A welcome sign at the trail head of the Guilford Land Trust's Nut Plains Woods welcomes visitors to the 48-acre preserve by noting it is a "bit of wilderness reserved for foot travel unspoiled by fires, camping, hunting or vehicles."
And a bit of surprising wilderness since the preserve is surrounded by housing developments that go relatively unnoticed as you navigate the myriad of trails within the preserve. Although only 48 acres, Richard Elliott did a masterful job in 1977 designing several miles worth of trails that wind through huge mountain laurel groves, travel along high ridges and cross small, pristine streams.
I started my visit through the preserve by traveling counter-clockwise along the white-blazed trail that goes around the perimeter of Nut Plains Woods. Visitors will get a feel for the preserve as the trail passes through a wooded valley where a stream gently flows past. The trail then climbs up though some wooded highlands. During my visit, I startled about a dozen deer who crashed through the forest before me. I've never seen that many deer at one time before.
The white-blazed trail continues over some difficult terrain before hooking up with what is known as the "Laurel Trail." The trail is denoted by the "L"-shaped white blazes and passes along the banks of a large swamp. Most of us are familiar with mountain laurel that is the size of a large bush. These are some of the biggest I've seen in the state and their thick, gnarled trunks resemble more of a tree than a bush.
The highlight of the journey is a visit through the valley of the tulip trees — some of the straightest growing and tallest trees you will see in the New England forest. The "Tulip Tree Trail" is marked with tulip tree leaf blazes and is bordered on one side by a stream and wetlands. But on its western side, the valley is shadowed by a huge lichen and-moss-covered rock cliff. It's made even more immense by the towering hemlocks growing on top of the rock outcropping. Be sure to leave the trail and walk next to this massive rock to really appreciate its size.
The trail brings visitors to the entrance, but before leaving, you are going to want to walk the white trail to the top of the rock outcropping and look out over the valley and hills you just visited. And scratch your head as you find it hard to believe you just walked 48 acres when it feels like you've just hiked 48 miles.
The preserve can be reached by traveling on Route 77 to Stepstone Hill Road and taking a right on Nut Plains Road. Turn left on White Birch Lane and take a right on Cindy Lane. The trail entrance is located between #48 and #60 Cindy Lane. Visit www.guilfordlandtrust.org/
npwmap2.html for a detailed trail map of Nut Plain Woods.
Way To Go!