Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer. From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
SHORELINE GREENWAY TRAIL
Stony Creek Trolley Trail
A trip to the Connecticut shoreline often evokes thoughts of summer on the beach with its warm sand and cool breezes. In the winter, the landscape is drastically different. But, a hike through a coastal harbor and its marshes can still provide hints of what's to come.
And, it's what I quickly discovered on the Stony Creek Trolley Trail in Branford. It's part of the larger Shoreline Greenway Trail that spans four towns over a proposed 25-mile route. But, it's this one-mile stretch (2 miles round trip) gives hikers an array of settings to explore. So, bundled in multiple layers to fight off the frigid cold, I did just that. I started my trek in the small parking area next to the ball field on West Point Road. As I took to the path, I looked out over Long Island Sound. Here, the water looks painfully cold as sheets of ice creak loudly against the lapping water.
It wasn't the time or place to stand around and investigate for long, so I continued quickly on my journey. Surprisingly, the snow pack atop this linear trail is compact and easy to walk on. The snow on the ground here isn't as deep as in other winter hiking spots, and that was a relief in itself.
Continuing on, the trail follows an old trolley line that crosses an existing bridge over a tidal creek. Here, I could see shoreline birds huddled on the sheets of ice below. While, off in the distance, I spotted an osprey nest – now empty -- sitting atop a man-made platform. Despite the bitter cold, the cries of seagulls overhead cut through the air, as did the salty smell of the marsh.
My surroundings soon changed again as the trail cut through a rocky outcrop sending up walls of icy boulders on either side of the path. The trail makes its way through a small tunnel and back out in the open. A few yards later, I found an off-shoot that offers hikers a chance to trek into the Branford Land Trust. Instead, I chose to continue on the trail I was on, just steps away from a cement pathway that crosses yet more marshland.
Here, the landscape changed yet again. The water on either side of the walkway was frozen solid. But, like mini-icebergs, the surface erupted into crags and crevices, revealing multiple levels of ice much like a layer cake.
Once on the other side, the trail made its way over some train tracks, where sidecars stood lifeless on the tracks. Here, a small lookout area offers visitors another opportunity to view the marsh just crossed.
For those wanting to venture even further, the trail takes you through the woods on one die of Tilcon Road, before ending at Totoket Road. Eventually, another section of the trail will be built. But, for now, it serves as a great turning point for the return home and a satisfying journey back through an every-changing landscape I'm sure to visit again.
Directions: Take I-95 to Exit 56 for Leetes Road toward Stony Creek. Turn right onto Leetes Island Rd. Continue straight onto Thimble Island Rd for about half a mile. Turn right toward West Point Road. Turn left onto West Point Road. Parking is beside the baseball field.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Length: 2 miles (round trip)