I had been summoned to the Indian Council Caves.
Actually any adventure with the word "Indian" draws me into the woods in search of it. But the trip to the Indian Council Caves of Barkhamsted was different. It felt more like a journey into the past – as if I was an actual Native American brave heading off to the caves for a gathering under the starry skies.
The caves – a huge jumble of boulders and high ledges with pockets of dark openings – is set in the middle of a huge swath of open space within the Tunxis State Forest near the banks of the Barkhamsted Reservoir. Dark openings is an apt description since - like many of the state's "caves" - these are simply deep recesses in the rocks or giant boulder up again huge ledge.
Access to the council caves is along the northern portion of the Tunxis Trail, a 79-mile-long Connecticut Forest & Park Association Blue-Blazed Trail that runs from Southington and the hills surrounding Lake Compounce to the Massachusetts border. The trail is also home to other spectacular rock formations like the "Devil's Kitchen," "Mile of Ledges" and "Tory's Den" – all places I've visited in the past.
The Council Caves sit deep in the forest more than two miles from a busy Route 219 which visitors must cross, hop a high guardrail and walk through the wetlands of Storehouse Brook to access the trail. From a giant white oak "wolf tree," the trail is a magical romp through deep groves of mountain laurel, across babbling brooks that wrap around giant moss-covered boulders, past pockets of ghostly white birches and rock hop over a frozen bog.
After reaching an old woods road, a small staircase brings visitors into a deep evergreen forest, a peaceful oasis within the hardwood forest. Here the biting wind only sways the tops of the trees high above as pine needles float down like snowflakes. It's one of those delightful places where you are totally enveloped into the natural world.
The trail brings you to the flat granite top of the caves with a beautiful view across the top of the forest where huge white pines pierce the blue sky. The path winds around and then descends along the side of a ledge where the walls are darkened by recent campfires. The trail continues along the side of the formation down to a woods road.
The adventurous are going to want to explore the various openings in the ledges as an unmarked trail takes visitors right into the main opening. From here footpaths have been etched into the ground as fellow adventurists searched for maws to explore. Across from the caves is a beautiful pond surrounded by white pines. Along the banks of the pond is a fascinating fieldstone foundation of a home that once had the caves as its backyard.
According to the association's Connecticut Walk Book, Native American Indian artifacts were found at the location, but "it's not know whether it was actually used as a council site." But it's hard not to let your imagination roam back to a time when the Tunxis Indians Tribe ruled over these woods.
There is a small parking area along Route 219 just west of the intersection with Hillcrest Drive. Visit http://www.ctwoodlands.org/BlueTrailsMap for an interactive map of the area.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun