I had the most incredible experience and all it took was just over-an-hour bike ride.
After a long hard day, I decided to take a ride about town. I wasn’t sure how far I could get before it became dark but I thought I’d give it my best effort. I rode through the downtown and decided to trek west on Merrimack Street past Mr. India and the Clipper City Rail Trail.
I detoured down through Cashman Park and watched briefly all the different activities going on – children in the playground, a baseball game and people just enjoying the views of the river.
Then I continued back on Merrimack Street and briefly ogled the Dreadnaught Memorial that sits at the bottom of Ashland Street. Then I peddled on and eventually viewed Pioneer Park just filled with players and their parents.
I then continued on past a forest (Now the location of Vinyl Village.) This was the site of a mysterious battle that occurred during the Revolutionary War. It was more a quick skirmish than a full-blown attack, but I simply can’t find anything about it. But looking at the steep rise from the river, I realized that if a British landing party had tried to come ashore here, they were definitely at a distinct disadvantage against local farmers and militiamen. Before it was decimated, the forest on this hill was considered historically notable – I first learned of its importance from when the lead star, Robert Urich, of “Spencer for Higher” fame had to run through it on the way back from the river. (He had jumped off the Chain Bridge) Some ‘article’ I had read recounted the battle.
Alas, one of the things about this City is how well it keeps its mysteries.
I thought, “How many cities can have this much history and layers of it and it is still visible for all to see?”
I peddled on to the Chain Bridge and experienced something that I have never had the privilege of doing – sitting down in the center of the bridge looking up and down the mighty Merrimack. Sometimes some experiences can just be momentous! No cars! No hurry! I literally soaked it up. I then stared mournfully at the large cranes hanging over the Hines Bridge.
Then I peddled up Spofford Street and headed for busy Storey Avenue. I was very annoyed that a sidewalk was installed that was in terrible shape – overgrown and underbrush – but I was determined to take it until I spilled onto the main drag. I rode down to the Park n’ Ride and crossed over to the Little River Nature Trail.
Within moments, all the hustle and bustle of cars were left behind me.
I rode down the bike path and the next thing I knew I felt miles away from civilization – and Route 95 was just a few hundred yards to my right! A very large hawk landed on a tree just above me and scolded me for a few minutes with his piercing cry. I looked around to see if a nest was nearby but could see nothing. I couldn’t tell if I was being warned or being lectured!
I continued down the beautifully maintained path past a sign for a Natural Heritage vernal pool and continued on until I heard ducks loudly quacking to my right. I thought I was in a forest so I parked my bike and walked over…and was face to face with a beaver and one of his or her little kits! SLAP! came the water and they were gone in a flash. I stood alone in front of a huge beaver dam and a goodly size body of water. Then some large animal was moving about to my right and I became nervous and backed out of there.
I walked north to an observation deck and looked down – more beavers! (And another slap of the tail and they were gone).
I could hear the heavy trucks on Route 95 behind me and yet I felt I was in Canada!
I finished up the bike path and returned to civilization via Hale Street.
As darkness finally fell, I began to think. What other City can you think of can have so much nature so close and yet still be a City? Ocean, river, pond, forest and wetlands*. And of course, we can’t forget the Common Pasture and the Great Marsh.
* And we even have a mountain! (Mount Lavender)