Cool Preserve, No Bull
Harwinton Land Trust: Bull Pond Preserve/Allen M. Heflin Wildlife Sanctuary
May 6, 2018
I’m going to do a rare thing here in Harwinton. I hiked all seven currently trailed properties on one (rainy) morning, so I’m going to sort of serialize the write-ups. If for some reason you want to start at the beginning, go here, to the Kalmia Sanctuary down the road.
Bull Pond Preserve was my third Harwinton hike of the day. The first two properties were short and sweet. This one provides some more trail to explore. And the trails here are very well maintained…
… which is impressive considering the area nearest the parking area (right across the street from the Harwinton Fair Grounds) was fairly well destroyed by a windstorm in 2009. It’s amazing to look at the pictures of the aftermath.
On August 21, 2009, a down-burst of wind slashed across Bull Pond. In an instant, massive pines were uprooted and strewn across the Bull Pond Land Trust property. Many of these pines were more than two feet in diameter and naturally leaned toward the pond; yet the intense wind threw them in the opposite direction across the land and over power lines. Other large trees were shorn off at various heights, transforming the wooded landscape to utter chaos. The pretty area that had been maintained for passive recreation was completely devastated.
They aren’t lying. Go look at those pictures. And here are some more.
Today, the area is cleared of the fallen trees and rejuvenation has begun. Many plantings along the first section of the trail promise a pretty future here at Bull Pond. But I’m a bit bummed that I never got to see what the area looked like when the huge pines stood sentry, buffering the trail from Locust Road and the fairgrounds.
The property is 71 acres (20 of which are Bull Pond itself) and was donated by the Heflin family – hence it’s official name: Allen M. Heflin Wildlife Sanctuary. Having hiked every trail in Harwinton, I’d recommend Bull Pond to someone who can only hike one property.
Especially since you can fish, kayak, canoe, and ice skate here as the season dictates. An 80-foot long boardwalk takes hikers towards the woods and away from the road and cleared area. As I carefully navigated the walkways, I heard large “bang” on the water.
My first thought was that some kid threw a rock in the water. But it was 6:15 AM and that would have been weird. A giant bass leaping out of the water? No. Hm.
A minute or so later, I saw the culprit. A large beaver was swimming around and the “bang” I heard was his tail slap. You may find this impossible to believe, but I’ve never seen a beaver in the wild in all my hikes over the years. Thousands of miles, at all times of day, during all seasons… it’s crazy.
But here it is. Not one, but TWO beavers swimming around.
Exciting stuff! It got me thinking… how many mammals are left for me to spy in nature in Connecticut? I think I’m only down to moose and a whale in Connecticut waters. In due time.
The beaver lodge here is huge and since the HLT’s website says that they are often seen here, I’m guessing you’d have a good shot yourself at seeing them. I guess I’d still like to see one chewing on a tree someday though. I like beavers… despite the destruction they cause.
The HLT says there are two miles of trails here and who am I to disagree? I hiked ever foot of every trail here. The white trail took me to the yellow trail. Which took me to the green trail. You can skip the green trail.
I appreciate the green trail – all 200 feet of it – but really, you don’t need the green trail in your life. I think the idea of it is that it takes hikers along a little stream, but if you’re reading this, you’ve hiked along little streams before. This little stream is… nothing remotely special.
Back to the yellow trail. It traverses some upland woods and along some old stone walls. Towards the northern end of the property, the red trail goes off and skirts the property boundary – up to someone’s backyard. I noticed for the first time that Harwinton loves its daffodils.
Sure, there were some along the entryway, but here, deep into Bull Pond, there were more. This theme carried throughout the rest of my Harwinton hikes.
The red trail took me to the upper reaches of the “pond,” which up here was a marshland area rife with red winged blackbirds and other marshland birds. There wasn’t much to see, but the HLT seems to be in the middle of building an observation deck here for future hikers.
Back around and over again to the yellow trail I completed the loop which took me again near the pond and up and over a little rocky knoll. Hats off to the HLT for finding the one natural rocky feature in the entire property! I appreciated it.
The yellow loop ultimately took me back to the white loop and my car. All the trails here are well maintained and easy and again, I saw two beavers swimming around! With ample parking, easy access from a major road (route 4), cool wildlife, and easy hiking, Bull Pond Preserve is a nice place for any age to take a hike.