Maybe it was the type of day – a sultry summer afternoon with the sun peeking around thunderclouds.
Or maybe it was because I knew the area's back story – a place that hasn't changed much since colonial times, when the forboding swamp served as a hiding place for Pequot Indian women, children and old men when the English attacked.
For whatever reason, a visit to Ledyard's Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor is downright spooky. Not in the sense of ghosts and goblins, but rather that feeling you get when you walk on ice for the first time in winter and hear a crack, or the way the hair stands up on the back of your neck as you walk to the very edge of a cliff.
The forests are dark and deep along the marked trails within the 322 acres that make up the corridor consisting of the Avalonia Land Conservancy's Dow Centennial Preserve, Slosberg-Anderson Woodlands and Harry Leiser Tract. All the paths skirt the outer reaches of Pine Swamp, never intruding on the inner recesses that are believed to be "made up of morasses and quicksands as treacherous as the Florida Everglades," according to an 1883 New York Times article on the area.
The trailhead begins along Whalehead Road, with a path marked with blue blazes twisting through the forest to a power line right-of-way that passes through a multitude of kettleholes and small ponds. A number of short paths along the easily navigable trail lead to overlooks across the placid surface of the ponds. The rocky path cuts through the heart of the ponds before hooking up with a loop trail marked with blue dots that snakes along the right-of-way before entering the forest.
The highlight of this journey is the red-blazed trail through the northwestern portion of the Slosberg Anderson Woodlands, which encompasses the majority of the historic Pine Swamp. Shortly after crossing Robin Hood Drive, visitors enter a forest of rocks known as a boulder field. The area, made up of boulders of all shapes and sizes, is the remnants of the southern edge of the Wisconsin Glacier that covered New England 12,000 years ago. A series of bridges and boardwalks help visitors navigate the crevices and caves created by the jumble of moss- and lichen-covered rocks.
The blue dot trail loops around the Dow Preserve, donated by the Dow Chemical Corp. in celebration of their centennial in 1997. The trail passes through another boulder field with a number of unmarked side trails undulating along the banks of the kettleholes and ponds before returning to the blue trail.
Once known as Owl's Nest, Cuppacommock, Hiding Place or the Mast Swamp, Pine Swamp has changed little over the centuries when a glacier retreated and left behind a forboding and spooky landscape.
To get there, take Route 12 to Route 214 or Stoddards Wharf Road. Take a right on Avery Hill Road Extension just past Avery Cemetery. Take a right on Whalehead Road and look for the parking area shortly on the left. Visit http://www.avalonialandconservancy.org/files/PSWC_map.pdf for a color map of the area.
Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365, at pmarteka@ courant.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.Copyright © 2015, CT Now