Even during the chilly winter months, the UConn Forest continues to inspire students from across campus to reconnect with nature and take a break from a stressful semester. The forest, which has numerous access points behind Horsebarn Hill, offers more than just its several trails and scenic views; it contains a variety of hidden places largely unexplored by the UConn community.
Nestled between the Horsebarn Hill Road access point and Blue Trail is a unique sight that gives us a glimpse into UConn’s past. In the late 1960s, this area was a ski slope, equipped with a rope tow and warming hut for students and the general public. This spot ran for about a decade, until lack of snow and a tightening budget resulted in its closure. Now, all that remains are the rusted pieces of a pulley that lead all the way down to the Fenton River, making this spot a distinctive characteristic of the UConn forest.
Just a short walk along the trail off Gurleyville Road, hikers can find a cluster of abandoned cages enclosed by a chain-link fence. These cages are rumored to have been part of an experiment conducted by a UConn graduate student who crossbred coyotes and beagles, creating a hybrid which she called the ‘coydog.’ An article published by UPI in 1986 explains that two students broke into the cages to kill one of these animals, thus ending the entire experiment and ruining years of breeding.
Those interested in the experiment can still access the cages which have been abandoned for decades.
Other hidden gems can be found just off the trails along Gurleyville Road, such as the Gurleyville Gristmill. The building, which is located along the scenic Fenton River, has been around since the late 18th century and is open to the public on Sundays in late May-October. To learn more about the history of the gristmill or view their operating hours, visit the Joshua’s Trust website.
A handful of students across campus have had many positive experiences visiting these areas of the UConn forest and want others to discover the land for themselves.
“I like the forest because it’s quiet. You can be alone, relax and meditate,” says Frank Sternberg, a UConn junior and outdoor enthusiast.
Frank says he also enjoys spending the afternoon hiking the trails with friends and noted that the forest is also a great place to go for a run.
For those who are looking for anything from a casual walk to an afternoon adventure, this secluded place has a lot to offer. Whether you want to make use of the fire pits, trails or simply enjoy the view of the Fenton River the forest is accessible year-round.
Exploration of these hidden places is highly encouraged by those who have been before, as chilly as the weather may be. If you decide to venture out this semester, please be considerate of nature by keeping this area clean for others to enjoy.
Katie Pelkey is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.