Mansfield Hollow State Park and Wildlife Area

Location: Mansfield, CT

Links: CT DEEP; Trail Map PDF; AllTrails (Lake Loop Trail); PDF marked with our hike

Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Time: 9:00 am – 1:30 pm

Hike Duration: 7 miles; 4.5 hours

Stats: Approximately 17,700 steps; 67 floors

Weather: Mostly sunny; 20-30 degrees F

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Our lunch with a view

We began our hike in the parking area off Bassett Bridge Road. My fingers were already freezing by the time I got my hiking boots and gear on, that’s how cold it felt! We crossed the field to a picnic area and then found our way to the blue trail so we could set our sights on Mansfield Hollow Lake.

The ice was quite thick, safe enough to see some folks all set up for ice fishing out in the middle of the lake. We explored for a bit by the shore, but hiking in the cold this time of year makes us want to keep moving.

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The most confusing part of this hike was coming out of the woods to the back of a school. We had to skirt around the ball field, through the parking lot, and across the street to find the trail marker. This would be the road on the map labelled as Route 89. From here we picked up the blue trail again to hike along Fenton River.

The sound of thin sheets of ice breaking and crackling along the edges of the river seemed eerily out of place. The first time I heard the sound was just as I had stepped into the woods to peer at an ice formation hanging from a low branch over the river. My brain associated the noise with an animal running through the dried leaves and adrenaline shot through me, causing my body to shift into hyper-alert mode until Dennis pointed out it was just the ice. Jeesh!

The trail eventually came to Chaffeville Road, where we crossed the street once again to make our way up to a scenic viewing area. I realized after the fact that this part of the hike is on Joshua’s Trust land (David Storrs Chapin Coney Rock Preserve.)

We definitely had to work for the view we were finally rewarded with. This incline pushed a fairly easy hike into the moderate-difficult level. As a pre-curser to the view, we were awed with magnificent ice and rock formations.

By the time we made it to the overlook, we were starving. I’m pretty sure a sandwich has never tasted so good. The nice thing about having such a strenuous hike on a cold day is that the body heat you build up makes it more comfortable to sit still for a while and enjoy lunch. And the view!

The most exciting part of this hike occurred during our return. It was a close encounter of the owl kind. Being the ever-aware hiker that he is, Dennis pulled me to a stop because he noticed an owl sitting on a very low branch just ahead of us, directly on the trail. Of course, I didn’t see the owl until it flew off the trail and landed in a tree just a few feet into the woods. Still close enough to be amazed by it’s proximity. It’s always a gift to experience encounters like this!

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