15 7 / 2012
This week, CT A to Z is suffering. It’s been sticky, humid, and remarkably unpleasant in CT for the last week now. Monday was kind of nice, but by Wednesday the blue skies had clouded over and the heat was trapped. We’re currently awaiting a mega thunderstorm of salvation, whilst sitting in front of air con with as few clothes as possible. I know, I know, too much information. But unfortunately this means that Chatfield Hollow got a rather lack lustre visit from too sorry looking english people today. Which is a shame, because for a small park, it’s actually one of the most exciting we have.
Tucked away in a hollow (no surprise there) off route 80, Chatfield is one of the many north south wrinkles found in Connecticut formed by the collision between the North American and European/African tectonic plates. It was further sculpted by the retreat of glacial ice around 17,000 years ago, which left glacial erratic boulders in, well, erratic locations. Finally, there’s large extrusions of Monson Gneiss throughout the park, revealed by weathering away of softer layers of rock on top. Aside from the opportunity to make lots of bad rock puns (What’s this rock? It’s nice! I know, but what IS it?), this has left a really fun area of rock falls and fake caves to explore which are very easy to reach from the road. Take the section of the green chimney trail from right by the entrance, and you can scramble over and climb into darkened corners. You can also admire the local graffiti, which seems to be a common problem with Connecticut and striking pieces of rock.
As we’ve walked the more outlying trails of this park before, we decided on a rather peculiar route today. We took the white lookout trail, expecting to join onto the red and head towards the mill pond and water wheel. Turns out that the blazing at Chatfield is a little haphazard, and the trails are a little more rugged than usual, meaning all of a sudden we were on a very fine but unblazed trail going in the wrong direction. So wrong in fact, that we popped out at the yellow nature trail, right next to a rather fun looking chimney. So we headed back down to the road , and then decided to take the Purple Covered Bridge trail.
The Covered Bridge is a little disappointing, it’s a reproduction, short and not particularly ornate. But just a little further north there’s the beautiful remnants of a mill pond, with a restored working water wheel and picnic tables and pines surrounding the water. Rumour has it that there was a working grist (corn or flour grinding) mill in the vicinity, run by the descendants of the Chatfield Brothers, and there’s the remains of multiple homesteads spotted around the place.
Instead of taking the longer orange and blue trails back (we did those last time, they’re pretty average CT fare), we sauntered back along the road by the west side of the pond, stopping briefly at the Nature Centre, which seems to have a lot of craft type fun things to do for kids, and then continued to the Boardwalk. You pass by a bizarrely landscaped area that looks like you’ve just stepped into Mansfield Park - all small ornamental walls and individually manicured shrubs.
If you continue through the garden, you reach the boardwalk section, which looks like is was a real fight against nature to create. This bit of the park is thick with alien looking vegetation, and full of bees and dragonflies. The boardwalk is elevated above the swamp floor, meaning you can investigate the impenetrable floor and the multi levelled flower enriched higher points from a safe vantage spot. The boardwalk was created by Paul Wildermann, a DEP maintenance worker who sadly died of cancer shortly after completing the project. It’s a great addition to the park, making interesting use of an area that would likely have been left otherwise unexplored.
And that’s not all! There’s a small pond with clear water and a marked swimming area (though no lifeguards), numerous areas with shelters and cooking grills, and even more trails extending further into what is strictly an outpost of Cockaponset. A great day out, with plenty for all the family.