Over The Meadows And Through The Woods In Columbia

It's funny, the things that will spark a memory.

While walking through the fields and forests of Columbia's 135-acre Szegda Farm, I noticed a family operating a large, cast iron water hand pump near a community garden. A couple of quick pumps on the handle and clear, cold water came flowing out.

And then my memories of camping up north and staying in a place called the Marsh Cabin on Cape Cod came flowing out. Anyone who has camped or stayed in a cabin where there is no electricity has memories of priming the old water pump and then rocking the handle until some of the best water you will ever drink comes out.

At Szegda Farm, the water is used to irrigate the plots within the community garden. The farm is relatively new to the open spaces of the state, having been purchased in 2008. But everything is done right. It has not one, but two large gravel parking areas. There are several easy loop trails blazed by Eagle Scouts into the woodlands and across rock ledges. A local farmer still cuts grass for hay in a nearby field.

A path through a pasture filled with wildflowers runs from the community garden to a series of loop trails, both easy 3/4-mile jaunts through the woods. The first, marked with purple blazes, travels around a red maple swamp and through the fern-covered ground of a young forest.

My favorite trail is the yellow-blazed path that branches off from the purple. Following it counter-clockwise takes visitors past an imposing rock ledge down into a deep grove of hemlocks. One of the hemlocks is the largest specimen I've seen in the state. The trail goes up a steep incline to the top of a moss- and lichen-covered ridge. The purple trail returns visitors to the field, past a white pine — an imposing giant at the edge of the field.

So come explore a trail or walk through a field of wildflowers. And when you are done, take a few pumps on the water pump and let the memories of a simpler time flow out.

Route 87 south at the junction with Route 66. Take a left on Szegda Road and left at the stop sign. The parking area is on the right.

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