Hiking the New England Trail
It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and Deb and I were eagerly anticipating this week’s hike, as we had finally crossed the halfway point of the New England Trail (NET).
We were embarking on an eleven mile section that included the popular “Hanging Hills” that overlook Interstate 691 in Meriden. For years, we had driven that stretch of highway and admired the stone tower that stood sentinel-like atop the ridge. Today, our perspective was going to be reversed, and we were going to view the 691 corridor from above.
We parked in the same spot that we had the previous week, Edgewood Road in Berlin, and headed south. The trail initially resembled an abandoned dirt road that may have been used for logging or excavation, but in less than a mile it transformed into single track that climbed gently through hardwood forest. After three miles, we arrived at West Peak where we got a glimpse of Castle Craig to the east, as well as expansive views of Southington, Meriden, Cheshire, and Hamden.
After stopping for a quick snack, we descended into the depression between West and East Peak. The rock was loose, and we carefully moved downward testing each footfall as we descended. When we hit the bottom, the trail turned to the left and up a steep, scree-laden pathway that ascended as far as the eye could see. Our legs were
fatigued from the precipitous downhill section we had just maneuvered, but we trudged upward for the next mile with nary a word exchanged. The beauty of hiking with Deb is that she and I have the same unspoken philosophy about navigating through challenging terrain: head down, move forward, and no whining. Our efforts, as always, were rewarded when we arrived at the locally famous Castle Craig. The structure was dedicated and gifted to the people of Meriden by Walter Hubbard on October 29, 1900. The tower is open to the public from May through the end of October, but since we were there in November, we couldn’t gain entrance to the observation tower. Apparently, on a clear day, one can see Long Island sound from the platform. We, however, didn’t feel the least slighted as we were afforded a stunning view of the Sleeping Giant while sitting on the stone steps devouring our lunch.
Heading down the trail, we were soon treated to a breathtaking view of the onyx-colored waters of the Merimere Reservoir that remained in our view for much of the descent. The remainder of the hike was relatively flat with several moderate climbs thrown in. At about nine miles, we were deposited onto a residential road in Meriden that led us two miles east to the Berlin Turnpike and our awaiting vehicle. It was the first time I had ever parked my car at a strip mall for a point-to-point hike. When we initially embarked on our trek, I will admit that I wasn’t looking forward to touring through the more populated sections of the state. However, as we explored these areas, Deb and I both noted that we were quickly gaining an appreciation for the urban/suburban flavor of the trail and a whole new perspective on what a hiking experience can be.
Nora Hulton is a Connecticut Certified Master Conservationist and avid hiker. Check back in upcoming issues for the next part of her adventures on the New England Trail!