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.
South Windsor Wildlife Sanctuary
It's spring, right? The way this year's been going, I just can't be so sure. But, no matter. There's plenty of outdoor adventures to go on – including one in South Windsor I've had my eye on for quite a while.
It's called the South Windsor Wildlife Sanctuary and it's a beacon for nature lovers everywhere. Tucked among pockets of farmland, I parked my car at the sanctuary's entrance off Niederwerfer Road. The park's looping trails snake off into the woods still draped in a sheen of icy snow.
I chose the path running parallel to the road and was grateful that on this cold morning there very little snow melt. In recent weeks, slush has made it difficult to hike certain trails, but here, that isn't a problem.
The trail, both narrow and unobtrusive, winds through the preserve in a fine complement to its wooded surroundings. Some years past, local farmer and conservationist Frank Niederwerfer persuaded the town to use the land as a sanctuary. It now serves as a haven for the many varieties of birds that pass through here. I heard their raucous calls throughout my entire hike and welcomed the company.
A variety of trees – such as mountain ash and juniper -- welcomed me as the trail headed deeper into the woods. Small placards found along the trail tell of their origin. Before long, the elevation began to climb. And it's here where the winds picked up, adding a deeper chill to my early-morning hike.
Although steeped in natural wonder, signs of the real world also crept in. Sometimes a random plane would fly overheard drowning the sounds of chattering birds. The faint humming from live electrical currents also greeted me as I passed under power lines on my journey.
But, those intrusions could not mask the beauty of my surroundings. And, the big payoff came atop the town's highest point. Here, a huge sledding hill sits offering the young at heart a chance to conquer its slopes. It also provides visitors a beautiful, panoramic view of Connecticut – from the Hartford skyline to Simsbury's Heublein Tower.
After drinking it all in, I made my way back into the canopy of trees where, within moments, the path break off into a few different loops. I followed a trail that led me through one of two ice-covered fields that grace this land.
Just yards away from the trailhead, the meadow, draped in white, was made brilliant by the rays of the bright, morning sun. It's a picturesque scene broken only by the ruckus of several robins foraging in patches of leaf litter by the meadow's edge. Yet, another subtle reminder that despite the slow start to spring, nature is ready to break through. And not a moment too soon.
Directions: From I-84 E, take Exit 62 Buckland St. Turn left onto Buckland St. Continue on CT-194 W. Turn right onto CT-74 E. Turn left onto Niederwerfer Rd. The sanctuary is on the left.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 1.25 miles