HIGHLAWN FOREST TRAILS
Connecting people to the land. It’s part of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s mission and one it takes to heart.
So it shouldn’t be hard to believe that behind the group’s Middlefield headquarters lies a forest, one with a unique history and a medley of diverse habitats for visitors to explore.
Located just off busy Route 66, thousands of people drive by the wooded retreat every day - never stopping to notice its very existence. But, it is there and offers a window to a rich past.
It’s believed to have served as a fuel source for a one-time brick-making factory before morphing into agricultural fields and finally, a Christmas tree farm. Now, stone walls, old foundations, and row upon row of pine trees - that once graced homes during the holidays – stand rooted in place.
There are a handful of trails that crisscross the property each donned with colored blazes and a name. The longest of these – Camille’s Way – loops around the perimeter of the property as smaller paths cut into its interior.
The terrain here is pretty level and the perfect spot to walk your dog. I took mine on this particular journey and made my way into the center of the property via Camelia’s Trail.
The roar of Route 66 quickly dimmed the deeper we went into the forest. And while here, I could see the impact our summer’s drought has had on the land. Where wetlands and seasonal pools usually thrive, I found cracked mud and very little water. But, the undergrowth still flourishes and gives way to beautiful red maples and towering pines.
One of my favorite little spots lay just feet away from that one-time pine plantation. It’s a large pond that sits partially hidden and acts as a habitat for many reptiles and birds. Its sheltered appearance serves the wildlife here well. As Sampson and I approached, I could hear small frogs and turtles diving for cover. Our arrival also triggered a Great Blue Heron to take flight right over our heads (a pretty cool sight to see).
Moving on, we spent the rest of our hike traipsing through the woods, hearing the rustle of woodland creatures and the conversations of twittering birds. Soon, the drone of Route 66 crept back into earshot as we made our way to the parking lot. Once again, a less than subtle reminder of our return to the routine of the day.
But, if you ever feel the need to break with the familiar, consider this. Slow down and take the detour that could lead to the quiet escape you were thirsting for.
Directions: Take I-91 S. Take Exit 20 for Middle St. toward Country Club Rd. Turn left onto Middle St. Turn left onto Country Club Rd. Continue onto Westfield St. Turn right onto Camp St. Turn right onto CT-66 W/Washington St. Washington St. becomes Meriden Rd. Parking is at the CFPA on the right.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 2.5 miles
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