Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mattabesett Trail - Reservoir Loop

Part 1 - Reservoir Loop Trail
Hike date June 13, 2011 

I've confirmed yet another immutable fact of life - this blog don't write itself.  While I have been hiking the last few weeks, I just haven't been able to sit down and write about it.  So let's get you caught up.

The 50 mile Mattabesett Trail winds its way from Middletown to Berlin, kind of a U-shape as it runs south from the Connecticut River to Guilford, and then back up along the ridgelines through Middletown ending on the Berlin Turnpike.  The Connecticut Forest and Park Association's trail guide breaks the Mattabesett into seven sections, from three to thirteen miles in length.  But with side trails, loop trails and access points all along the way, you can create a hike of almost any length.  How much time do you have?  Do you want to hike along the mountain ridge, or the water, or take an easy walk through the forest?  Just pick a section.  I've been hopscotching along the trail, with about half the sections done over the last year, and figured I'd put a little order to it and finish up hiking the sections as they're listed in the guide.

That means getting up to the river and hiking the first section - the Reservoirs - from River Road along the Connecticut River, to Bear Hill Road in Middletown.  Add in the Reservoir Loop, side trails at the southern end of this section, and I planned a 10 mile out and back hike.  And even though I was starting from the south end along the side trails, I thought I'd cleverly write this post as if I started at the river as it's laid out in the guide book.  However, there was way too much fun along the way, so let me take you through it just as I hiked.

There is a small parking area, enough room for two or three cars, on the north side of Bear Hill Road.  Stepping off from there, I followed the blue-blazed Mattabesett north toward Brooks Road.  Mid June in Connecticut means blooming mountain laurel, and the woods were exploding with little white flowers.  It also means you better wear boots you can muck around in along the soggy trails and high running streams as we’ve had plenty of rain the last few days.  But it was sunny now, cool with a little breeze – perfect for a long hike.

The trail breaks out of the woods just below Asylum Reservoir #2.  There are three reservoirs here, creatively named #1, #2 and you guessed it, #3.  I stopped along the road for a few minutes, with this gorgeous view over the water ringed with pink mountain laurel, and stayed just long enough to make the wildlife nervous.  A great blue heron took off out of a marshy area near the bank and flew out low over the water.  Hiking east along Brooks Road for a few hundred feet, the blue/yellow blazed Reservoir Loop trail heads north into the woods. 

The Reservoir Loop is an easy walk with a few gentle hills.  It winds its way through the woods along the east side of the reservoir, and peeks out onto the water at a few points along the way.  The few boards and bridges on the trail weren't enough to keep me feet-dry.  Much of the trail is only slightly above the water level of the reservoir, so a little rain will swamp the trail – and last night’s deluge put several sections under water.  But the trail heads uphill just north of the reservoir for a nice walk.  About a mile in, the trail crosses the main Mattabesett, past a non-existent view of Reservoir #1 (maybe it was just a typo on the map), and out onto Reservoir Road.  

This section is a gravel and broken asphalt work road, bricks strewn along the sides and a few stray appliances dumped here and there in the woods.  Hike along the road a few minutes and watch for trail markers sending you north into the woods again, across a stream that runs parallel to the road.  I moved a little west of the regulation river crossing, to where there was still one good stepping stone above the water.  Hop across and make a steep climb past a moss covered ledge.  The trail crests the hill, and takes you into a mixed hardwood and hemlock forest.  The loop trail ends here, meeting up with the main trail again. 

North end of Asylum Reservoir #2, and more pink Mountain Laurel

Signposts as the blue/yellow blazed loop trail
crosses the main trail

Ford the river (or just hop across)

Work your way up and around the ledge to
find the main trail again.

That leaves about 3 miles to go on the Mattabesett before I hit the 'starting point' on River Road.  But I'll get to that in part 2.


  1. Nice to see you back! :-)

  2. Hi, I'm the trail maintainer for that section. Nice write-up. The broken-board bridge you showed is one that mountain-bikers put in. I usually will remove those, because they can cause a hazard to hikers. We maintain the path for foot travel.



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