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.
GAY CITY STATE PARK
Whether it be family obligations or the stresses of work, life, in general, can wear on us all. And - sometimes - you just need time to regroup and recharge. My recent trip to Gay City State Park allowed me to do that.
Located on the Hebron-Bolton line, the park offers up more than 1,500 acres for visitors to explore. I began my adventure from the parking lot about 100 yards from the entrance. In season, on weekends and holidays, you normally have to pay to enter the park. But, during the week, there are no fees and by the looks of the crowded lot, many take advantage of the fact.
With Murphy, my dog, in tow, we made our way onto the adjacent road and hit the blue Shenipsit trailhead. An entire web of trails are clearly marked within the park, and I quickly adjusted my route to try my luck on the red-blazed path.
The trail was quickly engulfed in the dense foliage of the forest. Beautiful swaths of ferns buffer both sides of a path that is fairly easy to hike. But, be sure to load up on the bug spray, the mosquitos here take ‘no prisoners'.
A handful of springs pop up along the trail, some are bridged, others are not. And as we headed deeper still, the trail does tend to get rockier in parts. Another notable – the path is pristine. For such a popular park, I was surprised by the lack of litter. It literally was spotless and that alone is worth the trip.
A little more than a mile in, we came across Blackledge River. After recent rains, the water here was swift and a bit angry. But, a bridge spans the waterway and provides hikers a nice and dry vantage point.
The trail gets a bit rockier as it works its way on an incline. Soon after, the path splits with the red trail continuing its trek around the park's perimeter. I took the yellow offshoot instead, heading north, where you'll find yourself crossing a branch of the river once again.
A few discoveries along the way added a nice touch to this hike. We came across a small, picturesque pond tucked among the trees – accentuated by a large beaver dam. The beaver activity here is quite impressive - witnessed by the gnawed trees on its banks.
Stone walls also strewn the woods here, remnants of the site's rich history that date backs some 220 years. Settled by a religious sect, this once thriving mill town has left behind a few stone foundations you can spot along the trail - the cellars filled in by a forest that has reclaimed it.
A little less than a mile along, I found myself at a crossroads. To the left and right spans the blue Shenipsit. Up ahead, the white trail leads hikers to a pond where visitors can swim and cool off.
But, the blue trail was my ticket back home. Passing a campground along the way, I quickly made our way to the main road and to the car - prepared to face the rigors of everyday life once again.
Directions: Take I-91 N to exit 25 and merge onto CT-3 N toward Glastonbury. Take the exit onto CT-2 E toward Norwich. Take exit 8 for CT-94. Turn left onto CT-94 E/Hebron Ave. Turn left onto CT-85 N/North St. The park is about two miles on the left.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 2.25 miles