Connecticut Extremes: Are We There Yet?

On August 14, 2012 · 2 Comments

It’s been a protracted series of Extreme Connecticut geography articles and you’re probably growing a little weary of them by now. I was in a similar position somewhere around this same point during our long and busy adventure. Nonetheless, nobody had ever visited the state’s four cardinal extremities in a single day before. We were making history and this wasn’t a time for geo-wimps. With Steve of CTMQ in the lead and Scott of The Scenic Drive and myself along for the ride, we summoned up additional energy and enthusiasm, and pushed ever onward.

View Extreme Connecticut Geography Tour in a larger map

We left the corner of Connecticut once known as Litchfield County (before Connecticut disestablished its county structure in 1960). Our departure made me somewhat wistful. Litchfield, truly, upended all of my preconceived notions and stereotypes of Connecticut, with its forested ridges, green valleys, rolling streams and quaint country towns. I’d love to come back to northwestern Connecticut again someday in a slightly less whirlwind fashion.

Litchfield also contained more than its fare share of geo-oddities. Much greater distances would need to be covered from here onward.

Westernmost Point in Connecticut

Each of the farthest directional extremes of Connecticut presented its own unique challenge. This continued with the westernmost point, directly aside New York’s Route 120 — King Street — an extremely busy road with a monument hidden behind a thicket beside a blind curve. We had to park on the opposite side of the road, dash across the street Frogger-style and and dig through grass to the monument before a truck with a side view mirror might clip us.

Disappointingly, Connecticut doesn’t seem to hold its geography monuments in particularly high regard. Back home in Virginia, various historical societies volunteer to care for markers and even protect them in cast-iron cages. In Connecticut? One finds the westernmost stone forlorn in neck-high weeds that probably haven’t been mowed in years. It’s difficult and dangerous to approach the marker even if one knows its exact location.

King Street is famous for another reason. It’s the road that New York stole from Connecticut. It happened a couple of miles away from the westernmost point. Steve had my back on this one. He knew I was excited about the stolen road so he took a brief detour along the east side of Westchester County Airport just to be kind. It wasn’t on our agenda.

Finally the Great Captains Island ferry beckoned us. This presented the greatest logistical challenge of the day. It may be the single most difficult geographic extremity should one wish to replicate our Connecticut adventure. Even so, we were actually in pretty good shape at this point. We’d made up time lost earlier due to my lack of humidity hiking skills, and we positioned ourselves perfectly for a 2:00 crossing.

A bureaucrat who escaped from the old Soviet Union must have designed the process to visit Great Captains Island. The town of Greenwich owns the island and they don’t like non-residents like you and me visiting. From what I’ve seen on the Intertubes — and I can’t confirm this independently so take it with a grain of salt — there was a lawsuit a few years ago that finally opened it up for non-resident visitors. True or not, Greenwich still makes it as difficult as possible for those of us who are not worthy.

Here are the roadblocks and our resolution:

  • The ferry runs only at the higher end of the tide cycle. Greenwich publishes a schedule every year and that figured prominently in our planning. We had to select a date that matched our personal summertime plans, fit within the timing of our drive through Connecticut, and coincided properly with the cycle of the moon. August 4, 2012 was quite literally the only feasible date.
  • The weather has to cooperate. The ferry cannot operate during thunderstorms and those are entirely too common during summer afternoons. This was a complete crapshoot and we were lucky. Thunderstorms rocked Connecticut’s coastline the very next day.
  • Then, don’t even think about showing up at the docks without a non-resident daily park pass. They are not sold at the ferry either. One has to go to the Greenwich town hall or civic center. Steve made arrangements with a friend who lived in town to get the pass on our behalf who met us at the docks. This transaction reportedly took about 45 minutes — time we would not have had available otherwise.
  • Parking is another challenge. The municipal lot at the docks charges dearly for its convenience. Steve had a secret parking place I won’t reveal so we skirted the issue.
  • After that, and only when all challenges are met, can one purchase a ferry ticket to depart for Great Captains Island

Southernmost Point in Connecticut

Here’s the completely crazy part. We negotiated those logistics, jumped through every kind of hoop, went through unreasonable pain and expense, and remained on Great Captains Island for a grand total of nine minutes! Otherwise we would have been stuck there for an additional hour and we had a schedule to keep. At least we amused the ferry crew.

What was that I said about things I’d like to see again someday? Yes, this is one of them.

It was a nice ride on the ferry back-and-forth; very relaxing. It always feels good to out be on the open water.

Smallest Indian Reservation

Back on shore, we completed another round of quick drive-by captures, this time the smallest Indian reservation in the United States (above), Connecticut’s smallest town (Derby), and a minor detour for a pre-celebration beer.

I wanted to stop briefly and take a photograph of the sign outside of the Golden Hill Paugussetts’ quarter-acre reservation. What were the odds of them actually holding an event in their back yard? Well, 100% on that day. I didn’t want to feel like a complete schmuck stopping in front of their home and pointing a camera at them. This was the best I could do, and I’ve cropped out the portion where they were holding their barbeque to preserve their privacy.

Apologies to the Golden Hill Paugussetts if they happened to notice three guys with cameras driving by slowly. We were only attempting to document the extremes of Connecticut, and in this instance the entirety of the United States. We meant no harm.

Easternmost Point in Connecticut

As if we hadn’t trampled on private property and poked into peoples’ personal space enough times during the day, we had to do it all over again to capture the easternmost point in Connecticut. This could be accessed feasibly only by going through a horse farm. We found some cover. There was some kind of horse show going on that day and many of the participants had traveled great distances. They formed a makeshift campground with a cluster of recreational vehicles. We felt comfortable with the notion that nobody would notice an additional car slip into the mix.

That was true until we had to peel away from the crowd to reach the easternmost point itself. We felt we had a decent cover story if someone questioned us (nobody did) so we hopped out and pushed through brambles and wetlands. Steve had some directions that were like, "look for a big oak tree near a thicket of pines and an abandoned junk yard" or something equally vague. Dusk was approaching. It had been a long day. Scott and I were ready to call this one "close enough." Steve persevered in spite of the waning interest of his crew and located the marker a few minutes later.

We had one more item on the itinerary: the Connecticut-Massachusetts-Rhode Island tripoint. Steve had been there before on a previous adventure. Scott and I felt like we’d gotten more than our fair share already. Sometimes on needs to know when it’s time to let it go and call it a day. We’ll save that one for someone who wants to try to break our record.

I arrived back at my hotel sixteen hours after we’d begun. It was a remarkable day of extreme Connecticut geo-oddities. Steve is already planning Round 2. I suggested a visit to all 169 Connecticut towns in a single day.

Other articles in this series:

On August 14, 2012 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Connecticut Extremes: Are We There Yet?”

  1. newtaste says:

    Indian? I thought that the current acceptable term is Native American. My best friend is of Indian descent, as her parents were from India.

Comments are closed.

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