When Abraham R. Friedman died, he had a simple request for the 143 acres in Ashford he owned with his brother Samuel: the land should be a nature and wildlife preserve. The rules? Walk, hike and observe the natural world. No hunting, logging, fishing or camping.
Those were pretty simple rules to follow as I recently walked the parcel that hasn't changed at all since Friedman's 1987 will gave the land to the Joshua's Track Conservation and Historic Trust. A 1.6-mile loop trail gives visitors a sense of why the Friedman brothers – lawyers from Hartford — loved this land. And it gave me a reason to visit this small northeastern Connecticut town — one of the most peaceful places I've found to hike in the state.
The trail starts at an old farm and winds its way to an energetic Bebbington Brook – peaceful spot No. 1. Here visitors can sit on a lichen-covered stone wall by a broken dam and listen to the water tumble into the valley. Or they can stand on the middle of a sturdy bridge and watch the sun shimmer off the stream that twists and disappears into the forest.
From the bridge, the trail loops through the heart of the preserve. Traveling to the right will take visitors to a picturesque swamp, with few hills to climb. Those going to the left will be met with a huge white oak on the edge of a stone wall. The tree probably provided shade for cattle or livestock at one time.
For those looking for a little adventure, try the half-mile Pinkham Trail, a yellow-blazed path off the loop trail. The path travels along the northeastern edge of the swamp with short side trails that lead visitors to the banks of the bog. Spend a few minutes at peaceful spot No. 2, looking at the clear water and listening to the sea of swamp reeds rustling in the wind.
Be careful navigating the Pinkham Trail as you make your way around the swamp. Be on the lookout for double yellow blazes, marking where the trail shifts. Every time I hit one of these I would do a 360-degree turn in an attempt to determine where the trail went next. The trail eventually winds its way through the soggy woods to Colts Pond Road.
From its junction with the Pinkham Trail, the main loop makes its way to the highest point of the preserve, with seasonal views of the surrounding hillsides and marsh. The trail then returns to the valley through groves of mountain laurel and moss-covered rocks, across an expansive wetland.
The Friedman brothers knew the peaceful wooded paradise they had in Ashford and wanted to make sure it was saved and shared with future generations. We owe our gratitude to their selfless act.
To get there, take Route 89 to Bicknell Road a mile north of the Mansfield/Ashford line. Follow to end of the road and take a left on Bebbington Road. The preserve entrance is on the right. Visit http://www.joshuaslandtrust.org/posts/maps/FriedmanForest.pdf for a map of the preserve.
Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or email@example.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester CT 06040. Visit http://www.courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.