corneas. These little pests travel in packs and the only way to avoid them is by wearing swimming/skiing goggles or by closing your eyes. The latter is not recommended.
Bugs aside, all of the trails have their own challenges. A few offer steep ascents that will get your heart pumping. One particle section of the white trail will take you up a vertical incline until you are on the backside of the TPC golf course. Here you can watch golfers hack their way out of sand traps. Golf claps are allowed, but not required.
Now that you’re equipped with the needed information it’s time to go outside and experience this great local land by exploring River Highland Park. Bring your kids, bring your dog, but don’t forget to also bring a Costco-sized bottle of bug repellent for the whole family to share. Whether you’re an exercise enthusiast or avid bird watcher this is the best location to experience and climb Cromwell.
There are several places to go in and around Rocky Hill if you’re looking to work up a good sweat. Whether you enjoy running, biking, or just want to head out for a leisurely stroll, the town has several routes that can help you scratch that exercise itch.
The Silas Deane Highway offers a good option for those looking to get outside and burn calories while enjoying the sites of beautiful downtown Rocky Hill. The long stretch of highway offers wide sidewalks on both sides of the street with plenty of businesses to keep your eyes busy as your muscles work their magic. It is also a conduit to several side streets, which provide exercise enthusiasts many options for scenery changes.
However, those looking for the best scenery should look no further than the Rocky Hill Meadows. This is the best place in town to get your arms and legs pumping, without having to worry about dodging the traffic which fills the local roadways on a daily basis.
The meadows can be easily accessed from the Ferry Park, which offers ferry service between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury and is the oldest running ferry service in the United States. It is here that you can enjoy the glistening glow of the Connecticut River before setting out for your jogging journey. Parking at the park is plentiful and, most importantly, free!
Just beyond the ferry launch is the beginning of Great Meadow Road, which is where your fun run will start. The road is mostly loose gravel and is shared with motorized vehicles, but there is enough space for everyone, including the occasional deer or other forms of wildlife that can been seen along the trek.
The road is open from dusk until dawn and, although the route is mainly farmland, it offers a variety of sights and sounds for those who love the distraction while working off that second helping of Aunt Ethel’s pork belly macaroni salad.
About a mile and a half into the run you’ll have a chance to witness a small-scale airshow put on by local aviation aficionados. Weekend warriors gather during the mornings and afternoons to launch their remote controlled model aircrafts. It’s your chance to see airplanes take off and land without the annoyances of airport security telling you to remove your running shoes. This is also the one spot on the trail where porta potties dwell, so plan accordingly.
After the pintsized airport, you can continue down Great Meadow Road or you can turn left onto North Meadow Lane, which will take you passed one of the only places in the state for motocrossers to rev their engines. You can dash by as motorcyclist jump their bikes over a series of dirt mounds. It’s just like the classic arcade game ‘Excitebike’--- only real!
If you choose to skip the motocross excitement, you can stay on Great Meadow Road which eventual veers left onto Elm Street Extension. This segment of the trail runs alongside the majestic Connecticut River and offers the tranquil sound of flowing water. This section of the route is also well-shaded and the ground becomes sandy. Elm Street Extension eventually forks and if you continue down Elm Street you’ll end up at the historic Wethersfield Green.
If you take a right at the fork, the road turns into 2nd Lane and you’ll reach a “T” intersection, where it becomes Great Meadow Road again. If you go right at this point you will encounter a shooting range, normally occupied by several people in camouflage. If you choose to go left, you’ll eventually find yourself within a stone’s throw of the Wethersfield DMV.
Overall, the entire trail is very pleasant and can be enjoyed by people of all fitness levels due to its relatively flat terrain. It is also a great place to bring your dog for a walk or watch the sun set over the high tree line as you channel your inner-child by testing out that new pogo stick.
Here are a few considerations before setting out on your exercising excursion.
Now that we have covered all the bases it is time to go out and enjoy some summer fitness in Rocky Hill. Happy running and remember to yield to the wildlife, because the deer that you save may be your own.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin