The first time I attempted to tame the wild Talcottville Gorge was in February. After an indoor dedication ceremony — the Northern Connecticut Land Trust was taking possession of the gorge — I plowed my way through deep snow along the old Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad only to find snowdrifts on top of snowdrifts blocking my way down to the gorge.
Talcottville Gorge 1, Marteka 0.
I traveled down a path through mill ruins and promptly slipped on the wet and moss-covered jagged rocks of the gorge, bloodied my knuckles trying to recapture my balance, and slipped into the river up to my knees.
Talcottville Gorge 2, Marteka 0.
PHOTOS: Talcottville Gorge in Vernon
Oh, did I mention I loved every minute of it? After picking myself up, I slogged the rest of the 2-mile Talcottville Loop Trail. The trail not only passes through the gorge and mill ruins, it also travels along a segment of the abandoned railroad that is now Vernon's Rails-To-Trails path and past a scenic Talcottville Pond. The area is filled with mill history, and several interpretive signs help visitors navigate that legacy, including the site of the old Warburton Inn, known as "the inn with a chimney at each corner."
Visitors traveling along the Ravine Trail North can park at the end of Main Street, walk along the banks of Talcottville Pond and see some pruning done by beavers. The trail passes by sluiceways, headraces and dams of the old textile mills until it reaches the gorge.
And like Goldilocks, visitors have three choices when they reach the gorge. The first path takes them high above the gorge, but it's relatively easy to navigate. A second path passes by an old Native American Indian cave and is slightly more difficult.
But the "just right" path for the intrepid explorer is one that goes right along the banks of the Tankerhoosen. Here a chunk of cliff has fallen away, and with a gap too far to hop across, visitors are forced to straddle the wall clinging on to the craggy rocks. Despite some sweaty palms and nervous moments, the score remained 2-0.
The gorge is incredibly scenic at this point, especially on a sunny day when shafts of light slice through the branches of the old hemlocks to illuminate the patches of green moss. The sounds of the rapids and waterfall nearly drown out the noisy interstate.
As I end my journey along a bridge over the dam and see the moss-covered, craggy rocks off in the distance and the water thundering through, I find myself looking forward to my next rematch against the pocket wilderness known as the Talcottville Gorge.
Visitors can park at the end of Talcottville's Main Street off Route 30/83 just south of Connecticut Golf Land. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.