Knox on Wood
Knox Family Farm Preserve, Stonington
February 1, 2014
[This page is part of my ongoing series, “Hikes with my Boys.” The full list of those hikes can be found here.]
I used this hike as sort of a test. Could I drive to the farthest (by time) spot in Connecticut (more or less) alone with my two boys, hike a long (for them) hike, go to lunch, go to Beer’d (duh), and then drive home. Calvin is not yet three and Damian is… Damian is Damian.
Cutting to the finale – success!
I didn’t decide to take this trip until the night before when I was enjoying another Beer’d DIPA – it was so darn good that while Hoang had the boys at her parents for Tet (Vietnamese New Year), I decided then and there I was driving to Stonington on Sunday. I simply had to.
So I did. This was my first Avalonia hike and I was impressed. The signage and the trail maintenance were excellent, but really, the mere existence of the access trail to the property is nothing short of heroic.
With these small parcels, access is often an issue. In this case, a fairly long and winding easement was achieved from more than one land owner. Not only that, the Darling Hill Farm allows for parking at the end of their driveway – at least I think they do, though to be courteous, there appears to be only space for one car there. It’s a very long driveway, but still. Be respectful.
Part of being respectful is following the cleared and marked trail in the easement (rather than just walking up the driveway). Besides, it’s cool to walk along the property lines and think about the work that went in to securing easements like this.
The trail follows a long stone wall into the woods, then up a hill in front of a massive house. Damian, as always, hemmed and hawed about the hike and repeatedly said he didn’t want to do it. But an amazing dynamics emerging now with Calvin leading the way; imploring his brother to “hurry up, D!” over and over.
And Damian, for the most part, listens to him. (In case you’re new to the CTMQ game, Damian has a rare syndrome called Smith-Magenis Syndrome. He is intellectually, physically and behaviorally delayed. Physical effort for him is very low on his enjoyment scale – but he’s getting better and better!)
Once up the snowy hill and through the pricker bushes (I’m quite sure this is no fun come summer), the trail gets a bit more interesting as you must cross the aforementioned driveway, past a garage/shed, and then through a fence and out into a field.
In doing so, you’ll pass a horse barn and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hang out with the horses. The day we passed, there was also a little pony hanging around too. Calvin is still a bit terrified of large animals, but he did pretty well and we went out into the field.
Once there, CONTINUE FOLLOWING THE EASEMENT TRAIL MARKERS and don’t just cut across the field. Two reasons: One, the field is a farmed field so don’t mess with it and two, there’s horse crap everywhere and staying on the path minimizes the chances of your stepping in it.
If you look closely, you can see the horse through the trees
The trail reaches the actual Knox Family Farm Preserve after the open field walk so now I can tell you that the property was donated to Avalonia in 2009 by Patricia Kitchings, widow of H. Howard Knox, and his sister, Susan Knox. The preserve features wooded areas with a kettle pond and boulder moraine on the east side of Quiambaug Cove.
Once into the woods, the trail splits: the left route is a bit steeper down a hill and the straight way is less steep. Despite the snow and mud, we took the steeper way down. Blame Calvin.
More stone walls and hardwood forest and then voila! The Quambog Cove! Sure, it was mostly frozen over during our hike, but the boys didn’t care. I even got one of the best pictures of the two of them ever!
This picture made me happy
There’s a loop along the cove which we took and then headed back up the hill from whence we came. It was at this time my two-year-old alerted me that he had to take a dump. Great. Also, he was now getting scared of the impending encounter with the horses (Still a good 20 minutes in the future). Double great.
“Papa, I gotta go poop.”
Somehow we all survived and Calvin held it until we go to a restaurant for lunch. Damian was fantastic on this hike and never once asked to be picked up and only said he wanted to go back to the car one time. That is a huge victory for me.
As a dad, there’s really nothing cooler in this world than your kids asking inquisitive questions about stuff like lichen.
The Avalonia trails are rather spread out over southeastern Connecticut. But we’ll get to them all. We will.
Long hike and a good lunch at The Engine Room = Quiet ride home