Ah, the Indian caves.
If you've hiked in the wilds of Connecticut, you've undoubtedly come across many of them, as they dot the landscape from "Squaw Cave" in Bolton to "Council Caves" in Barkhamsted to "King Philip's Cave" in Simsbury.
And, no, they aren't the type of deep underground caves complete with stalactites and stalagmites that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher explored. Connecticut's geology isn't conducive to creating those types of caves. But calling them "Indian rocky outcroppings" or "Indian couple of rocks leaning against each other," doesn't have the same romantic ring as "Indian cave."
And each cave usually has a tale to go with it. Squaw Cave was named after an Indian maiden who fell in love with a Dutch sailor. Council Caves were named for a Native American meeting place. And King Philip's cave is where — at least according to an old legend — a chief watched his braves attack the fledgling settlement of what is now Simsbury.
But Indian Jack's Cave is different. When you first approach it hiking along the Connecticut Forest & Park Association's Mattatuck Trail near the Plymouth/Wolcott line, it really looks like a cave. As you get closer, its dark-as-night maw seems to plunge deep into the earth. Until you reach it and discover that it's a rocky overhang.
And, of course, there are many stories that come with the cave, including tales of how it was the last place a group of Native Americans, led by Jack, called home. Another tale tells the story of a man named Jack who lived there with his squaw, who made baskets and sold them in town. The cave was frequently used by tribes as it was located along an old Indian trail that connected Farmington to the Naugatuck River.
Portions of the Mattatuck Trail – a CFPA Blue-Blazed Trail – runs 28 miles from Wolcott to Waterbury. My 2-mile out-and-back journey began along the banks of Marino Pond which seems to resemble more of a bog with the recently dry spell. The trail, marked by blue blazes on the trees, winds its way through a mountain laurel forest to an overlook trail that seems to just appear in the middle of the forest.
A short scamper up the loop overlook trail, marked with blue blazes with yellow dots in the middle, will reward the visitors with beautiful views across western Connecticut. A few old, dead trees only add to the viewscape and make a good focal point as you view the horizon which is remarkably void of civilization in a heavily developed area of the state.
Returning to the Mattatuck, the trail passes Indian Jack's Cave and continues along some imposing rock formations before reaching a second cave formation known as "Charlie Krug Cave," a depression hollowed out in the granite along a peaceful stream with pockets of beautiful white quartz lying nearby. The trail winds its way south past scenic vernal pools chiming with spring peepers and through white birch forests to Spindle Hill Road where visitors can continue their journey south or turn around.
So no need to bring your flashlight or helmet for the old Indian caves along this route. But you will want to use your imagination and picture a time when Native Americans roamed the forest seeking the shelter of a cave. Or at least a couple of rocks leaning against each other.
Route 72 to the center of Bristol. Take a left on Route 69. Take a right on Wolcott Street which turns into Allentown Road. Follow Allentown Road just past Heather Lane. There is a small parking area along the banks of Marino Pond. Look for the blue blazes on the northern banks of the pond. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.