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In Orange, An Easy Hike Leads To Splendid Views

To reach most overlooks in the state, one must scramble up craggy rocks, swing over bottomless chasms and grasp the sides of ledges with your fingernails.

Well, at least it sometimes feels that way.

That's not the case for those who visit the Housatonic Overlook and Tucker's Ridge in Orange.

All you have to do is park your car at the end of the aptly named High Ridge Road, walk about 20 steps, and you are looking out across the Housatonic River north to Derby and south to Milford as the river ends its 149-mile journey from the Berkshires to Long Island Sound.

On this late winter visit, the river — its name, from the Mohican Native American Indian tribe, means "beyond the mountain place" — is coming to life again with kayakers and boaters plying the waters. Along one overlook, visitors can walk to an outcropping and take in a view north across Two Mile Island to the church steeples and factories of Derby nestled in the hillsides.

A short jaunt along a red-blazed trail that parallels the ridge, or, for those with a fear of heights, a hike along the nearby gas line right-of-way, bring visitors to a moss-covered overlook with views across a marina and south along the river.

Gulls sit on the marina's docks, but a fellow hiker said he's seen bald eagles diving for fish there.

Several miles of trails marked with red, yellow, green and blue blazes wind along the palisade and through deep forests to the east. The trails cross streams where skunk cabbage is making its annual appearance along the banks. The paths wind past vernal pools reflecting the winter woods. The trails run along stone walls that border fields and through thick mountain laurel groves past rock formations.

The highlight of the journey is the discovery of a seasonal waterfall that tumbles over a jumble of boulders and under the Metro-North railroad tracks through an old granite viaduct. The drop is punctuated by about a dozen miniature waterfalls.

A plaque near the entrance honors the work of Dr. Edmund B. Tucker, whose "efforts led to the acquisition of many parcels for open space" in town and helped to preserve the overlook "for generations to come." Especially for those who may enjoy a good view without breaking a sweat – or a fingernail.

Take the Wilbur Cross Parkway (Route 15), to exit 55 and go north on Wheeler's Farm Road. Take a left on Derby-Milford Road and then a second left on High Ridge Road. Visit for a map.

Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365, at or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

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