Hiking the New England Trail: Part 3

Farmington to Roger's Orchard Southington

Nora Hulton

It was mid-November, and over a month had passed since our last section-hike of the New England Trail (NET). The warm, late-summer weather had given way to 40ish degree temperatures, and a gray November sky. We charted out a 9.5 mile trek that started on Route 6 in Farmington and would take us by the locally illustrious Will Warren’s Den and Rattlesnake Mountain. Also included in the route, but not as eagerly anticipated, was an almost 1 mile jaunt along Route 372 in Plainville. Our southern vehicle, however, was strategically parked only yards from Rogers Orchards on Long Bottom Road in Southington. Our minds, and bellies, were eagerly anticipating the myriad offerings at the acclaimed farm stand.

 

The entryway to this particular section was framed by a less-than-inviting chain link gateway, with litter from passing vehicles plastered along its base. The initial 1000 feet or so of trail was a disturbed landscape which had become ravaged and entangled by invasive plant species, such as Oriental bittersweet and multi-flora rose. Within minutes, however, the vegetation transitioned to a native hardwood forest and served to boost our enthusiasm.

After a gentle, forty minute climb we arrived at “Will Warren’s Den”, a jumble of large trap rock boulders that are reported to conceal a small cavity used as a hideaway by, well, Will Warren!  Nobody is absolutely sure who Will Warren is, or if he actually did exist, but here is a link to one of the (many) tales that have been contrived about the man and his locally famous lair. Historic or not, Deb and I opted not to squeeze ourselves into the dark, dank cave, as we are both more than a bit claustrophobic. We gave it a cursory, external examination and satisfied our wary curiosity before moving onward and upward.

 

Within 10 minutes, we reached 760 foot Rattlesnake Mountain, where we were both blown away by the panoramic view of the city of Hartford. The wide-open cliff made an ideal spot to have a snack and take in the urban scenery from our distant vantage point. This was going to be one of many surprising lookouts for two hikers who are accustomed to uphill treks culminating in a rural or wilderness-type vista.

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Photo: Crescent Lake / Credit: Nora Hulton

A mile later, we scrambled atop Pinnacle Rock, which not only afforded us views of Hartford, but served up a 360 degree outlook of the whole Greater Hartford area. It was a dazzling urban/suburban spectacle from a remote, windswept volcanic-rock ridge. We continued south for two miles descending into the town of Plainville, where we traipsed along Route 372 East, guided by a mile of blue-blazed telephone poles that eventually lead us back to the wooded sanctuary of the NET.

 

The second leg started much like the first; with tangles of invasive vegetation flanking the path before it opened up to a beautiful beech-dominant forest. The American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is easily identified by the smooth, silvery bark that is, unfortunately, much too tempting for young lovers who delight in carving their initials into its tender bark. This is the point where Deb and I came up with the terms “Lazy Trail Blazer” and “Crazy Trail Blazer”. The former was definitely in charge of this segment of the path, as blazes were few and far between. We remained vigilant, however, and approximately 2.5 miles in, we were gazing down at Crescent Lake in Southington.

 

Photo: Crescent Lake / Credit: Nora Hulton

 

An easy, 1.5 miles later we emerged onto Long Bottom Road, only 200 feet from Roger’s Orchards, where I picked up a ½ dozen apple cider doughnuts for the ride home, and an apple pie for the evening’s dessert. A well-earned reward after our long day.

 

41+ miles down and about 57 more to go!!  

 

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Nora Hulton is a Connecticut Certified Master Conservationist and avid hiker. Stay tuned for the next leg of her adventures on the New England Trail.

Photo: Deb on top of Rattlesnake Mt. / Credit: Nora Hulton