Palmer Kendall Mountain Conservation Area Offers Three Magnificent Sites
The view from "the ridge" on top of Kendall Mountain within the 74-acre Palmer Kendall Mountain Conservation Area in Tolland. (Peter Marteka)
A moral of the rhyme might be that good things sometimes come in threes. And that is exactly the case with the Palmer Kendall Mountain Conservation Area in the wilds of Tolland. This forested 75-acre area is home to the quarry, the ridge and "The Knob."
The conservation area, purchased by the town from Barbara F. Palmer and her family, who always wanted to see the land preserved, includes the top of Kendall Mountain, the third-highest elevation in town at 972 feet above sea level. There are deep pockets of mountain laurel and huge white pines and oaks scattered through the lowlands containing the marshy headwaters of the Skungamaug River.
The quarry is the first stop traveling clockwise along the loop trail as a yellow-blazed path follows a stone wall with scenic seasonal views before dipping into the quarry. A sign warns visitors to keep off the huge granite rocks and stay on the path, which ends at a jumble of mountain laurel bushes along the back side of the quarry. Visitors can then double back on the path to return to the loop trail.
The next stop on the loop is the ridge with its beautiful views of the old Palmer home and farm. The view from the top of a craggy outcropping showcases the woods and nearby hillsides — with the farm the only sign of civilization. A break in the hills offers a view of distant hillsides and will have you humming the "for purple mountains majesties" from the song "America, The Beautiful." It is really a humbling experience as you stand and look at the natural-world splendor around you.
From here, the loop trail continues along crystal-clear streams before a soggy journey through a marshy area. The trail skirts a subdivision before visitors meet the last landmark – a jumble of rocks known as "The Knob."
A trail marked with yellow surveyor's tape denotes the path to the top of the knob. The path ends at a place I like to call a wolf-howling spot where it is easy to imagine a long ago time when wolves ruled the forests. The loop trail continues through the forest and past small waterfalls along the stream before returning visitors to the trailhead.
"Rub-A-Dub-Dub" ends with " 'twas enough to make a man stare." There are plenty of places where visitors can do exactly that, whether on top of a ridge on Kendall Mountain, howling from The Knob or next to a quarry where you will be tempted to climb.
Exit 68 off I-84. Follow Route 195 north past the Tolland Green. Follow Old Stafford Road to Cook Road, which turns into the dirt Kendall Mountain Road. Look for the parking area and trailhead on the right.