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A second home in Hamden
Sleeping Giant State Park provides opportunities for community to find peace
Located across the street from the Mount Carmel campus, Sleeping Giant State Park gives members of the Quinnipiac community easy access to nature.
Quinnipiac’s Community Service Director Vince Contrucci said everyone appreciates the Sleeping Giant.
“One of the things everybody says is, ‘Oh, Quinnipiac is so beautiful.’ But one of the main reasons they’re saying that is because the park is right across the street and that is what you’re looking at when you come to campus,” he said. “The Sleeping Giant also provides that safety and security that the campus has and the quiet atmosphere the campus can also have, which is also another result of the park being across the street.”
Graduate student Julie Roosma thinks that the Sleeping Giant is an integral part of the Quinnipiac community.
“I don’t think I can ever fully appreciate that there is such a beautiful and amazing piece of nature so close to Quinnipiac’s campus,” she said. “It is honestly such a blessing to be able to go there any time.”
The Sleeping Giant is considered home to many of the residents living in Hamden, according to the Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) Community Outreach Chair Julie Hulten.
“The Sleeping Giant means that feeling of belonging, and it something that the whole town can hold in reverence and in common with each other,” Hulten said.
While most members of the community know the Sleeping Giant as a good place to hike, there is more to the Sleeping Giant State Park than meets the eye.
The History of Sleeping Giant State Park
There aren’t many members of the Quinnipiac community who know the history about Sleeping Giant State Park other than the “Legend of the Bobcat,” which is read to students at orientation.
Hulten said there is no bobcat in the traditional legend told by the Quinnipiac Native Americans who once lived in the area.
“I understand the motivation because every place wants to have a lore and history,” Hulten said. “And there probably were bobcats here at some point, but they are not part of the Native American legend.”
The legend traditionally told says that Hobbomock, an evil spirit, became upset after feeling neglected by his people, causing him to stamp his foot which made the Connecticut River change directions, according to Hulten. The Quinnipiac Native Americans prayed to the good spirit, Keitan, who cast a spell on Hobbomock which caused him to fall into an eternal sleep so he would no longer cause any damage to the environment.
The “Legend of the Bobcat” says while Hobbomock had a spell cast on him to fall into an eternal sleep, his bobcat companion was spared. The bobcat defends the “sleeping giant” and can be spotted around campus watching over the university and the Sleeping Giant.
Sleeping Giant State Park came into existence around the same time the SGPA was formed, according to Hulten. Judge Willis Cook, the owner of the land on Sleeping Giant’s first ridge, leased the land to Mount Carmel Traprock Company for quarrying. Quarrying is the blasting of trap rock to create flat and even surfaces.
Hulten said after complaints from neighbors about the quarrying and the changing of the shape of Sleeping Giant, the quarrying stopped, and both the Sleeping Giant State Park and the SGPA were formed in 1924.
“It was a community effort to stop the quarrying and from there, the park grew through donations of land and through fundraising the [SGPA] did,” Hulten said.
Sleeping Giant State Park is here for all of us to enjoy today because of the SGPA, according to Hulten.
“This indicates how deeply loved and how deeply people in the area care for this place,” Hulten said.
Hulten said the SGPA is also working with the state to have a welcome center built near the front gate of Sleeping Giant State Park where artifacts found on the Sleeping Giant can be displayed and the history of the mountain can be told.
The Sleeping Giant Park Association
The SGPA is not affiliated with the state, according to Hulten.
Hulten said the SGPA works closely with the state to maintain Sleeping Giant State Park, but the state mostly maintains the parking lot, pavilion and Tower Trail. The rest of the trails are maintained by volunteers from SGPA.
The SGPA maintains the butterfly garden that sits outside the front gate of Sleeping Giant State Park, as well as the 32 miles of hiking trails located throughout the Sleeping Giant. The trail crew is completely made up of volunteers who help with cleaning up trash, trailblazing and removing invasive species, according to Hulten.
Along with the trail crew, the SGPA also has a hiking committee that offers around 18 guided hikes throughout the year. The dates and times of these hikes can be found on the SGPA website.
The SGPA hiking committee also sponsors the Sleeping Giant Masters Program, according to Hulten.
Any member of the SGPA who hikes all the marked trails and logs the dates and times can become a Sleeping Giant Master, according to Hulten. All Giant Masters are given a certificate and badge upon completion of the program.
Hulten said there are different branches of the Sleeping Giant Masters Program. Along with hiking all of the trails on the Sleeping Giant, if a member hikes those trails once each season, they are given another certificate.
There are also a number of people who have hiked all 32 miles once a month for the entire year, according to Hulten. Those members also get another certificate for doing so.
As of August 2016, there are 336 Giant Masters, according to the SGPA website. Hulten has completed the Sleeping Giant Masters Program 17 times in her life and continues to hike the Giant regularly.
Contrucci is a Sleeping Giant Master. Contrucci has also hiked the Sleeping Giant once each season, according to the SGPA website’s list of Sleeping Giant Masters.
Contrucci said anybody can complete the Sleeping Giant Masters Program; it just takes perseverance.
“It’s easy to accomplish, but it just takes time and focus in order to do it,” he said.
Contrucci said he also believes members of the Quinnipiac community refer to him as the “Sleeping Giant Master” because he doesn’t need a map to find his way around the Sleeping Giant.
“I don’t necessarily have to use a map. I just know where I am, I know the trails really well and if somebody wants a suggestion on where to go or how to do something, I am able to come up with something easy for them to do,” he said. “I do always carry maps with me for when I encounter people who are lost, so I always have maps handy so I can point out to them where they are and where they need to go in order to no longer be lost anymore.”
Hulten has many favorite places to hike on the Sleeping Giant and she said it is hard to choose just one.
