With social distancing in place, you might be looking for a way to get out of the house, yet avoid crowds. That’s why we turned to our friends at the Aspetuck Land Trust (aspetucklandtrust.org), a nonprofit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton. We asked: Where should we go? Lou Bacchiocchi, Land Stewardship Director, shared his favorite back-to-nature escapes. Read on for what he shared.
STONEBRIDGE WATERFOWL PRESERVE in Weston is named for the somewhat unique river crossing (below). Walk through the open meadow, into the woods and follow the streamside trail toward marker #3. After crossing on the stones, go left and follow the west bank to the gateway at Stonebridge road and cross to the southern loop, which returns along the river. I particularly like this hike in the spring with my fly rod in hand and always pause on the elevated footbridge to gaze into the river and enjoy the sound of the water rushing below.
With 20 miles of trails, the 1,009-acre Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area is such a gem I could easily pick five hikes in here alone. Embarking on the white trail from the trailhead at Bradley Road, Weston,, proceed north on the gravel road, past the wet meadow flooded by beaver activity on nearby HAWLEY’S BROOK to the meadow and note the habitat work done there as you look for birds. Proceed over the fish ladder, up to marker #5, where the white trail leaves the road and continues up the valley. It becomes increasingly rugged as it climbs ridges and dips into valleys toward its terminus in Jump Hill—a little over 3.5 miles one way.
The orchard in the CROW HILL section of the Trout Brook Conservation Area can be accessed in a variety of ways, but whichever way you choose, you will be rewarded with great vistas. Hike to the highest point and look south to views all the way to the Sound and Long Island. Turn north and you will see a pastoral scene through the apple orchard down to farmer Bob Haydu’s fields and barn below. Hike down the hill to the south through the verdant corridors of the blueberry patch to the pollinator meadow with its multifarious wildflowers associated butterflies, bees and dragonflies for some great macrophotography. Members of the Aspetuck Land Trust can pick blueberries here in season; this benefit alone is worth the price of membership.
The red trail through the NEWMAN POSES preserve in Westport proceeds through a wetland on a raised boardwalk to a meadow marked by large highbush blueberry and bayberry bushes. Move through the meadow towards the lowlands and the Aspetuck River. A favorite spot for quiet contemplation there is the stone bench on the riverbank where neighbor, actor Paul Newman used to float. The trail loops back by the meadow, into the uplands and eventually back to its starting place.
Sometimes it’s nice just to grab your camera or binoculars and take a walk. RANDALL’S FARM in Easton provides the perfect spot. Not strenuous and with little elevation change, the interconnected paths allow one to stroll through open meadows, wetlands and woods and observe nature while breathing fresh air and enjoying the day.