"Why don't we just go over there and talk and be inspired by them," he said.
According to LeShane, the forest lot of red and white pines and Norway spruces was planted in 1913 and has grown relatively untouched for nearly a century. Although the red pines died off over the years after a battle with a disease known as scale, the white pines and spruces have continued their reach into the sky. As you walk into the forest, you are immediately surrounded by giant trees.
"They've been just growing like crazy," said LeShane, who founded the Meshomasic Hiking Club in 1997. "I think they are special, if not more so than the Big Pines Plantation. It is a much more natural looking forest."
The Big Pine Plantation is about a quarter-mile to the east along Old Marlborough Turnpike within the Meshomasic State Forest, the first state forest. It was created when a tract of 70 acres was purchased in 1903. The plantation was created in 1908 with white pines from Biltmore, N.C. Although the stand has been thinned over the years, there are trees that are 102 years old and have survived lightning strikes and hurricanes.
Adjacent to the Big Pines is an area with equally huge white pines, at a place LeShane called "Pest House Pines." The pines are near the foundations of pest houses. Built in the 1700s, men, women and children would be sent to the houses, built deep in the wilderness, in hopes that they would be cured of smallpox.
The setting of the Stevens Lot, at the edge of a swamp and reservoir with its mix of white pines, spruces and hardwoods, is more enchanting. A carpet of pine needles and pine and spruce cones covers everything, and ferns are starting to rise from the forest floor. The trail twists and turns past these giants, and you walk around with your gaze raised to the distant tops of the pines.
"It is almost like they are whispering to us," LeShane said as the wind rushed through the highest boughs. "The single stemmers are just awesome. So many of the largest white pines have a lot of branches and stems. Many of these are just a single stem reaching for the sky."
Route 17 to the intersection with Route 17A. Turn on Sage Hollow Road and left on Cornwall Street. Turn left on Old Marlborough Turnpike and follow to the reservoir. Follow the abandoned road around the reservoir and take a trail on the left after passing the swamp. Visit meshomasichikingclub.org for more information.
Peter Marteka can 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.