April 28 – May 2, 2015
Tuesday, April 28 was another stellar Connecticut spring morning. We sure picked the right week to be out!
More beautiful woods road walking to finish up the Menunkatuck Trail (the southern 17 miles of the New England Trail) and start the Mattabessett Trail section, which would terminate in Berlin, CT, a little under 30 miles north.
As we hiked along, the landscape began changing. We were leaving the granite strewn topography of the coast and entering the dramatic trap rock cliff section. Besides the trap rock itself – basalt formed by ancient lava flows that tilted up to create amazing cliffs, another bellweather was the appearance of the Chestnut Oak, a white oak that boasts the deepest bark grooves of any ridge loving species.
After junctioning with and joining the Mattabessett Trail, we made our first steep ascent of the trip, to the clifftop of Bluff Head. The views were phenomenal — all the way from Hartford to the north to Long Island Sound to the south, the place we had started our hike.
These rigetop views would be our treat the whole way to Berlin, CT, where we got off the trail on Friday afternoon. The spring warmth finally arrived and we had timed our trip perfectly to get the most out of it before we would need to cede the territory over to the annual black fly invasion.
Over the four day stretch, we would hike over the ridges of Totoket Mountain, Pistapaug Mountain, Fowler Mountain, Beseck Mountain, Higby Mountain and Lamentation Mountain — all fantastic examples of trap rock formations and very fun, inspiring hiking destinations. These cliffs are home to dozens of turkey vultures. On two occasions, I startled them upon my arrival. The first was in a small valley. As I approached a cave formed by two huge boulders leaning against each other, the bird exploded out of the cave, flew just past my right shoulder and perched on a nearby branch. As Wayne came up the trail, the bird looked back at me over her shoulder and with two giant wingbeats, ascended up and out of the forest. What a thrill!
The other close encounter was on May 1st. I was just rounding a corner on the open ridges, when a Turkey Vulture took off from just below me on the cliff. I stood in awe as I heard the powerful “whoosh, whoosh” of her wings and she climbed effortlessly on the thermals. This enormous bird took two passes back toward me before she began making ever widening circles over the green pastureland below. What a treat to watch her and her fellow harriers riding through the sky as part of our daily journey!
By mid-day Friday, we were taking in the last views Lamentation Mountain had to offer (on a rocky summit just off the trail) and looking back on the miles we covered and the memories we had made during one terrific 6-day hike. From here, the trail dropped through the woods to the east and then to a .8 mile road walk that led right to piping hot slabs of pizza, thanks to a trailside pizzeria.
Once again, the trail gods were kind. We had now completed the Menunkatuck and Mattabessett sections of the New England Trail. It was time to celebrate. What a great way to end a trip and a great location to start our next journey — the hike that will complete our walk across Connecticut!