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Wandering Out to the CT-MA-RI Tri-State Marker

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugLocated just shy of the Massachusetts border, the northernmost section of Connecticut's Air Line State Park Trail can be found near the intersections of East Thompson Road and New Road in the Quiet Corner section of the state. The 50-mile linear former rail bed passes through eleven towns in eastern Connecticut - East Hampton, Colchester, Hebron, Columbia, Lebanon, Windham, Chaplin, Hampton, Pomfret, Putnam, and Thompson - and is divided into sections designated South (22 miles: East Hampton to Windham), North (21 miles: Windham to Putnam), and the Thompson addition (6.6 miles: Thompson to the Massachusetts state line.)

The popular greenway that is now used by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders was once upon a time the site of the Boston and New York Air-Line Railroad (later the New York and New England Railroad (NY&NE) carrying passengers on what was then the most direct route from Boston to New York or vice versa. The rail line opened in 1873 and underwent various owners until the rails were entirely abandoned in 1965. After the State of Connecticut acquired the property, the first part of the Rail Trail from Route 66 in Windham  to Route 44 in Pomfret opened to the public in 1969 as a bridle trail. The Thompson section, which runs from Route 12 to the Massachusetts state line in Douglas, was opened in 1992 though work is still in progress in places and some parts of the trail still have the original rail ballast which makes it a bit of a challenge to walk on. However, if you go in the correct direction to reach the CT-MA-RI Tri-State Marker, you won't run into that problem.


Just north of New Road, you'll see a sandy parking area along with the above-pictured kiosk that provides visitors with a bit of information about the Tri-State Marker, the rules for using the trail, a map (that I failed to pay close attention to the first time I decided I was going to try to stand in three states at the same time), and even more interesting - information about the biggest event that ever occurred right near this particular spot - the Great East Thompson Train Wreck of 1891.

Now anyone who knows me at all knows that not only do I love history but I also love trains (a trait I believe I inherited from my beloved maternal grandfather) but rather than go into the whole story myself and make this even more long-winded than I'm sure it will be, I'm going to point you in the direction of a terrific website that not only tells the story of the Great East Thompson Train Wreck in a way that even non-history lovers will find compelling but offers a lot of great information on other places to check out in the Nutmeg State.  Steve's post on his own CTMQ journey out to the Tri-State Marker is what inspired me to make my own trek out there - once I read the directions a bit more carefully and got myself pointed in the proper direction that is.

Anyhow, once you park your car and take a gander at the information kiosk, turn to your right and look across the street.  See that yellow gate up the slight incline on the opposite side of the road? That's the direction you want to go and NOT past the other yellow trail gate that is to your left.  It's a lovely walk if you go that way but trust me, it will not get you anywhere near the Tri-State Marker - at all. Instead it takes you in the complete opposite direction. Oops.


Once you go up that slight incline, you'll find yourself on a very straight and very flat former rail bed that is quite wide and easy to traverse as demonstrated by cousin Amy in the photo below.


Roughly a quarter of a mile - give or take - down the trail you'll come across a pretty cool old wooden trestle that crossed over the railway.  I haven't been able to find any information about it (as of this writing) but it's definitely a pretty awesome trestle and - heeding Steve's advice on CTMQ - I made my way up the somewhat slippery bank so that I could take a look around from the top.

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Even though it's definitely seen better days and looks pretty rickety, the trestle was actually quite sturdy as long as you weren't up there dancing a jig or stepping where the obviously missing boards should have been.  Not that either myself or Amy walked all that far out but we did venture a bit out on the boards for photographic purposes only! Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, let me just add that the acorns that were laying around all over the place on the trail were HUGE!  There are no doubt some very happy squirrels this year!

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Back down on the trail take a look up at the bottom of the trestle and you can see that it still looks pretty sturdy. I'd love to know what this trestle was originally used for, I'm pretty sure it couldn't have been used by the railroad for trains as it wouldn't have been sturdy enough plus the trails on either side were pretty narrow, curvy, and rocky so perhaps it was a car bridge? Hopefully someone out there knows and would be willing to solve the mystery.


I should point out that when Steve of CTMQ originally visited the area back in 2011, he mentioned that the trail past the trestle was not at all flat and was almost like walking on a rollercoaster. That's no longer the case as since then they've obviously done some trail work as it was quite flat all the way out to the Connecticut-Massachusetts State Line Marker where one turns to follow the path out to the Tri-State Marker.


Speaking of following the path out to the marker, don't be fooled by this one side trail that sports a blue mark on the trees standing guard. As Obi-Wan Kenobi might say "This is not the trail you want" as even though it will get you out to the Tri-State Marker eventually, it will do so via a very steep and winding path that will have you embracing your inner mountain goat in no time flat as it's not flat!  Amy and I were lured in by the deceptive blue marks as we guesstimated that we had walked about 7/10ths of a mile in and because I hadn't remembered that we were supposed to see a state line marker along the path near where we were supposed to turn.  We ended up getting turned around a couple of times but eventually we were probably on the right path to reach the marker though we were beginning to think we should have brought rappelling gear.


Halfway up the hilly ravine pictured in the photo above on the right we decided to turn around and head back to the main trail and see what we could find a bit further down from where we turned off. A couple of moments later guess what we found?


Sigh ...

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

We stopped for a few photos with the state marker - Amy stood in Massachusetts while I took her photo from Connecticut - and then continued up the rather narrow rock-strewn path towards our ultimate goal.


At times the trail didn't even look like a trail as it seemed like there may have been a couple of rock slides here and there and a few times Amy asked if maybe we should have turned off somewhere along the way. I told her that nope, we just needed to keep going as there was the occasional blue mark on a tree here and there along with even one or two blue blazes marking Massachusetts state forest land but other than that there wasn't much to go by.

Finally we achieved success and there it was - the 3.9 foot granite marker with the pyramid shaped top (all told it's actually 9 feet so there's a LOT of it underground!) inscribed with the names of the states and the date 1883 that designates the point where Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island come together. Yahoo!

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

We'd barely had a chance to dance around from state to state in single bounds snapping photos and such when Mother Nature decided to have a little fun with us and it started raining. Seriously? Now? Fortunately it wasn't a major deluge but we figured we'd best head back before it became one.

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Walking down past the survey marker telling us that there was a marker ahead (yea, thanks!) we made our way back down the now wet but thankfully not too slippery trail and came back out on the Air Line Trail where it had stopped raining for the time being.  Had the weather been nicer, we could have taken a right and gone further into Massachusetts to see what we could see but not wanting to take the chance of the rain reprieve giving way, we made our way back down the trail, under the trestle, and back to the car.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I'm attaching a copy of the map that appears on the kiosk across the street from where one enters the trail and have outlined the area where the Tri-State Marker is located as well as tossed in a few arrows for ease of direction purposes.  The large blue arrow is where the parking area and kiosk is located and the red arrow is where the marker itself is. All told it's probably just a little over a mile to get out there even though the map indicates that it's only about 9/10th of a mile - I'm not sure how much extra mileage one adds if you take that first trail that entices you with its blue-marked trees but I think it's definitely a bit further that way.

It's really not a bad hike though and if someone like myself who is definitely not athletic can make it out there and back without needing medical assistance or a courteous Boy Scout to lead me back, then I think pretty much anyone can do it as long as you don't have any medical restrictions that make slightly strenuous exercise difficult. Now that we've made it out to this one, I wonder if I can talk my cousin into searching out a few more state markers with me? Hmmmm ....


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