DEEP: Letterboxing Clues for Mohegan State Forest

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

{State map showing location of Mohegan State Forest}

Mohegan State Forest -
 the 27th State Forest

{Letterbox Stamp Forest #27}

Mohegan State Forest consists of over 700 acres in two parcels.  The largest parcel is located {Forest Scene from Mohegan State Forest} in Scotland with smaller pieces in Sprague.  The first 300 acres of the forest was donated to the State in 1960 for the purpose of demonstrating good forest management.  When the property was in private hands, timber harvesting and management had occurred, and management has continued under State ownership.  

Description:  The letterbox lies off the main access road leading into the parcel that is located in the Town of Scotland.  Unlike in many of the other State Forests, the main access road to Mohegan State Forest is a gravel- based road and is not marked by a large sign or shield.  The main access road can be located by finding the green metal posts and gate on the east side of Route 97.  These are located one tenth of a mile north of Murphy Hill Road and two and three tenths miles south of the intersection of Route 97 and Route 14 in Scotland Center.  Upon close inspection you will notice a six-inch yellow and black property sign immediately to the right of the steel gate indicating that the property is state forest land. 

There is no parking lot, but there is ample room for roadside parking opposite of the gate.  You will be walking less than one-half mile each way on gentle slopes.  This section of Mohegan State Forest is prime habitat for White-tailed deer and turkey.  Wearing bright orange is encouraged during deer hunting season (November through December).  Check yourself carefully for ticks when you leave the woods.

The main access road is constructed of gravel.  It was renovated in 1988 to provide improved access for commercial timber harvesting, homeowners with permits for gathering firewood and recreational hunting and hiking.

Clues:  Pass around the green metal gate on the main access road and walk five hundred feet up the slight grade until you reach a small triangular shaped meadow, about 75 feet wide, to your right.  Turn right into the meadow. 

 The small triangular shaped meadow was created in 1988 in association with a timber {Logging Yard in Mohegan State Forest} harvest.  The harvest included more than 71 acres of forestland.  The trunks of the harvested trees were brought here so that they could be trimmed to the proper lengths for transport to market.  Foresters and loggers commonly refer an opening created for such purposes as a landing and the process of trimming tree trunks to the proper lengths as bucking.  After the trees were harvested, the landing and the main access road were seeded down with a conservation mix.  Seeding with a conservation mix accomplished the dual purposes of stabilizing the soil and providing wildlife a temporary source of food. 
 
The harvest, conducted by a local operator, removed more than 200,000 board feet of sawtimber, enough to build and furnish more than 20 homes. 

Walk through the meadow (landing) to the stonewall at the edge of the stand of pine trees.  Turn left and follow the stonewall for approximately 450 feet to where the stonewall turns sharply to the right.

As you leave the landing and head toward the letterbox, a stand of white pine trees should be to your right and a stand of hardwood trees to your left.  Why do you think that the pine trees grew on one side of the wall and hardwoods on the other? 

The answer can be found in the land use history and past forest management of the two areas.  Both areas were once open and treeless.  Natural succession began in both areas when farming was abandoned and trees took hold.  Red cedar and birch trees first colonized the landscape in the hardwood area, eventually giving way to oak and hickory. The area of pines was either planted with in the 1920ís or regenerated naturally when seed blew in from nearby trees after the land had last been plowed. 

Forest management came into play in 1974 when trees were harvested from both areas in a silvicultural practice known as thinning.  The purpose of the harvest was to remove the dead, dying, diseased and poorly formed trees from the forest. The harvest also sought to remove many of the small hardwoods from the pine area so it would remain primarily pines.  In 1988, the hardwood stand was thinned a second time.  In 1989, more than 20 homeowners were issued permits to harvest nearly 100 cords of firewood from the tops left by the commercial timber harvest.  All that remains of the timber cutting today is the partially rotted stumps. 

Turn right and continue to follow the stonewall for approximately 150 feet to where the wall turns sharply to the left.  Turn to the left and continue to follow the stonewall for another 650 feet until the wall turns to both the left and right.  Turn back and retrace your steps approximately 50 feet along the stonewall.  The letterbox can be found underneath a large flat rock on the closest edge of the first opening in the stonewall.

As you approach the letterbox you may have noticed that a second stonewall appeared to the right nearly paralleling the one you were walking next to.  The two walls nearly converge and there are several small openings or gaps in the wall. 

Why do you think the walls come so close together and what was the purpose of the openings in the wall?  The parallel stonewalls were likely used by farmers to enclose animals such as sheep or cows.  The two stonewalls came together in funnel fashion to allow the farmer to control the number of animals allowed into a certain area.  By opening or closing wooden gates at located at each of the openings in the stonewall, the farmers were able to control which pasture or enclosure the animals were being directed to.

Connecticutís forests are dotted with stonewalls, stone foundations and stone wells.  These hand built structures are a silent testament to Connecticutís past. 

To return to your vehicle you can retrace the stonewall or you may take the main access road.  The main access road is located approximately 50 feet to the right of the letterbox location as you retracing your steps along the stonewall.  If you decide to take the main access road be sure to turn to the left and walk uphill. 

Learn more, earn a patch:  This is one of 32 letterbox hikes that is being sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protectionís Division of Forestry. When you have completed 5 of these sponsored letterbox hikes, you are eligible to earn a commemorative State Forest 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

The Letterbox Page

Content last updated November 21, 2011