Hiking Guide: Grasslands, forests of Pomfret preserve worth a visit
With chirping wood frogs, streams fulsome with spring rain, bluebirds flitting between nesting boxes and purple speckled heads of skunk cabbage flowers popping through the leaf litter like the first flames of spring, the Bafflin Sanctuary offers a pleasant and varied landscape inviting hikers back to the trails for a new season of exploring.
The 702-acre preserve, on a former dairy farm, is owned by the Connecticut Audubon Society, which also has its Center at Pomfret there with an active schedule of nature education programs throughout the year. Ten miles of marked trails, organized in seven linked loops, wind through the sanctuary, which is managed for grassland and early successional shrublands. Designated an important bird area, more than 200 species of birds have been found there. Located in the state’s rural northeast corner — nicknamed “the Quiet Corner” by the regional conservation and promotion organization The Last Green Valley — Bafflin Sanctuary is a worthwhile destination for shoreline residents seeking nature in some different terraine, about an hour’s drive from New London.
During a recent gentle rain, a 90-minute trek through the preserve began at a grassy knoll just outside the visitors’ center, with the deep green of the meadows and hemlocks around the edge muted and silvery in the fog. Through a hemlock forest on the Ravine Trail, then onto Day Brook Trail, where the gurgling stream wiggles and swoops along on its way to meet Mashamoquet Brook, the path leads through woodlands and wetlands to an open grassy hillside that leads to the Williams Way trail.
This trail hugs twin ponds and a swamp, where the mating calls of wood frogs provide the background music for swimming mallards and a great blue heron. Beyond the ponds, the trail connects to the Mashamoquet Meadow and Ledge trails at the southern end of the preserve. Even with the earth getting a good soaking of nature’s original lubricant that morning, the muddy trails were still a delight for limbs overdue for a jaunt in the spring outdoors.
About Bafflin Sanctuary
Directions: Take I-395 north about 35 miles to Exit 41. Take Exit 41 onto Route 101 West toward Dayville and Killingly. Continue on Route 101 about three miles and turn right onto Wrights Crossing Road. Continue about two miles to a left on Day Road. Center is on the right. Address is 218 Day Road.
Where to Park: Parking available in lot at the Connecticut Audubon Center at Pomfret building.
Description: 702 acres of grasslands, shrublands, wetlands and forests that is managed for grasslands and early successional habitat and designated an important bird area. Seven connected loop trails of 1.5 to three-quarters of a mile each traverse the property.
Regulations: Open year-round, sunrise to sunset. Center building is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Dogs must be on a leash; no motorized vehicles.
Amenities: Bathrooms in the center building.
Natural Features: Open fields, hemlock ravine, beaver ponds, wetlands, Day Pond Brook and Mashamoquet Brook.
Fees: Admission is free; donations accepted in visitors center.
Things to note: Maps available in the visitors center. Trailheads marked with signposts, but trails are not blazed.
Owned by: Connecticut Audubon Society
More information: http://www.ctaudubon.org/center-at-pomfret; (860) 928-4928.
Trail map can be found at: http://www.ctaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Bafflin_2011_04_26.pdf