Local Trails: Pachaug State Forest and Mt. Misery

pachaug trailPachaug State Forest in Voluntown is the largest State Forest in Connecticut.  It encompasses 24,000 acres.  That equates to about 30 times the size of Devil’s Hopyard State Park! Needless to say, it was possible to only hike a very small portion of this forest when I ventured out. This day  I hiked alone since I did not have my usual faithful companion, Cinnamon, who was at the vets.  After looking at the vast array of trails on the map provided on the State DEEP website, I chose to hike to the high point in the forest, Mt Misery.  Having hiked many mountains in New England, I felt it was only right to go for the summit views.  The trailhead that would give me the best combination of convenience, hiking mileage and parking location was at the intersection of State roads 201 and 138 in Griswold. There is enough parking at this location for at least a dozen cars.

pachaug erraticThe trail that I chose was called the Pachaug Trail and it was blazed in light blue. There is a small oval sign in the parking area that identifies the trail by name.  As I started along the Pachaug Trail it was wide, well worn and very well marked. After about a ½ mile, the trail came to a wetland area that looked like a shallow pond.  This pond looked to extend a good 20 acres or more. After following along the pond’s edge for a short distance, the trail turned away into the woods. At this point the trail became much narrower and started to hike over more rocky and wooded terrain.

pachaug pondOne thing that struck me as I continued to follow the blue blazes toward Mt. Misery was that fact that you had to pay close attention to where the trail went. There are numerous other hiking, multiuse and forest access trails and roads that criss-cross through this forest. At times the trail abruptly goes from singletrack to gravel road then back to wide multiuse and then back to singletrack.  There was more than one occasion that the blue trail took a 90 degree turn. You truly had to keep your eyes scanning for the blazes, which also at times were painted on rocks and located at your feet. The good thing was that there were plenty of markers throughout the forest.

pachaug wallAt the 1.3 mile location the Pachaug Trail meets the Nehantic Trail. There is a well positioned sign identifying this crossroad. At this location there is an old earthen dam that must have held back a pond many years ago. The side that is visible from the trail looks like a 10 foot high wall of large field stones.

After about another ½ mile the trail takes a sharp left turn and starts to heads up-hill. At first I thought this was the approach to Mt. Misery, but after a short rise the trail exits the woods and you find yourself standing on a gravel road. My first reaction was that somehow I missed Mt. Misery! But a scan of the nearby trees identified blue blazes ahead. After following the gravel road for a couple hundred yards, the trail again went into the woods and started to climb. This time the climb was for real.

mt miseryThe summit of Mt. Misery, actually called Misery Hill by the National Geodetic Survey, is a small bald clearing facing south-east. It has a rather sizable cliff at its edge. Be careful!

misery summitMy view from Misery Hill was excellent. Some of the foliage had started to show beautiful color. There is another very limited viewing spot on the hill but it does not have the range of visibility as the main area.

pachaug colorsAfter spending a few quality minutes enjoying the views I began my journey back. Since this was an “up and back” hike it was merely retracing my original steps. One feature that caught my eye on the return trip was a marvelous glacier erratic that was perched on one of the rock outcroppings.  I made it back to the trailhead parking lot about 12:30 pm.  This five mile hike took me just about 2 ¼ hours.  I will need to go back to Pachaug at least another couple times to explore even more of their extensive trails.

Paul Parulis

A retired engineer Paul now spends his days hiking around Connecticut with his trusty shih tzu Cinnamon. If it's Thursday though you will find Paul behind the wheel of the Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut ReStore truck. Paul also enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in New Hampshire with his daughter Amy.

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