DEEP: Letterboxing Clues for Mohawk State Forest

Connecticut State Forests - Seedling Letterbox Series Clues for Mohawk State Forest

{State map showing location of Mohawk State Forest}

Mohawk State Forest -
 the 6th State Forest

{Letterbox Stamp for Forest #6}

Mohawk State Forest consists of 3,703 acres  in the towns of Goshen, Cornwall, and Litchfield.  There are an additional 240 acres in Mohawk State Park.  Although no Mohawks lived in the vicinity, the forest name comes from the alleged practice of local Native Americans of lighting signal fires on the summit of the mountain to warn their tribes to the south of the approach of the dreaded Mohawks from the northwest.

The woods we know today has only re-grown in the 20the Century.  The State Forest was founded in 1921 from land donated by the White Memorial Foundation.  In the 1930s, a CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps, President Roosevelt’s Depression era work program for young men) was operated in the forest.  The camp was responsible for a large volume of work on the property, including construction of miles of roads that we still use today, planting of hundreds of acres of plantations, and creation of recreation areas, fire breaks and “fire holes” for forest fire control.

According to the original deed, Mohawk was to serve the purposes of public forestry, recreation, and a “bird and game sanctuary”.   Over 80 years later, these edicts are still adhered to:  The forest is managed actively to produce timber and other forest products on a continuous, sustainable basis, and to produce a more healthy, resilient and diverse forest with a variety of tree species, forest types, ages, and a variety of wildlife habitat.  Mohawk remains one of the few state forests where hunting is largely prohibited, and few state forests offer more recreational opportunities.  There are numerous trails for hiking, horseback riding, biking, and snowmobiling.  There are also many opportunities for scenic vistas, picnicking, and bird-watching.  The forest includes Mohawk State Park, which contains one of the major downhill ski areas of the state, and the Black Spruce Bog, a Connecticut Natural Area Preserve.  A boardwalk in the Preserve takes visitors into the only black spruce bog in Connecticut.

Description: The letterbox lies close to the shore of Mohawk Pond, near YMCA Camp Mohawk in the southern half of the state forest.  Like the previous, Centennial Series Mohawk letterbox, this letterbox is just off of the Mattatuck Trail, a Connecticut Blue-blazed Trail. 

The hike to this letterbox is relatively short – although it can be longer in the winter.  Even if plowed the gravel roads – Camp Road and the pond access road – can be snow and ice-covered in winter.  It may be necessary to park near the intersection with Great Hill Road and hike in, but only do so if it’s possible to get off the road safely and not block traffic.  Do not attempt driving the pond access road if it appears slippery in winter.  This road dips downhill off of Camp Road, and you may not be able to drive back up the hill! 

If you choose, there is an alternative, longer version of this hike listed below.

Note that no swimming is allowed on the state-owned frontage of Mohawk Pond.  Although this pond maintains ice on the surface longer than many water bodies, do not venture onto the ice, as it can be treacherous, especially early and late in the season. 

Directions: From the East - Starting from the rotary in the center of Goshen on Route 4, follow Route 4 West for 5.1 miles to the junction of Routes 4, 128, and 43 by the Berkshire Country Store (you will pass the Mohawk State Forest entrance that you used for the original letterbox – just keep going this time).  Take a left, staying on Route 4 West.  Go only 0.15 miles and turn left at the sign for Mohawk Ski Area. 

From the West – Get on Route 128 East off of Route 7 in West Cornwall.  You will immediately come through the covered bridge and pass through West Cornwall village.  Keep going about 3.8 miles until you come to the junction with Routes 4 and 43 at the Berkshire Country Store.  Take a right onto Route 4 and go only 0.15 miles and turn left at the sign for Mohawk Ski Area.

Having come from either the East or the West: you are now on Great Hollow Road.  You will pass the ski area on your left.  A portion of the Mohawk State Park land was leased in 1946 to allow the opening of the first commercial ski area in the state.  This historic ski area is also where the basic techniques of artificial snowmaking were first developed.  Today, this snowmaking is considered a necessary business investment at virtually all East Coast ski areas. 

In July of 1989, a powerful tornado ripped through this area of Cornwall, breaking trees and leveling most timber in its path, including most of the famous Cathedral Pines.  Nature has reclaimed the area quickly, but can you still see signs of the damage on the hills around you?

Go approximately 1.7 miles on Great Hollow Road and then bear left onto Great Hill Road.  Follow this road for a total of 2.25 miles as it winds steeply up the hill.  Take a left onto the gravel road (DEEP knows it as "Camp Road").

Follow the Camp Road for 0.35 miles down a straight stretch, then turn right and head downhill onto another road.  This goes a quarter-mile to Mohawk Pond, where you can park near the shore. 

