Haystack Mountain State Park
One way in which I may differ from you: After a somewhat difficult hike out in the Catskills and a two-plus hour drive back towards home, I decided on a whim to climb another mountain. Why not? I still had my hiking clothes on and the weather was perfect. Right?
Right. Furthermore, it was October – the only month during which the park’s one road is open to car traffic. Throughout the eleven other months, one must either hike up the road (maybe about a mile) or better yet, hike up the trail all the way from Route 272. It’s not a brutal hike by any means, but I had a date with my family before the sun set and, like I said, I had already done a fair amount of hiking so I didn’t feel too lazy about driving up to the parking area.
I was shocked – SHOCKED – to see only 6 or 7 cars in the lot. It was an absolutely perfect fall day and I expected a veritable
crowd on the mountain. After all, Haystack Mountain affords one of the best views in all of Connecticut and here I was on a perfect Saturday in October. I guess there was a lot of good stuff on TV or something.
Oh well, more personal space for me. Not having looked at a map, I was somewhat confused at the outset of my walk for there are no maps whatsoever here. You’d think it would be intuitive; go up. Well, not so fast… For the “real” trail to the top is actually level and even dips down perceptibly in the first few hundred yards. Eventually, it is blazed yellow and begins ascending to the top.
I passed a few hikers on their way up and several kids bounding down. Ah, I remember those days of effortlessly and painlessly flying down steep hillsides without a care in the world for rolling boulders or knee inflammation. Sigh.
The yellow trail to the top is maybe half a mile and never too difficult. Once on the summit, the rather huge stone tower looms and begs to be climbed. The 34 foot high stone tower at the summit of Haystack Mountain (1716 feet above sea level) allows visitors to see Long Island Sound, the Berkshires, and peaks in Massachusetts and New York.
The tower is built from gneiss quarried from the mountain itself and this thing will outlast humans. It’s thick and it’s solid. I climbed to the top and peered out the smallish open spaces in awe. A true 360 degree view is impossible due to the structure itself, but no matter, I stared off to the west following the bumps of the Connecticut Berkshires north as far as the eye could see. Lion’s Head, Bear Mountain, Round Mountain, Mt. Frissell, Race Mountain, Mt Everett, on and on.
Turning east, Route 44 and “downtown” Norfolk came into view – I always get a thrill out of seeing the road from which I stare up to where I hike for some reason. Every time I’m driving west through Norfolk I’ve stared up at this tower just before the 44/272 split. And now I was looking back down on that very spot.
I must mention that the hikers I passed on the trail finally joined me about 10 minutes later and the husband, after ooing and ahhing properly, stared directly west towards the setting sun (okay, perhaps it was more WNW) and declared confidently to his wife, “This is north and that’s Massachusetts with Vermont in the distance.” Really, dude? I’m cool with you not knowing the local mountains and stuff, but you’re staring into the setting sun! Pathetic, but at least he was here and not on his couch.
I returned to my car and battled the leaf peepers all the way back to West Hartford, arriving right at the appointed hour. I was happy I made this stop, as Haystack is one of those “mountains” that I’ve always wanted to summit but never bothered with doing so. I really hope (and expect) this place to be inserted on the super secret future East-West CFPA trail.