My buddy Ralph and I have been taking occasional walks together. We’ve been looking for interesting but not to strenuous two- to three-mile routes around greater Hartford, in natural settings if we can find them. Since we live in Glastonbury and Wethersfield, we’ve focused on the Connecticut River. We haven’t been disappointed.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend recommended Riverfront Recapture’s two-bridges loop. Ralph and I met in the parking lot in Riverside Park in East Hartford. Our plan was to follow the river south to the Charter Oak Bridge, cross the river and head north along the river to the Founders Bridge, then back to our cars. About three miles, pretty flat terrain, except for stairs to climb and descend at each of the bridges.
Our plan blew up almost immediately. A few hundred yards from the parking lot, the path was flooded – springtime on the Connecticut River. We might have been able to find a way around the flooding, but not knowing the path, we didn’t know how much more flooding there would be downstream. We back-tracked and headed north to the Founders Bridge, crossed the river, walked downstream until we were across the river from our cars in the parking lot. Not knowing how badly the flooding would impair our round trip, we turned around and went back the way we came. Still about three miles, which was plenty for us.
I’ve known Ralph for a long time, and we enjoy being together and talking. We share some interests, like family and house construction and maintenance and history. We also enjoy talking about things that are passions for one of us and only of mild interest to the other, like skiing and sports and sailing. Walking along the river fuels our conversation – we regularly come upon something of interest: evidence of recent flooding, leftover artifacts from an earlier shipping or industrial activity, navigation aids, the engineering of bridges.
When Ralph and I walk along the river, we don’t talk much about national or world affairs. It’s not that we aren’t interested in those topics; instead, it seems we don’t talk about the news because our attention is drawn to the world immediately around us, the water, the river bank, the wind, the things human beings have built to access, use, or cross the river.
The river is primal. Water is at the core of survival for all beings, and our instincts take over when we’re walking along the river. This is a place where we know we can survive, where we can hunt and fish and drink, where we can find or grow food. The river seems to take us closer to who we are and takes us away from the troubles and distractions that occupy so much of our thoughts during our daily lives. The river is energizing and revitalizing.
We often remark on how long we’ve lived in greater Hartford and how little time we’ve actually spent time along the river. It’s a great resource for many people in many different ways; for us, it stimulates pleasant time together and somehow controls the pace of the walk and the talk. Not hurried, but always moving.
Joe Marfuggi knew all of this when he began his nearly lifelong dedication to promoting and building Riverfront Recapture, so that the people of greater Hartford could reconnect with the Connecticut River. I recall thinking, cynically, in the 1980s that the guy was tilting at windmills; 30+ years later I marvel at all that Riverfront has accomplished. The two-bridges loop is only one of several successful Riverfront projects. (It’s off the subject but as I have in the past, I note that Riverfront Recapture is the model for dynamic citizen activity that can lead to fundamental change in our community.)
The Connecticut River is there for all of us. Try it.