The Cathedral of the Pines or Cathedral Pines as it is also known, is a little known hiking spot located less than 30 minutes from the Bed and Breakfast. The Pine stand covers over 42 acres, and while devastated by three tornadoes in July of 1989, the remaining trail still covers the intact portion of the stand, and is well worth the visit.
Cathedral Pines was New England’s largest stand of old-growth white pine, hemlock trees and northern hardwoods, and while the tornadoes did substantial damage, many of the trees survive and you can still experience the size and beauty while walking under the canopy of trees. One of the reasons to take this hike is to see the after effects of Mother Nature at work, and to see the stand itself slowing recovering from the devastation. White pines are unusual to see in this part of Connecticut, and most of them are 200 years old with some being at least 300 hundred years.
The Cathedral Pines forest itself was established between 1770 and 1800. It was part of a thousand-acre farm inherited by Major Seth Pierce (1785-1881), Following Pierce’s death in 1881, Frederick Kellogg sold the Pines to John Calhoun, who vowed to preserve the majestic forest. The Pines at different time periods were also called Calhoun’s Pines and the Calhoun Grove.
In 1967, the children of John Calhoun deeded the 42-acre Cathedral Pines to the Nature Conservancy, which established the forest as a research area protected from human influence in its development. Rather than harvest high quality lumber from felled trees, the Nature Conservancy allows them to decay naturally. Cathedral Pines was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1982. The Nature Conservancy while studying the Pine Stand observed that the pines were being slowly replaced by hemlock trees. The slow transformation of the forest from pine to hemlock was sped up dramatically in 1989 by the devastating tornadoes.
While visiting the Pine Stand listen for woodpeckers and owls at dusk, bring bug spray and good hiking shoes. While the trail is an easy one, there are quite a few downed branches and dried pine needles that make walking in sandals quite uncomfortable.
Essex Hill Road, Cornwall, CT
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