Doris the Finkasaurus
Doris Chamberlain Nature Preserve, ~ 2.5 miles of trails
I’m sure Doris Chamberlain was not a Finkasaurus. But I simply cannot think of or say the name “Doris” without adding “the Finkasaurus” in my head. I’m likely not alone… right? C’mon all you 40- and 50-something Gen-Xer Beastie Boys fans, you know you do it too. (Doris the Finkasaurus was a dinosaur in an episode of the Flintstones referenced in “What Comes Around,” on the seminal Beastie’s album, Paul’s Boutique.)
This trailed preserve in Andover is named from Doris E. Chamberlain who was principal of Andover Elementary School from 1946 to 1971. And this messy loop more-or-less) trail skirts that school’s property.
Andover doesn’t provide a map for this property, and online information is scarce. As is often the case, I only see a report from my man Matt over at his excellent ExploreCT. But that’s fine; this is what Matt and I do. Bring the world of unknown, unsung, and unheralded trails to your screens.
There is a decent sized parking lot on Hebron Road and a not-so-inviting bench and picnic table overlooking a swamp. I’ve stopped here twice and the whole parking lot and surrounding area has been underwater both times. I imagine it’s incredibly buggy in the summer as well – not a place to enjoy a picnic lunch I don’t think.
No matter, I wasn’t picnicking, so off I went on the muddy trail around the swampy lake – having absolutely no idea how long this trail was or where it would take me. I initially figured it would simply circumnavigate the swampy lake, but… no. It ventures around to its far side, then towards the aforementioned school.
Once there, yellow blazes appear along with some signage. The main trail here is called the Percy Cook trail. My PhD in Googling tells me that Percy Cook once sold a horse a hundred years ago. That’s all I’ve got.
But I also learned that in May of 2019, literally the month I hiked this place, the town of Andover talked about using $10,000 to improve the trails, as they note:
Currently, the trail is approximately 2ft wide with many invasive plants and very muddy conditions. CC suggesting further developing the trails as they are not traversable the majority of the year.
Not sure what, if anything, has happened at the preserve in mid/late 2019, but at least they’re aware of the messy conditions.
The Percy Cook Trail itself gets a bit confusing, looping this way and that. Add to the mix a maze of mountain bike trails that crisscross the main trail all over the place. Add to that the fact that I still had no idea where I was hiking and this was a fun outing.
(In reality, I knew I was boxed in by roads and that I was heading towards the Hop River rail trail out near Route 6, so it wasn’t like I was worried or anything.) I crossed a power line cut and then back again. At this point, I decided to ignore all the side trails and just try to follow the main one to see if it did, indeed, connect to the Hop River Trail.
Of course it does – how else would all these cyclists get to their stupidly tight and winding trails? Once down to the paved path, just east of the impressive covered bridge that takes it over Hebron Road, I turned around and made my way back to the parking lot.
Along the way I veered off a couple more times to see if there was anything interesting in the woods and found this:
Which… is kind of cool I suppose.
I think the best thing about the Doris Chamberlain Preserve is that it allows mountain bikers to veer off of the Hop River Trail and tool around in the woods for a while before continuing on their paved path way. As for hikers and picnickers? There are better options nearby.
MR saysMay 22, 2023 at 5:20 am
Percy Cook was an elderly man in the late ‘70s. He lived alone across the street and a bit north of where that little pond is (my dog used to swim in that pond, and I used to go fishing there). In my child’s memory, Percy Cook was wonderful not only because he was a kind person, but most especially because he always gave out the really big chocolate bars for kids every Halloween. I’m so glad so know that a trail has been named in his memory – I hope one day we can know more of his story.