The thing about oxymorons is you either love them or you hate them. You know, the words jumbo shrimp, hospital food; divorce court and working vacation will either make you laugh or grumble when you read them.
I now give you a new one — Short Mountain – otherwise known as the 520-foot-high knob of traprock ridge that rises along the Southington/Berlin border in the shadow of Ragged Mountain. The mountain is the highlight of a trip to Berlin's Timberlin Park, a place where you will think you have to bring your nine iron with you as you navigate past the front and back nine of an 18-hole golf course to start your hike.
My hike began along the banks of Harts Pond, where on the last day of winter a swan busily fed on the calm surface, occassionally plunging its long neck deep into the water and briefly appearing to be a headless ball of feathers floating on the water. While I am not a big fan of the aggressive, non-native swan, it's hard not to enjoy the sight of a solitary bird against the backdrop of the pond, evergreens and distant traprock ridges.
The Amelia Green trail, marked by green diamonds on trees, passes along the banks of the pond, across ravines and under huge hemlocks. The series of loop trails total approximately 1.5 miles and are relatively easy to navigate. The trails stay along the lowlands and along a stream, at one point crossing an impressive Eagle Scout bridge with skunk cabbage peeking out from its winter hibernation below.
The real adventure in the park begins when you connect with a 1.5-mile portion of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association's blue-Blazed Metacomet Trail – a path marked by blue blazes that runs from Berlin to the Massachusetts border. The trip up the side of Short Mountain is basically a scramble up an old lava flow turned natural gravel pile as you navigate basalt boulders to an overlook.
But the effort is worth it as the tree canopy opens to reveal a unique view of the "Hanging Hills" of Meriden to the south. The hills against the horizon look like huge undulating waves as they fill the sky. Below are farms and orchards and to the northeast are distant "church steeple" views. A short trail leads to a craggy outcrop and will give visitors a 180-degree view up and down the valley.
The trail hits the top of Short Mountain just before crossing the border into Southington. The view from the Southington side is a bit different, with a housing development taking up much of your vision. An apple orchard starts its annual passage into spring while in the distance patches of winter snow mingle with the haze as Mount Southington ski area slowly melts away.
From here visitors can continue to hike along the western fringe of Short Mountain, where one gets the first glimpses of Ragged Mountain in the distance. After passing through a hemlock forest, the path reaches a deep drop where the trail classification turns from moderate to difficult. Those brave enough can continue their journey to Ragged Mountain – which is no oxymoron – or turn around and return to Timberlin Park.
When you visit Timberlin Park, you can become part of a small crowd or listen to some soft rock. There are many miles of trails to find here, but that is no exact estimate. The bottom line: make a visit to Short Mountain part of your next working vacation.
Take Route 71 (Chamberlain Highway) to Route 364 or Southington Road just north of the town's border with Meriden. Take a right into the golf course and follow the road to the parking area. Visit http://www.town.berlin.ct.us/filestorage/199/2112/2276/TimberlinPark_2012_Map.pdf for a map of the park. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.