The pond is open to regulated fishing and non-motorized boating.  It is stocked with trout annually, and also supports populations of other fish, including brown bullhead, golden shiners, pickerel, white suckers, and sunfish.  The YMCA owns some of the shore on the opposite side of the pond.  

YMCA Camp Mohawk has been in operation since 1919.  It seeks to provide a rich and diverse set of outdoor living experiences for groups of girls, in order to develop character, leadership and values.  It provides a wide array of some 42 different activities for girls and young women, including horseback riding, aquatic sports, and soccer, in both day camp and overnight camp programs. The camp keeps its own horses and farm animals, and even boasts its own radio station.  Approximately 800 young people participate in the Camp Mohawk experience annually.  More information is available by going to: 
www.campmohawk.org.

Clues:  To find the letterbox, look for the Mattatuck Trail entrance that heads east, or on your right, if facing the pond from the parking area.  (There are six miles of Mattatuck Trail in Mohawk State Forest.  Another Blue-blazed Trail, Mohawk Trail, passes through the state forest for 2.75 miles.  Mohawk Trail was the original route for the Appalachian Trail, which has since been moved further west).  Follow the trail into the woods for about 135 feet, or around 54 adult steps.  Pass by a large pine tree with a blue blaze on your left that is broken off (most of the tree is laying on the ground), and a big forked white pine on your right with an old wooden sign reading "No Ground Fires".  Past these trees, take a left.  Go about 60 feet, or around 24 steps, toward the northeast, heading straight for the pond and perpendicular to Mattatuck Trail.  You should be standing on a large flat-topped rock, or be close enough to see this landmark and head toward it.  Look under that rock for your objective!

Be sure to keep the letterbox well-concealed (not just inserted under the rock without sticks and leaves to cover it) and bagged securely, so that it is difficult to be found accidentally, and to prevent water damage during rain.  

If you have some time after finishing with the box, go another 75 feet down the Mattatuck Trail and look for a large red oak tree on the left with beaver damage (You should see older scars from beaver gnawing as well as brighter, freshly exposed wood from this year’s activity.).  You may also see other trees gnawed partially or completely down.  Beavers gnaw trees for a several reasons.  They eat the inner and outer bark of some trees and shrubs, and also eat leaves, twigs, and aquatic plants.  They gnaw down small trees to use as building materials in constructing dams and lodges.  Also, a beaver’s teeth never stop growing, which is commonplace with rodents.  Gnawing keeps the teeth “buffed” down to a manageable and useful size.    

Beavers were wiped out, or extirpated, in Connecticut by the mid-Nineteenth Century due to habitat loss (forest clearing) and killing for their valuable furs.  In the Twentieth Century, they have returned in abundance.  Although beavers are sometimes considered to be a nuisance because of their flooding of land and roadways, they are also responsible for creating many acres of wetlands habitat for other species of wildlife across the state:  The beaver’s habit of damming waterways is intended to provide protection from predators and improved access to food, but it also provides habitat for other animals. 

Alternative, longer hike:  For a longer and more rugged hike of 1.9 miles (nearly 4 miles roundtrip!), do the following:  Go nearly 4 miles on Route 4 West from the junction with Route 63 at the Goshen rotary.  Just after the Cornwall town line sign, turn left into the main Mohawk State Forest entrance.  Follow that paved road all the way to a “T”, and take a right.  Follow the road to the summit of Mohawk Mountain and park (This is where you would have parked for the original Centennial Series letterbox).  

On the summit, go southeast and find the Mattatuck Trail entrance (Blue-blazed Trail). If you follow the blue blazes carefully, this trail will take you all the way to Mohawk Pond!  Once at the pond parking area, you can use the other directions to backtrack to the letterbox hiding spot.  

Just remember that the return trip is mostly uphill.  The road to the mountaintop is plowed and maintained in winter. But this hike involves walking on a lot of rock and ledge, and can be very slippery in wet or snowy conditions.  You will also need to keep careful track of where the trail blazes are actually leading you, and not get lost! 

Learn More, Earn a Patch: Your walk has led you through a unique and interesting corner of a larger forest rich with a history of natural resource management, the result of decades of agency and public appreciation for our heritage and natural resources.   There is much to explore, and DEP hopes you will spend some more time at Mohawk!

This is one of 32 letterbox hikes in the new second series of boxes, called the “Seedling Series”, sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Division of Forestry.  This letterbox replaces the original series box located by the vernal pool near the Mohawk Mountain summit overlook.  Take 4 additional sponsored letterbox hikes to earn a commemorative Connecticut Forestry Centennial patch.

When you have completed five of these hikes, please contact us and let us know what sites you have visited, what your stamp looks like and how we may send you your patch.  We will verify your visits and send the patch along to you.  Contact DEEP Forestry

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Content last updated: August 2, 2013