More Spring Outdoors and Vernal Pools along the Nehantic Trail
Here we are 7 weeks after the Vernal Equinox, and it finally seems like spring has arrived. The daffodils that bloom in our front yard didn’t appreciate 2 inches of snow that arrived in April but thankfully they sprang right back up as soon as the sun was shining.
Last week I had to wear my face netting while on a woods hike due to swarming black flies. I guess we can chalk up those persistent pesky critters as yet another harbinger of spring. Wearing a long sleeve shirt, neckerchief around your neck and face netting really makes it so much easier. Insect repellent with 40% DEET also works, though the hungry little buggers are relentless at “face swarming.”
We’re also 7 weeks into TLGV’s Spring Outdoors program and things are really picking up with a full schedule of hikes, programs and outdoor activities to enjoy here in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Remember you can access the full list from the TLGV website at https://thelastgreenvalley.org/spring-outdoors-events/
This list is updated weekly, and several new activities have been added since we kicked off the program on March 22nd. You’ll want to check TLGV’s Facebook and Instagram social media pages for updates as well.
We’ve added our regions farmers’ markets and several clean-up programs sponsored by TLGV that are happening in the region. Cleanup organizers are always looking for help so if you’d like to participate in a meaningful activity with your friends and family, please consider attending and pitching in.
Many of TLGV’s partner organizations have walks, hikes and programs listed for Spring Outdoors including Connecticut Audubon, Joshua’s Trust, Leffingwell House Museum, The Mill Museum, Quiet Corner New England Mountain Bike Association, Norwich Historical Society, Palmer Arboretum in Woodstock, Wyndham Land Trust, Friends of Pachaug Forest and more. We could not offer this fun program without the help of these partner organizations and TLGV is thankful for their assistance. TLGV staff and rangers are also leading hikes and paddles so look for that information and join us as we share with you some of our favorite outdoor locations.
Two weeks ago, I led several folks on a Spring Outdoors hike through part of Hopeville Pond State Park on the blue-blazed Nehantic Trail. I would suggest this trail to anyone looking for an enjoyable woods hike. We stopped along the trail to look at the results of a CT DEEP Forestry Division prescribed burn for the regeneration of pitch pine trees, found blooming dogwood trees, heard the call and drumming of woodpeckers and enjoyed several spring wildflowers.
This section of the Nehantic trail has two vernal pools that were teeming with ephemeral water-born creatures and plants of early spring. We ventured off trail to examine one of the vernal pools and were amazed by hundreds of tiny wood frog tadpoles and even spotted the elusive fairy shrimp.
Vernal pools form in basins or depressions in the forest that fill with seasonal runoff from snowmelt and spring rains. The seasonal pools holds enough water during spring and early summer months for amphibians and insects to lay eggs and for juveniles to hatch, mature and leave the pools before they dry up in mid-to-late summer. They get their name because they appear in the spring (“vernal,” meaning, “of, relating to, or occurring in the spring”). These temporary pools of water are usually devoid of fish and provide habitat for diverse and distinctive plants and animals. The lack of fish provides a safe environment for the early or natal development of amphibian and insect species that would otherwise be eaten by fish.
That day we hiked just over a mile along the trail and looped back to the Hopeville Pond State Park parking area along Roode Road and Route 201. The trail is 12.6 miles in total length and runs between Hopeville Pond in Griswold to Green Fall Pond Recreation Area in Voluntown. Here are some other facts about the Nehantic Trail.
- It is one of several “blue-blazed trails maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Totaling over 825 miles of trails, CFPA’s blue-blazed trails are included in their Connecticut Walk Book and are also found on the CFPA website at https://www.ctwoodlands.org/blue-blazed-hiking-trails/connecticut-walk-book
- The trail is primarily in the 30,000 acre Pachaug State Forest and travels through white pine and hardwood forests and passes open fields. Sections of the trail are characterized by gentle hills and exposed ledges. It passes several abandoned mill sites situated near brooks that once powered the mills.
- It crosses the summit of Mount Misery (441 feet) with a wonderful sweeping vista of the forested landscapes encompassing the towns of Voluntown and Sterling.
- The Nehantic trail can be linked with the adjoining Narragansett, Quinebaug and Pachaug trails, as well as other side trails and woods roads, for longer hiking adventures.
Spring Outdoors still has 6 more weeks of adventures and explorations just waiting for you. I hope you’ll join us as we venture through spring together here in The Last Green Valley. Together let us care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He has lived in and explored the region for over 40 years and can be reached at email@example.com
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