I think it’s pretty fair to say that the Beseck Mountain Ridge along the Mattabessett Trail is often overlooked. If you are from Connecticut then chances are you have heard of Powder Ridge Ski Area. Powder Ridge sits along Beseck Mountain, but most people don’t go past the skiing and mountain biking trails there.
As part of our attempt to section hike the whole New England Trail, we decided to do an out and back walk along the whole ridge. (The Mattabessett is one of the trails that makes up the entire New England Trail). We started off in Durham at a small dirt area off of Route 68. There is no trail sign, but we were armed with our brand new Connecticut Walk Book so I was confident this was the right place. A short walk into the woods was all we needed to start seeing the familiar blue blazes to know we were on the correct trail. The trail climbs fairly quickly up the ridge without any views. Unlike most of the other sections of the Mattabassett Trail that I had been on, this area was not as worn in of a trail. The blazes were easy to follow, but the trail itself didn’t show signs of hundreds of yearly visitors.
Every now and again the trail moved close to the edge of the ridge and we had a small opening looking out to Wallingford and Meriden. It was blazing hot when we reached the power lines right before the Powder Ridge mountain biking trails begun. The trail was barely existent at this point with the grass and other flora being so overgrown. I was a bit worried about ticks, but as we neared the Powder Ridge trails the hiking trail got wider and we were able to do a quick check.
The chair lift was running, but we didn’t come across any mountain bikers. Be aware though that we do share the trail with them for a little bit. North of the ski trails the Mattabasett appears to see a little more in the way of foot traffic. The trail was a bit more worn in. This is most likely due to having more views along the way.
Around 2.5 miles after Powder Ridge we came to my favorite view of the hike. Below us lay Black Pond with Higby Mountain raising up to the north. Down in Black Pond, we could see kayakers and canoers enjoying the hot summer day. It was also quite nice to enjoy a bit of a breeze on the exposed ridge before heading down and toward lunch at Guida’s Restaurant.
From Route 68 in Durahm up to Guida’s Resturant is about 5.5 miles. We had planned to have lunch at Guida’s and then track back to our car. While enjoying our lunch we started talking to a family at an adjacent table. Nancy had come out from Wisconsin to hike the entire New England Trail. Mary, her daughter who lives in Boston, was hiking with her for the weekend, and her husband was her crew. We decided to join Nancy and Mary for their hike over Higby Mountain and the last 7 miles of their day. It was so much fun making new trail friends and cheering Nancy on for her thru hike of the New England Trail. (And, for the record, Nancy finished the whole New England Trail the following Monday. You go Nancy!)