Pond View and Island Pond Preserves
On a beautiful Sunday in October we visited the Paine Open Space, which includes two separate Aspetuck properties: Pond View and Island Pond.
For such a large property and significantly more parking than I’ve seen in most areas, we were surprised to be the only ones there. As with the other two properties we’ve visited so far, there is a diversity of environment, with meadows, forested areas, and the ever-crucial water for tossing in sticks, leaves or rocks. My son was excited about this spot before even going when he saw the bridge on the website, so we knew we’d have to find the bridge (unfortunately not clearly marked on the map). In fact, I didn’t realize until I’d examined the map for a while that the land trust doesn’t own the entire property, just the two areas called Pond View and Island Pond. In the full Paine Open Space, there are certainly signs indicating where the land trust property starts, but from the hiker’s perspective, the spaces are all seamless, regardless of ownership.
Despite that, of course we headed straight for the Aspetuck-owned sections, starting with Pond View, which has an interesting two loop trail system. The red trail goes entirely around the pond, which is within a piney-wooded area. I offer this warning to people going with children who like to throw rocks in the water: there are no rocks near this pond. You will either have to pick some up earlier and stuff your pockets (for which we did not have the foresight) or be willing to use sticks instead. We went with the sticks. There were a lot of leaves on the water, and Avery loved seeing how the stick pushed the leaves apart and made ripples in the leaf-strewn water. We also heard – and then saw – several woodpeckers trying to get their lunch from the trees.
The green trail was slightly higher up, and had a more open feel to it. At one point as you loop back (assuming you go around counter-clockwise), you can see the pond at the red trail from above – presumably the reason this property is named Pond View. Along this walk we came across a wooly bear caterpillar, but none of us could remember the superstition around what that meant for the winter. (I’m from Florida, so no matter what, this will be a long, cold winter for me.)
Avery reminded me that we still hadn’t seen the bridge, so we headed up to Island Pond. While we were on the orange trail that parallels the Island Pond property, we could see the bridge through the trees, which caused a lot of excitement.
I fully expected the bridge and the little island to be the highlight of the trip … but as we came around on the white trail, we saw a big rock scramble that Avery wanted to climb up. So we did.
Fortunately, at the top of the rocks, there is a gentle slope down and that meets up with the yellow trail that we took back to Island Pond. This meant we didn’t have to climb down the rocks, which is decidedly less safe for an eager 5 year old and someone with a camera.
The bridge at Island Pond actually connects the mainland from a tiny island in the pond. It is not obvious from the map that this land is an island, so the surprise of the island (despite, of course, it being in the name of the property) and the bridge itself delighted everyone. There’s a short trail on the island – with some slippery rocks – which was fun to walk around and see the shores of the pond from different angles.
After leaving Island Pond, Avery wanted to climb the rocks again. So we did, ending up at the yellow trail again, but heading the other direction this time to take the white trail back to parking.
Along the way, we came up to the highlight of the trip for me: a hen-of-the-woods mushroom. I went on the mushroom hike through the land trust hike series a few weeks ago (highly recommended!) so I felt confident in what I’d found and couldn’t wait to bring it home to eat it.
While I was looking at the mushroom, Avery found a salamander under a rock, which gave him something to be excited about as well.
A big win for everyone: Avery loved the rocks, bridge and salamander; I was excited about the mushroom; Derek – the photographer was oohing and aahing over the late afternoon fall sunlight and fall colors.