Nature's Path & Way To Go
3:12 PM EDT, September 5, 2013
Ah, the Connecticut caves.
As in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and free checking, I was once a believer in the caves. There was an old cave in the Cobalt section of East Hampton I would visit as a child. An honest-to-goodness dark open maw along the banks of a mountain stream. You peered inside and heard the sounds of dripping water echoing far below and a cold, damp breeze would float out even on the hottest of summer days.
But was it a cave? Nope. A mine shaft where men once mined for cobalt, a mineral used for glazing.
Was Judge's Cave – where two Englishmen who had signed the death warrant of a king hid out – actually a cave? Nope, a split boulder.
King Philip's cave, where a chief watched his braves attack the fledgling settlement of what is now Simsbury? Nope. Rocky overhang.
It was only years later that I learned that for a real cave, you need the presence of limestone or marble. The only publicly accessible caves in Connecticut are "Tory's Cave" in New Milford and "Squaw Cave" in Bolton, where an Indian maiden and her Dutch sailor lover hid from colonists.
But after a recent visit to Little Laurel Lime Park in Seymour, I'm thinking of adding its caves to the short list. Thar's marble in them thar hills, and that's a prime ingredient for the creation of caves. Add a few centuries of New England elements and erosion, and you have a cave. According to the Seymour Land Trust guide book, the marble was "originally a large coral reef that surrounded a volcanic island in an ancient ocean." Kind of puts one's existence in perspective.
But before you gather up all your spelunking equipment and head out to the park, the caves aren't that big and only go back a few feet. But there are about a half-dozen within a quarter-mile of each other in the 200-acre park.
The park is vast and while there is a trail map and faded blazes, all-terrain vehicles have created a maze of new trails, so it can be a bit confusing until you get the lay of the land – I ended up returning to the parking area several times before figuring out the trail system.
To reach the caves, visitors should stay on the main trail, following it to the left each time they encounter a secondary trail. After reaching a beautiful stone wall high on a ridge, visitors can turn left or right to see the caves, which are absolutely fascinating, with stratified layers of hardened rock on top of the layers of marble. It's a strange sight to see the huge trees growing out of the sides of the ledges next to the caves.
There are seasonal views of the Housatonic River valley, and a boundary loop trail will take visitors to a scenic overlook of the waterway. The trail runs along the outer rock outcropping and offers more views of the river.
A northern loop trail takes visitors into a valley with huge rock outcroppings. Here you will find a plethora of the usual Connecticut-style "caves" – boulders lying on top of each other or huge slabs of granite lying across ledges with an opening at the bottom. It's fun exploring them and, peering in, you expect to be greeted by the snores of a slumbering bear.
To get there, take Route 8 to exit 19. Follow Route 334 (Great Hill Road) and take a left on Laurel Lane which becomes Tibbets Road and park at the end of the cul-de-sac. Visit http://www.seymourct.org/pdf/Seymour%20Land%20Trust%20Trail%20Guide.pdf for a trail guide.
Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant