When I hear the name Walden, my first thought goes to that idyllic place Henry David Thoreau was inspired by more than 150 years ago. But, Connecticut has its own Walden to revere tucked away in the quiet town of Salem.
Walden Preserve is 400-acres of fields, trails, woods and water. I found the large parking lot secured behind some shrubbery abutting one of the reserve’s larger fields. A large, faded kiosk displays the many trails hikers can take to explore the land.
I began my trip on a loop trail that encircles Bodman Meadow. Crunching dry grass along the way – I found my surroundings hauntingly still – with only a few small birds flitting about when disturbed by my presence.
My trek past the meadow was a short one, opting to enter the woods at the far end of the trail instead or circling around. Here, the trail is just as wide and easy enough to follow as before, but green markers indicate the change of route. Called the Pierce Arrow Trail, it’s a short, meandering path that leads hikers through a young forest.
One of its highlights was the rusted out body of what looked like an old model Ford. Then again, I’m not an expert – but, it was still neat to see.
Forging ahead, I soon skirted yet another field – Walden Meadow where I connected with the main path known as Sonny’s Trail. Here, the trek begins to take another turn past Turtle Pond – a secretive little space with spikes of dead trees scattered about the water.
On the right, the sounds of the nearby Eightmile River was a constant companion on my journey deeper into the reserve. On the left, Harris Brook added to the symphony.
Before long, a more impressive pond – Wood Duck - came into view. Here, beaver activity is quite noticeable. A large dam sits in the middle of the pond, and remnants of trees used for their home are scattered about on the banks of the pond.
The trail I was on was also flooded a bit. But, it was easy enough to get around. A larger obstacle lay ahead – but with some maneuvering over a few fallen logs – I was able to avoid a nasty spill.
Following the path even further led me to yet another meadow. The spot from the crossroads where I stood offers a beautiful vantage point overlooking the pasture. For those curious enough to travel on, a path encircles the meadow, and another leads hikers back into the woods for yet another loop hike.
I chose to turn back and try my hand at a shorter, yet more precarious path around Wood Duck Pond. The narrow trail is tricky to maneuver, especially in areas that are flooded out. But, with some extra care, I managed to make it through without taking a bath in the cold water.
Good thing… because I still had a bit of a trek before reaching the lot again. On the way, I rejoined the main trail, and rerouted past those quiet meadows once again - understanding that Walden Preserve may not be Thoreau’s iconic muse, but, it has its place here as Connecticut’s own.
Directions: Take CT-2 E toward Norwich/New London. Keep right at fork and continue on CT-11 S. Take exit 5 for Witch Meadow Rd. Turn left onto Witch Meadow Rd. Turn right onto CT-85 S. Turn right onto Hagen Rd. Parking at the preserve is on the right.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 2.5 miles