“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” -Robert Frost
We got back to Connecticut last Thursday evening and the craziness of the last four weeks finally caught up with us. It’s hard to believe that, just a month ago, we were in a frenzy of packing and cleaning as we entered our last week in Atlanta. Since then, we’ve been to Columbus, GA, Connecticut, New York, Miami and now back to Connecticut.
It’s no surprise that, by the time we got back to Connecticut, Matt was battling a cold and we were both physically and mentally exhausted. So we hung low and pretty much slept the weekend away. I don’t know the last time I was in bed by 9:00 and didn’t crawl back out until 8:00 or 9:00 the next morning.
Luckily, by Sunday we were feeling a lot better so we decided to take a trip out to the Indian Council Caves Trail in the Tunxis State Forest, thus named for one of the Native American Tribes that used to live in the area. The 4.4 mile roundtrip journey starts off of State Route 219/East Hartland Rd in Barkhamsted, CT. Hikers can park in a small (free!) parking lot across the street (about 100 feet on the left past Hillcrest Dr. if you are coming from the northeast), then scramble over a guardrail across the road to get on the trail.
The first part of the hike took us through woods that grew increasingly dense as we walked deeper into them. The trail was dotted with patches of thick mud and rocks, making us scramble and hop around a bit as we made our way up a gradual incline. Though a gorgeous day for a hike, there weren’t many people on the trail. Once we were deep enough in, the noises from the highway vanished and we were alone with the sounds of birds in the trees and the swishing of our feet through disintegrating leaves.
I made the mistake of reading about the dangers of coming upon Connecticut black bears, especially early in the spring as they arise hungry from a winter of hibernation, so spent half of my time scanning the woods around us for dark, furry shapes and stomping as we walked to make us sound much bigger than we were. Matt, meanwhile, spent his time trying to out-hike a cloud of gnats that decided to follow him on our walk (the bugs know how delicious he is!). Fortunately we didn’t come across any bears during hour hike.
About midway through our hike, the vegetation changed a bit. We crossed a burbling creek, climbed some wooden steps and entered a lovely, quiet and fragrant pine forest. The sound of our footsteps was cushioned by the blanket of pine needles covering the trail and the gentle whispering of the trees as they swished in the breeze lulled us into tranquility.
We walked through this section for about 10 minutes before coming to a clearing with another babbling brook (likely the same as the other we crossed–just upstream). We made our way across the clearing and entered another section of the forest, this time with more variety of vegetation than the pine forest. As we walked, we passed a marsh to our right and crossed another part of the stream before we began another ascent. This part of the hike became a bit more difficult than the first as we scrambled over bigger rocks and made our way up steeper hills.
We continued to climb for another 15 or 20 minutes, thinking we had to be nearly to the caves. As we got higher, we noticed the sky was turning a darker shade of blue-grey and began to wonder if we should turn back before a storm blew in. We decided to go for another 15 minutes to see if we could find the caves before calling it a day.
Luckily we soon happened upon a semi-clearing with a large rock jutting out over a steep drop. The view from there was absolutely stunning, especially since the trees are just budding and we could see for several miles. A couple of hikers were perched on the rock and we asked them how much further we had to go to find the caves. Surprise! We were already there!
The female hiker directed us to a less steep path to get down into the caves. We gratefully accepted her advice and made our way down. These caves are not what most people might think of–an opening in a rock leading down a long, dark cavern. Instead, they were giant boulders nestled together to form many crevices and dark hiding places (home, I’m assuming, to an assortment of creatures I wouldn’t want to startle). We looked around for a few moments before scrambling back to the top and beginning our hike home.
The way back, of course, felt much quicker than the way to the caves and we got back to our car just as a few raindrops began to fall. The trail is rated by many hiking sites as difficult, but if you go on a sunny day when the recent weather has been fairly dry, it is certainly manageable and definitely worth it.
Of course, no hike is complete without a scoop of ice cream at the end, so my wonderful hubby made sure we stopped off at Ben and Jerry’s on the way home.
I’m a bit behind on my blog from last week, so I’ll be backdating a few entries over the next few days (covering the Everglades and Connecticut wineries). Be sure to check them out!