SHARON AUDUBON CENTER
Sometimes my hikes are well-thought out, organized adventures. But, sometimes I just set out on a whim. That was the case this week when I was traveling through the northwestern part of the state and came across the Sharon Audubon Center.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot about the center and the remarkable programs it provides for visitors. And as I soon found out, it did not disappoint.
The 1100-hundred-acre property is covered with forests, wildlife habitats, 2 ponds and 11 trails. Those trails are accessible to the public, but the center does ask for a small fee. The money helps care for the property and the bird aviary on site. And, from what I discovered, it is well worth the nominal price.
Because I had no plan in place, I just randomly picked a few trails and followed the signs to whatever caught my eye.
After a short trek from the entrance, I first wandered past a bird and butterfly garden just bursting with color. My timing couldn’t have been better with cone flowers, coreopsis and other summer flowers in full bloom.
While enjoying my garden tour, I could hear the sounds of falling water up ahead. It leads from Ford Pond which pours water downstream via a small stream. The pond is a surprisingly large habitat filled with lily pads and cattails used by migratory birds and small amphibians and reptiles of all types.
Birds of a different sort are just around the bend. It is the Audubon Center after all, so I paid a visit to the outdoor Raptor Aviaries. Just skirting Ford Pond, I made my way through the well-built enclosures that serve as home for several birds of prey including falcons, hawks, owls and a regal bald eagle.
The birds are fascinating to watch and are a huge draw for people visiting the center. On my visit alone, I spotted families drawn to the aviary, speaking to their children in low tones so as not to scare the flighty birds from atop their high perches.
From here, I turned back to the forest and set out on my hike. I wandered onto the narrow and uneven Fern Trail for a short time before quickly detouring onto the longer Hendrickson Bog Meadow Trail. This trek is wider and longer than the Fern Trail, but a bit rockier in spots (not as easy to maneuver with flip flops as I quickly discovered).
But, I carried on regardless - curious to see what the second pond would unveil. And, I’m glad I went through with my whimsical trek, crossing a couple of small, muddy streams on the way.
The trail opens up to a wide open space completely filled by the sparkling waters of Bog Meadow Pond. Maybe it’s the way the sunlight fell on the still water, or the soothing sounds of nearby dragonflies and peepers that did the trick – but, I found this gorgeous slice of property a true oasis.
It was such a fascinating end to a spontaneous hike through the woods. And, it’s something I need to do more of in the future.
Directions: Take I-84 W to Exit 20. Merge onto CT-8 N toward Torrington. Take Exit 38 toward US-6 W/CT-109/CT-254/Thomaston. Turn left onto Waterbury Rd. Continue onto CT-254 N. Turn left to stay on CT-254 N. Turn left onto CT-118 W/East St. Slight left onto East St. Turn right onto South St. Turn left onto East St. Turn right onto North St. Continue onto CT-63 N/Goshen Rd. At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto CT-4. Turn left onto CT-4 W. Continue on CT-4 W until you see the center on the left.
Trail Distance: 1 – 1.5 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy
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