Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tunxis Trail

The Tunxis Trail is one of Connecticut's wildest trails.  Over the course of a few weeks I set out to hike the most northern twenty miles of the trail, from Route 44 in New Hartford to the Massachusetts state line in Hartland.  After hiking in the densely populated Connecticut Valley all winter and spring along the New England Trail (NET), the Tunxis offered quite a contrast.  

Red Eft (Eastern Newt)

Just driving there was an experience. We passed a dead porcupine on the road.  A porcupine! Another time a turkey ran out in front of my car and just as I was about to hit it, the turkey jumped straight up and took flight, my front window just barely sliding under the awkwardly flapping giant bird. Nearly had a stroke. 

Painted Trillium
Some of the plants up here are more typical of Northern New England.  Normally I see Red Trillium in Connecticut, but the Tunxis was home to several Painted Trilliums, a more northern species. Striped maple and hobblebush abound here, but are only occasionally seen in other parts of the state. Clintonia I associate with the White Mountains, not Connecticut. Foamflower grew in several places along the trail. This is an attractive native plant for landscaping, growing in dry or wet shade, and available in specialty nurseries. The only other place I've seen  it growing wild is on top of Shenandoah Mountain in Virginia.

Indian Council Caves
The most unique attraction along the trail is the Indian Council Caves, formed by an unusual pile of house-sized boulders. In the photo above, look for my dog in the lower center for scale. Yup, and that's just one of the boulders. It's even more surprising because there is nothing like this in the woods leading up to the cave. It's not particularly rocky for Connecticut, and you don't notice many boulders. Then there they all are right on top of each other. It's like a giant was cleaning up his field and threw all the rocks in a corner. 

Pink Lady Slippers
The funniest moment of the trail was when my dog and I startled a bobcat near the trail. The cat was substantially bigger than my dog but, you know, if it runs, chase it.  The bobcat was the fastest ball of fur I've ever seen. I didn't really even notice it's head or feet, and it didn't have a tail to speak of, it was just a streaking ball of fur doing one of those crazy mad cat scrambles. And my little 17-pound terrier was in hot pursuit because she's an idiot. Fortunately for her, she responded to my call and turned around, because that  would not have ended well if the cat had come to its senses, stopped running, and turned on my dog.
And so the next three pictures will have my dog in them.  

Biscuit on some old ruins at a pond near the caves.  

Biscuit and some Pinxter Azalea. 

Biscuit, the goat 
Finishing up the Tunxis was a real pleasure. I started back in October 2011 and promptly broke my ankle on the first part. That's why I have trekking poles now.  The trail has some smooth dark patches of rock that you barely notice, but be careful, because if they are slightly damp you can really slip.  Almost like black ice.  That's what happened to me last October.
Massachusetts State Line Monument. The End. 


Dan L. said...

What a great post and I love the photos, especially the one of the Red Eft. I actually encountered my first Red Eft not that long ago while hiking in the Berkshires. In any case, I came across your blog and thought you might be interested in checking out a new natural history/outdoors website which I started called New England nature Notes, which features phostos, short essays, articles and interviews on various natural history topics, mainly connected to New England wildlife and ecology.

I'd like to invite you to check out the site at:


Perhaps if you like the site we can post links to each others sites on our own respective pages ? Drop me a line if you'd like to discuss this further at:


Dan Levenson
New England Nature Notes

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