Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Chatfield Hollow

There is no logical reason why Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth is one of my favorite places in Connecticut.

I'm not into rock-climbing.

I don't fish.

I don't mountain bike; in fact, I don't bike at all.

I don't swim in ponds.

I'm slightly disconcerted by beaches that freeze in winter, and sand surrounded by pine trees seems to me a sort of alien landscape.

I don't picnic very often - in fact I picnic so infrequently that I'm now questioning whether or not picnic is actually a verb.

I do love to walk and hike, but I typically prefer trails designed for lazy people, not the kind where you suddenly find yourself at the top of a massive rock formation with no idea how to get down. 

But despite all that, there is something I love about this park.

It could be the way every view looks different in every season.

Or the way the man-made structures, like the covered bridge and the dam, blend so nicely into the natural environment, almost as if they were here all along.

Maybe it's that this park has history, and by that I mean 1930s history, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built a dam across Chatfield Hollow Brook, and 1630s history, when the Chatfield brothers came from England and built what is believed to have been a gristmill. And then there's the history before that, when what is now the main park road was an Indian trail.

Perhaps it's that you can feel alone here, but you're never really too far from another person walking a dog or pushing a stroller or admiring the way the boardwalk winds above the swamp. 

Of course, you don't need a good reason to like a place. You can like it simply because it has a water wheel, or because there's a stairway carved into the forest floor.

If you go to Chatfield Hollow, be aware that in-season, you can drive through the park and leave your car in one of several lots close to most trail-heads and points of interest; off-season, you have to park near the entrance and walk in.

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