Can you think of a better afternoon outing in October or November than a hike at a haunted state park followed by a trip to a backyard winery?
First up: Gay City State Park. To get there, you must to drive through quaint country roads in Hebron, Bolton and Glastonbury. Neither Mike nor I have spent much time in this part of the state and we were surprised by how “country” this area is with winding roads, open fields, and lots of farms.
Gay City State Park is beautiful and offers swimming, hiking and fishing. There’s a beach with picnic tables and grills for use in the summer, and the lake views can be enjoyed year-round as it’s very picturesque. The hiking trails are relatively easy, if a bit rocky. We saw several families with small children navigating the trails just fine.
Instead of following a route, we just walked and explored and came upon what Mike was sure was an old mill structure. Of course I just saw some stone walls but he was adamant that someone had run a mill in these woods. So afterwards we checked and he was right: it’s an old mill town. Better than that, it’s a haunted old mill town.
The isolated hollow on the Blackledge River was first settled by religious leader Elijah Andrus and his followers in 1796. A succession of ill-fated mills marked the town’s history—the first built around 1800 and the last burning down in 1879. Village history has also been burdened with tales of community tensions caused by the free use of alcohol during twice weekly religious services and of grisly murders gone unpunished.
There’s always a damn Elijah in there somewhere isn’t there? Read more about the haunting on Damned Connecticut.
After leaving the Park, we headed to Joseph Preli Family Farm and Vineyard which is truly a backyard winery. This is a small farm in South Glastonbury (right near Belltown and Dondero Orchards) that serves wine and cider and they just applied for a permit to brew beer. They also run a farmstand.
I have to tell you, as a shy person, driving up to this farm was my worst nightmare. You enter via driveway that does not look like a business’s driveway, it looks like you’re trespassing into someone’s backyard. But once we parked and got out, the purveyors were so friendly and even let us Dottie explore the farm with us.
We did a tasting at their homemade wine bar which they constructed using trees from their property and then toured the farm. I passed on the wine (they were sold out of everything except one red that did not appeal to me), but their cider was fantastic.
This was a perfect fall afternoon outing. To make it a day trip, through in a visit to Dondero or Belltown, or the Old Cider Mill on Main Street in Glastonbury.
Gay City State Park Map
Hebron, CT 06447
Joseph Preli Farm and Vineyard
235 Hopewell Rd
South Glastonbury, CT 06073