One of my favorite rides at the country fair was "The Scrambler." You would climb aboard, sit in the middle of the seat for a brief moment and then the carnival operator would push that green button and you would smash into the sides of the seat and twist and spin, all the while getting a lesson about the forces of gravity.
That's what you feel like after a visit to Monroe's Webb Mountain Park, a 136-acre preserve high on the banks of the Housatonic River. You scramble up to the top of an overlook known as "Goat Rock," with a gorgeous view downstream of the river whose name, translated from the Native American, means "beyond the mountain place."
Connecticut Forest and Park Association's blue-blazed Paugussett Trail before passing more scenic overlooks and scrambling down the other side. This hike is not only a good journey through the natural world, it'll give you a good workout, too, with four or five miles worth of trails.
My journey started along the fire road that brings visitors into the park. For those who want to experience the entire Webb Mountain, there is a parking area at the entrance. Those looking for one of the easiest climbs to a lookout can park where the red trail crosses the road and follow the path to one of the largest free-standing boulders I've seen in the state. Visitors can then hike along the purple path to the lookout.
The red path travels through the heart of Webb Mountain, along a picturesque stream filled with boulders covered with large mats of moss. Although only a trickle this time of year, the stream has multiple waterfalls during the wet season.
After the overlook, I followed the red trail to the fire road where a family was camping at one of the dozen sites offered by the town. At the last campsite, a trail takes visitors down to an old railroad line that runs along the banks of the Housatonic. The tracks will take you past the Stevenson Dam on Lake Zoar, the fifth-largest lake in the state.
The hydroelectric dam is an impressive structure with myriad power lines and transformers buzzing with electricity. A trail cuts down to the road, where hikers can cross the dam and see the huge, greenish lake on one side and a rocky chasm where the Housatonic starts its flow again on the other.
Visitors can hook up with the Paugussett Trail along the tracks and return to Webb Mountain. The path offers some beautiful views of Lake Zoar as well as some imposing 100-foot rock outcroppings. Be sure to keep an eye on the blue blazes because it can be a bit confusing; there are a number of unnmarked trails.
So scramble off to Webb Mountain and enjoy a ride through the natural world. The beauty of this ride is you don't need a ticket.
Route 15 (Wilbur Cross/Merritt Parkway) to exit 58. Continue on Route 34 west, turning left on Bridge Street. Take a right on Route 110 and take a right at the light onto Maple Avenue, which turns into East Village Road. Follow the signs to Webb Mountain Park/Webb Mountain Discovery Zone. Visit http://www.monroect.org/webmountain.aspx for a map of the park.
Questions or column suggestions are welcome. Peter Marteka may be reached by phone at 860-647-5365, by mail at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 860-643-8548. Visit courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in Connecticut's natural world