BIGELOW HOLLOW STATE PARK
In the far reaches of northeastern Connecticut exists one of the largest unbroken forests in the state. And within that huge 9,000-acre parcel of land sits Bigelow Hollow State Park.
Bigelow, located in Union, shares space with the much larger Nipmuck State Forest which covers ground in four other towns. At the peak of summer, it’s a popular spot where people often visit to go fishing or picnicking. But, it’s also a great place year round to explore the miles of trails that weave in and out of the park.
The main attractions at this park are its two large water sources. The upper Mashapaug or ‘Great Pond’ is a 300-acre lake tucked in the upper portion of the park. Near the park’s entrance is Bigelow Pond. Its name is officially a mystery, but local folklore says the name is taken from ‘Big Low’ in reference to the hollow where the 18-acre pond is located.
This was the focus of my hike on this crisp, sunny morning. Parking in one of a trio of lots at the park, I set off on the yellow trail that loops around the pond. I began my trek counter-clockwise at its northern point, taking the time to drink in the view along the way.
The trail here is narrow and twisted - swimming in fallen oak leaves and rocks slick with moss. Fallen trees also block the path in random spots adding yet another challenge. But, I found using a makeshift walking stick helps navigate any rough spots.
Ironically, the trailhead kiosks inform visitors of all the woodland creatures that one may encounter. Yet, on my trek through the forest, not one did I find…not even a common squirrel. Regardless, I found peace and quiet – for the most part - traipsing through the woods.
The only bobble was when I rounded the southern corner of the pond. The loop sweeps by route 171 in its closest encounter with the ‘real world’ leaving me to trudge by spotty traffic as it zipped by.
But, this distraction was short-lived. And, once I headed deeper into the woods the noise faded into the background and was quickly forgotten.
Back in the moment, the trek along this last leg of the hike proved to be a bit smoother. Millions of fragrant pine needles add cushion to the forest floor and serve as an early reminder of the coming holidays. The trail here is wider as well. But, with an eye out for tree blazes, it’s not hard to follow.
As I ended my hike and returned to my car, I was amazed at the number of vehicles that filled the lot - a testament to the park’s popularity even in the ‘off season’. But, it also serves as affirmation, that there are others just like me, looking to reconnect and recharge in the great outdoors.
Directions: Take I-84 E toward Boston. Take exit 73 for CT-190 toward Union. Turn right onto CT-190 E. Turn right onto CT-171 E. Turn left at the park entrance.
Trail Distance: 1.6 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy