Mary, Ray, & Tommy
Canton Land Conservation Trust
If, perchance, you’re reading through my reports of the Canton Land Conservation Trust’s trails you already are – or soon will be – sick of reading how much I love the western part of Canton. The CLCT owns four distinct parcels out here and they and their trails are all worth your time.
You can even connect them with road walks if that’s your thing. They all contain rugged, steep climbs and descents, pristine brooks, and beauty spots. It never ceases to amaze me how the roads to get to these places are so remote; twisty, hilly, dirt… Wright Road, Doyle Road, Barbourtown Road, Indian Hill Road, Breezy Hill Road… to name a few. Just a super fun area in which to wander, drive, and hike.
The Mary Conklin Preserve has three trails: The red-blazed Ray Smith Trail, the yellow-blazed Ray Smith Trail, and the green-blazed Tommy Ryan Trail. They only total to about two miles, but there’s a lot of variety packed in here.
The CLCT does a good job marking their trailheads out on the roads. Otherwise, they’d be very easy to miss. In this case, you must drive down a driveway and park near a garage near a leased house. I hiked the property counterclockwise, starting with the red Ray Smith Trail.
Mary Conklin was an avid birder and this 107-acre property that she donated is a birder’s paradise. After a short walk through old oaks and along stone walls, the path wandered through an open field and a fern forest. 2021 was an exceptionally wet year which brought us a summer of mosquitos, mushrooms, and ferns. So many ferns.
Back into the woods and onto the Tommy Ryan Trail. I’m sure Tommy Ryan was a good guy and I almost feel bad saying this, but there’s no point to the Tommy Ryan Trail. At least for probably 99.99% of people there isn’t. It drops off the top of the hill and barrels straight down 700 feet to Breezy Hill Road.
At which point you must turn around and go straight back up the dang thing. (For the .01% of folks who are doing some sort of Canton thru-hike or something, they may appreciate this as maybe 2/3 of a mile up the dirt portion of Breezy Hill Road is a trailhead for the Sun, Wind, and Woodland Preserve.)
After trudging back up the laurel covered hill, I was happy for the level walk along the rest of the red trail before heading out along the longer yellow loop. The Mary Conklin Sanctuary is all about oaks, pines, laurel, and ferns. Lots of all of them.
Which makes for a very nice walk in the woods. As I approached the southern tip of the trail, I noticed a cut tree or two. I’m wondering if the CLCT has decided that this would make a nice scenic view or something. (It very well could have been a dead tree posing a risk to hikers.) As of the summer of 2021, there is no view here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the near future.
I forgot to mention that there was some sort of art installation and participation thing here. There were poems hung on trees and cool little kiosks inviting me to do artistic things. It seemed like a pretty neat way to keep kids engaged on a trail and I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about it.
CTMQ is my art, baby.
More ferns, more woods, and then another open field. These fields are the birding fields Mary Conklin enjoyed so much. I like a nice field walk and this one took me passed the house and back to my car.
There’s a bench out here, under a nice shade tree. However, upon looking at the bench, it could be the least relaxing bench I’ve ever seen… “Come, sit upon me… lean back… and then itch for the next three weeks…”
The Hellbench ™ was quickly forgotten as butterflies and bluebirds danced about my head across the last stretch of trail before my car. At this point I had two more CLCT properties to hike in this western block of Canton and I knew I had much to look forward to.