A huge boulder sits perched on the side of a 40-foot cliff like some giant placed it there eons ago.
It's a must-see sight within the 95-acre preserve owned by Joshua's Tract Conservation and Historic Trust. The large circular boulder, a remnant of the retreat of the last glacier, balances near the edge of a cliff and provides a captivating view of the surrounding hills and valleys.
According to the Joshua's Tract Walk Book, the rock was mentioned in local deeds as early as the late 18th century. Over the years, the rock and surrounding ledges have been known as Wolfpit Rocks, Woolfes Rocks and Wolfe's Rocks. Whatever the name, the rocks were probably visited by a few wolves before settlers and a special wolf bounty eventually wiped them out in the state.
Both the boulder and surrounding cliff are made of Willimantic gneiss, a metamorphic rock. The boulder may have been carried by the glacier to its present location. The rock and surrounding land was purchased by the trust in 1969, becoming the group's first acquisition.
The blue-blazed Nipmuck Trail cuts through the preserve on its way to Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union. Visitors who enter the preserve from Crane Hill Road actually take the blue-blazed trail to the rock formation. A yellow-blaze trail, known as Scout Circle Trail, takes hikers through much of the preserve, from a dark hemlock grove to smaller glacial boulders scattered across the valley of Sawmill Brook. A large brook twists and turns along the path. An unnamed seasonal brook travels briefly through the valley, ending at the grove.
Wolf Rock Nature Preserve is off Crane Hill Road. Take Route 195 to Mansfield Center. At the white clapboard Mansfield Center Church, turn on Browns Road. After about a mile west, Crane Hill Road forks off Browns Road.
You can view Peter Marteka's videos online, along with his Nature's Path column, at www.courant.com/marteka. His column also appears in Friday's Hartford Courant.Copyright © 2015, CT Now