But her favorite part about the Sleeping Giant are the multiple pine tree forests.
“The ground is carpeted, and it is just so still. There is a chemical exuded by pine trees called pinene that is relaxing,” she said.
Contrucci said his favorite spots to hike on the Sleeping Giant are in the middle of the mountain.
“The trails there are more difficult and often less traveled by other people, so you have a better experience connecting with the Sleeping Giant and nature than you do when you’re on the side where everybody congregates,” he said.
Reflective Hike to Yoga
Associate Athletic Director for Fitness and Wellness Tami Reilly said Quinnipiac students are lucky to be within walking distance of Sleeping Giant State Park.
“I think it is a really nice opportunity for students to just walk across the street and literally be in nature and feel like you are so removed from campus,” she said. “That removal is really refreshing, and you’re only right across the street. It’s nice that students don’t have to get in a car and go somewhere. They have access to the Sleeping Giant all year round.”
Reilly and Contrucci also helped create the “Reflective Hike to Yoga” program which provides opportunities for members of the Quinnipiac community to hike the Sleeping Giant.
Reilly said the Reflective Hike to Yoga is a unique experience.
“It’s an opportunity to move, an opportunity to meet new people, just to get away from campus and to do something that has enough structure but enough freedom to make it really appealing,” she said.
The hike includes a guest speaker that guides the discussions throughout the hike, according to Reilly. The hike begins with meditation at the base of the Sleeping Giant, followed by a hike to yoga and reflective conversation throughout the hike. Reilly said each speaker comes with a theme and bases all discussions on that theme.
Contrucci said the hike allows participants to hike areas of the Sleeping Giant that are different than the Tower Trail.
“The Reflective Hike to Yoga exposes participants to other areas on the [Sleeping] Giant that they otherwise wouldn’t go to just because they usually stick to what they know,” he said. “There is a lot more to experience on the Sleeping Giant if you go out there and try it a little differently.”
Contrucci also believes that doing yoga on the Sleeping Giant provides a unique experience participants wouldn’t get practicing in a studio.
“Doing yoga on the giant provides that different environment and atmosphere which I believe allows participants to enjoy yoga a little bit more,” he said.
Reilly said the program has grown over the years from around four or five participants per hike to around 25 participants per hike. She always gets positive feedback about the Reflective Hike to Yoga.
“When you do make the time to do something like this, it is super rewarding,” she said. “It is open to everybody and it is hard for all of us to make time to do things, but every time someone goes they say, ‘It was so much work to get here but it was so worth it.’”
Senior Maria Baras said some of her favorite memories were made during the Reflective Hike to Yoga.
“I started participating my freshman year and kept up as much as I could through my senior year,” she said. “It was nice to take a different path up the [Sleeping] Giant and have a different guest speaker discussing a different topic with the group each time.”
There is one more hike left this semester on Nov. 7. All hikes take place on Mondays from 4:30-6 p.m. and begin by meeting at the base of the Sleeping Giant.
It is important for members of the Quinnipiac community to be respectful of the Sleeping Giant, according to Contrucci.
“If they’re gonna utilize the Sleeping Giant, use it in an appropriate way,” he said.
Contrucci said he is passionate about the Sleeping Giant because it is his favorite place to exercise.
“It’s something I am protective of because I understand how wonderful it is,” he said. “It is my escape. It is my ability to get away and I enjoy introducing other people to it, but I just want people to respect it.”
Hulten agrees with Contrucci and said it is important for members of the Quinnipiac community to respect the Sleeping Giant.
“The Sleeping Giant does mean home to so many people here and it is such a treasure. It is so beloved,” she said. “I would ask that students who do come and take advantage of it know where they’re walking and know how special it is to us who are not just here for four years, but have spent most of our lives here.”
Hulten posted to the SGPA Facebook page asking members of the Hamden community about what the Sleeping Giant means to them. She has received over 40 responses.
“The [Sleeping] Giant has and will continue to stand the test of time,” Jane Colwell Glynn said on the Facebook post. “It is the one symbol in our town that unites every generation to each other. It is the one place in Hamden that you can find great peace while overlooking our wonderful Hamden.”
Other members of the community shared their favorite memories of hiking the Sleeping Giant.
“The Giant is my dog’s favorite hiking place,” Patricio Moschcovich said on the Facebook post. “The trails and views are beautiful all year round. Each season is special, with their unique colors. Winters are great. We love going a day after a snowstorm. All covered in white. Few people. Quiet. Relaxing. And a great exercise.”
Baras said the Sleeping Giant also connects the Quinnipiac community to the Hamden community.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the Quinnipiac community alone and forget about how much the Hamden community does for us and offers us,” she said. “Taking a step off of main campus and enjoying one of the local attractions is a good reminder to us that we’re part of a bigger community here at our home away from home.”
Hulten said for many, Hamden wouldn’t be the same without the Sleeping Giant.
“The Sleeping Giant is home,” Hulten said. “This is Hamden – this is the land of the Sleeping Giant.”
Fun Facts about the Sleeping Giant (Courtesy of Julie Hulten)
The Tower was built during the Great Depression to create jobs.
Harry Webb, the foreman of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) crew left his mark by creating a spider web in the arch window.
Webb brought his Doberman dog, Lucky, to the worksite every day. His dog is carved into one side of the tower.
The WPA workers used to signal home from the Tower with mirrors.
The 350 stairs cut into the White Trail made it easier for women in the late 1800’s to climb up to a cabin previously located on the second ridge.
A part of the Red Circle Trail was once a mine shaft where people used to dig for copper.
Along the Mill River, there was once a grist mill, an axel works and a cartridge shell factory.
There’s a 10 percent grade in elevation along the Tower Trail.
There are 32 total trails along the Sleeping Giant.
The Sleeping Giant didn’t become a state park until 1924.