Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hop River Trail Bridge, Andover, CT

Hop River Trail Bridge
You'll have to forgive me for the number of relatively local bridges I'll be posting about for awhile; it's summer, and I've been building up strength from daily bicycle commuting so that I can get to some of the bridges along the Connecticut greenways. Such as today's bridge, the Hop River Trail Bridge in Andover.

The Hop River Trail is a "rails to trails" project that runs along the right of way of the old Providence, Hartford and Fishkill Railroad. These rails-to-trails paths are fantastic for a walk, jog, or bike ride. The Hop River Trail begins in Manchester and runs all the way to Willimantic. The first time I tried to follow the trail all the way, I got stopped right here in this spot, in Andover, because this bridge was not there and all I could do was carry my bike down the hill and look for the trail to begin on the other side. I never did reconnect with it. Even today, there is no clear path up the other side. The people from the east end of the trail must have been equally stymied by what I understand was called the "Andover Gap".

Portal to the bridge (and my bike!)
This Howe truss bridge was built, years ago, in a factory by Echo Bridge in Elmira, NY. There it sat while Andover moved its slow way toward getting the old railroad bridge abutments reinforced and the bridge upgraded to meet changing safety standards. It was finally trucked here and lifted into place back in April of this year. I added it to my mental list of bike-accessible bridges and forgot entirely about it. Which is what happens to mental lists.

Reminded by Dale Travis' covered bridge lists, I plotted out the 31 mile round trip and had a wonderful time this morning. This really is a great trail, and a covered bridge along the way is just dessert. (I didn't go all the way to Willimantic today because it's supposed to get into the 90s... and a 50 mile round trip was pushing it, I felt.)

Detail of the Howe truss
Trail parking is available at several points near the bridge; if you're arriving by car, there is parking just past the east end of the bridge. The trail head is in Manchester, but there is a huge parking lot where the Vernon/Rockville spur meets up with the Hop River Trail. I've never actually been to the far end of the trail and have no idea what the conditions are like there.

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