Nature's Path & Way To Go
4:03 PM EDT, August 9, 2012
Three teacher friends "passionately fighting off" the three dreaded words – back to school – can't be wrong. Neither can Farmer Ed and Tippi, who have hiked to the summit of West Suffield Mountain and Chimney Point more than 60 times in 2012. This is one of the best views in the state.
West Suffield Mountain may not be the most creative name for the volcanic basalt intrusion that rises 691 feet into the northern Connecticut sky, but its views up and down the Metacomet Ridge are awe-inspiring. Just read the comments left in a logbook left in a wooden box hanging on a tree.
The mountain is part of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association's 63-mile-long Metacomet Trail, which snakes along the traprock ridge that runs through the central part of the state from Meriden to Massachusetts. The ridge, once home to volcanoes, is often referred to as the Central Park of Connecticut.
It seems like no matter where I access the Metacomet, the start of the journey is always practically straight up. Phelps Road, the access point for West Suffield Mountain, is no different, although the ascent is lessened by several leveling-off areas. But you'll break out in sweat before you reach the top.
Your first "must" pit stop is a huge abandoned chimney – the lone remnant of an old summer cabin. A side trail takes visitors up to the nine-foot-high chimney made with a couple hundred fieldstones. There are several benches around the chimney where you can put your legs up and warm your toes, or at least pretend to.
Much of the next mile of the trail is kind of a tease when it comes to the view you've been imagining. There are holes in the canopy where an old hemlock or white pine has fallen, opening up the forest and showcasing a view of the surrounding hills. The trip is beautiful, as the trail passes gorges and through deep shaded evergreen groves. The Suffield Land Conservancy has done a nice job protecting much of the ridge as it runs through town.
After passing through the George A. Harmon Woodlot, the trail snakes right along the ridge and suddenly before you are the hills of western Connecticut and southern Massachusetts. As you hike, there are more and more outcroppings jutting out into the viewscape until you reach Chimney Point.
Chimney Point, as the CFPA's Walkbook points out, are "one of several examples of the Metacomet basalt eroding into chimney-like spires." Anyone who has walked along the trail and seen these spires may feel like they are on the surface of a forlorn planet looking over the remnants of some lost civilization.
Visitors can sit on any number of outcroppings or piles of basalt and look north to Mount Tom or south to the lonely spire of Heublein Tower on top of Talcott Mountain. You'll feel the peacefulness that comes from looking out over a sea of green mountains and blue sky. And you'll want to make a return trip to Chimney Point as soon as you can.
To get there, take I-91 to Route 20. Take a right on Route 187 and a left on Route 168. Turn left on Phelps Road and look for the parking areas and blue blazes on the trees. Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.
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