Indian Lore in Litchfield Hills

HIGHLIGHTS: Walk in the footsteps of northwest Connecticut's woodland Indians, along crystal clear streams running through cool dense forests to an ancient Soapstone Quarry. Along the way, you will pass charcoal hearths and colonial foundations, wetlands teaming with wildlife, and the remains of Indian campsites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A small fieldstone museum displays artifacts discovered from archaeological digs, collections of flora and fauna found throughout the forest, and documents and photo's tracing the park's early years.

DIRECTIONS: All trails included in the Indian Lore walk are in Peoples State Forest, Pleasant Valley, Connecticut. Take Rte. 8 to Winsted to the end of the highway. At the jct. of Rte. 44 and Rte. 8, take Rte. 44 east for 5 miles, take a left onto Rte. 318 north and follow for 1 mile, cross the metal bridge and take your first left onto East River Rd. and follow for one mile, the Farmington River is on the left. Take a right onto Greenwoods Rd., which is the Main Entrance to People's State Forest and follow past the Nature Museum; Forest Headquarters for 1.4 miles. The entrance to the Indian Lore Loop is marked by a blue blaze with a yellow center. Park along the road.

Walking Time: 2.5 hours

TRAIL DIRECTIONS: All Trail Heads are marked by Brown signs. This trail system uses a variety of trail blazes, always identified by a circle blaze with a different color circle center. On this walk you will follow the blue & yellow blazed trail to the blue & orange blazed trail which loops back to the blue & yellow blazed trail to your starting point. The trails are open year round from 8:00 a.m. until Sunset.

WALKING DIRECTIONS: Before beginning your walk, visit the fieldstone Nature Museum, on the left as you enter the Park. The Museum, open seasonally, has displays of the park's flora, fauna and wildlife, plus exhibits of Indian artifacts and dioramas of the Stone Quarry. Walk or drive down Greenwoods Rd. for 1.4 miles to the blue and yellow blazed trail on your right. Hiker parking on the road.

To begin, follow an old wagon path marked with blue and yellow blazes through a cluster of red maples and hemlocks. In ten minutes, you will reach Beaver Brook Bridge, rumored to be a favorite of bears that live in the forest. Thousands of years ago, when the Indians camped here, a glacial deposit of rocks created a dam that transformed this brook into a lake teaming with wildlife. Looking upstream, from the bridge, you will see some of the rocks that formed the dam.

Just past the bridge, the trail climbs up a kame terrace, whose flat top and steep sides provided a well drained area for Indians to establish their autumn campsites. Walking along this terrace look for the remains of two large charcoal hearths, 50 feet off the left side of the trail and identified as level areas about 30 feet in diameter with a shallow ditch around their edge. Charcoal was made here, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, by piling 30 cords of wood together, covering it with leaves and pine needles, and banking it with a dirt ditch. It took 14 days to burn the wood to produce charcoal for the area's iron ore furnaces.

For the next 20 minutes you are, literally, walking in the footsteps of the woodland Indians that made this terrace their home from 2000 BC to 600 AD. The entire terrace is on the National Register of Historic Places because of the recent discovery of 18 ancient Indian village sites and a rich concentration of artifacts. It is easy to understand why the Indians were drawn to this Eden like spot with its sheltering trees, fresh water, abundant wildlife, fertile fields, wetlands with reeds for weaving, and the close proximity of soapstone for quarrying.

Descending from the terrace, the terrain becomes rocky in some places and may be wet in the spring. Continue following the blue and yellow blazes, past the ruins of a colonial house foundation located on the right and the remains of a meat smoking chamber in the base of the large hollow chimney.

A 25 minute walk from the ruins of the colonial house brings you to a dirt road. Cross the dirt road (Pack Grove Rd), walking straight ahead continue following the blue and yellow trail, passing colorful clusters of mature beech trees.

A 25 minute walk from the first dirt road, brings you to a second dirt road. Cross the dirt road and continue following the blue and yellow trail. There is a trail marker here pointing the way. Soon, you will enter a shaded picnic area nestled in a cluster of hemlocks next to a clear rushing brook. Follow the trail through the picnic area, keeping the brook on your left.

At the intersection of the picnic area and Beaver Brook Rd, take a left and cross the fieldstone bridge. Enjoy a pleasant 25 minute ramble along this peaceful park road that is shaded by hemlocks and edged with pink clouds of Mountain Laurel, Connecticut's State Flower that blooms in May and June.

Take your first left onto the blue and orange trail and follow it back into the woods. Archaeologists have found many Native American artifacts in this area and believe it to be one, of many, Indian campsites that have been found throughout the Forest.

At the intersection of the blue and orange trail and Greenwoods Road, take a left onto Greenwoods Rd. and follow it out of the woods for a few minutes. At the sign of the double blaze, turn left, back into the woods and continue following the blue and orange trail passing a wetland marsh where you will see a multitude of wildlife, flora and fauna that attracted the Indians to make this area their home, so long ago.

At the intersection of the blue and orange blazes and the blue and yellow blazes, turn right onto the blue and yellow blazed trail and follow it to Greenwoods Rd. where this loop began.

SPECIAL NOTES: To reach the entrance trail leading to the Ancient Indian SoapStone Quarry retrace your steps, out of the park to the junction of East River Rd. and Rte. 318. Take a left onto Rte. 318 and Rte. 181 north, at the 318 and 181 split, take Rte. 181 north for .5 miles, take a left onto Park Road. The entrance trail is marked by a blue & red blaze. Hiker parking is on the left.

Follow the blue and red blazes into the woods for ten minutes. Take a left onto a blue blazed side trail passing ruins of a charcoal hearth and a coal miners shelter. Just beyond these ruins, the trail turns to the right and begins a sharp but short ascent to an impressive outcrop of ledge. The face of the ancient soapstone quarry is three minutes beyond the outcrop.

Soapstone changed domestic life when it was discovered that it was malleable and could be made into containers to cook in as well as weights, and plummets for fishing. This quarry, was worked by Native Americans 4,000 years ago for at least 1,000 years. Retrace your steps back to hiker parking or follow the blue and red trail over Ragged Mountain (7.5 miles) to Greenwoods Rd. to the blue and orange trail to the yellow and blue trail where the Indian Lore Loop begins.

Plan a visit to The Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. to tour a replica of a 17th century pre-contact Indian village.