A gallery of trail bridges

Everywhere I hike, I benefit from trail builders and maintainers. One of the most important things they do is design, install, and maintain bridges. I’m grateful for those structures, from the deceptively simple-looking bog bridges through soggy areas to the big metal spans replacing broken-down trestles over rivers.

rail trail bridge over Merrimack River in Manchester New Hampshire
The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge, where the Piscataquog Rail Trail crosses the Merrimack River in Manchester NH.

Some of them are lovely. Some are downright homely. A few are used: there’s one metal trail span in my town that was acquired from another municipality where it was no longer needed. There are bridges over rivers and bridges over busy highways.

Erecting a bridge on a trail isn’t a simple matter of saying “let it be so.” Sometimes, wetlands permits are required. Local commissions and even the state Department of Transportation might be involved. For bog bridges, materials need to be hauled in, often some distance from the nearest trailhead. Sometimes it takes a helicopter to lower a span into place. Maintenance is a constant concern, as wood rots and metal corrodes.

Thank you to all the bridge-builders out there!

Here are photos of a few that have helped me get from point A to point B now and then. From your own travels, what are some of your favorites?

Front-Page Coverage for a Trail Adopter

I had a big smile on my face over breakfast today, reading this story from the New Hampshire Union Leader. This front-page feature fills in the story of a man I’ve encountered many times on the Piscataquog trail in Manchester. He’s a quiet, diligent trail adopter who didn’t wait to be asked before he started taking care of things.

https://www.unionleader.com/voices/city_matters/mark-hayward-s-city-matters-clearing-a-path-in-the/article_50284c96-1e10-5d66-8c98-b1341bd1a5ad.html

Favorite rail trails

I’m reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt. A description of a jam-packed campaign tour that he undertook in 1912 via rail includes Nashua, New Hampshire and Ayer, Massachusetts on a list of stops.

Hello, Nashua River Rail Trail. It appeals to my inner history buff that whenever I’m there, I’m retracing a path that was once traveled by a former President.

Who knows how many other distinguished passengers were once conveyed by rail along paths I take today? I’m sure there are stories I haven’t heard yet.

The NRRT has long been my favorite local rail trail, but the Goffstown Rail Trail along with its Piscataquog cousin in Manchester has become a contender. The connection between the Goffstown and Manchester trails was worth the wait. I’m particularly fond of the segment between West Side Arena and Danis Park Road. I get to use the pedestrian bridge that finally replaced the abandoned trestle over the Piscataquog River, and then I walk with just enough people on the trail to make it a pleasant experience. It’s a place of peace and quiet but not isolation.

I’ve yet to explore the full length of the Rockingham Recreational Trail between the Manchester/Auburn line and Newfields, but the westernmost segment alone does not disappoint with its views of Lake Massabesic.

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View from the trail’s main parking area, just south of the Massabesic traffic circle.

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Massabesic Lake seen from a boat launch along the trail: imagine the variety of birds to be seen and heard here.

My single visit to the trail along the old Troy-to-Fitzwilliam line left me determined to come back and explore more of Cheshire County’s rail trails.

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Heading from Troy to Fitzwilliam on a foggy day: silent, eerie beauty.

The Presidential Rail Trail and its crown jewel, the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, are too far away for me to visit more than once a year. An easy mile-and-a-half hike from Airport Road in Whitefield leads to one of New Hampshire’s hidden treasures.

For eight years, I’ve relied on Charles F. Martin’s comprehensive book New Hampshire Rail Trails for information about the location and history of these and other trails. You could order the book online, but I prefer finding my trail guides at local book shops. The browsing always yields new resources for planning future trips.

Re-collection

I walk for fun, to explore, to more-or-less exercise. I also walk to keep my head on straight. I wouldn’t have gotten through today without a couple of miles outside.

I’m a political critter, you see. I’ve been a campaign staffer, an activist, a blogger from the State House, to name a few pastimes. Yesterday was election day after the nastiest campaign year I’ve ever experienced.┬áThis has been a backed-up-sewer of a season.

Nothing will flush it out except time on the trails.

All I had today was time for a couple of local miles. Manchester’s Piscataquog rail trail came through for me. There were enough leaves left on the trees to serve as a canopy. The overcast sky suited me; bright sunlight would have left me with a slashing headache.

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Piscataquog trail, in another season.

Forty good minutes: enough time to escape agitation. Time to block out the noise, turn away from the news feeds, take lots of deep breaths, recall what’s important.

A man biked past me. I recognized him as the unofficial adopter of the trail, picking up bags of trash, neatly hanging fresh plastic bags every hundred yards or so. Seeing him was oddly consoling and reassuring. He has a simple, selfless volunteer’s dedication to an unsung job that consists of keeping a public area pretty.

Beat that, candidates.

Decompression is going to take awhile. Today’s walk was a good start.

 

Another NH rail trail link completed: Manchester-Goffstown

The Singer family's behind many philanthropic efforts in the Manchester area. It's fitting that the bridge carries the Singer name.

The Singer family’s behind many philanthropic efforts in the Manchester area. It’s fitting that the bridge carry the Singer name.

New Hampshire’s Piscataquog Rail Trail finally reaches across the Piscataquog River, connecting Manchester with Goffstown. I put off some workday tasks long enough to walk the trail from its east end all the way across the new bridge. With all due respect and gratitude to the many people who made the project happen (Manchester Moves and the Singer family, for starters), I didn’t stay for the ribbon-cutting and speechifyin’. Trails are for walking.

On the Manchester side, looking toward Goffstown, at long last.

On the Manchester side, looking toward Goffstown, at long last.

On the Goffstown side.

On the Goffstown side.

I call this right neighborly.

I call this right neighborly.

It was a good morning to walk along the trail all the way to the Merrimack River flowing past Manchester’s millyard. It’s mid-autumn and the foliage might be considered past peak, but it’s still beautiful as far as I’m concerned.

Second Street bridge, near east end of Piscataquog Rail Trail.

Second Street bridge, near east end of Piscataquog Rail Trail.

The Queen City: Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Queen City: Manchester, New Hampshire.

Progress on the Goffstown/Manchester NH link

Nice to see that the proposed rail trail link connecting Goffstown and Manchester is moving forward. My afternoon walk on Manchester’s west side included a stop at the end of Bremer Street to see how construction is going. The old rail trestle is gone, moving us closer to the day when we’ll have a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Piscataquog River. In the meantime, the Piscataquog trail on the Manchester side is in fine summer form, with plenty of shade.