I have very strong connections to the town I grew up. I spent much of my childhood and developing years exploring the parks and woods of Trumbull Connecticut. I have been very fortunate to grow up in a town with several parks and trails. And while I equally admire the more urban areas and street I lived on, for this post I am going to be focusing on the place I have the strongest connection to and feel the most attached, the Freedom Trail.
Throughout my several years of living in Trumbull, I have created countless memories walking along the Freedom trail. It is a staple in my small town and has significance in the majority of the residents lives. Let me describe it to you. This man made trail sits in the middle of civilization and nature. You can enter by parking your car at the end of a quiet street and climbing a staircase until you reach the path. The beginning of the trail has a canopy of tree cover, but the urbanized land around you is still visible. It is easy to see houses and hear cars. As you walk farther along the beaten down dirt trail, the houses start to turn to trees until suddenly you are in the middle of the woods. I can see small running streams and rivers from my elevated place on the trail. But if you decide to climb off of the path, you can be rewarded by less traveled quieter paths that run through the woods. Each mile you walk is marked by a bench, donated from the local PTA. You could walk for hours and still not be done, the Freedom trail stretches way into neighboring towns. Ecologically, it is beautiful. The city planners designed it well.
From a personal sense this trail as been formative in who I am today. My sense of place and connection with my town is entirely characterized by my memories on this trail. Thinking back upon those memories, I remember the many after school walks with my mom and dogs when I was little. The first time I ran a mile without stopping and the joy I felt reaching the wooden bench waiting for me. I remember how it turns to ice after the first winter freeze, making it hard to walk without a pair of spikes. The many afternoons spent getting in shape for my high school field hockey tryouts burn in the back of my brain. This is where I would go for walks after school with my friends talking about college and our futures and never wanting to leave. Here, amongst the scuttle of squirrels and chirping of birds, I have listened to hours of good music and good podcasts. This trail IS my sense of place.
Returning home the trail welcomed me back. It was the same. But I was different. I seemed to pay more attention to the tree species and plants around me, delighted that I could identify more than when I left home. I was able to understand why certain parts of the trail had eroded and others stayed the same. My appreciation for the Freedom Trail has grown since being at UVM. I know as the climate changes, it will too, The increasing intense storms will cause it to weather faster and start to become just a part of the mountain side. The species living there will change, as a warmer climate will drive many out. It will be very different and the whole town will morun. This trail has been a home to so many memories and stories. My sense of place within my town has grown because of this natural beauty.