07 7 / 2012
Be warned readers. Today was not a good day for CT A to Z. At the start of today’s adventure, I did something really stupid that made me so mad, that Centennial Watershed Mk. 1 was going to have to work really hard to shake my bad mood. I closed the boot of the car on my beloved Garmin Forerunner 305. It’s huge informative LCD screen is cracked in multiple places, and though the functions still work, providing you know the tones of the beeps as intricately I do, the screen has been lost forever. Garmin don’t make the 305 and it’s enormo-wonder screen anymore, and the models remaining on the interwebs are way more expensive than they were when I bought it in 2010. I am therefore extraordinarily mad at myself for being such an idiot. I was so mad that I almost drove straight home again, but when I realised I could still set it going, I also realised that would be a silly waste of a Saturday, and set off up the Aspetuck Valley Trail.
Centennial Watershed is going to be a two part visit, and so today I was all alone with my water bottle and running shoes. The whole area it encompasses is pretty enormous by CT standards, around 15,000 acres, but the use of the area is tightly regulated by the partnership between the state and Aquarion Water Company. As the latter part of the name suggests (the former refers to a celebration of 100 years of CT State Forests), the land is also the watershed of the public water supply, and as a result you need a permit to be in the woods. If you’re hiking, it’s very simple, you need to carry the DEP map of the area: there’s paper copies at the trail heads or you can print them from the website (the Trail use rules can be found on page 2). Things are more complex for hunting and fishing, check out the DEP website for details. Also, likely by design, the only trails running through these large pieces of disconnected land are long linear ones, which make the likelihood of lots of people heading there for days out pretty low, self regulating the traffic through the park. Since the State got hold of the land in 2002 there’s been a few arguments over this access policy, especially given the amount the land cost. Purchase of the land was Connecticut’s most expensive and expansive land deal ever, according to this article. The argument has resulted in no further deals in access for the next ten years, which seems a bit of a shame, but absolutely in line with water company policy across the rest of CT. The fact that you don’t have to pay for access is probably something to be happy about.
But anyway, after all this fuss, what’s it like? I decided to run from south to north (and then back again) along the Aspetuck Valley Trail, starting at the small car turn in on Rock House Road, where there’s enough room for a good few cars. This is one of CT’s newest Blue Blazed Trails, opened in 2006 after the latest version of the Walk Book. Aspetuck is a Native American term for “River originating at the high place,” and also gave it’s name to a local tribe. The name meant that as I ran northwards, upstream along the river, it was all a little uphill. The route starts as a wide trail through some beautiful open woods alongside the river.
After half a mile you take a left along Valley Road, a gravelly vehicle track (which vehicles are not permitted along). Here the woods open out in flatter open swampy ground, and there were tons of butterflies and dragonflies zipping through the air.
Once you pass the swamp, you’re covered by trees again, until you hit Stepney Road and take a right. Just after the right turn there’s a fantastic house, with toy tin cars stuck along the roof of the lower level of the house. I would have taken a photo, but the very friendly man who lives there was working up there, and it felt a bit weird. He wished me good day, and I carried on. Just after the car house you take a left along Foundry road, which starts out as a proper road and quickly fades into a rutted vehicle track. There are some beautiful houses and amazing gardens along here, and it’s great that the people who live there are happy to have a trail through their property. There’s not even a profligacy of no trespassing and private signs along this bit, and the mutual respect of the situation pleases me. Foundry road ends in a T junction with Goodridge Road, and the trail from then on is a proper trail - wooded and winding, with plenty of small climbs and the odd rocky section. The woods here are beautiful - clear forest floors, green grass, tall trees, animals snapping twigs everywhere, but they’re not exactly spectacular.
The trail never runs particularly high, so at this time of year there was nowhere that acted as a viewpoint. There’s some glacial erratic boulders, but they’re not as huge as the ones you find in the north west corner of the state. So it’s a very pleasant journey, but not a particularly exciting one.
Just before you hit Poverty Hollow Scenic Road there’s an open meadow full of high grasses, which was again full of butterflies, dragonflies, and less beautiful insects. The trail was a bit overgrown here at the height of summer, and you may want full leg cover if you’re more worried than I am about unsightly lower leg scratches.
After crossing Poverty Hollow Road, there’s a final forest section, and then you cross Hopewell Road, and hit Collis P. Huntington State Park, where the blue blazed trail terminates. I tried to hit the end, but the trail is clearly used by mountain bikers and twists and turns a significant amount. I had no idea how far I’d gone into the park, but I thought it was likely more than the 0.39 miles in the trail map, and figured it was time for a quick snack, a good gulp of water, and turned back around.
On the return journey I skipped the longer middle section, and stuck to Poverty Hollow Road. There’s a cute little graveyard on the left hand side, and then an absolutely beautiful cluster of large houses and mill style ponds at the junction between Poverty Hollow (an ironic name in the current times, it seems) and Church Hill Road.
By now I was feeling the oppressive heat and humidity, and I stopped appreciating my surroundings as it became a battle to the car, and water!
So, overall, it’s a pretty cool trail, but it’s definitely nothing remarkable for Connecticut. You can find similar woods at Bennett’s Pond, for example, with much better non-linear walking prospects. (And at Huntington, but I’m not supposed to have been there yet, so ssh). So one for the Blue Blazed completists amongst you, but perhaps not for a family day out.
RIP, Favourite Garmin.