The Day – Hiking to the Massachusetts border on the Shenipsit Trail (Part II)


A blazing solar conquer down on asphalt the other afternoon while automobiles and vans roared earlier quickly food stuff places to eat, gas stations and other enterprises lining Route 30, just past the I-84 interchange in Vernon.

“Excellent working day for a hike,” I muttered, but none of my four companions listened to me above the din, as we continued to trudge joylessly together the aspect of the road.

Just after a mile or so, our group eventually exited the professional zone, adopted a blue-blazed trail marker and entered blissfully silent, shaded woods. We then commenced strolling merrily on a easy route lined with lush ferns and mountain laurel overlooking a secluded lake.

These kinds of stark contrasts prevail on the Shenipsit Path, which extends 50 miles from East Hampton in Central Connecticut to Stafford, in close proximity to the Massachusetts border. Close friends and I have put in the past several months hiking this footpath in stages, ranging from six to 12 miles.

I explained the first 50 % of our journey in a June 2 column, “Hiking to the Massachusetts border on the Shenipsit Trail (Aspect I).” This 2nd and closing installment addresses the previous two legs of our journey from Valley Falls Park in Vernon to Ellington, and then from Ellington to the finish of the path in Stafford.

Among those people signing up for the up coming-to-very last phase ended up Maggie Jones, Phil Plouffe, Chris Woodside and Steve Kurczy, who toted his 2-year-old son, Manny, in a backpack provider. For the closing leg, the group provided Maggie, Phil, Mary Sommer and Andy Lynn.

The most important member all over the expedition has been our unofficial manual, Larry Lawrence, who we met by luck on our 1st working day on the trail and who agreed to be a part of us the rest of the way. If it were not for Larry, a member of the Meshomasic Climbing Club who previously experienced hiked the total trail, we probably would have wound up meandering an added 50 miles, owing to our inclination to get mistaken turns.

A highlight of the penultimate phase showcased a hike along Shenipsit Lake, a 523-acre, pure reservoir that borders Ellington, Tolland and the Rockville section of Vernon. Not only did this extend give a welcome respite from a lengthy, oppressive highway stroll, it underscored how after-busy corridors can be repurposed as tranquil woodland trails.

In the early 20th Century, this segment experienced been portion of an comprehensive electric railroad network that the moment crisscrossed Connecticut. Happily, a increasing quantity of these previous railbeds have been converted to mountaineering and biking trails.

Mother nature also is resilient, Maggie pointed out. We noticed a painted turtle laying eggs subsequent to a chain hyperlink fence around a noisy highway, tree swallows and catbirds feeding on bugs close to a tangle of invasive vegetation and artifical retention pond in a household neighborhood, and an tremendous dead hemlock tree protected with residing mosses and mushrooms.

Our south-north tour “adopted the unfolding of spring, from ramps and trout lilies and trilliums in late April to lady’s slippers and mountain laurel in May well and June,” Maggie famous.

She also identified an ever-altering chorus of birds that serenaded us in densely forested areas, like black-throated inexperienced warblers, hermit thrushes, scarlet tanagers, ovenbirds and veerys

The significant stage of our last phase, virtually and figuratively, came atop 1,075 Soapstone Mountain in Somers, the tallest location on the Shenipsit Path. Most readers park at the foundation off Gulf Highway and saunter a tiny more than a mile up a gradually graded, gravel street our five-mile route followed a steep, narrow route, riddled with slippery rocks and stream crossings. In addition, once cresting Soapstone Mountain, we continue to experienced just about 6 extra miles of climbing to access the end of the trail.

With temperature and humidity in the mid-80s, we arrived at the summit sweaty and worn out, but not as well fatigued to climb an additional 30 feet up a lookout tower with a panoramic perspective of assorted peaks further than the Springfield, Mass. skyline, such as 3,41-foot Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. If the sky experienced been clearer, we may have witnessed Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

We stretched out on the tower floor and ate lunch, briefly cooled by a refreshing breeze.

The state Office of Strength and Environmental Protection rebuilt this tower in 2018 to replace a dilapidated just one torn down in 2014.

The condition experienced purchased the mountaintop in 1927 so it could build a hearth tower to provide Connecticut’s northern forests. In advance of that tower was changed, the U.S. Army employed it as a Globe War II lookout station.

Soapstone Mountain is named for the comfortable rock that Indigenous Individuals carved into bowls in the course of pre-colonial times. We bypassed a side path that would have taken us to an aged quarry in which soapstone was mined until eventually 1888, and descended straight for 50 percent a mile to Gulf Highway.

From there we re-entered the forest and marched one more 2.5 miles, passing Britney’s Pond and crossing Route 190 in advance of reaching Old Place Road in Somers.

“Ok, we’ve arrived at the finish. We can quit in this article,” I joked. Some of the other folks appeared puzzled.

“This is the place the trail applied to close,” Larry spelled out. With out missing a stage, he crossed the filth highway and ongoing subsequent blue blazes north.

In 2014, the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, which manages the trail as part of an 825-mile statewide walking-route community, extended the Shenipsit by 2.5 miles to Greaves Highway Stafford. This last segment took us up and in excess of Bald Mountain, along with a sequence of ridges.

At last, we arrived at Greaves Highway. Larry’s van, which he experienced dropped off earlier that early morning with aid from his spouse, Lorraine, was a welcome sight.

No rear seats for passengers, but we were much too whipped to intellect.

“Where’s our upcoming journey?” Phil requested, as we bounced all over on the ground even though Larry drove back to my automobile on Hopkins Highway. No relaxation for the weary.

“I really don’t know,” I replied — with hundreds much more miles of trails that we have nonetheless to examine, “I am confident we’ll assume of anything.”

Far more data about the Shenipsit is out there on the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s internet site, ctwoodlands org.

Much more info about the 400-member Meshomasic Climbing Club, which has donated much more than $50,000 to land trusts for open up-space preservation, is obtainable at>





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