Hiking opportunities abound in the Quiet Corner area
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Pomfret - posted Tue., Jul. 5, 2011
For three summers, Valerie Leclerc has led hikers on nature trails in Mashamoquet Brook State Park in Pomfret. The conservation law enforcement student hopes one day to work in the federal park system. Until then, she enjoys leading groups through trails on state park property and sharing with them her love of nature.
“The main thing is to get people outside,” she said. “I love it. I get paid to hike. It doesn't get much better than that.”
There are obvious health benefits to her job, and to hiking in general, she said. “You get to stay in shape. You get to be outside,” she said.
Mashamoquet has five different trails that run through the 900-acre park. Trails range from about a third of a mile to more than 3 miles in length. Some are flat and easy walking trails. Other trails have portions of steep terrain.
The Nature Trail is kid-friendly, according to Leclerc. “There's not a lot of hills,” she said. “I'll go into depth about the things that I see, like blueberry bushes on the trail. I'll stop and point out invasive plant species. There's a pine patch that we walk through and there are owls there, but I haven't seen any. We have a native wild flower garden, too.”
The trail winds a wide path through a field, sloping down an easy grade to a tree line. From there, a mulch trail follows the edge of a swampy area before climbing back up through a white pine stand. It joins up with the open field less than a mile from its beginning.
Markers posted along the path point out features of the nature trail. A Purple Martin bird house is home to a colony of swallows who found the insects in the open field appealing. Cinnamon ferns grow along the edge of the field. Beaver have started chewing the bark off several trees, and deer have worn paths to the water.
“It's really good to know where you're going when you head out,” said Leclerc. “You want to make sure you have a map of the area. We don't have cell phone service on some parts of trail. People need to be smart.”
She recommended bringing water, bug spray and sunscreen on hikes. “Parts of our blue trail are so steep that you want to make sure you have the right footwear,” she said. “And up through Wolf Den, the rain has washed out the trail in spots. There are a lot of rocks and roots on it. You don't want to go out in flip flops.”
Mashamoquet Brook State Park is located at 147 Wolf Den Drive in Pomfret Center. For more information, call 860-928-6121 or visit www.ct.gov/dep/.