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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Macedonia Brook - Blue Loop - Kent, Connecticut

The first time I went to Macedonia State Park was November of 2018.  I went on a handful of dates with a lovely man from Milford who was living in New York City during the week, finishing up an orthodontics program at Columbia (let's call him "The Dentist").   The Dentist was an avid outdoorsman and if I thought I liked to ski mountain bike and hike, the dentist was on another level of outdoor recreation, telling tales of his time as ski patrol out in crested butte and winters spent skiing Japan (Japow?).  It was clear we both loved to hike and soon discovered we both loved the quiet corner of northwest Connecticut.

I had driven through the little town of Kent and spent some time in this part of the state when I hiked Connecticut's highest summit in 2016, Bear Mountain.  I was excited to see more of the northwest corner of Connecticut through someone else's eyes and the Dentist planned a day-long tour of some of his favorite spots.  We stopped to walk around the campus' of several boarding schools that sort of make you feel like you have been transported to Hogwarts.  We stopped at Kent Brewing for a beer in the barn at a picturesque quiet piece of property and made our way over to Kent Falls State Park to walk to the top of the waterfall.  We stopped in downtown Kent before eventually ending up at another new-to-me spot, Macedonia Brook State Park.  I had never heard of this Connecticut State Park where he described his summer evenings spent fly fishing as an escape from the city.  

Macedonia Brook

It was November, the leaves were long-gone and we had already spent the day wandering around the state.  We drove through the winding road that traverses the park before parking to take a walk along the trails.  It's insanely idyllic, the brook just babbles on by, twisting and turning, following the narrow road through this quiet section of woods in northwestern Connecticut.  Campsites dot the brook and if you close your eyes, you can picture the fly fishermen wading into the water at dawn or the campers by the fire on a summer evening.  This was November and the weather was cool and wet.  We walked side by side on one of the trails that boarders the road as we talked about life and love.  We chatted about ending relationships in our 30s and the extra pain that breakups in this decade cause for someone who wants to find their person and start a family.  At the end of a lovely day, we made the drive back to Milford and I left even more in love with Litchfield County, daydreaming of camping trips along the brook and evenings spent at quiet little restaurants in the Town of Kent.   

Obviously, things didn't work out with the dentist but I was happy for the day spent seeing a part of the state from someone who loved the area even more than me.  I'm thankful for fun memories and random adventures with new acquaintances that lead me to this picturesque park.  

Truth is, what I am really thankful for is that 1.5 years later, I was pulling back into this same park with my fiance and our two dogs.  We had been to this corner of Connecticut once before last summer when we traveled north to hike Rand's View, noted as the most scenic section of the CT Appalachian Trail.   Turns out, Adam was no stranger to this part of the state and I was happy to wander around this part of the state with him. Turns out, Katie and Adam really love Kent and Cornwall.  

We had been quarantined together since it COVID-19 hit in March and were both in desperate need of getting out of our county and into the mountains somewhere new while trill stying to stay "local".  Adam had never hiked Macedonia Brook and ever since that November walk, I was eager to be back in my hiking shoes to hike the loop trail around the park.  

We pulled into the park and set off on the trail on a sunny Sunday.  I did a little bit of research and discovered that the counter-clockwise loop was the best direction for completing this hike, letting you climb up the steep sections instead of down which I greatly prefer.  The trail starts on the right side of the road and we quickly began climbing in elevation as we shared happy smiles, thankful for the change of scenery and the sunshine.

The wind picked up in large bursts at times and the trees were just starting to bud as we followed the well-marked blue trail.  The trail isn't your typical climb to the summit and return back own but instead, climbs up and down as you make your way to the north side of the park, across the road, and back down to where you started.  The climb starts out steady and consistent before leveling and dipping up and down.  At the northern part of the trail, you pass the auto road at the northern terminus and the alternate trailhead.  

The views along the trail are beautiful as you traverse the quiet woods.  It isn't until you make it to the west side of the park that you really start to get a sense of the elevation you gain as you scramble up a rock face to reach the viewpoints.  There was one section that was incredibly steep and the dogs needed a little bit of help getting up some steep rock faces. 

We stopped to take in the views of the Catskills and Taconic range in neighboring New York (and to snap a few photos) but mostly kept our feet moving along the quiet trail.   

Macedonia Brook

After 3 hours of hiking, we made our way down the hillside on the other side of the park, ending up back where we started.  I don't know how to describe it more than we were blissfully happy.  We were well into the COVID-19 quarantine which reminded us to be thankful for our health and togetherness, to appreciate an adventure and time outdoors even if you never leave the state lines.   

As we drove home, I told Adam the story of my first time at Macedonia, of my date with "The Dentist" in the park we had just hiked.  I told him how on our walk in this park, something that The Dentist had said had stuck with me.  He called me brave and admired my decision to end a long term relationship, the risk of being alone as a 30 something-year-old female who wanted to have a family, who gambled to start all over. 

We shared dating stories that made us both laugh and cringe and we felt a million times more thankful to have found each other.  As someone who loves the outdoors, I admitted to Adam that sometimes I fell for the idea of the person, more than the person.  I was smitten with the idea of someone who loved the kind of adventures I did, someone who craved a new dirt trail early on a Saturday morning.  Someone who would ski the west and hike the east with me, someone who wanted to get married and start a family and yes, must love dogs.  

For me, places hold memories and I've been lucky to walk a wooded trail with people I love and even people I've just met.  A year and a half later you can walk the same trail in a different season, hand in hand with someone you love with a future that feels sure.  You can walk through the trails slightly less scared of trudging through your 30s with someone you love in theory and completely.   

Macedonia Brook

Trail Stats
Distance: 6.5-mile loop
Direction:  best completed counterclockwise 
Trail:  Blue trail from start to finish 
Trailhead:  Parking area off Macedonia Brook Road - you can start at the north or south end
Elevation:  1,751 ft elevation gain 
Time:  3:03 hours total, 2:35 moving time 
Dogs:  Allowed on the trails and day-use area on leash - not allowed at the campground 
Red Tape:  There are some rocky ledges sections along the way and there is one section that is VERY steep with large drops you have to climb up or lower yourself down.  This would be very hard for kids and dogs will need to be lifted up/lowered down this section (not great for large dogs)
Highlights:  The Blue Trail crosses Cobble Mountain and several other peaks, offering outstanding views of the Catskills and Taconics. Numerous springs and streams add to the pleasure of hiking.  Instead of climbing up and down one peak, you climb up and down several, completing a loop around the park with beautiful views at several locations along the trail. 

Park History:  The land was once the domain of the Scatacook Indians.  Commercial activity in Macedonia included cider, grist, and saw mills in addition to a substantial iron-producing industry.  The Kent Iron Company's iron furnace, two forges and a puddling works converted cast iron to malleable iron.  Remains of the second forge, a stamping works, are still visible at the southern end of the park. Eventually, competition from larger Pennsylvania mines forced the Macedonia furnace to close in 1865. Many years later, the National Park Service established a Conservation Corps Camp at the park and much site improvement work was accomplished.

Activities Camping (51 sites along the river - no pets allowed - campground map), Picnicking (picnic shelters, pit toilets), Hiking, Fishing. 

Macedonia Brook

Macedonia Brook

Macedonia Brook

Macedonia Brook

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