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.
Rhododendron Sanctuary/Mt. Misery
Staring off into my backyard, much of my summer garden is in full bloom, while my spring flowers have since wilted away.
But, while the blossoms of my rhododendrons are long gone, the native blooms deep in the Pachaug State Forest are just emerging.
It’s a rare sight not often seen in the region. But, like clockwork, the buds of these woody plants explode in color at this very spot in early July.
So, I packed up the kids and headed to Voluntown to see for myself.
The Rhododendron Sanctuary is a short walk from the trailhead located across the road from a huge field near Chapman Area. And, the trail, accessible by wheelchair, is fairly flat and accommodating.
The path easily weaves its way through heavy forest filled with a lush undergrowth of ferns before huge rhododendron bushes begin to crowd the trail. Combined with the muggy temperatures and cradled by a white cedar swamp, the effect is like that of a jungle wilderness – giving it that otherworldly feel.
When in full bloom, the flowers burst like fireworks in the night sky. And, we were lucky enough to witness a few blooms ourselves. But, many are still in their bud stage waiting to pop, while others have already peaked and are now waiting for next year’s return.
Although it was the sanctuary that drew us in at first, we continued our adventure with a hike to the top of Mount Misery.
Ironically, the trek wasn’t miserable at all – quite the opposite. Named after the poor farming conditions in the area, Mount Misery stands at about 441 feet and is captivating in its own right.
The climb up its side is daunting to begin with and on a hot day expect to work hard. But, the trail along the blue-blazed Nehantic Trail levels off in spots, allowing us to catch our breath. Just don’t get too close to the edge. There are a few nasty drop-offs along the way.
Once at the summit, the view of the surrounding hills is a lovely one and I can imagine all the more stunning during the fall. But, with plenty of opportunities for beautiful views up top and in the sanctuary below – why wait?
Directions: Take I-395 N toward Providence. Take right off Exit 24 for CT-201. Take a left on ‘Trail 2’ inside the forest. Take a right on Cutoff Rd. Parking is on the road along a large field. The sanctuary is across the road and is marked with a sign.
The trail to Mt. Misery is marked in blue about 100 yards down the road and on the same side as the field.
Trail Distance: 2 miles (combined)
Trail Difficulty: Moderate