Shenipsit Trail, Section 1

Posted By on November 17, 2017

Shenipsit Trail, Section 1

11.7 miles; East Haddam and Glastonbury, CT

Whew. When I decided to start knocking off the CFPA’s blue-blazed trails as a follow-up to the Bay Circuit Trail, I knew it would probably be a bit harder. Which, in the case of the Shenipsit Trail, turns out to be a serious mis-underestimation. To start with, I had to abort my first attempt at this trail. When I tried to get a Lyft ride to the trailhead, I was declined by FOUR drivers before a fifth one agreed to pick me up. And although I had a general idea as to where the trail started, I naively assumed that there would be one of those iconic, oval-shaped blue signs to mark it, or at the very least, blazes clearly visible from the road. Wrong on both counts. There was no sign of a trail anywhere to be found, and I ultimately gave up and had the Lyft driver take me back to my car. I promptly drove back to where I thought the trail should be, and it still took me several very slow passes back and forth before I saw blue blazes deep in the woods. But by this time it was too late to start over again.

Take two, about a week later. I got a Lyft ride fairly promptly, and I knew exactly where I wanted to be dropped off. The trail itself was WAY harder than I anticipated, and took WAY longer. Still, it will be all the sweeter when I finish, right?

The Connecticut River from Great Hill Overlook

The trail begins at Gadpouch Road in East Haddam. There is a stretch of this road that becomes unpaved, and in that stretch there is a small pull-off. Opposite this pull-off is the actual, exact trailhead. Good luck finding it. And as if to introduce itself, the Shenipsit immediately begins to climb up a pretty steep hill, appropriately if unimaginatively named Great Hill. The views were spectacular.

Great Hill Pond from Great Hill Overlook

Great Hill Pond from Great Hill Overlook

If you look very carefully, you can see downtown Hartford in the distance, as well as the “Sleeping Giant.” This will prove to be a recurring theme on this trail.

Bridge

Bridge

From Great Hill, the trail followed a long ridge with occasional overlooks for about a mile and a half through the Meshomasic State Forest, which I am told is the second largest state forest in Connecticut, the Pachaug being the largest. It was full of unmarked side trails and lots of old woods roads, but the blue blazing was very clear and easy to follow.

Stone Walls

Stone Walls

While this traverse of the southern end of the Shenipsit took in a lot of the Meshomasic State Forest, thanks to my favorite nature columnist, Peter Marteka, I also know there is an abandoned Nike missile site in here, as well as several old reservoirs, and a planned re-route of the Shenipsit to avoid both crossing busy Route 2 and the 3-mile road-walking detour that currently exists to, well, avoid crossing Route 2. (Which is, by the way, pretty darned tedious.) What I’m saying here is that there’s a lot more of the Meshomasic to see, and someday I will be back to explore further.

There isn’t a lot of “official” or government information about the Meshomasic State Forest aside from some property line maps for hunters. But because it’s also a popular mountain-biking destination, the New England Mountain Biking Association, or NEMBA, has some detailed information and a nice hand-drawn map on their page. The Meshomasic even has its own hiking club, and you can view some detailed maps of the points of interest on their website, including a nice little loop trail that includes the missile site. Also, you can read more about the vast (825 miles at last count) network of blue-blazed trails throughout Connecticut at the website of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Be sure to check out the interactive map. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this hike and to download the GPS track.

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