Look for Adventure in Your Backyard – Pachaug State Forest


I was raised by parents who enjoyed exploring the world and taking the “long way round”. So it’s not a huge surprise that traveling and wanderlust are constantly on my mind. Especially as mother nature teases us with the taste of spring and warm weather!

Late nights of following the rabbit hole of instagram travel pages inevitably leads one down the “I need to travel” path. But most of the time my wallet says a big heck no. However, traveling doesn’t always require a plane ticket or an eight-hour drive…sometimes it just takes the right group of friends and a campsite at a local state park.

Pachaug State Forest is Connecticut’s largest forest. Established in 1928, the forest started out as 1,100 acres of land acquired from Briggs Manufacturing Company. It has since grown to encompass more than 26,000 acres (roughly 41 square miles) and has land in six different towns on the CT-RI border. Briggs Manufacturing Company ran four cotton mills in the area, was forced to liquidate as the price of raw cotton and labor increased; so like many of Connecticut’s historical sites, the land we now enjoy was initially part of the booming textile industry of the late 1800s.

Today, Pachaug boasts one of the eight National Natural Landmarks found within Connecticut state borders. It was preserved as such for its Pachaug-Great Meadow Swamp area which features an Atlantic White Cedar Swamp – you can find it by taking the Rhododendron Sanctuary Trail. I don’t have any pictures of that particular area of the park because I’ve only ever explored that trail at night. Apparently the Atlantic White Cedar isn’t an endangered species, but it is only found in select areas with very specific environmental conditions.

Home for the night.

While some travel plans require weeks or months of planning, with the right group of friends and the right circumstances, 24 hours or less is sometimes all you need. It might mean that people are digging through their cars for eating utensils and plates (or a pie plate destined for Goodwill…), preceeded by quick stops to the grocery store and packie…but the basic requirements (sleeping bags, tents, hiking boots, hat, etc) are already packed and ready to go.

We were graced with a GORGEOUS spring Saturday…seriously could not have asked for a better day. The sun was out, the temps were in the 60s…I got to dust off some shorts! It provided the perfect opening day for camping…however the temps QUICKLY dropped as the night wore on. But still nothing we weren’t prepared for. The fire kept us warm for the evening and then my EMS Sunapee 2 tent kept me nice and warm through the night (though there was also a decade old LLBean sleeping bag and LLBean down comforter involved lol). When we emerged in the morning, the temperature was in the low 40s…quite refreshing!

There is something so satisfying to the soul when you’re surrounded by nature with a group of friends. Even the mundane tasks like finding firewood take on a fun nature when you’re scavenging around like a bunch of goobers, instead of a bunch of  “mature” people in their late 20’s to early 30’s. If camping wasn’t on your list of things to do this year, I very highly suggest you add it now.

Equipped with two Coleman grills, we feasted like regular camping royalty!

There’s a reason that humans have been congregating around fire for a few hundred thousand years. Not just to cook or for warmth, but for the camaraderie that inevitably follows. I could spend countless hours by the fire…as long as I have a good fire-poking stick. haha.

100% guarantee you that her marshmallows were on fire at that moment…

After dinner and s’mores, we did a lightless excursion along the Rhododendron Sanctuary Trail…amazing how quickly your eyes adjust in the darkness. And just how much you really can see! It helps that it is a very well maintained trail that turns into a boardwalk (to keep that area handicap friendly). Lots of critters, both big and small, were singing their songs as we meandered about. Thankfully nothing that sounded like a T-Rex or Velociraptor (am I the only one that thinks they’ll lunge out of every bush or tree line…?).

Far too soon, yawns dominated our group and off to bed we all went. I won’t lie though, as much as I enjoyed time around the firepit, it was nice to get out of the wind’s direct path…as it howled throughout the night and into the morning. By the time I crawled my way out of the tent, the guys already had a fire going and the coffee was ready! Talk about some royal camping treatment (even if I did have to mooch some coffee because I didn’t want to wash a cup haha).

Fox’s Volkswagen Syncro Van acted as a tent for the night. Way roomier than you might be led to believe!

Before we left the campsite, we went off on one last adventure through the woods. Thankful for friends whose idea of a last minute trip involves tents and coleman stoves.


And to steal the phrase from KatieWanders…Happy Wandering!

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