There is a parking area along Route 66 at the Meriden/Middlefield border that is usually full no matter what time of the year. It's the access point for the final leg of the Mattabesett Trail, which winds north to Higby Mountain and eventually Lamentation Mountain.
Next time you're tempted to do that hike, don't. You can get your kicks on the other side of Route 66 instead, high across a traprock ridge known as Beseck Mountain. Included in the journey are stunning views across the bottomless Black Pond, an overlook from the top of a revitalized ski slope and the sight of Long Island across a shimmering Long Island Sound.
You get to the trailhead from Route 147. The first mile of the Mattabesett Trail is fairly unremarkable, passing through a forest and away from noisy Route 66. After walking under transmission lines, the fun really begins at a crumbling chimney with vines growing over it like some lost Mayan temple. At a crossroads, a side path dips down to the banks of Black Pond – an amazingly scenic place, especially in the peak of autumn – with the main trail beginning its ascent up Beseck Mountain.
For the next mile, hikers will find amazing views across Meriden to the Hanging Hills, also known as West Peak, East Peak and the home of Castle Craig. Out to the north is a view across Black Pond to Higby Mountain, with the foliage reflecting in the surface of the water. The brownish-orange traprock mixes in with the brilliant colors of autumn, the deep blues of the water and sky, providing visitors with a natural kalidescope.
But don't be so in awe of the view you forget where you are. A sign warns hikers to "use extra caution" because the trail runs right along the edge of the ridge, with a deep plunge down a talus slope. The ridge is a fun romp with "tunnels" through deep hemlock glades and old cedar trees reshaped and stunted over the decades by the howling north and west winds.
After a brief dip into the forest past a massive traprock boulder that appears as though someone glued hundreds of Rubik's cubes to the sides of a rock, the trail again rises to more overlooks. Views are more pastoral this time, across orchards with views south to Long Island Sound and New Haven. On clear days, Long Island can be seen across the sound.
A good halfway point from which to return to the trailhead is the old Powder Ridge/Powder Hill Ski area. Abandoned for the past seven years, the ski area is re-opening in December and will be known as Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort. The trail passes along the top of the ridge at the end of the chairlifts with beautiful church steeple views to the west and east. Previous Ridge owners ran the chairlifts for leaf-peepers in the fall.
Beseck Mountain may not be as popular as Higby or Lamentation mountains, but sometimes the path less traveled will surprise and awe you.
There is a small parking area at the trailhead to Beseck Mountain along Route 147. Parking is also available behind Guida's Restaurant at the junction of routes 66/147. A signalized crosswalk will get hikers across a busy Route 66.