Last month I wrote that you would expect good hiking in Vermont because it is a sparsely-populated state. Closer to home, you could say something similar about Redding. Among the 23 towns and cities of our county, only neighboring Easton and up-north Sherman have fewer people per square mile. Redding is much less crowded even than leafy Ridgefield and Weston. And this month – after only 15 years of living right next-door! – I got serious about exploring its trails. I had stumbled (perhaps literally) on some of them before – the quiet northern edge of the Devil’s Den; Collis P. Huntington State Park; the walk through Revolutionary War history at Putnam Memorial – but now I intended a more systematic approach. And I found an indispensable tool to help me – The Book of Trails, published by Redding Land Trust, and available for $10 at the Town Hall.
Something I like about The Book of Trails is that it is organized according to the town’s natural geography, and in particular its rivers. You can see Redding in terms of four north-south streams and their watersheds; in the east, the Aspetuck and the Little River; in the middle, the Saugatuck; and, by the Ridgefield line, the Norwalk River. Between the rivers are hills, swamps and ponds – and homes of course. The Book of Trails divides its walks among three watersheds (Aspetuck, Little River, Saugatuck) and what it calls the West Ridge, whose “ledgy uplands” drain into both the Saugatuck and the Norwalk. Early this month I took hikes in two of these divisions, putting the Little River and Saugatuck watersheds aside for now. It’s important to leave loose ends like that, for next time.
THE ASPETUCK VALLEY TRAIL. I wrote about the AVT back in March too. It runs 5.6 miles through Newtown and Redding, from Collis P. Huntington State Park to the Easton line. I did not walk all of it back then. Hardened snow underfoot made for tough going, and I turned for home at the end of the Newtown section. On Sept. 2 I went back to finish the job. It was, of course, a very different outing, at least 70 degrees warmer. Sticky too. As I drove to the trailhead the sun was pointing beams of light into the waterlogged air beneath the canopy. And I started at the southern end of the trail this time, crossing quickly from Easton into Redding.
The first half-mile followed the Aspetuck River through shady woods. The water was low, but still ran prettily over little chutes and riffles, tinkling cheerfully as it went. But it was the next section that was the best, the mile on Valley Road. It isn’t a road, but a track with steep ledges to one side and a wetland meadow on the other. The river was out in the steamy meadow somewhere, hidden behind tall grass and bushes. The track, mercifully flat and shaded in the swelling heat, ran through a tunnel of green to emerge at Stepney Road and the little dam and waterfall at Hedmons Pond. I finished the trail by taking Foundry Road – another track – to the place where I had given up in March. But this was box-ticking. All I really wanted to do was walk Valley Road again, and get back to my air-conditioned car.
THE ROCK LOT AND SCOTT PRESERVE: Two mornings later, the humidity was gone, but the sun was still out. I met Stuart Green at the northern entrance to the Rock Lot. I know Stuart from the Norwalk River Valley Trail project but, in another guise, he is “trail boss” on Redding’s Conservation Commission. He’d kindly agreed to walk the Rock Lot and adjoining Scott Preserve with me. In fact, he recommended them. These lands – 213 acres combined – are on The Book of Trails’ “West Ridge”, a few minutes from Route 7. I had never heard of them before. But, for such modest size, the properties offer varied hiking. We started off in gently contoured woods near one of the largest white oaks in Redding, then walked on top of an outcropping known, for no mysterious reason, as The Whaleback. It led to ledges that overlooked a wetland. So our surroundings were very attractive; but Stuart, like all the trail maintainers I know, was paying as much attention to the nitty-gritty of the trail – how to remove the graffiti from that rock, were the signs and blazes in good order? Hikers should never forget the volunteers who keep the trails open. In Redding, it is Stuart and some 50 others.
The night before, I had read up on the Rock Lot and Scott Preserve and noticed that they are crisscrossed by transmission lines. “That’s going to spoil it,” I thought. But Stuart and I now arrived at the first line of wires and I had to admit that they did not. In fact, they created a pleasant clearing where the sun hit your face. We were almost 700 feet up too, and there was a long view south, all the way to Long Island I fancied. We returned to our starting point via the Duncan Munro Trail. Its highlight was Warrups Rock. Sure, it is a 75-foot sheer cliff. But it is its link to the wonderfully-named Chickens Warrups that grabbed my attention. The cliff is also known as Indian Lookout, and Chickens led the Indian village that existed in this area when the first colonists began to covet it for farmland in the early 1700s. His name appears on the deeds transferring land to Redding’s first settlers. Like many Native Americans after him, he appears later to have questioned just how good a deal he got.
I came away from these short hikes knowing I had just scratched the surface of Redding’s trails. After all, there are over 60 miles of them, and they include “through” trails that link the town’s open spaces. You can, for example, start the “Westway” at the Scott Preserve and finish, 4.6 miles and five open spaces later, at Marchant Farm. Another happy loose end to tidy up one day.
|If you go …|
|ASPETUCK VALLEY TRAIL||ROCK LOT & SCOTT PRESERVE|
|PARKING||Rock House Rd, Easton, 0.25 mi from Pinetree Rd, Redding.||On Mine Hill Rd, Redding, off Seventy Acre Rd.|
|DISTANCE||4.6 mi.||A little under 4.0 mi.|
|DURATION||2 hrs.||2 hrs.|
|MAP AND ROUTE||AVT map from ct.gov/deep. I walked up to Goodridge Rd, Redding, and back.||Map in The Book of Trails and at trailheads. We walked Joan’s Trail out, and the Duncan Munro Trail back.|