Hike the Hetzel Pretzel
Flanders Land Trust: Hetzel Refuge
~1.5 Mile, May 2019
The trail system at the Hetzel Refuge isn’t remotely pretzel-shaped, but I’m sticking with my title. I did, in fact, hike a couple loops that – oh never mind. No use in trying to invent some sort of Hetzel Pretzel logic here.
The majority of Flanders Land Trust Land is in Woodbury, but this parcel is entirely in Middlebury. And while there is a little hiker’s lot available on Breakneck Hill Road, I found it very difficult to find for some reason.
I’ll help you out – Go to Breakneck Hill Road in Middlebury (not Woodbury), just east of its intersection with Mirey Dam Road, in between the first two houses on the north side of the road. There’s a giant sign there and everything! Now that you’ve parked – oh wait, that wasn’t the truly confusing thing here at all. It’s knowing where to go after parking.
You have to walk down the road in front of the red garage/barn structure and look to your left for a tiny Flanders sign. This path will take you basically up a driveway near some houses and yards behind that red barn house.
Something like that anyway.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the Hetzel Refuge!
Flanders holdings as a land trust expanded when the Hetzel family contributed approximately 54 acres to the organization, beginning in the mid-1970s. Located in Middlebury, Connecticut, the land is bordered to the north by Middlebury Land Trust property, bringing the protected open space area to nearly 95 acres. Containing diverse types of vegetation, the Refuge includes woodlands, hay fields, conifer plantations, swamps and several man-made ponds, all of which provide a haven for wildlife.
Missing from that description is one of my favorite place names in all of Connecticut: Beetle Bung Pond! Yes, just a few minutes in to the Hetzel Pretzel is little Beetle Bung Pond. I love Beetle Bung Pond so much that I wrote up a page all about it.
There are a few trails here that all lead to Mirey Dam Pond. This is not a very big pond by any measure, but for some reason, the way the trails approach it, it looks quite large through the white pine plantation.
I love hiking through large stands of white pine. Maybe it’s the weird unnatural way they were planted in rows that appeals to my sense of order. I don’t know. After walking down to the pond, I circled back and wandered on some of the other trails here.
They are all well marked and very well cleared. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Hetzel Refuge, but it exceeded whatever those expectations were. (In truth, I only came here for Beetle Bung Pond – everything else was just a bonus.) Pines, ferns, ponds… it’s all very nice.
The way back out is the same way you came in; that is, close to the houses and then a short walk up the shoulderless curve on the road.
What’s life without a little danger on a road named “Breakneck” anyway?