Monday, August 20, 2012

A Better Sense of Place

I-84 Westbound near Southington
For decades I have, from time to time, driven across the state, noticing various hills and backdrops that I knew nothing about, not even their names.  I don't live in that part of the state, and other than some basic geological knowledge of the ridges, the hills were just hills to me.  During a recent drive on the way to New Hampshire, it was different.  I know the names of the hills and have a picture in my head of what's on top. My husband called it, "a better sense of place," which is a great description.

West bound in I-84 coming out of the Waterbury area is the first view of the 100-mile long Metacomet Ridge, with it's various "mountains" (OK, not really, but that's what we call them), and it's a dramatic one. As the highway begins a long descent down the western wall of the Connecticut Valley, on the hard schists and gneisses of the Western Highlands towards the much softer redbeds below,  the Valley opens up and right there in the middle rises the hard traprock of the Metacomet Ridge.  The stepped appearance of Meriden's Hanging Hills, including West Peak and East Peak, is 
unmistakable. Castle Craig is up there, Hubbard Park just below, with it's thousands of spring daffodils.  Behind it, to the right, is another section of the Metacomet Ridge, I believe Mt. Higby or maybe Beseck Mountain. 

Rattlesnake Mountain
Further along I-84 are the twin humps of Rattlesnake Mountain.  The left peak, with the twin radio towers, is Rattlesnake Mountain proper, home of Will Warren's den.  The descent between the two humps is where the New England Trail passed through a cave with an inscription from 1882. Then up on the right hump, that's where Hospital Rock and one of the many spots known as "the Pinnacle" lie. People were rock climbing when I was there.

And there's the Tilcon Quarry. The trail used to go to the right of the quarry, but was rerouted to the left. On the other side of the highway (behind the camera) the trail heads up towards the Pinnacle, and some native cacti grow on a cliff. 

Traprock ridge along I-91 near Holyoke, MA

And that was pretty much it for Connecticut during this drive.  Some time later, as we headed up I-91 in Massachusetts, I suddenly saw the familiar profile of a Connecticut Valley traprock ridge. Steep west side, 15% slope on the east side.  This must be the Metacomet Ridge! And that means the New England Trail is probably right up there.

More traprock ridges along I-91 in MA
And there were more ridges just to the north. My geographical knowledge of Massachusetts is appalling, but I was pretty sure these were traprock ridges.

 After arriving back home, I checked the map, and sure enough there is the New England Trail crossing I-91 where I saw the ridges. The map shows East Mtn, Mt. Tom, and Mt. Holyoke along I-91. Not sure which is which in the photos above. But maybe some day I'll find out first hand.

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