Discover amazing small towns…in your own backyard

The Discover Small Town America Tour takes us all over the country and we’re always on the lookout for new small towns we’ve never “met” (especially those with unusual stories and residents, charm, architecture, history, etc.). But sometimes we forget there are awesome places to discover right in our own backyard. Such was the case recently when we decided to tour nearby Collinsville, located just up the road from our old stomping grounds in North Central CT. The weather was spectacular for our 4th of July weekend excursion.
Flag

Before starting our walking tour of Collinsville, we took a nearly 4-mile power walk along the Farmington River Trail (FRT). According to its website, The FRT “is an 18.2-mile loop trail in Farmington and Simsbury and passes through the villages of Unionville and Collinsville and the towns of Burlington and Canton (Although we’re big walkers, the entire FRT was a little too ambitious even for us!). For much of its length, the trail nestles against the banks of the Farmington River tracing the route of the old “Canal Line” railroad. While the trail passes by some of the area’s loveliest landscapes, it also contains the longest stretches of on road riding.”

We’d like to give a BIG shout out to town leaders, volunteers and all the other people and institutions that provided the vision and support needed to make spectacular public trails, bikeways and parks possible in small towns and big cities throughout America.
Bike trail

A Classic Small Town Main Street

After completing our walk (8,000 steps on our pedometers) we meandered up Main Street which is “home” to several thriving small businesses, including the bustling Lasalle Market.
Main STreet

We stopped in the Market (http://bit.ly/1tc5PeX) for some cool refreshment and the place was hopping. People were sitting inside and out enjoying the market’s homemade vittles. Although hungry after all her exercise, Rorie refrained from chowing down on the mouth watering slices of pizza that were calling her name. Such will power.
LaSalle Market

After our quick break, we continued exploring the village and sauntered along its side streets. The historic homes decked out in their holiday flags and bunting, and the pristine church represent period architecture and are spectacular.
House
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Here’s a Hidden Gem of an Island Town We Bet You’ve Never Heard of

Discover Small Town America Tour correspondents Cheryl and Jerry Devokaitis recently explored an extremely off-the-beaten-path island town in Lincoln County Maine. Called Monhegan (estimated pop. 65), the island is only accessible by a mailboat ferry (established in 1914) from Booth Bay Harbor, New Harbor or Port Clyde. The ferry ride is about 12 nautical miles and it took an hour from Port Clyde to make the crossing. Much to Cheryl and Jerry’s joy, eight of their friends were at the dock in Monhegan to greet upon their arrival.

Jerr & Cher

Island History and Facts

Monhegan Island has a rich fishing history which dates to the 1500s. According to the Island’s online visitor’s guide (http://bit.ly/1lJf3u1), “Since long before the explorer John Smith visited it in 1614, it was known to Native Americans as a prime fishing area, and today its economy is still ruled by those who make their living from the sea, fishing and lobstering.”

The island is about a mile long. The one room school house has a total enrollment of 2 students – a kindergartener and a 4th grader. Talk about an amazing student-to-teacher ratio! Three B&Bs, a church, a general store and a few seasonal shops surround the many cottages whose vistas are all magnificent.

View of Town of Monhegen
Another Bluff View

Jerry and his musician friends played some old-time blue grass music in Monhegan’s annual jamboree in the town’s nondenominational community church(http://on.fb.me/1qBjR7J). Two little girls perched on a piano bench regaled the audience with “Heart and Soul”, the piano duet many remember from childhood. A muslim prayer was sung and everyone “Zen-ed” out. With the strange and eerie notes of a language unknown to Jerry and Cheryl, but whose essence was love and peace, it was all very stirring to them. This is a view of their friends enjoying a Monhegan sunset later that evening.

Friends

Painter Andrew Wyeth and his family lived on Monhegan Island until his death in 2009. Many artists still come to paint, photograph, and write or commune with nature, and artisans sell their one-of-a-kind wares. Others come to hike the many trails (12 miles of them), some very challenging. Cheryl left that trek to Jerry and his friends while she soaked up the sun and the views from her chaise.

When they left the island Cher and Jer were escorted to the dock by their friends and handed bouquets of wild flowers. The island tradition is to present the flowers to ferry passengers and, when the ferry pulls away from the dock, passengers throws stems over the rail to the water, letting the people on the island know they will be returning to this magical place one day.

ferry

If your friends jump into the water by the ferry it’s the ultimate compliment to you for having visited. Some kids actually did this, but Jerry and Cher’s “senior” friends wouldn’t have jumped in that freezing water unless their lives depended on it!

Reentry to real life was jarring…or is the island life real life and the hub bub of this world artificial? You decide after you’ve visited. We highly recommend you add Monhegan Island to your personal Discover Small Town America Tour itinerary. But remember: if the forecast is for possible stormy weather be sure to call ahead to confirm the ferry is running.