Nature's Path & Way To Go
7:53 AM EDT, May 24, 2013
As flags were raised into the blue sky during the dedication ceremony for Camp Meribrite on a June day in 1966, the hope was many would "enjoy the beauty and contentment" of the Girl Scout day camp "now and into the future."
And although that beauty has changed as nature has reclaimed the now-abandoned Camp Meribrite, including the shelters and old rusting water pumps scattered throughout the site, visitors can still enjoy the area as part of the Hatchery Brook Conservation Area – a 400-acre swath of open fields, forest and swamps in Berlin.
A hike through Hatchery Brook is one of the 259 Connecticut Trails Day Weekend events that will be held June 1 and 2. Those hikes are held in 152 of the state's 169 towns -- a feat duplicated nowhere else in the country -- during the annual National Trails Day. The Hatchery Brook hike is one of six scheduled just in Berlin.
"We are very fortunate to have parcels that are continguous to one another and an impressive system of hiking trails," said Karl Lewis, a Berlin resident who grew up in the woods when "no trespassing" signs dotted the trees. "Trails Day is a wonderful opportunity for individuals and families to get away from the screens and video games and reconnect with the wonderful places being preserved all around us."
Lewis will be leading a three-mile hike through Hatchery Brook on June 1. For the past several years, as soon as the Connecticut Forest and Park Association's booklet about the event came out, I would leaf through looking for a hike to showcase the event. And a visit to the "former Girl Scouts Camp Meribrite" immediately caught my eye.
An easy, level red-blazed trail leads from the parking area across several fields, with bluebirds peeking out of wooden nesting boxes and butterflies and bees working the wildflowers. The trail enters a forest filled with beech trees and passes the "Scheer Cabin," a building restored several years ago by Eagle Scout David A. Roccapriore. The trail runs along the top of a marsh to a connector trail that splits with an orange-blazed loop going through a field with views out to the "Hanging Hills" and a yellow-blazed trail climbing to the former camp.
A blue-blazed trail wraps around the former camp that once included a swimming area with a concrete dam and various camp structures. A yellow-blazed trail leads to a broken asphalt road that takes visitors to the top of a ridge with views of the surrounding area. The trails wind along a traprock ridge before bringing visitors back to the fields.
Hatchery Brook is located on Orchard Road, a quarter-mile east of Route 71 (Chamberlain Highway). The guided hike will start at 9 a.m. Go here for a color hiking map and here for a booklet of the other 258 Connecticut Trails Day Weekend events.
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