Sunday, March 18, 2012

Heublein Tower, Talcott Mountain State Park, Simsbury, CT

Heublein Tower
I have plenty of bridges waiting to be photographed, and some I have photographed but haven't yet written about. But I'm holding off a little. Spring has come to Connecticut and in a month or so the trees will be full of leaves. I'm just getting a little tired of taking photographs where all the trees are leafless. The northeast is getting dressed and when it's ready, I have bridges from Poughkeepsie to Providence to Portsmouth on the way.

I was going to photograph Hartford's Founders Bridge today, but the weather was so beautiful that I just drove past Hartford and headed to Bloomfield and up to Talcott Mountain State Park. I had this naive idea that it would be a quiet climb up the mountain. No way! The trails were crowded with moms, dads, kids and dogs all the way up and all the way back. Cars lined the road on both sides at the trail head.

My goal was the top of the mountain and Heublein Tower (pronounced HIGH-blayne). The tower sticks well above the trees and is visible for miles and miles all around the greater Hartford area. It was built by a German financier; the unusual pronunciation of the tower comes from an Anglicization of its German pronunciation, you see. He built the tower strong enough to withstand 100 mph winds. Apparently he didn't build it strong enough to withstand fire; it's been rebuilt a couple of times.

It's said presidents and diplomats have met here. Ronald Reagan visited the tower once. I bet none of them had to hike up.

 Parking at Talcott Mountain State Park is roadside; put on your emergency brake. There's a helipad at the end of the road for emergency transport of people who forgot to put on their emergency brakes, and for turning around when it's time to leave.

The path is wide enough for a car and well-packed all the way up. It's a little steep in places, but there are plenty of places to rest along the way, including vantage points from which can be seen stunning clifftop views of the Farmington River Valley.

The path divides occasionally into a steeper path that sticks more closely to the edge of the cliffs, and an easier path that delves further into the woods. Visitors uncomfortable with walking on the edge of a cliff may prefer that branch (but you're missing some awesome views!).

The tower itself is open from Memorial Day through October, and is known throughout the area as the place from which to view the autumn foliage in all its awesomeness. The park itself is open year round from dawn to sunset.

The park has many barbecue pits, fireplaces, picnic tables and paths to explore once at top. Standard hiking rules apply -- take out what you bring in.

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