Hiking to the Massachusetts border on the Shenipsit Trail (Part I) – theday.comJune 2, 2022
“O.K., I’m going to walk a little slower over the next section,” Larry Lawrence said. His nonchalant tone suggested nothing more dramatic ahead than a squirrel nibbling on an acorn.
Then he offhandedly added, “This is where we could come across rattlesnakes.”
Our hiking group had been approaching a series of steep ledges on the Shenipsit Trail in Glastonbury that is famous, or infamous, for being home to the state’s largest known population of timber rattlers.
I had mixed feelings. On one hand, it would be thrilling to see this endangered species for the first time; on the other, while Connecticut has not recorded any rattlesnake-bite deaths (the reclusive reptiles typically retreat rather than strike), they are poisonous vipers.
I like the advice W.C. Fields once gave: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snake bite — and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”
For better or worse, we wound up seeing nothing more venomous than a harmless garter snake. Just as well — I’m pretty sure none of us carried anything more potent than Gatorade.
For the past few weeks, friends and I have been hiking the Shenipsit in stages from East Hampton to Stafford, and hope to finish soon. We initially didn’t plan to traverse the entire 50-mile footpath, but changed our itinerary after having had the good fortune to meet Larry early on.
Our journey began in early May when Maggie Jones, Mary Sommer and I, seeking to hike somewhere none of us had been before, chose Meshomasic State Forest — Connecticut’s first state forest, established in 1903, and the second-oldest in the country. The Shenipsit Trail offers the only access to the 9,000-acre forest, so we drove to the southern terminus on Gadpouch Road in Cobalt, a borough of East Hampton that is named for the mineral prized for its brilliant blue color used to decorate pottery.
An abandoned cobalt mine, where workers dug up tons of the mineral in the 18th and 19th centuries for import around the world, lies not far from the Shenipsit trailhead.
In less than half a mile, we scrambled up the steep ridge of Great Hill, and veered briefly onto the Lookout Trail to take in a stellar view of …….