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.
Shade Swamp Sanctuary
The Blue Trail
Since late fall, I've hit Connecticut's trails dozens of times. But, my morning trek to Farmington was truly a gem. The Shade Swamp Sanctuary is an 800-acre parcel of land that abuts Route 6 and sits on either side of New Britain Avenue.
Two trails, the White and Blue, snake through the sanctuary, each with its own unique vantage point. I chose the Blue Trail – a 1.5-mile trek through the woods and swamp that lie beyond.
Stepping on the icy path (yes – the ground is still covered in snow), I was quickly transported into the past. Within moments - rundown, wiry cages greeted me as I navigated the trail. About 20 of them lined the path in varying degrees of decay - ghostly reminders of a now-defunct wildlife area abandoned in the early 1960s.
I won't lie. Although fascinating, the sight of the small enclosures – fallen into such disrepair – is a bit creepy to see. After a bit of ‘sight-seeing', I made my way deeper into the woods -- the sounds of Route 6 acting as my backdrop.
I found this spring's slow warm-up has had little impact on the snow cover in these woods. Steps from hikers past -- frozen in the icy crust – offered me a great footpath to follow. This little lifeline proved especially helpful as the trail wound its way uphill – very aware that any misstep would take me tumbling down into the marshy landscape below.
As the path starts its loop atop a high mound, it offers hikers a panoramic view of the swamp below. It's a pretty scene defined by naked trees, tall weeds, and icy water.
A closer look came as I carefully picked my way downhill and made it onto the swamp itself. Here, the land is smothered in ice – hiding its marshy underbelly. Downed trees add a finishing touch to the vivid landscape. Even here, the noise of the morning rush drifts in. But, thankfully, the sounds of resident woodpeckers – diligently at work - are a wonderful distraction.
Circling the lower half of the hill, I continued on the loop and headed back to my starting point. As you go, watch out for the thorny brambles that pepper both sides of the trail. Ironically, as the path levels off, the hiking here also becomes more difficult. The snow melt in this part of the sanctuary is a bit more advanced and I found myself sinking to my shins with every step I made.
On the flip side, the softened snow helped capture evidence of the wildlife that call this forest home. One print I spotted looked as if it belonged to the elusive bobcat. Clearly, I'm no expert, but I have no problem letting my imagination get the better of me.
And in this place, you can't help *but* have your thoughts run wild. From beautiful vistas to glimpses into the past, it's what this place does – spark the imagination.
Directions: Take CT-72 W toward Bristol. Take Exit 2, follow signs for CT-372 W/New Britain Ave./Plainville. Turn left on CT-372 W. Turn right onto Cooke St. Turn right onto CT-10 N. Turn left onto Scott Swamp Rd. Turn left onto Rt. 6/Scott Swamp Rd. Parking for the Blue Trail will be on the right before reaching New Britain Ave. intersection.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles