Nature's Path & Way To Go
4:38 PM EDT, July 12, 2012
While exploring the Timberland preserve, I stepped into a muddy bank and sank. I heard a few "plops" as the amphibians fled into the water. But then I stared down into a pair of bulging eyes on one of the biggest – and bravest - bullfrogs I had ever seen. He didn't move. I didn't move. And you aren't going to want to move when you see the natural beauty that is Timberland.
The 600-acre preserve in the northern portion of town is home to more than 15 miles of trails – many of them snaking around the beautiful Upper Lake, past the pristine Iron Stream and through the valley of Maupus Brook. The preserve – managed by the town's conservation commission and volunteers – has level, easy-to-follow trails marked with blue, green, orange, red, violet, white and yellow blazes.
The highlight of my visit was exploring the trails around the lake, stream and brook, which traverse the wild and untouched southwestern and southern portions of Timberland. The other portions of the preserve pass through the woods, connected by old logging roads.
Although there are about a dozen entrances to the trail system, I selected the Upper Lake dam entrance. The relatively undeveloped lake – there are several houses along its southeastern shores – is incredibly beautiful with its small, forested islands and mats of water lilies, but there aren't too many viewing areas along the western shoreline unless you travel right along the banks or high on a rocky knoll.
But once you get to the yellow- and red-blazed trails along the northern and eastern banks of the lake, the views are stunning. There are a number of picturesque coves where water enters through inlets lined with boulders and pine trees. At the northern tip of the lake is a huge boulder where visitors can sit and watch dragonflies dancing on the wind or ducks floating between the pond lilies.
Another highlight is exploring the banks and bed of Iron Stream, a pristine state-designated "Class A" trout stream that turns a bit mysterious in the summer. It becomes almost a "ghost" river with water flowing underneath huge boulders blackened by the waterflow and dried-up weeds hanging from the rocks. Although you hear the water, you have to search for the source under the boulders. When it does go aboveground, the sunlight escaping through the canopy of trees sparkles off the pebbles as fish dart past.
The trails that pass through the valley of Maupas Brook travel through the oldest forest within Timberland. Huge white pines and ledges, as well as a neat view out across the Guilford Lakes Golf Course, are the highlights of this journey. For those who want to see it all, take the four-mile white-blazed trail that traverses the entire perimeter as well as the heart of Timberland.
The bullfrogs shouldn't be the only ones enjoying the incredible views.
There are numerous parking areas for Timberland. To reach the Upper Lake trailhead take Route 80 to Twin Bridge Road. Take a right on North Madison Road and a right on Lakeside Drive and follow to the parking area near the dam. Visit http://www.ci.guilford.ct.us/board-commissions/pdf/conservation-timberlandmap.pdf for a map of the area. GPS coordinates for the parking area: 41.336619-72.681588.
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