By Guest Blogger Ann Borron Gargula
Our first hike in Connecticut was the Ragged Mountain Preserve loop in Berlin, Ct. It was a trail that enticed us enough to keep returning to it in every season and in different weather conditions. We’ve hiked it in rain, blazing heat and even during a snowfall.
The very first hike was in spring of 2009. We set out to do the 5.5 loop trail on part of the Metacomet, starting off of West Lane in Berlin. We arrived to a trail that was wet, muddy and slippery. For my very first time hiking 4 years ago, this was not my ideal conditions. Within fifteen minutes we were rewarded with an overlook to Martha Hart Pond. All of a sudden, I had a mind shift and felt the awe of being in nature.
I was nervous about crossing the rocky ridge line in wet conditions without poles but something kept pushing me forward. I was starting to feel anticipation of what the next view would bring, what magic would I see?
We joined up with Metacomet Trail, following it to the summit of Ragged Mountain. The expanse of this area is windswept grass behind cliffs that drop right down. This is where the hike became exciting for me. As we exited this open area, something catches my eye hiding in a bush, it is huge and slithery, a black rat snake. I choke down my fear, to snap pictures. All the while, willing it not to come at us. Luckily he enjoyed posing for us and after a few shots, we left him in peace.
I have a swing in my step, we continued on our way. The rain clouds have moved away, we have discovered red-spotted newts crawling on the path and found a beautiful vernal pool. We’ve started to look around and see the beauty of the forest surrounding us and occasional views looking out that inspire us to keep going.
As this hike winds down, we hear a strange sound. We stop dead in our tracks to this repeating metal clinking noise. Is there a strange animal that makes this noise, we wonder? And the answer is yes, golfers hitting golf balls on a golf course.
How could this hike, that had me scared at the beginning, get any better? Simple, walk up next to a waterfall. It was beautiful and calming.Not even a month later we return to Ragged Mountain with friends to do a point to point. We start at West Lane in Berlin and finish at Rogers Orchards in Southington. This was a beautiful sunny day full of promise and excitement. We saw another black rat snake, a sign that this was going to be more fun than last time. We did ups and downs, challenging climbs and some areas sliding down on our behinds. We were so happy to share this beautiful place with our friends. We had a tiring 7.5 mile hike that taxed our bodies, but fed our spirits.
We skip ahead to October, a quintessential New England fall day. Mike and I return to repeat our first hike. How could we ever tire of this place? The seasonal changes are stunning and things we see on our hikes here are so unexpected. In the fall the ravines fill with painted leaves, making it appear we have a river of fall flowing. Looking out on the hillsides the colors of the trees look like an artist’s pallet.
This area has captured our hearts, so of course we had to hike it in the winter. For me, this was the best time to be in Ragged Mountain Preserve area. We decided to play it safe and not do the ridge walks, but walk the non blue trails. It was a glorious snowy day in January. The snow was wet and heavy falling down on us.
You could hear the quiet of the forest gather us in her arms, as we hiked along our 3.6 miles. We had many a stream crossing, cleverly crafted ice flows and footprints of many creatures. The true peace of this place appeared off to our side, four deer tiptoeing through their woods. Only one stopped and posed for me, but for that I am thankful.
This place makes us both very happy, a happy that comes from deep inside that is encased in peacefulness. I truly believe this is one area that every hiker should experience, in whatever season they choose, because this forest and vistas give of themselves unselfishly. Until the next hike….
Details: We always park at West Lane in Berlin to do the loop trail. The point to point was started here and we finished at Rogers Orchard in Southington, with a short road walk. Be prepared for ups and downs and climbers use this area, so don’t be frightened if a head pops over the cliff. There are a few different trails to hike in the preserve, a new trail sign with a QR Code has been posted as of this fall, that is very helpful.