A Trail by Any Name

Yesterday got away from me. This should have been posted on 3/30.

I had to make a quick trip to my second favorite store (see “Shopping Opportunities”) over the weekend to pick up cat litter and paper towels, two items that never seem to be cheap at the grocery store. Coming and going I passed the parking lot where hikers can enter the Mattabesett Trail.

Before I started writing about this glorious hike, I had to check the spelling. It seems that this Indian word, which means “place of portage,” has untold variations. It’s Mattabesett for the trail. Mattabasett with an extra “a” and one “s” for the river and the sewer district. Mattabassett with a double “s” for the gun club in Berlin, Connecticut, (which is pronounced “BER-lin”). Mattabeseck for the Audubon society. Other variations

include Mattabesic, Matabesec, Matabezeke, Matabeseck, Matowepesack, Mattabeeset, Mattabesek, Mattabesick, Mattabesicke, Mattapeaset, according to the Mashantucket Pequot Research Library. Another variation, Massa-sepues-et seems to mean “at a great rivulet or brook.”

However it’s spelled, this hike on a clear day offers views of Long Island Sound to the south, to New York to the west, and Massachusetts to the north. It’s part of a 190-mile trail called the MMM for Metacomet Monadnock Mattabesett system. (Funny how the colonizers wiped out most of the Native names for the towns but left the rivers and mountains – Connecticut, Quinnipiac, Housatonic, Naugatuck, Coginchaug, Quinnebaug, and so forth).

The first two sections of the MMM trail are located in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, while the Mattabasett trail ends at Long Island Sound. Early spring is a terrific time of year to walk the section that starts in Middlefield, Connecticut. No leaves block the view after the path winds out from under the tree canopy. The other optimal time is fall, when the maples in the valleys put on their show. Part of the trail is steep but not overly challenging. Loose rocks and fallen branches may require a bit of scrambling. Maybe some of the stimulus money can go toward repairs. The lower reaches can be squishy after rains. But all in all, the Mattabesett Trail rewards the effort..

A plus point after the hike: New Guida’s Restaurant is just a few yards away. It offers ice cream, burgers and hot dogs, as well as a cross section of every type of humanity: bikers on Harleys and hikers with back packs, families with little kids, elderly folks out for a Sunday drive. Not sure why it’s call “new.” It’s been there since forever.

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