Climbing to the top of a huge ledge overlooking the Hop River valley, it's easy to imagine Lorenzo Dow preaching on top of the rocky outcroppings to the masses below.
This is where I found myself last week with Gwen Marrion, president of the Bolton Land Trust, and trust member Richard Treat — along with the ghosts of that first New England camp meeting. A portion of the 90 acres owned by the trust was the site of what Bolton town historian Hans DePold called "the Woodstock of the Great Awakening" in the early 1800s.
The parcel is another great example of land trusts' working together to join large chunks of preserved land. In 2003, Rita Lombardi donated a 26-acre parcel where she and her late husband Frank used to picnic. That parcel was the trust's first acquisition. The Northern Connecticut Land Trust later donated a 31-acre parcel.
The trail starts along an old farm road to the north of High Ridge Farm Road. The trail forks and visitors can walk counter-clockwise through some boggy wetlands, a mountain laurel grove and up to the top of the ridges. By walking clockwise — along a trail marked with blue surveying tape — visitors can walk along the high ridges before plunging into the depths of the boggy valley. You see? There are all sorts of religious metaphors here.
Marrion calls one of the ridges an elevated walkway as it rises above the forest floor in an almost perfect rectangle. Another ridge appears out of the forest like an amphitheater and Marrion notes that it's possible that Dow preached from these rocks. DePold noted that the Coventry native traveled the country and world speaking the "Gospel to more persons than any other individual until Billy Graham."
"This whole part of Bolton has been untouched for about 100 years," Marrion said. "People don't get out on it a lot. Hopefully that will change by opening up this parcel."
To get there, take Exit 5 off I-384 and follow Route 85 to Bolton Center. Turn right on Hebron Road at the town green. Turn left on School Road and follow to the end. Parking is along High Ridge Farm Road. A hike will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. Participants should meet at Bolton High School, 72 Brandy St. and carpool to the site.
Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester CT 06040. Visit http://www.courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.