Field & Stream
2-3 Miles, Durham
Y’all know I love Connecticut Forest and Parks Association. I love what they do and how they do it. I just happened to run into former executive director Eric Hammerling in a store recently and had a nice chat to catch up on our lives. Me and CFPA – we’re tight.
So when I write a page about a little trail network in Durham and say that it is perhaps the most boring CFPA trail in the state, I say it with love. And I say it fully realizing this trail is here more to connect Coginchaug High School to the Cockaponset State Forest and all the trails within, including the Mattabesett Trail section of the New England National Scenic Trail over to Millers Pond State Park.
And as a connecting trail, it serves its purpose just fine. As an educational forest, for high school students and regular schlubs like me alike, it also provides signage and a few interesting habitats to look at. But mostly, it’s just flat woods and a little stream. (There is a field, accessible via a spur herd path, but the Field here is referencing a man, not a land feature.)
The Field Forest was donated to CFPA in the will of Howard B. Field, Jr. who was a longtime resident of Durham and an avid conservationist. Members of the Field family still maintain an important connection to the property today.
Towering tulip poplars, shaded woodland trails, a vernal pool brimming with aquatic and amphibian life, streams harboring fish, wild turkeys, red-eyed vireos and pileated woodpeckers, views of the traprock ridge, and magnificent trees- you may be lucky enough to encounter all of these on your visit to the152-acre Field Forest owned by CFPA.
Well that sure sounds nice. I parked on Bear Rock Road right at the Field Forest trailhead. There are pull-outs along this road, but most people are heading east towards Bear Rock and the State Forest and Park beyond. There are nice signs along the trail here, explaining the usual stuff: wolf trees, stone walls, culling, vernal pools, invasive plants. All the hits.
Actually there’s a sign here that I’d like to see all over the state – it touts CFPA’s trail system. It’s cool that it’s here, as I imagine grumbling high schoolers who know nothing about the nearly 1,000 miles of blue trail in Connecticut might be a bit surprised… and hopefully inspired. Especially with the Mattabesett so near.
I ambled along, crossing a stream and around a little hill. As I approached the back of the high school parking lot, I noticed a little cul-de-sac with a bunch of cars parked in it. Here’s your reward for reading this page – and it’s a good one.
The Durham Fair was in full swing a short way away from this hike. Coginchaug High School is one of the few town-designated parking areas. It’s like ten bucks to park there, but you get a bus shuttle to the fairgrounds at least. Tons of more expensive parking exists up and down Main Street and none offer a shuttle bus. But here, here behind the high school parking lot, there’s a little dead end. A road called Guire Road. A few savvy locals knew to park here. For one, the walk through the woods to the high school and its shuttle is about one minute long. For another? There’s a Field Forest trailhead here, so you have plausible deniability. If I were to ever go to the Durham Fair, I know where I’m parking.
I also noticed something else on this end of the trail: old barbed wire fencing. Like, a century old it appeared. Which means field. You don’t put barbed wire fences in the woods a hundred years ago. So there were agricultural fields here. So it can be called Field Field Forest. Or something.
The return trip took me along the two side loops. One went up Strawberry Hill for no particular reason, but at least it offered slightly different scenery. The other one, nearer Bear Rock Road, took me through a recently felled forest. Tons of baby beech trees were sprouted up along the trail and I guess that was kind of neat to see.
I found myself walking the final steps back to my car with mixed emotions. I was happy to have completed yet another CFPA trail, but was kind of bummed I wouldn’t have anything exciting to say about this adventure other than the secret free Fair parking. The trails are cleared well and blazed, though be sure to check the online maps, as the trails here have changed a bit since the last hardcopy map printing.
Field’s fields and stream and forest provides a nice wildlife habitat and cool outdoor classroom for high school biology students. And in the end, that’s good enough for me.