Group Making Hockanum River Trail More Accessible

© The Hartford Courant   February 7, 2014
by Peter Marteka

Many of the trails on the banks of the Hockanum River twist and turn through peaceful meadows and fields, or they're low boardwalks making a way through marshes.

Then there is the Adams Mill hiking trail.

It's a trail that goes to the top of a towering railroad trestle. A path that goes along the bottom of huge sandstone cliffs and across deep gorges. A trail that passes watergates, abandoned dams, dikes and sluiceways.

"Despite being in the middle of Manchester, you feel like you are out in the middle of the wilderness," noted my trail guide and resident Jon Mercier.

Mercier and other intrepid volunteers with the Hockanum River Linear Park Committee has been working since fall on restoring part of the trail along the southeast banks of the river. It has been abandoned since the October 2011 nor'easter that brought down huge trees.

The trail runs right along the banks and disappeared when the Hockanum the "crooked and windy river" in Native American Indian language flooded and swallowed it up. The section had always been difficult to navigate no matter what time of year, Mercier noted.
Marked by small orange blazes, the northern portion of the trail begins in the parking lot of the Adams Mill Restaurant. The restaurant and the ruins along the trail are the last vestiges of the era when Peter C. Adams ran a paper mill along Hockanum's banks during the middle to late 1800s.

The entire northern portion of the trail is along the remnants of a mill pond that was created when water from the Hockanum was diverted into an extensive dike system.

The water stored behind the dikes powered the mill for years before the industry waned at the turn of the 20th century. The mill pond became a giant puddle when the floodwaters created by the Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the dam.

For Mercier, the best part of the trail is where volunteers have raised the path 2 feet above the floodplain to make it easier to hike. Fallen trees were cut away and the soil from their rootballs used to fill in sections of the trail. Ropes, handrails and handgrips were attached to trees, giving hikers a much-needed boost.

"It has really been a team effort," he said. "We never formally stop working out here. If it is too snowy or too cold, we just all meet and have coffee and share stories. But when it thaws, we will be out again."

The guide notes that the Adam Mill Trail is a "difficult walk, steep hills, narrow ledges, beautiful deep hemlock and pine forest, scenic sandstone gorge." So if you are up for a little adventure this winter, try the Adams Mill trail.

The trail entrance is behind the Adams Mill Restaurant at 165 Adams St. next to an old brick mill building. Follow the blazes up to the railroad trestle and then double back and walk south along Adams Street across the river to hook up with the trail along the southern section. Visit for a trail map.

Ed. Note: A montage of photographs taken during Peter Marteka's hike with Jon Mercier follows.
Click a picture to begin "walking" through them. The photos were taken by Brad Horrigan.