|Black Birch provides early fall color|
I parked where Wintonbury Road currently ends near the Simsbury/Bloomfield town line. This is an interesting old road that was once an important route used by colonists and Indians to cross the ridge via a prominent gap. Currently, the paved portion of Wintonbury Road clears the last house west of the ridge and continues rising up the mountain to a gate where people park, although the old unpaved roadbed continues past the gate and through the pass that divides Penwood State Park to the south and Wilcox Park to the north. It is said that people used the old roadbed as an emergency route in 1955 after the other roads washed out in the great flood.
|Looking west across the Farmington River Valley|
|Looking east across the Connecticut Valley - that was all Lake Hitchcock.|
|Wilcox Park Chimney|
|Unexpected geocache logbook entry|
|OMG Northeast Utilities, what did you do to the trail???|
After passing a couple of these corridors the trail suddenly comes out onto a wide gravel road that rises up from below and then follows the top of the ridge right where the trail had been. The road seems relatively new and I wondered if a subdivision was planned. I noticed a Northeast Utilities land marker and after a bit the gravel highway came out onto the 3rd set of powerlines. Ahh. A new access road to the powerlines. Why? And did it need to go right along the ridgetop and obliterate the hiking trail?
|Looking west at the Barndoor Hills|
Soon the trail comes to a massive chimney, which the CFPA book identifies simply as the "Bartlett Tower ruins." But why leave it at that, when we have Google to helps us learn more. According to the State Tourism website, this was the site of a grand tower resort in the 1800's that was easily accessible by train and visited by the likes of Mark Twain. "Standing 70 feet high, the tower had guest bedrooms on two floors and an observation deck at its top, surrounded by a railing and open on all four sides. There was a 50-by-70-foot pavilion with tables and chairs, a bowling lane, dance floor, and piano. Field glasses (early binoculars) and “Claude Lorraine” glasses—whose tinted lenses and convex mirror allowed tourists to view the landscape as if it were a miniature landscape painting—were provided. An attendant on the observation deck pointed out places of interest to guests looking through a telescope. A nearby grove with tables and seats for large parties, swings, croquet, quoits, and a seesaw satisfied the more active visitors... This tower was also more accessible than the first. It was less than a third of a mile from the train station. By 1895, a total of 250,000 people had visited one or both of Bartlett’s towers....Today, if you are looking for a vestige of this bygone era, go back to the beginning—to the stone pillars on the side of this dead-end street —and follow the carriage road’s fading imprint up the mountain."
Roaming about the woods there at the chimney I manage to get stung by a couple wasps before finding a teeny-tiny fern growing on the side of a rock. This fern was so delicate I needed to place a pen in the photo for scale. I believe it is Maidenhair Spleenwort, which prefers limestone outcrops but may also grow along trap rock outcrops, which are less acidic than most Connecticut rock.
It's a quick descent to Mountain Road, where the old stone pillars that marked the entry road to the tower still stand trailside.
|Pillars marking the extinct drive up to Bartlett's Tower.|
|Old road along the secondary ridge or shelf|
|Wood Frog on the red trail|
After arriving back at Wintonbury Road, I continued south back into Penwood State Park on the orange trail. This trail was very much like the old ridge road I had just been on and quite pleasant. To the west were glimpses of views through the trees, while to the east was a steep slope rising up to some low cliffs, on which the Metacomet Trail was routed. The old roadbed simply followed a narrow shelf of land part way down the ridge. It was a nice way to end the day.
|Orange Trail at Penwood - glimpses of views|
|Orange Trail following a shelve of land along the cliffs (click to enlarge)|