Hiking the New England Trail - Part Two
A sparkling early October day provided the glorious backdrop for the third segment of our hike through Connecticut on the New England Trail. My hiking partner, Deb, and I decided to attack a 13 mile chunk; by far our most ambitious endeavor since embarking on our challenge. This particular section would commence on Route 185 at the Penwood State Park parking area in Simsbury and finish on Route 6 in Farmington.
Heading south from the parking lot, we immediately entered the 574 acre Talcott Mountain State Park, which lies primarily in the town of Simsbury. The first three miles were a steady, yet gradual, uphill climb that led to the locally famous Heublein Tower.
The structure was built in 1914 by Gilbert Heublein as a summer home and gift to his wife. Learn more about the life of Heublein and the story behind his illustrious estate.
Arriving at the summit, we were surprised to find an eclectic gathering of people enjoying the various offerings the CT DEEP site provides. An older group of individuals were hosting a reunion of sorts on the pavilion overlooking the town of Simsbury, while several young families and a smattering of couples were lunching in the picnic area. Others were exploring the grounds, and a constant stream of hikers, young and old, ambled in, via a shorter, 1.25 mile path from the Talcott Mountain State Park parking area.
From atop the 165 foot viewing tower, we were treated to a 360 degree view of the entire Farmington Valley area. On a clear day, Mount Monadnock to the north and Long Island Sound, to the south, can be observed; but on this particular day the skies were a bit hazy and we were unable to make out the landmarks. With ten more miles to go, we reluctantly headed south down the gentle, sloping trail toward the Metropolitan District (MDC) West Hartford Reservoir #6.
Upon reaching the reservoir, a flat, one lane gravel road led us south along the western side of the water body for about 1 ½ miles before we were deposited onto Route 44. We crossed the busy four-lane road and continued through four more miles of reservoir property, followed by a mile or so traverse on paved roads and trails that meandered through a quiet, wooded West Hartford neighborhood. We emerged onto a bustling Route 4, in Farmington, near the I-84 entrance and exit ramp. We played our own live version of the video game “Frogger” as we jockeyed across four lanes of weekend traffic, before safely reaching the Hill-Stead Museum property. The 150 acre estate was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1991, and is home to impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Monet, Degas, Manet, Whistler, and Cassatt.
The last four miles of our trek were relatively flat and unremarkable as we skirted through suburban woodlands, eventually emerging onto Route 6, weary and hungry. Although we had only covered 13 miles, Deb and I both felt as if the cultural and historical offerings of this particular section had transcended the physical distance. Between the Heublein Tower, the MDC reservoir trails and the Hill-Stead Museum property, it was agreed that we had certainly gotten our “money’s worth”!
Thirty-two down and sixty-six left to go!
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!