Canton Preserves Worth A Trip

Growing up, I remember a song which apparently separated those of us who wanted to be doctors or nurses from those who could scratch pre-med off their career choice list early in life.

The part I can remember went something like: "The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone…" And that's about it. That's why I didn't become a doctor.

But that little ditty was on my mind last week as I made my way around three Canton Land Conservation Trust preserves tucked in the deep forests to the east of Ski Sundown, a popular slope in New Hartford. The neat part is all three preserves are connected so you can create your own version of the bone song: The Sun, Wind and Woodland Preserve is connected to Breezy Hill Farm and Breezy Hill Farm is connected to Arthur and Eunice Sweeton Trail and … see? It's catchy.

Now, you won't find trails named "Nor'Easter," "Canyon Run" or "Stinger," like those at Ski Sundown, but you will find gently winding paths that travel deep into forests filled with white birch, hemlock and white pine. This time of year, the deep greens of the hemlocks and white pines, the brown of fallen leaves and ghostly white of the birches play off one another and you expect snow to start falling around you even on the sunniest days.

The 129-acre Sun, Wind and Woodland Preserve provides a sort of base camp for the experience. From here, visitors can either hike north along the yellow-blazed Ratlum Mountain trail or south along the orange-blazed Tom Perry trail.

The Ratlum trail takes visitors through the forests of white birch, through mountain laurel groves and past some neat rock outcroppings and huge white pines. It's basically the setting of Ski Sundown without the skiiers flying past. The trail takes you up to the narrow, dirt Breezy Hill Road – a nice hike in itself. But to connect with the Arthur and Eunice Sweeton Trail, walk south along the road to the trailhead.

The Sweeton trail travels through an older deciduous forest filled with streams, swampy wetlands and a waterfall. As visitors get closer to Breezy Hill Farm, the forest turns younger and giant wolf trees border the stone walls of forgotten farm fields.

The trail ends across from the trailhead for Breezy Hill Farm. A few steps take visitors up a trail to a large pasture which on this visit was filled with a rafter of foraging turkeys. They quickly scooted away, vocalizing heartily — making sure they wouldn't become someone's Thanksgiving dinner.

The trail winds around the pasture before connecting with an old woods road that takes visitors to a white pine plantation filled with huge trees. The trail, covered with fallen pine needles, winds through the forest before connecting with the orange-blazed Tom Perry trail and back to the Woodland trailhead.

Route 44 or Albany Turnpike through Canton and turn on Indian Hill Road. Take a right on Breezy Hill Road and look for the entrance to the Sun, Wind and Woodland Preserve just past Breezy Hill Farm. Visit http://www.cantonlandtrust.org/trailsupport/SunWindTopo.jpg for a map of all three preserves.

Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365, at pmarteka@courant.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.


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