Rockland Preserve Offers A Plethora Of Hiking Adventures

So you are looking for a good, vigorous hike to burn off that turkey and all the fixings, but you aren't sure whether you want to go explore a trail with a huge glacial boulder or a path filled with historical oddities or take a jaunt with a view of a stunning view of a picturesque bog.

If you head out to the 649-acre Rockland Preserve - nestled along the town's borders with Durham and Guilford – you will see it all in this rugged land filled with vernal pools and pristine, unnamed streams that sometimes cascade over rock formations as they feed the watershed of the Hammonasset River.

Coan Pond and the David Houston Trail are the property's "must-sees." The pond has apparently been through a cycle of fen to bog to swamp and back to pond due to the busy work of beavers. With a series of vantage points, from an overlook to an outdoor classroom built by local Boy Scouts to an old stone dam at the southeastern end of the pond, the solitude and peacefulness of the area draws visitors in. A white-blazed trail takes visitors around the pond.

The David Houston Trail, named after a teacher and naturalist, showcases the area's historical use in the charcoal industry that helped power industrial operations from iron foundries to blacksmith forges. A series of interpretive signs detail the process of turning the trees into charcoal. The landscape and relatively young forest throughout the preserve showcase the historical use of the land.

There are a multitude of trails along old roads that once carried horse-drawn wagons. Trails like Old Crooked Hill Road or Dead Hill Road add a little romanticism to the journey, which can be as long as visitors want to make it.

The 3.2-mile orange-blazed Rockland Trail takes visitors around the northern half of the preserve, past stone walls, old fireplaces built by colliers, the men who made the charcoal, and the Great Red Swamp. An orange-blazed, mile-long Boundary Trail takes visitors past a formation known as lunch rocks and the "Selectman's Stones" - a pile of large rocks with dates etched in them denoting the border with Madison and Guilford. A half-mile orange- and yellow-blazed Rockland Trail Loop takes visitors through a mountain laurel thicket and to the preserve's highest point at 580 feet.

So make a turkey sandwich and head out and enjoy the last bit of fall.

Entrances to Rockland Preserve are on Route 79 across from Samantha Lane and Route 79 to Dorset Lane and turn right on Devonshire Lane and a left on Renee's Way. Parking is at the end of Renee's Way. Maps are available at the trail kiosks. Visit http://www.courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.

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