Last weekend while visiting family in Connecticut, we ventured out to one of Andrew’s childhood hiking spots. This little gem of conservation land is nestled among the busy streets and neighborhoods in Newtown, Connecticut. First we drove along the northern edge of the property on Orchard Hill Road as Andrew tried to remember where to park, but then he remembered that there was a new small parking lot off Huntington Road. And he was correct, a huge parking lot, kiosk and trails welcomed us to the “The Orchard Hill Nature Center“.
Andrew’s mom and step-dad joined us on this hike. We took the Red Blaze Trail along boardwalks and interpretive signs toward the North Branch of Pootatuck River. At the river we stopped to search for salamanders and fish and to talk to an abutting neighbor who was happy to see us playing in the woods. We took the main middle trail back to the lot but there are plenty of other trails to explore throughout the property too. The trails we stuck to were all in the wooded section, but there are also some fields to explore.
Even before Andrew started tromping around on this property, there is an interesting history. It was a farm settled in the 1700’s and you can still see the stonewalls criss-crossing through the woods, indicating that this was once open pasture. At the North Branch of Pootatuck River crossing you will see remnants of a stone dam. This was once a sawmill, site of a grist mill, cider mill, and a wool-carding mill. It’s amazing that today nature has taken back this once vibrant area. In 1976, Newtown purchased the property, but it sat without organized use for several decades. Andrew and his friends made trails and explored throughout the property in the 1980’s, when they built crude log bridges and blue-blazed a few trails that became part of today’s network. Recently the Newtown Lions adopted the area, McCord Engineering revised the map, and the Town & Country Garden Club identified plants for an interpretive trail. It’s now a full-fledged hiking area, with plenty of parking and easy access.
This was a fun short hike, perfect for all ages. Andrew had fun reminiscing about his childhood and we all had fun exploring this quiet sanctuary. You never know where you might find a secret nature trail!