Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hiking at Pine Swamp Wilderness

Monica was leading a hike for the Nature Center at the Pine Swamp Wilderness area, a 330 acre preserve in Ledyard, CT.  At 9:30 on a Saturday morning it was 18 degrees.  Snow was already falling, and more was in the forecast.  That may have been too much even for the hardy regulars.  

The only one to join us was a steward who lived nearby.  He was an older man in a flannel shirt and gray knit cap, using his walking stick to shift fallen branches out of the trail.  Since Monica and I had never walked there, he guided us down the winding yellow-blaze trail past the frozen ponds and canals that were left behind by old sand and gravel quarrying; through groves of mountain laurel - their leaves folded down umbrella-like in the cold; over the bouldery moraine that cuts angle-wise through the forest.  

We saw no pines near Pine Swamp, but we didn't venture near, and certainly things have changed since the name was given 370 years ago, when it was known also as Mast Swamp by the ship builders.  At that time it also was called Cuppacommock, or Refuge, by the Pequot Indians who would retreat there when they were being persecuted by the colonists or their allies.  Today it is a pathless refuge for wildlife.

On our way back to the trailhead, we passed through cedar woods filled with chickadees and cedar waxwings and scores of noisy, active robins.  The chickadees and waxwings are part of the winter scenery here, but I wondered if the robins were regretting their decision to stick around, now that the ground is frozen solid and the snow is deepening.