I've always wondered how Ragged Mountain was named. And then on a foggy, drizzly day I experienced it.
It wore me out. It wore down my boots and tattered my jeans. I tripped and stumbled along the traprock ridge's irregular edges and outlines. If ever a place could be called ragged, this was it. And I loved every minute of it and now no longer wonder about its name.
Southington and Berlin. The first is along the 51-mile Metacomet Trail, a Connecticut Forest & Park Association Blue Blazed Trail that runs from the Hanging Hills of Meriden along a traprock spine through the center of the state to the Massachusetts line.
The second is to take a variety of shorter blue-blazed trails with red, white or green dots in the middle of them from a trailhead at the end of West Lane in Berlin. The route recommended by the Berlin Land Trust is hiking the green dot trail northwest to the Metacomet and then south to the summit before returning on the red dot trail. This is about a three-hour journey depending on gawking time at the summit and all the views in between.
I did this route except I started along the red dot trail that rises gently through a hemlock and oak forest along the traprock ridge before opening up and providing panoramic views of Hart Ponds. It's fun to see ducks and swans frolicking in the water far below. And there are plenty of overlooks with the trail passing only a few yards from the edges of the cliffs.
As visitors near the trail's merge with the Metacomet, and the forest changes to high grass and wind-swept cedars, pitch pines and white pines, look for a place known as Big Boulder Lookout. There's also a rock formation that looks like some giant was playing with rocks and built his own little castle. The mountain is also a popular rock climbing area with unique names like "Owl's Lair," "Fox Den," "Unconquerable Crack," "Broadway," and "Weissner Crack."
The highlight of the journey is the barren top of Ragged Mountain and one of the flattest faces of a peak I've seen in my travels across the state. Even though there are low clouds and fog whispering past like ghosts on my ascent, the view is still tremendous. Just seeing the craggy and ragged face of this mountaintop is worth the trip.
The journey to the north of the mountain is equally spectacular as visitors take the undulating trail along rocky crevices and hollows filled with vernal pools. A trip through a mossy hemlock forest with views of Wassel Reservoir will relax you as you prepare for the descent along the green dot trail as your 5-mile journey comes to an end. And you will have crossed the Berlin/Southington town line about a dozen times along the twisting Metacomet.
A memorial plaque at the trail head dedicates the 563-acre Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve to the late Maurice Stanley, who "enjoyed the quiet of these hills." On this journey I found that quiet, I just missed the views. But it gives me an excuse to return and get ragged all over again.
•Route 9 to Route 71 south on Chamberlain Highway. About a quarter-mile past Roger's Market take a right on West Lane and follow to the parking lot and trailhead. For a map visit www.berlinlandtrust.org/activities and create your own route to the top. Peter Marteka can be reached by phone at 860-647-5365; by mail at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040; and by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATURE: ABOVE IT ALL