Nipmuck State Forest: Ridge Trail and Breakneck Pond

Location: Union, CT

Links: CT DEEP; Map PDF; AllTrails

Date: March 1, 2018

Time: 9:00 am – 1:30 pm

Hike Duration: 3.5 hours; 5.4 miles

Weather: GORGEOUS! Partly sunny; 40-60 degrees F

Notes: There is a seasonal/holiday parking fee for non-CT residents at Bigelow Hollow State Park. I think it most likely runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

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Our lunch with a view

This turned out to be a gorgeous day for a hike! We started out with temps in the low 40’s and ended our hike with temps around 60. As much as we both love winter, lately we’ve been dealing with a touch of spring fever. We’ve already noticed the red hue to the budding trees and the early spring flower shoots peeking up from the earth. It’s like nature is waiting to burst forth with new life, just as we are also anxiously awaiting days of more light, more warmth, more sun, and less layers.

Bigelow Hollow State Park joins with the Nipmuck State Forest to form over 9,000 acres of forest, including many small rivers and a few ponds. We parked at the state park by the Bigelow Pond picnic area, and I’m realizing as I type this and peruse the map, that the majority of our hike was actually through the Nipmuck State Forest. I had always just assumed this was all Bigelow Hollow. We began our hike on the Ridge Trail, followed this for a bit and then stepped off onto a parallel, unmarked trail. It felt good to be “lost” in the woods!

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Throughout this first part of our hike, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for this beautiful day, a precursor to spring. Gratitude for the sun on my face, the smell of the earth, the feel of fresh air on my skin. I felt like I was gulping it all in like I couldn’t get enough. I think we were both feeling the extreme relief of quenching our nature thirst after skipping a week of hiking.

Then I settled into connection. For me, the woods are where the physical and spiritual worlds find their harmony. In one moment I can look up to the trees towering above me and into the vast expanse of infinite sky, and feel so insignificant. And yet, in the next moment as I inhale the scent of pine needles and earth, feel the sun on my face and the gentle breeze in my hair, I can experience the grandeur of being a part of it all.

On this hike, Dennis discovered something I have never experienced in nature before. A natural water vortex in a small pool of a stream. I would say it was about 3-4 inches in diameter. We were absolutely mesmerized, watching as it swirled and funneled, reaching deeper and then filling in. Probably one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen!

As we continued our hike, we returned to our original trail. The Ridge Trail, aptly named for the way the earth drops down on either side of it, proved to be challenging as we had to hike up a steep incline to get to the top of that ridge. We never rose above the tree line, so there were no clear overlooks on this section of the trail. Had we continued on, we’d have eventually come to Cat Rocks with a nice overlook.

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We decided it wasn’t in the cards to hike that far today, so we turned onto the Breakneck Hill Rd Trail. We wanted to take our time and enjoy lunch on the pond. I was able to do a little barefoot hiking before we headed down from the ridge. I find great pleasure in barefoot hiking. It’s like a massage to my feet, as they feel the earth and pine needles and move and stretch over roots and rocks. Until we hit sticks and stones, then I need to cover up again!

We finally found a nice spot on Breakneck Pond to chill out and eat lunch. From here, we hiked the Nipmuck Trail along the edge of the pond, climbing over and around boulders and rocks.

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Breakneck Pond

From Nipmuck Trail, we hopped over to the Park Rd Trail and followed that back to the parking area. I used an app to track this hike, but unfortunately it crashed as I tried to save the hike. However, I had taken a screen shot of it when I realized my phone was getting low on power, so close enough. There are a lot of trails to explore here, so we return often. We hope you’re able to get out in the woods and enjoy some hiking as spring begins to settle over New England!

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