Tucked away in the back lot of the Connecticut Audubon Center is the entrance to a park that opens the door to three interesting spots in the heart of South Glastonbury.
It begins at Earle Park - a 50-acre parcel of land that opens itself up to the curiosity of visitors wishing to explore. My curiosity was already piqued as I began my trek down a dirt trail.
On the left of me stood a historic cemetery with stones dating back to the 1830s. It was a noteworthy sight on my way into the heavily-treed landscape. The path here is also wide – wide enough to allow horseback riders to pass along the trail (although I didn’t run into any on my morning trek).
Soon enough, the trail breaks away from the trees and opens up into a field and small pond. Tom’s Pond is a man-made watering hole created by an environmental planner some years ago. Without a water source, the pond is at the mercy of the local rainfall. But, it does hold some wildlife including fish and small reptiles.
Well-placed bridges helped guide me over a babbling brook and into the forest. Hiking here is a bit tricky. The trail is uneven and hilly in spots, and, after a hard rain earlier in the week, the ground was a bit soggy as well.
The Connecticut River flows nearby and trail off-shoots bring you near its edge. Another trail led me to a wide-open field equipped with a horse ring used by a local pony club. Prior to the 1900s, the land once served as a farm and the sweeping view is a hallmark of this area’s past.
But, what’s unique about this property is it acts as an ambassador for other noteworthy sites too. The path here provides a right-of-way to two other spots – the open space of the historic Old Cider Mill and Red Hill, a pivotal place in the defense of a Native American tribe.
First, there’s Old Cider Mill. It’s the oldest continuously-running cider mill in the country (and a fantastic place in the fall for some delicious apple cider).
Then, there’s Red Hill – once a place of refuge for the Wongunk tribe. The Wongunks built a stockade at the top of the hill in defense. When enemy tribes came by river to attack, the Wongunks would toss large rocks and downed trees at them.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot of history steeped in this hill and beyond. So, why not end this whirlwind hike with a visit to the Audubon Center. It’s a great way to circle back to nature while giving the area’s unique history its proper due.
Directions: Take CT-2 E toward Norwich. Take Exit 7 for CT-17 S toward Portland (left exit). Continue on CT-17 S/Glastonbury Expy. Parking is at the Audubon Center on the right.
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy