Exploring and Social Distancing in The Last Green Valley
Here in The Last Green Valley and throughout the country, millions of us are living life remotely. Non-essential businesses have been closed in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s advice regarding outdoor recreation according to the state website is, “individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people…”
We are all engaged in social distancing. TLGV’s office is closed to the public at least until the end of April, and we are working from home. Our Spring Outdoors program is on hold through to the end of April, at least, and all our scheduled programs and events for have been cancelled or postponed through April.
It is not my place or role in this column to provide health care advice. It is my role however, to help find ways to be active outside while also meeting the requirements of executive orders in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. I cannot stress enough that being outside is a good thing, if you can do so while maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others. Here is the good news, there are more than 500 miles of trails in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. We can get outside and still keep our social distance.
With that in mind, today’s column is the first in a series about our great outdoor opportunities awaiting for us to enjoy. In addition to this column, you can look to the TLGV website and Facebook page for suggestions of specific locations and ideas to get fresh air safely throughout The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.
We are blessed with several beautiful state parks in the region. For a full list of state park and forest locations in Connecticut, check out the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website. The website has recently been redesigned. Here is the link new website with important information about all the parks and forests.
Today we’ll look at some of my favorite state park locations to hike: Pachaug, Old Furnace, Mashamoquet and Bigelow Hollow in Connecticut, and Wells State Park in Massachusetts, which is not a far drive for many of this column’s readers.
In the southern section of the corridor my go-to place is Pachaug State Forest. It is the largest in the state with 26,477 acres in the six towns of Voluntown, Sterling, Plainfield, Griswold, North Stonington and Preston. There are several excellent trails including the blue blazed Nehantic, Pachaug and Quinebaug trails (maintained by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association). Some Pachaug Forest trails are multi-use, including mountain bikes and equestrian uses. The hike up the Nehantic Trail to the top of Mount Misery is one of my favorite hikes. Below is a link to the website for the Pachaug Forest (Chapman Area) as well as a link to the trail map for the forest.
In the central area of the corridor is the 367-acre Old Furnace State Park in Killingly. Only a few miles from my home, I have hiked the trails there may times as well as organized and led group hikes there for TLGV. My favorite trail is the 2- mile orange-blazed loop trail from the parking area to the top of Half Hill (known locally as Ross Cliffs). The view east from the top is spectacular. I take the orange trail to the top of the hill to where it joins the blue blazed trail to the precipice, and then the blue-orange trail south and down the hill to the parking area between Furnace and Ross Pond. The orange trail then continues around the back side of Furnace Pond and the main entrance. Below is a link to the park website and a link to the trail map.
Mashamoquet State Park in Pomfret is more than 1,000 acres and in the central area of the corridor. The park has an excellent trail system with miles of hiking available. My favorite is the blue trail from the Ranger Station up to a large rock called Indian Chair and from there the red and blue trails to the Wolf Den. From there I hike up to another interesting rock formation called Table Rock. Below is a link to the park website and link to the trail map.
Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union is farther north in the corridor. It is only a few hundred acres in size, but it is surrounded by thousands of acres of the Nipmuck State Forest and the Yale-Myers Forest. I have hiked all of its trails and led group hikes there as well as paddle trips on Mashapaug Lake (located at the northern end of the park). While smaller than some of the other state parks, Bigelow Hollow is the site of a favorite long-hike loop of more than six miles often featured in Walktober. My favorite hike is along the Nipmuck Trail from the entrance area of the park north to Breakneck pond. I will admit to being more familiar with the Nipmuck than any other of the trails in our region and have hiked its many sections on several occasions. Below is a link to the park website and link to the trail map.
Wells State Park in Sturbridge is located in the northern section of the corridor and totals 1,470 acres devoted to hiking, camping and biking. It is managed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. There are 12 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. There are loop trails including the grand loop trail of 5.5-miles and my favorite 1.5-mile loop trail to the cliffs of Carpenter Rocks with wonderful views. Note that there is a parking fee so check out the park website for hours. Below is a link to the website and link and to the trail map.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to share in this column other outdoor locations to explore while social distancing. We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Together we can get through this. We don’t need to be in close quarters to enjoy all the outdoor places that make this region such a wonderful place to live.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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