By Janet Serra

Posted: 09/14/2016 15:41:57

Labor Day weekend has passed marking the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of what is known as Indian summer.  Although daytime temperatures in September have been warmer than usual, the evenings have been cool and crisp heralding the beginning of the fall foliage season.

Hiking is an ideal way to explore the unspoiled landscape of the Litchfield Hills; and one way to do this is by participating in one of 60 plus guided hikes organized by the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.   The Housatonic Heritage Walks will take you through some of the region’s most scenic, historic, and cultural sites, many are not well known and are the best kept secrets in the state. Best of all participation in these guided walks are free of charge.

The annual Housatonic Heritage Walks kicks off on September 17 & 18, 24 and 25 and finishes up on October 1 and 2.  The hikes range from easy to challenging.  The tenderfoot and the seasoned outdoors person can both feel their spirits lift as they roam the hills and valleys of the unspoiled Litchfield Hills.

On Saturday, Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. families will enjoy a hike past Bulls Bridge, a historic covered bridge in South Kent and along the Appalachian Trail overlooking the Ten Mile River.  Along the way participants will learn about the history of the bridge and the Appalachian Trail as they keep their eyes peeled for birds and other wildlife -- so don’t forget your binoculars. This hike is 2.5 hours long trail. To register call 413-528-8002.

The early history of the Litchfield Hills shows that it played an important role in the Revolutionary War as well as in our nations industrial development because of the production of iron ore.  If Connecticut’s industrial history is of interest to you don’t miss the hike, Cannons at 20 Paces on September 17 from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.  Take a short walk along the Housatonic River in Falls Village on a sun-dappled trail that was once the site of an industrial complex. As you walk along this ¼ mile trail look for 19th century foundations that stand as a testament to the iron industry that once thrived in this bucolic village more than 150 years ago.  Participants will learn about how this factory produced the most powerful cannon of the Civil War.  This hike is also scheduled for September. 24 and October 1 at 11 a.m.

On Sunday, September 18 from 1:30 to 2:30 hikers will enjoy a leisurely ¼ mile stroll through an orchard of 300 chestnut trees at Green Mountain Forest in Falls Village.  At one time the American chestnut was the most predominant tree in eastern forests.  Hikers will learn about the devastating blight imported on Asian chestnuts that forced the American chestnut into extinction and the efforts of the Great Mountain Forest to revive them.

Hikers are invited to explore Coords Preserve with town historian and Warren’s land trust officer on Saturday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Hikers will have the opportunity to walk through a variety of habitats including a wetland area, and hardwood forest.  A highlight of this walk is the exploration of an old cellar hole and a stroll around a beaver pond.  Make sure to wear sturdy footwear on this three mile hike that will take about two hours.  To register call 860-868-6724.

If you are intrigued by caves, and want to scramble over rocks and squeeze through a tunnel don’t miss one of the three one- hour guided tours of Torys Cave in New Milford on Saturday, September 24 at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.  This small cave whose tunnel descends more than 50 feet into the earth and opens up into a small room is one of the very few that are open to the public in Connecticut. Participants will learn about caving, bat biology and how this cave is managed.  Make sure to wear long pants and shirts, sturdy boots and don’t forget gloves.  Pre-registration is necessary; to register call 860-927-1927 or email info@weantinoge.org.

Visit three forest preserves located in Cornwall on October 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 pm to learn about the natural history of white pine trees. The hike begins at the historic Cathedral Pines that was nearly destroyed in a 1989 tornado that devastated the area.  Hikers will see first hand how regrowth is re-establishing this forest. The next preserve is Ballyhack that is well known for its beautiful old growth pines and the final destination is Gold’s, an old growth pine forest that has been thinned many times to promote regeneration. There is about 2 miles of easy walking trails and a 4-mile drive between each of the preserves. To register 860-672-2325.

If you are interested in geology, don’t miss the tour of the new wing of the CT Antique Machinery Association’s CT Museum of Mining and Mineral Science on October 2 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Kent. This evocative museum traces the story of Connecticut’s geological history and explains how the landscape was formed.   This gem of a museum houses one of the most extensive and varied collections of Connecticut minerals on display in the state.

 For detailed information on additional hikes being offered by the Housatonic Heritage Area and for other dates these hikes are being offered, visit http://housatonicheritage.org/events/heritage-walks/

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