The Main Moose
I’m very excited to write this page. This is the 20th of what may ultimately be 169 town completion celebration pages! Yes, of course I am fully aware of how absurd that is. But I love it.
For those of you who are new here… In late 2016, after a decade of writing CTMQ, I decided to try to “complete” towns. In that decade of traveling and writing, I had already done a lot of stuff in most of our towns already. However, I have been continually surprised by how much more there often is to do. This page you’re reading includes my “town completion celebration meal.” These will sometimes be at the best restaurant in town. Or the most historic. Or the most iconic. Or the most unique. Or the only one. Or at a gas station. Every town is different!
Let’s get to it.
Columbia, Tolland County
The Celebration Meal
I was a bit concerned about my celebration meal for Columbia. I ignorantly thought that the town simply wouldn’t have a restaurant at which to, well, celebrate. It turns out that there are a few places in Columbia, but I’m pretty sure I selected the best option – at least since I had my son Calvin with me. The Main Moose is a seasonal joint, so if for some weird reason the next few paragraphs get you excited to go there and it’s winter, you’ll just have to wait.
Columbia was the town that Calvin chose in the beginning of 2019 to “complete” by year’s end. It was a very good choice on his part – not too far away, not too much to do, and at the time of his choosing, he had already been to everything in town I’d been. So this celebration meal was a true celebration for the both of us! Not only had I done “everything” (insofar as CTMQ is concerned) in Columbia, so had Calvin! And this wasn’t the first time; Calvin also did/was present for everything Bozrah too!
Poor kid. I can just imagine a year-end writing project in his third grade class… “I want each of you to write two paragraphs on your two biggest accomplishments.”
I have completed Bozrah and Columbia. These are two towns in eastern Connecticut that not to many people know about…” Oh, a father can dream.
My point is, we had a reason to celebrate. The Main Moose is a true roadside restaurant. That is, you order from a window, sit at a table, and then go pick up your order when it’s ready. Calvin, of course, went for some sort of cheesy or buttery pasta and I had a chicken sandwich of some sort.
Not expecting greatness, I was pleasantly surprised that everything was really quite good. Even the fries were cooked well and my sandwich was fresh and flavorful. I overheard a bunch of patrons gushing over what the owners did with this property. Apparently it used to be a bit of a dump, but the woodwork and design of the outdoor seating space was really high quality. Several locals were commenting how great it is that this place is for Columbia.
That’s ColUmbia, not ColOmbia, Steve…
Ahem. (And really, the restaurant is mere yards from the Windham/Willimantic border, but still, this is Columbia’s joint.) Calvin and I reminisced about what we’d done in the town for a bit, and how it hides some pretty nice hiking spots. The crown jewel is Joshua Trust’s Utley Hill Preserve, but we agreed that the town’s Szegda Farm has its charms.
After lunch, Calvin (of course) demanded an ice cream cone, so I demanded he step up and make the whole transaction himself. So he did. (He’d crawl on glass for an ice cream cone, so I wasn’t too impressed.)
But we were impressed by this funky little outpost on the outskirts of Columbia. Definitely a cool spot to stop for a quick sit-down lunch in the summer.
As Calvin and I pedaled through the cold forest along the Hop River State Park Trail in Columbia, with just a couple miles to go on it before calling the town CTMQ Complete, we began yelling out to the confused songbirds and squirrels, “COLUMMM-BEE-YAHHH! COLUMMM-BEE-YAHHH!”
It felt fantastic. After all, how many people on earth have done “everything” there is to do in the rural Tolland County town? And here we were, two cold ding-dongs, riding bikes on an old train track path, shouting exaltations to the town, knowing that we are, very most likely, the only two to have done so.
Sure, Calvin was but a wee toddler when I visited the town’s lone museum at the Moor Charity School in the center of town. And he certainly couldn’t partake of the wine I enjoyed at the town’s Heartstone Farm and Winery, but he was there with me. And he was by my side to hike every trail in town, from the rather lame to the rather cool.
This was a special moment.
Alright, enough of that. Completing Columbia could have been done in a weekend – or even a day by an ambitious person. We’re simply the only people to actually do it. But I’m not kidding when I say that the winery is way nicer – and some of the trails are more interesting and fun – than you’d think. And I know you never think about Columbia, Connecticut but… it’s a nice little town.
Thought exercise: If I had to send someone to Columbia for a day, I would challenge them to do everything in that one day. With no takers for such a ridiculous challenge, I’d offer up a rather outdoorsy experience. If you fish, perhaps some fishing at Mono Pond State Park followed by a walk up Utley Brook at Joshua Trust’s Utley Hill Preserve. Have some lunch at the Main Moose and head back on on the trails at Szegda Farm. After that, while away the afternoon on the outdoor patio at Heartstone Winery and recognize the beauty of the town.
Surprise: It shouldn’t be a surprise, because we’re not talking ColOmbian hinterlands here, but the winery was really nice.
Favorite fact: Easy: Dartmouth College began in Columbia, Connecticut.
Disappointment: The town’s History Place isn’t something worth visiting for CTMQ purposes, and if it is (it isn’t), their lack of returning my emails and calls was certainly disappointing.