Get Outdoors: Towering Above Mount Tom - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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home : sports : regional February 6, 2016

Get Outdoors: Towering Above Mount Tom
Outdoors Writer

I nearly hit my head.

Luckily I ducked as the new wooden staircases led through a small concrete portal atop the regal looking tower perched on the tiny mountain.

Good thing I took off my backpack or I wouldn't have fit through the entryway.

But from the 34-foot high stone tower there were views that made me smile.

And all in under a mile.

That about sums up tiny Mount Tom in Litchfield, Connecticut's Mount Tom State Park tucked in the Nutmeg State's rolling and bucolic northwestern section, a far cry from the hurrying interstates that make the eastern half of the state little more than a passageway between Boston and New York.

The tower that looks like a castle is located in one of the oldest state parks in Connecticut dating back to 1915. The 232-acre protected area above the picturesque Litchfield Hills contains spring-fed Mount Tom Pond that in season no doubt transforms the hike into more of a family-friendly day at the beach too. The rustic park also contains an old stone chimney and foundation from a scouting camp that was active in the 1900s.

Plus, heading to the park in the off-season takes the sting out of the summer seasonal entry free that can be as high as $15 for out-of-staters. This time of year it's free.

The easy mile-long jaunt in the foothills of the Berkshires is a leg-stretcher for most hikers while a first big, little hill for others. Kids may find it an enjoyable challenge to the castle while the occasional hiker might find a tad of the trail on the steep side. But, it's a very popular playful place with lots of creatures scurrying about the oaks and birds enjoying the uplifting thermals overhead. Frankly it's a good place to introduce someone (or some family) to hiking.

This Mount Tom stands a scant 1,291 feet high. New England is filled with Mount Toms. Woodstock, Vermont's Mount Tom is a genteel in-town hike complete with benches. Mount Tom in southwestern Rhode Island is really a hill, and some 430 feet high. It's wooded but is in a wild place, the forested Arcadia Management Area. The Mount Tom in central Massachusetts is smaller than its Connecticut neighbor but a swank hotel once graced its summit and it has a nice ridge walk. New Hampshire's Mount Tom is a four-thousand footer in the Willey Range in Crawford Notch while Maine's 1073-foot high Mount Tom is in Fryeburg and contains a cabin built in 1886. Maybe there are more.

The Connecticut Mount Tom tower apparently was preceded by a wooden one. This tower was built in 1921 with teams of horses hauling all the necessary supplies to the summit. Some four years later, a phone was installed. Now, it's a place to see a startling panorama of Litchfield and its surrounding counties and beyond depending on the day. Though the tower is a fine perch, there are also a few spur trails before the summit that afford hill vistas from ledgy outcrops.

The counter-clockwise loop starts from the parking and follows the yellow-blazed Tower Trail. Though it's a simple hike, there is much to be culled from the geology along the way. Many of the rocks on the trail are made of blackish hornblende with streaks of white quartz. Some of rocks sparkle nicely. That's because they're made of gneiss.

Along the way were many boulders that were left behind by glaciers as they melted. Some of the boulders (glacial erratics) had white rectangular specks of feldspar.

The tower is easily reached the view is really outstanding for southern New England. Look down to Mount Tom Pond. To the north is the state's highest peak, Bear Mountain, followed by peaks in Massachusetts like Mount Everett and Mount Race.

Bear Mountain is one of the New England hiking world's strange facts. The mountain stands 2,323-feet high and is Connecticut's tallest peak. But it isn't the highest point. That belongs to a shoulder of Mount Frissell in the west in Massachusetts. Seems there's a piece of the mountain in Connecticut at 2,379 feet. So that's the highest point. Go figure.

But from the tower, the mountains and the colorful Connecticut countryside team up for a panorama that spans generations and abilities.

Syndicated columnist Marty Basch can be reached through

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