Sunday, September 17, 2006
On a shelf by my desk down in our finished basement is an old, well-worn copy of "Autumn Across America" by Edwin Way Teale. A prolific writer and naturalist, Teale wrote several volumes about lengthy trips that he undertook, in the company of his wife, across various stretches of the United States. With a novelist's eye for detail, a warm, congenial approach to the local inhabitants, and a passion for birdlife, Teale uses his words to reach out, grab your hand, and tug you along every highway and dirt road he wanders.
Inspired by Teale's concept for enlightening the hearts of the common woman or man, I wanted to create a similar journey. My journeying being limited by my employment as a teacher, I conceived of a plan to paddle a one mile stretch of the Farmington River each day this autumn and to write these notes on a daily basis as they become apparent to me by my experiences.
The Farmington River is an amazing stretch of water that rises in south-central Massachusetts and winds its way south into the rural regions west of Hartford in Connecticut. Due to geologic change during the past ice age, the river bends sharply to the North in the town of Farmington, passes through Avon and Simsbury as a placid flow and then hurtles through a gap in the Talcott Ridge before discharging its waters into the Connecticut River in the town of Windsor.
I live in Simsbury in a small home separated from the river by Hopmeadow Street and the bicycle path that was once part of a passenger/freight rail system that ran through this part of the state. I can walk out my door and be down by the water within a few minutes. The river's influence in this town is significant. It bisects Simsbury in a north/south direction and is crossed by only four bridges within the town limits. When the river floods, town athletic fields are submerged, a few local farms are impacted, and, occasionally, some short stretches of road become impassable. Many residents cross the river twice each day on their daily commute into Hartford, and most have spent some time either on the river or alongside its banks enjoying the various New England seasons.
I hope to post a few photos each day along with my musings about the sights, sounds, and smells of each paddle. I welcome comments and even requests that might emerge as the story unfolds. Autumn is at my doorstep, the harvest moon is on its way, and a mile along an American river is about to become a day-to-day adventure.