I’m really quite excited about today’s Free Photo. I’ve been visiting Natchaug State Forest for years, but on every visit I’ve made I’ve found the place to be overcast, gloomy, even eerie. Its 13,000 acres are ever silent. I can’t find very much on the history of the forest except that it was designated a state park in 1917, but the numerous old stone walls and crumbling house foundations lead me to believe it was a colonial community (as many of Connecticut’s state parks once were). The trails themselves are, in some cases, early American thoroughfares. Fittingly, many of those old dirt roads are now designated horse trails.
I’m quite used to meeting very few people on the trails in Eastern Connecticut, but I have only once encountered another soul in Natchaug. It was on an afternoon hike in the autumn of 2013. Taking a detour down a trail that wasn’t on the map led me to a hunter’s perch not far from Hampton marsh. He was decked in day-glo orange from head to toe and chastised me for wearing only red to ward off a hunter’s mark. We chatted for a few minutes about the void around us; he’d been there since dawn and seen no one until I arrived, had sighted no deer or game, had heard only a late going flock of geese above. Remembering the first rule of trail etiquette, I offered him some walnuts and dried cranberries. He declined, and I went on my way. A few minutes down the trail, I realized that I didn’t get his name and hadn’t seen his face. He’d never taken his mask off.
In any case, until yesterday I’ve always been unable to get a shot of the park that wasn’t a little on the glum side. But on my way home from Crystal Pond in Eastford, I stopped over at the Rt. 198 entrance and got the shot above, which I think turned out to be quite lovely.