A Visit To Northern Connecticut's Scenic Three-State Skyline

A View Out To Springfield And Beyond

The view of northern Connecticut into Massachusetts from the Somers Scenic Area. (Peter Marteka / March 2, 2012)

Growing up, whenever the latest "Highlights For Children" magazine came I would tear through it looking for the "hidden pictures" puzzle and spend my walk back from the mailbox searching for things like a baseball bat, toothbrush and a slice of pie.

You can do the same thing — albeit on a much grander scale — while searching the horizon from Somers' Skyline Scenic Area. And the items to search for include a sleeping giant, a tower, a huge mountain, a city or two, a prison and an Air Force base.

The 65-acre preserve, owned by the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, can be navigated along a 1.5-mile loop trail whose northern portion reaches the Massachusetts border and the southern shadow of 908-foot-high Minnechaug Mountain in neighboring Hampden, Mass.

At the trailhead, visitors have a choice to get to the property's panoramic viewpoint. Take a right and travel a mile along a path that is easily navigated and rises gently to the opening in the forest. Or take a left and travel only a half-mile to the view. The downside? It is known as the ledge trail. Although it will get you to the top faster, it will also give you a good workout.

Much of the preserve, simply known by the locals as SSA, is filled with hemlocks and oaks. After a mild winter, the hemlock branches are filled with the woolly adelgid insect, a pest that has decimated the evergreens across the state. During cold winters, populations die back. But the tree — my favorite evergreen — will be stressed out this year across New England because of a lack of severe cold weather.

Since I usually travel counterclockwise (it's a superstition thing) along loop trails, I took the more difficult path. But it's definitely the more scenic path, with the trail traveling across granite rocks laced with sparkling quartz and past moss-covered boulders where the roots of huge white pines grasp the shallow soil.

Visitors reach the opening in the forest canopy and a three-state view that reaches into Vermont. It's not a clearcut opening devoid of trees. An opening to the right showcases the Hartford skyline, which on this visit looks like a city in the clouds. To the south of the city are the Hanging Hills of Meriden and Sleeping Giant in Hamden. The Heublein Tower sticks high out of the western mountains.

In the center opening is the Springfield skyline with Mount Greylock — Massachusetts' highest point — looming in the distance. To the east is Westover Air Force Base where the sounds of C-5 military transport jets taking off and landing fill the air. The southern reaches of Vermont's Green Mountains can be seen beyond the base.

The trail gradually descends after the overlook and passes a number of mysterious pits dug into the ground. The brochure picked up at the trailhead noted that "no one has explained their origin satisfactorily." While on the descent, I scattered a group of wild turkeys, which thundered through the dead hemlocks and flew high up. Never knew they were such good fliers.

So head out to the wilds of northern Connecticut and search for the hidden and not-so-hidden objects on the horizon. But if you are looking for a baseball bat, toothbrush or slice of pie, you may come away disappointed.

Visit northernctlandtrust.org and click on "properties" for a map of the preserve. From the intersection of routes 83 and 190, travel east on Route 190 and take a left on Battle Street, which turns into Mountain Road. Take a left on Root Road and left on Stafford Road. The trailhead is on the right. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or pmarteka@courant.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

       

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