Posted By auntie on January 13, 2017
5.42 miles; Glastonbury, CT
Wow, long time between hikes, what with a busy schedule and SNOW (ugh). But we have been having a January heat wave, so snow’s all gone, and my schedule cleared today, so I dashed out. Saw from the Glastonbury Town map of the Falls that there were connecting trails to Gay City, and I’ve been wanting to get back there forever, so I killed two hikes with one, uh, hike. I am a sucker for interconnected trail systems… this map was like catnip. And the reason I wanted to get back to Gay City was, well, see below.
There is a large parking lot and a short little trail system (approx. 1.5 miles) associated with Blackledge Falls in Glastonbury. In fact, it seemed overly blazed for such a small loop. Maybe it’s easier to miss in the summer?
According to my extensive Twitter reading, this is a much more impressive sight when the temps are below freezing. Hey, it was cold enough today, so maybe this is also good enough? Yeah. It’s fine.
From the Falls, I meandered through the trail system following the blue trail, which took a turn to the north towards Gay City State Park. I’d been to Gay City once before, but never got to see the ruins. “Ruins?” you ask. Yes, apparently this place would have been better named “Bad Luck City.” Here’s the tl;dr version from Wikipedia:
The isolated hollow on the Blackledge River was first settled by religious leader Elijah Andrus and his followers in 1796. A succession of ill-fated mills marked the town’s history—the first built around 1800 and the last burning down in 1879. Village history has also been burdened with tales of community tensions caused by the free use of alcohol during twice weekly religious services and of grisly murders gone unpunished.
Following construction of a sawmill and wool mill, the village became known as Factory Hollow and grew to about 25 families, many of whom bore the surname Gay. The wool mill’s commercial success ended with the War of 1812; the mill burned down in 1830. A paper mill revived the village’s fortunes but it too fell victim to fire, leading to the village’s ultimate demise. The property was sold to the state by one of the town’s last descendants in 1943, at which time the name Gay City was applied to the site. A year later the land became a state park, then entered the official roles as Connecticut’s 54th state park, with 680 acres, in 1946.
Last time I was here, I did a big loop around the perimeter of the park, starting and ending from Birch Mountain Road, so I never did see any of the ruins. The intermittently-blazed blue trail took me from the Blackledge Falls trail system about 8/10s of a mile to the red trail that circles Gay City SP. This time, instead of continuing around, I took the yellow-blazed trail that would take me to the center of the park and the old mill site.
Along the way, I came across this Art Project. At least, that’s what it said in the Guest Book.
I did notice a lot of artistically-scattered broken shards where the glass(???) ornaments blew off the tree and shattered. Hope the last part of the Art Project involves picking up the pieces.
Also along the yellow trail you can find this gorgeous old cellar hole. Not sure if this was a mill or a house or a barn, but whatever it was, it was beautifully laid. The walls are still arrow-straight and crisp. Lovely.
At the intersection of the yellow-blazed trail and the blue-blazed Shenipsit Trail, there is another white-blazed side trail that takes you to this amazing and HUGE old mill site. Really, this is massive. Must have been quite the operation in its day. I rather wish the lovelorn person with the can of black spray paint had not been here, however.
Not far from the mill ruins one finds a Youth Camping Area, and yes, a bathroom. A solar-powered bathroom. I mean, such luxury!
The map that’s pictured above is from the Open Hiking Map, and I had this to follow with me on the phone. As you can see, there is a trail to the east of the one I took, which I considered taking back to the car. Glad I didn’t, though, because it kind of looks like it veers off State property and onto private property. Hard to tell from here, but that’s what it looked like at the time, too. But it would have made a very cool complete loop, instead of a lollipop loop. You can find info on Blackledge Falls from this Town of Glastonbury site, and Gay City from the CT DEEP website.