Head for the Hills on Trails Day

If you’re like me, you can’t pass a path leading into the woods without checking it out or at least wondering where it goes.

I’ve enjoyed many a happy adventure – and, OK, experienced maybe one or two misadventures – by following my curiosity-driven, peripatetic instincts.

These paths have taken me to placid ponds, verdant valleys, inspiring promontories and occasionally, as I’ve chronicled here, to briar patches, poison ivy fields and mosquito-plagued marshes.

No matter – the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and hiking away from so-called civilization into so-called wilderness, even for a short distance, is almost always rewarding.

This weekend (Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3) we nomads get to celebrate what has become a statewide and national hikers’ holiday: Trails Day.

The 20th annual Connecticut Trails Day Celebration offers 193 events in 121 towns on more than 540 miles of trails, so there are ample opportunities to revisit favorite stomping grounds or explore new territories, whether you’re a veteran mountaineer or a family with small kids.

What’s more, what started as a hiker-driven event has evolved into a cornucopia of activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, running, trail maintenance, kayaking, educational walks, bird watching, and geocaching – all guided by volunteers from local hiking clubs, parks and recreation departments, state agencies, conservation organizations, historic groups and land trusts.

Initially organized by the American Hiking Society the event has been coordinated here since 1993 by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, whose worthy efforts have made tiny Connecticut the national leader in Trails Day participation. Hooray for us.

For a complete list of Trails Day events visit the CFPA website at www.ctwoodlands.org.

Here are a handful of outings planned in our neck of the woods in southeastern Connecticut:

Groton: 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, a 6-mile hike starts at Bluff Point State Park through Haley Farm State Park and other properties.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday there will be a separate hike at Bluff Point State Park, and also from 10 to 2 there will be a 2-mile education walk of the Historic Sheep Farm and Fort Hill Brook, starting at 245/255 Hazelnut Hill Road.

Ledyard: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, a 2.6-mile hike hike of the Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor/Loop Trail, starts at 113 Whalehead Road.

In addition, canoe/kayak paddle in Poquetanuck Cove is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, starting at the public access cartop boat launch at end of Royal Oaks Drive off Arrowhead Drive.

Lyme: 10 a.m. Saturday, two hikes through Chestnut Hill Preserve and  Nehantic State Forest, beginning on Sterling Hill Road off Route 156.

Montville: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, letterboxing at Camp Oakdale.

Mystic: 9:30 to 11 am. Saturday, a family hike at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center at 109 Pequotstpos Road.

Niantic: 10 am. to noon Saturday, a hike of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve.

North Stonington: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, a nature walk through the Fowler Grindstone preserve on Fowler Road.

Also 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, a nature walk through the Greenwood Tract of the Mitchell Preserve, starting at 31 Lake of Isles Road.

Old Lyme: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, a nature walk at Hoffman-Matthiessen-DeGerenday Preserve, starting near the Bowerbird in the Old Lyme Shopping Center on Route 1.

Salem: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, a 3-mile walk in the Walden Preserve Off Hagen Road.

Stonington: 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, a hike in the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, starting at the small unpaved parking area opposite the “Marsh Viewing Area” sign 1.4 miles after turning onto Palmer Neck Road.

Voluntown: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, a 4-mile hike in Pachaug State Forest, starting at the parking area on Hodge Pond Road.

Waterford: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, a 2-mile hike in the Conover Tract, starting at the end of Old Barry Road off Vauxhall Street Extension.

Unfortunately, Saturday’s forecast calls for rain, which may cancel or postpone some of the hikes, so check the CFTA website for the latest updates. In addition, some of the hikes require advance registration, so call or email ahead of time.

Hiking rewards rain or shine, though, so I hope you get out there and hit the trail.


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