Along the Air Line... 2015-2016 - Winter, Part 1
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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Stan Malcolm Photo



December 23rd.  A Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola).  A first for me on Raymond Brook Marsh!  Remarkable after over 14 years walking the trail most days.



His presence today likely due to the unusually warm weather we've had this fall.  Normally, they would only be at the coast or on ice-free rivers.



Otherwise, the only ducks around were the resident Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).



Duck hunter on the channel side (north).  Duck season ends on January 9th; Canada Geese may hunted until January 23rd.  (Thankfully, the Bufflehead was on the broad southern section and took off away from the hunter.)



December 24th.  Foggy and misty morning but 61 degrees on Christmas Eve!  (67 this afternoon.)



No ducks today.















December 26th.  A touch of pre-dawn color.









Midday at the farmyard near Cranberry Bog in East Hampton.  Potential renters checking out the property?






Duck seems sold.



December 27th.  Light breeze causing ripples on the channel side of Raymond Brook Marsh.









Watercress, or Bittercress?  Submerged in a trailside ditch; a nice pattern of green.



December 29th.  First snow of the season, rapidly turning to slush and rain predicted for later today.















No ice on the marsh, but no waterfowl either.






December 31st.  Partial clearing just after dawn.  Placid.






Exploring new construction on the trail, starting near Kingsley Road in Lebanon.



Walking east towards the Willimantic River.  Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) "hips".



Side trail following power lines near the bridge.



The bridge has been decked!  Still some finishing work to do before opening ceremonies in the spring.






Downtown Willimantic where the Air Line Trail extends to Bridge Street.  (The paved section at the right.)



Heading in the other direction towards the Willimantic River Bridge and Lebanon, you first pass the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum.



Closed for the winter, I took a couple of photos through the chain link fence.



Periodically, the Museum offers night "Photo Shoots" where volunteers dress in period wear and pose beside restored equipment lit by high powered flash equipment.  Check them out at and follow the Special Events link to see night photo shoot samples.



Further on, you approach the bridge from the Willimantic side.



The paved path to the right is the link to the Hop River Trail that extends through Bolton to Manchester and Vernon.



That's the newly completed Hop River Trail section seen from the bridge.



And here's the bridge from the Willimantic side.






Turning back towards Willimantic, the Hop River Trail leads off to the left while the Air Line Trail courses right to downtown Willi.



The Hop River Section just completed is still closed.  This is a future access point adjacent to Mackey's on Roue 66.



For now, I think the Hop River Trail has some gaps.  There is a parking area and kayak launch area just a bit west of Mackey's, on the other side of the river.  But the trail west is undeveloped here and the area has been a camping area for the homeless.






You can see a bridge over the Willimantic River there, but I didn't try to access it; looks like it needs work.



After another break along Flanders River and Kings Roads, I came to this derelict bridge over the Hop River.



Easy to see why it was bypassed.






West of that bridge, a fisherman's trail parallels the Hop River Trail which would be up the bank at the right.



West of Kings Road, the restored Hop River Trail picks up again.