A few weeks ago my husband mentioned that he wanted to ride bikes on the High Bridge Trail. “The what?” I asked and he went on to describe a state park, less than an hour and a half from our house that is 31 miles of trail, built in the path of an old (think mid-1800s) rail line. The highlight of which, as the name indicates, is the High Bridge. Also part of the old rail line, the bridge is about a half mile in length and places you eye level with the tops of the trees.
So last Saturday morning, I found myself cruising over the bridge, with a cool damp, not-quite-yet-fall breeze in my face, surrounded by a sea of green. We went early and the trail was mostly quiet. It was so very different than the city riding I’m accustomed to, where you’re always on alert for traffic, and opening car doors, and cell-phone distracted pedestrians. Alone on the trail we were free to ride slow, look around.
There are two overlooks on the bridge, where you can pull off for even more in-depth observation. Looking down the line of the bridge you could see the previous brick supports, as well as the current iron trusses that held the bridge in place. It was fascinating to think of all the incarnations of the space, from lower, brick supported track, the the higher iron supports, to the wooden slats added to allow for crossing on bike, foot and horseback.
The trail beyond the bridge on either side is long and straight and as you ride it’s easy to imagine you’re on a train, watching the miles of green trees pass outside your window. It’s simultaneously haunting and lovely, to think about the others who traveled so many years before you. The world has changed in ways that would be unfathomable to them, and yet this path through the countryside likely looks very much the same. My husband and I travelled this path on the eve of our 12th wedding anniversary, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories the passengers on those trains had carried. Celebrations, heartbreak, war, love. I imagine the stories aren’t all that different from those that travel the line today. Past and present bridged.
Speaking of haunting and lovely — as referenced in the title of this post: