For most shoppers, when they hit the mall or grocery store, the sweetest five words are: buy one, get one free.
This week, I offer not one but two suggestions for hikes in Cheshire – one that takes you to some of the bedding plant capital of Connecticut's highest points, and the other to one of the town's quietest places, where visitors can travel through ravines and a deep forest merely a mile from busy Route 10.
The Casertano property is located in the northwest corner of town. A new trail was recently blazed through the forested section of the former "Elliot Doolittle Farm" north of Marion Road. A new parking area was constructed recently as well, but the trails remain a bit rustic and clogged with overgrowth, especially multiflora rose.
Anyone out hiking in late spring should be familiar with multiflora rose – one of the most damaging and invasive species out there. I always have mixed emotions when it comes to the shrub, whose aggressive growth crowds out native species, especially in open areas of forest and fields. But it smells so darn good and looks pretty with its multiple blooms, so it's easy to have a love-hate relationship with the invader from the Far East.
The trails on the Casertano property are unblazed but relatively easy to follow, with a trail out and back that parallels a stone wall and neighboring tree farm. Several side trails take visitors to the boundary of the property with views out to the Hanging Hills and Castle Craig. The trail continues over a gas transmission line and into the surrounding forest before you must turn around.
About five miles from there as the crow flies sits the Brooke Preserve, a gift from Elizabeth Carpenter to the Cheshire Land Trust. The 45-acre parcel with a mile loop trail is a natural world oasis surrounded by residential development. And it's exactly the way Carpenter wanted her family's summer retreat to remain, according to the trust.
"She hoped to see it preserved as she had always known the land to be … wild and little changed by the imprint of man," the trust notes on its website.
The loop trail, marked with blue blazes, begins up a steep incline with erosion bars to prove it, but generally levels out and travels through a deep portion of forest. The trail dips into a traprock ravine with large oak and beech trees and a small stream gliding peacefully through. The trail continues through the woods before bringing visitors across a utility right-of-way with views of the surrounding hillsides.
In Cheshire, whether you are taking in a view of the surrounding hillsides or sitting on the banks of a peaceful ravine, the natural world is offering you a good deal.
The Casertano property is located on Marion Road just to the north of the intersection with Jarvis Street, which brings visitors in from Route 10. Brooke Preserve is on Sperry Road just north of its intersection with Cook Hill Road. Visit http://cheshirelandtrust.org/documents/CLT_BrookeMAP_2012.pdf for a map of the preserve.