Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer.
From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
DIVIDEND POND TRAILS
Connecticut is steeped in history and there is no clearer vision of this than at Dividend Pond Trails and Archaeological District in Rocky Hill. Located off of Old Forge Road, it is an ideal spot to explore the wooded 68-acre parcel which includes two ponds, trails, and industrial relics harkening as far back as the 1600s.
I settled on hiking the White Trail with my four-year-old, who tagged along for the 2.5-mile adventure. It begins at the parking lot and heads left down the trail past Lower Dividend Pond. But before starting, it pays to study the map at the kiosk at the park's entrance. It details the 10 archaeological gems that dot the property. All showcase the area's rich manufacturing heritage from the late 1600's to the mid 1880's.
And, as we soon discovered, the moment we strolled past the lower pond, some of these shadowy artifacts began to emerge. I found the presence of what was once a powerful industry built on factories and mills gels nicely with its natural surroundings.
As we rounded the pond and began to head uphill, the sound of the cascading waterfall soon greeted us. A dam dividing the lower pond from its upper pond neighbor is a dramatic, and worthwhile stop on this journey. Here, is where the true pieces of Rocky Hill's past come alive. Broken remnants of an 1884 manufacturing plant hugs the falls, with its looming columns and steep steps following the landscape down to the brook below.
The pieces were amazing to explore, not only for me, but my young daughter. We crossed a bridge below to discover more ruins on the other side. Just a few solid stalwarts of a mill built in 1680, but still just as fascinating.
After checking out every nook and cranny, we hiked back up the stairs and continued our journey along the trail. As interesting as the ruins are, the view of Upper Dividend Pond is just as dramatic. The colors of autumn still linger on the woods surrounding the pond, making it a picturesque reprieve for those trying to escape the bustle of everyday life.
You can find folks here jogging or walking their dogs, or just relaxing by the water. But it never feels like the trail is overcrowded. It's well-maintained and showed no signs of litter or debris. The pond eventually turns into a wetland forest with the trail skirting deeper into the woods and drier land. For those desiring a shortcut, there is a bridge that loops you around the pond a bit sooner.
However, we choose to go the long way, stumbling upon a small dam built in the 1800's as our reward. It caught my daughter's attention as we dropped leaves in the water to see them vanish in the froth. After tiring of this, we continued on to the last bridge that would take us to the other side of the brook. Here, a trail beckons for those wishing to check out a scenic vista. On the other side of the bridge, another trail leads to even more aged ruins.
But, being four isn't easy, and my young daughter was ready to head back. So, we followed the trail that took us roadside, before taking it back into the woods at the end of a dead-end street. Here, the trail is wide and seems to attract more visitors than our first leg of the trek. But, for us, it was still a great way to wind down after a day that, quite frankly, is hard to match.
Directions: From I-91 South, take exit 24. Merge onto Route 99 South (Main Street) in Rocky Hill. Take a left onto Old Forge Road. In about a half mile, parking will appear on the right.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Length: 2.5 miles