Hidden deep behind the pickle barrels and crates of Bibles, barely able to stay awake as the boat carries her lazily up the Farmington Canal, Shannon McCarthy wonders what lies around the next bend as she continues northward in search of her father.
The three mile route from Hamden, CT’s Lock 14 to Cheshire’s Lock 12 is one of the most traveled parts of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Bicyclers and roller bladers, joggers and baby strollers vie for positions along the paved route where nearly two hundred years ago, only canal boat-towing mules and horses traveled. Along the way, nature sings out to the modern pedestrians much as it must have to the original travelers. Flocks of grackles and crows chase away a red-tailed hawk who cries out as it races through the sky and dives into the thick brush avoiding the unwanted attacks. Blue Herons stand guard like frozen Jurassic statues in the streams, watching the pedestrians as they trek by on their way to the most beautifully refurbished lock on the route
As you pass the Hamden/Cheshire line, look for the remnants of Lock 13 hidden deep among the brush and the rushing water, to get a glimpse of what Cheshire’s Lock 12 looked like before 1980. Today Lock 12 and the Lock 12 Museum are a true monument to life along the Farmington Canal. This place, where I grew up (see Home Sweet Home) has always been a treasure to so many of us. The refurbished lock and lock house are a picturesque glimpse into New England’s past and this great experiment in travel that lived an important, but short life. A plaque in front of the huge doors, points out that among the more infamous to travel through these locks were the Amistad prisoners, on their way to the Hartford courthouse where they would face trial.
Just before the boat rounds the bend and readies to enter Lock 12, Shannon McCarthy is discovered as a barrel tips over and her hiding place becomes awash with pickles, vinegar, and fragrant juices, sloshing along the deck of the canal boat and startling the two young boaters in charge. And so it is here, at Lock 12, that our heroine must spend the night, waiting for the constable to come and take her away for transport back to New Haven.