On a bright day with a brisk wind, and the trees in the mountains past peak color but still desperately lovely, the children and I climbed to the high point of Connecticut. The oaks and beeches and chestnut saplings were all oxblood and yellow gold, and up on the ridgetops the lowbush blueberries were in crimson glory. It was an afternoon with dark clouds and blue sky and wind above and wet below since last week's heavy rains. It was heaven on Earth.
It is a steep scramble up from the state line where Mt. Washington and Mt. Riga roads meet at the head of Sages Ravine. The trail ascends Round Mountain, an oak heath rocky summit without pitch pine but affording 360 degree views. It then drops down into a narrow pass and then up another slope to the south face of Mt. Frisell, which contains the highest point in CT. The summit itself is just north of the main transverse trail running across to Taconic State Park, in a sheltered spot in the trees with a cairn and a metal box containing notebooks to record the names and impressions of those pilgrims who have sought this particular, unassuming spot. The CT Highpoint is to the south, and somewhat downslope.
For a long time, nearby Bear Mt. was thought to be the highest point in CT, but even a casual glance from the slope of Frissell makes it pretty clear it is lower. Wishful thinking or shameless Nutmegger promotion put forth the summit of Bear, located entirely within CT, until more precise cartography shifted the focus to the West.
Sometimes there are paragliders riding the thermals above these ridgelines. Today there were a lone vulture and a raven. The sun broke through the clouds and made a patchwork of the forest, the light and shadows stretching out in all directions.
Bear oak, red oak, river birch, beech. Pale bark, gray bark, paper bark, bare. Chestnut leaves long as eagle's feathers, standing brave beneath the receding canopy. Garnet granite folded rock, weatherworn and fringed with lichen and the beards of ferns.
Up here in the high country the pulse quickens and the skin cools by turns, and it would not be difficult to imagine that these hills that stretch away to Vermont and toward the sea advance unbroken by road or plow. The beavers have been at work up on the Taconic Plateau, at least, as there are ponds where not long ago there used to be streams. Then again, a century ago the beaver were all trapped out and most of the trees gone as well, a sproutland with the forge gone cold and the sheep no longer on the high slopes.
We made our way back, recrossing the lower summit of Round on our way down to the back slope of Bear and on through Mt. Rigas lands and down Wachocastinook Brook with its plunging Falls on the way to Salisbury. The ravine was in deep shadow and the water was the color of gunmetal in the twilight. We paused to watch it froth at the crest and disappear in the hemlock shade. Witch Hazel was in bloom, and back at the roadside a freshet spilled into a hollow log trough as if waiting for the ghosts of horses and pack mules with their loads of smelted iron.
We passed down, and out into the late light of the valley below. Next year, in Spring, we will be back for the Mountain Laurel blooming, that soon will lie beneath the coming snow.