Mashamoquet Brook State Park

Location: Pomfret, CT

Links: CT DEEP; Map PDF; AllTrails

Date: March 29, 2018

Time: 9:30 am – 1:30 pm

Hike Duration: 4 hours; 4.5-5 miles

Weather: Cloudy; 40-55 degrees F; some rain towards end of hike

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Our lunch with a view

This was such a pleasant day for a hike. I’ll be honest, I started the morning feeling a bit frustrated with another overcast Thursday. However, the comfortable temperature and the sheer awesomeness of this hike made up for it.

We parked in the outer parking lot just off Route 44. The roads leading into the main areas of the park are still closed for the season, but hiking is open! We walked over the bridge that crosses the Mashamoquet Brook and picked up the trail head from there. Our plan was to follow the trails around the perimeter of the park.

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Mashamoquet Brook

A steep incline at the beginning of the blue/red trail was our first warm up for this 4 hour hike. It felt great to start off with a challenge to get our blood pumping!

As we made our way towards the main campground, we took some time to pause and absorb the nature surrounding us. Nature is my safe haven. I have a compulsion toward obsessive overthinking which leads to a lot of anxiety. Spending time in nature does wonders for down-regulating my nervous system.

 

It takes some practice though, and that’s why I love our nature practices so much. Today I took many moments to pause and bring myself out of my relentlessly active mind and into my body with some nature breathing. This is one of my favorite practices and one that can be used in any environment.

It’s fairly simple…

What am I seeing? a rock wall, a foot bridge, trees, clouds in the sky, dried leaves on the forest floor

What is my body feeling? the warmth of the sun trying to shine through the clouds, the cool air on my face, my feet firmly planted on the ground, my hair gently lifting in the breeze

 

What am I hearing? water flowing in a stream, the crunch of leaves under my feet, the bird songs filling the air

What am I smelling? damp earth, dried pine needles

Almost instantly, my obsessive thoughts settle. I’m no longer lost in my mind. The tightness in my chest relaxes and I feel lighter as I allow nature to embrace me.

 

This practice interrupts the anxiety producing thought patterns running rampant in my head and is helping me to retrain my brain to develop new neural pathways. For a basic understanding of how this works, check out this article.

Our first area of exploration on this hike was the nature trail loop located in the main campground. This trail brought us along a grove of pines, by a swamp and a marsh, and through the woods. Posts were set up, educating us on what we were seeing along the way.

 

From here, we hopped back onto blue trail and made our way to Indian Chair. We took some time to explore the many rocky ledges and outcrops along the trail. As we sat at the top of one of these, we were visited by a turkey vulture soaring in circles directly above our heads. It came so close at times, we wondered if we were too close to its nest. That was our signal to move on.

 

Vulture “was a promise that the suffering of the immediate was temporary and necessary for a higher purpose was at work, even if not understood at the time. It reflects that no matter how difficult the life conditions, rescue is imminent in your life.” ~ From Animal Speak by Ted Andrews

Our lunch with a view was at Indian Chair. This is a natural stone formation that looks like a perfect seat. Thank goodness for resting and refueling, because from here the hike to Wolf Den became serious!

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Indian Chair

The terrain seemed like a never-ending incline. At one point, when I thought we had reached the top, I heard Dennis exclaim with a hint of dismay in his voice, “don’t look up.” Yup, there before us stood another incline. Pictures don’t do it justice. Just to give you an idea, our fitness trackers said we climbed about 65 floors and walked around 14,000 steps on this hike.

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Rock hopping anyone???

There are two circumstances I’ve become aware of when my overthinking anxiety mind calms down. One is when I’m baking and need to follow a recipe. The other is when I’m involved in a physically strenuous activity. It’s like my mind takes a back seat to the power of my legs and the beating of my heart. We finally made it to Wolf Den, supposedly the location where the last wolf in Connecticut was killed in the mid-1700’s.

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We finally made it to Wolf Den on jello legs

From here, our mile and a half walk back to the parking lot was incline-free and rainy. It was a great chance to cool down and breathe in the smells of warmth and earth that seem to permeate the air during a springtime rain.

The challenging terrain and the interesting areas to climb and explore made this hike one of our favorites!

 

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