Two Views From The Top Of Sharon's Pine Knob

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go

I ’m usually a patient person.

But waiting for the splendor of autumn 2017 is testing that patience. My usual early October hiking plan is to hit the northwest and northeast hills of Connecticut as they near peak foliage. Through the month I move south to the shoreline, a kind of traveling peak-foliage seeker.

This autumn, that plan has been challenging. I usually find the foliage and hillsides like a bowlful of multi-colored Fruity Pebbles cereal. So far though, the trees and hills resemble heads of broccoli — green, green and more green.

But a spectacular view is still a spectacular view. And you get several along the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Pine Loop Trail within Housatonic Meadows State Park and Housatonic State Forest in the wilds of Sharon. The loop trail in northwest Connecticut is 2.5-miles-long, with varying degrees of difficulty. Both overlooks face east over the heavily forested hills of Mine Mountain, Dean Hill and Coltsfoot Mountain.

The trail is good for families, but if you are traveling with youngsters, I suggest you go in a clockwise direction around the loop. The trail rises gradually through the beautiful Hatch Brook ravine as a small stream travels through gorges under the deep shade of huge oaks and hemlocks. The trail, marked with blue blazes on trees and rocks, eventually meets up with the Appalachian Trail. Follow the trail north as the blazes change from blue to blue and white.

Traveling in a counterclockwise movement — which I always seem to do when faced with a loop trail — is difficult and will provide a workout with scrambles up rocky portions of the trail. The ascent is a more direct way to reach the overlook.

The overlook along the Pine Knob portion of the trail is spectacular, offering views across the hills and mountains with the glistening waters of the Housatonic River cutting through the valley. The 1,120-foot-high overlook is a sort of natural amphitheater with rock ledges gradually rising behind you. White pines, pitch pines and scrub oak add to the effect, and fallen needles cover everything.

The second overlook is along the Appalachian Trail side, and it also features a view looking east at 1,160 feet. The amazing part of both views is that nothing human-made can be seen within the viewscape — just forests, hills and mountains as far as the eye can see.

Visitors can add to the trip by following the Appalachian Trail to the north and south. They also can walk up Route 7 to the nearby campground with unmarked scenic trails along the banks of the Housatonic River, a pretty spot no matter what the season. Visitors can travel south to another portion of the park along the river.

A campsite farther north along the Appalachian Trail has an interesting name: Caesar Brook. A Hartford Courant article from 1956 briefly explains the history of the name: an old farm that was donated to the state for the park:

“This farm gets its name from Caesar, a freed slave who at one time owned it,” according to the article. “The local people tell of the city lady who bought land adjacent to Caesar’s and asked if he could show her the boundaries.

“ ‘Indeed I can, Madam,’ he replied. ‘And would you also like to see the diamonds on your land?’ The lady was incredulous, but replied, ‘Are there really diamonds on my land?’

“ ‘Indeed there are,’ said Caesar soberly. ‘But they are on the backs of rattlesnakes.’ ”

The chances of seeing rattlesnakes in this part of the state is low, but you will find a diamond. It’s a gem known as Pine Knob.

If you go: From junction of Route 4 and Route 7, travel about a mile north and look for the parking area on the left. Visit www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/housatonicmeadowstrailmap.pdf for a map of the trail.

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