A Journey To A Place Where Three States Meet

Superman had his Clark Kent — a mild-mannered alter-ego and someone who might be considered, well, a geek.

People might look at me as a rugged, explore-any-place kind of guy who thrives on living on the edge out in the natural world. But actually I'm a geography geek at heart. I love to do stuff like hike to the highest places in each county or seek out "selectmen's stones" — rocks etched with initials and dates that mark a place where town borders meet.

On Thursday, I found myself in the wilds of Thompson along the abandoned Air Line Railroad where trains once thundered through the state on their way to Boston and New York City. But it wasn't railroad artifacts I was seeking — although I did scramble down an embankment to check out an old stone arch tunnel. On this trip I was "Super Geography Geek" on my way to find the Tri-State Marker, a granite obelisk that marks the point where the borders of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts meet.

This was hike No. 21 of The Last Green Valley's "Walktober," which offers more than 100 hikes across eastern Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts over the best month of the year to hike. Our first stop was the mysterious East Thompson Lithic stone chamber just off the Air Line near an abandoned bridge that once allowed livestock to cross high over the tracks.

One of hundreds of stone chambers across New England, the chamber is made of huge stones piled on top of one another. A small opening allows visitors to crawl inside — or peer in for those who are not as brave as my intrepid photographer Mark Mirko, who dove right in and began taking pictures of those looking in.

Our guide pointed out that the chamber is also known as "hermit's cave" and according to one legend, it was built by Vikings who were shipwrecked near present-day Newport and trekked north. Or it could have been a Native American sweat house or ceremonial chamber. Or a root cellar. Or built by ancient people. Or all of the above.

Farther east along the railroad, we found a granite obelisk with the words "CONN" and "MASS" and "1906." Our guide noted that — ho-hum — it was just an obelisk denoting the border between Massachusetts and Connecticut. But it was the start of the rugged, blue-blazed "Tri-State Marker trail" — or the "Klondike gold rush trail," as one old-timer sweating and stumbling his way up pointed out.

By the end of the trail, the 5-foot-tall granite obelisk stood before us. "MASS" on one side; "CONN" on another and "RI" on the third. The date "1883" etched on two of the sides. People touched it. They stood proudly next to it, as if they were on top of Mount Everest, and posed for the camera. It was like we were standing next to a celebrity. People joked around as they stood in each state.

Oh, and by the way, rugged outdoor guy did make an appearance. When everyone left, I was able to leap tall obelisks and travel from state to state in a single bound. Didn't even need my faster-than-a -speeding bullet or my more-powerful-than-a-locomotive skills.

I-395 to Exit 99 and Route 200 to the center of Thompson. Travel north on Route 193 and take a right on East Thompson Road. Park on the left just past the intersection with New Road and follow the railroad bed to the east. Visit http://www.tlgv.org/uploads/Walktober/Walktober2011web.pdf for more great hikes.

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