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.
Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil’s Den Preserve
The devil is in the details. Something to consider when visiting Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston - one of the largest contiguous nature preserves in the state. The land is part of a larger 15,000 acres of connected forest, but the preserve itself is no slouch.
Covering more than 1,700 acres – there are plenty of details to explore. And, there lies the problem. There are 20 miles of trails that lead hikers to places like Ambler Gorge and the Saugatuck Wildlife Refuge. And with numerous ridges and vistas at hand - there is so much to see. It’s a good problem to have, but one to prepare for.
And that’s what I did as I set off on the Laurel Trail – one of a handful of paths that leave from the parking lot. The trails are blazed – with red signifying hiking and cross-country skiing opportunities and yellow used solely for hiking. Just remember to leave Fido at home, dogs aren’t allowed here.
Heading off into the woods, the dirt trail cuts a wide swath through the thick nest of trees. It didn’t take long to get to my first destination – Godfrey Pond. Looking over the water on this old mill pond, I took a moment to drink in its stillness. Only the occasional drone of a plane and the cicadas marking to oppressive heat broke the silence.
A minefield of huge boulders dot the shoreline here and really, across the entire landscape of the preserve. The rocky overhangs are rich in crevices and cave-like openings – and I can easily imagine the devil himself, popping out from one such den. But, in reality, these formations are believed to have served as short-term shelters for Native Americans some 5000 years ago -- who moved through the area in search for the hunt.
Moving on, I skirted the pond and hopped onto another trail – the Godfrey. This took me to yet another notable site, that of the portable sawmill. The site touches upon a history that runs deep here and, the relic that stood before me, was impressive to see.
The metal skeleton of a large steam boiler sits at the site – the green underbrush nipping at its underside. The sawmill was at the height of its glory back in the late 1700s and into the 1800s – honing in on the far-reaching lumber industry. The area made way for charcoal production in the 1800s until about 1920s before it petered out.
Signs of agriculture are also noticeable in these woods as I past several stone walls and foundations weathered by time. Venturing further in, I was impressed by the care taken to keep these paths usable. The preserve is a large one, but The Nature Conservancy has done a good job maintaining these trails – keeping them free of litter and debris.
Such trail conditions allowed me to make good time to my last destination: Great Ledge. The rock formation is located on the Weston – Redding line and the climb leading up to the ledge is a bit trying. But, it soon levels off and allows visitors a beautiful view from atop the cliff.
After taking the time to savor the moment, I turned back and began the long journey back to my starting point. Consulting a map I printed online, I chose a different route to complete this six-mile loop. But, the options are endless for those that have the time to explore even more.
As I neared the trailhead once more, I came across the very pond that seemed so still just a few hours earlier. Now, the air was filled with shouts and laughter -- bubbling with activity as a group of young kids did their own exploring.
Again – a reminder that the possibilities here are endless.
Directions: Take CT-15 S/Wilbur Cross Pkwy to exit 42 for CT-57 toward Westport/Weston. Take left onto CT-57 N/Weston Rd. Continue onto CT-53 N. Turn left onto Godfrey Rd. W. Turn right onto Pent Rd. before the bridge. Parking is near the end of the road.
Trail Distance: 6 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy to Moderate