Recently I had the pleasure of hiking the Great Cedars Conservation Area in Old Saybrook. This hike is one of 3 great hiking opportunities off of Ingham Hill Rd. These three areas are 1) The Preserve, 2) Great Cedars East and 3) Great Cedars West/Clark Community Park. This past Spring I hiked The Preserve which I have previously written about. Great Cedars East still needs to be hiked.
Great Cedars West, as you would expect, is found on the west side of Ingham Hill Rd. The parking area is a spacious dirt lot adjacent to an open field. It is identifiable by looking for the large Conservation Area sign or looking for the white pagoda in the field with Tibetan flags streaming from its structure. The hiking trails in this area are actually 2 connected conservation areas.
From the parking area start walking west along the dirt road which is also the driveway to the Hay House Farm. Along your right side is a shallow pond that is part of the Cedar Swamp. When we were there the colors of the leaves were brilliant.
After a quarter mile the dirt road ends & you will have a choice to go right or left on the marked trails. The left trail continues to loop around the Hay Farm and continues to a dead end in another ½ mile. My faithful dog, Cinnamon, and I wanted to explore the Clark Area trails, so we took the trail to our right. This was a pleasant walk adjacent to the Cedar Swamp. The trail seemed to be cut through towering mountain laurel and thick undergrowth.
Overall this section of the conservation area is relatively flat and smooth. After another 1/3 mile you reach an intersection where you have a choice again of left or right. The left trail continues ¼ mile and ends at the Old Back Highway. Again, we took the right trail that leads to the Clark Community Trails. The forest at this point also transitioned from thick undergrowth to mostly treed but lacking brush and undergrowth, probably the consequence of having a large deer population nearby. I did not have a map of these trails, but there are ample number of maps posted at the major junctions along the route.
One observation we had was that the further you hiked into the forest, the narrower and more primitive the trails became. At one point the trial traverses a swampy area, but a well constructed wood walkway gets you through the area, high and dry.
We followed the trails north until we got to a sign indicating a “Bear’s Den” loop. This was a short detour with a stone outcropping which could very well have been a cave in the past. Whether any bear has ever seen its interior, I cannot attest.
After we returned to the start of this loop we bumped into a runner who had passed us about 15 minutes earlier. We stopped him to ask why he doubled back & did not continue along the trails and loop back via the furthermost identified trail. He indicated that he had tried that in the past and had gotten lost when he could no longer follow the blazes. Cinnamon and I hesitated a minute or so to decide whether to turn around or continue on, looking for the other trails. Since we consider ourselves fearless explorers, we went ahead and tried to follow one of the more remote trails. At first the blazes were easy to follow, but as we continued through the forest and the trodden path disappeared we also found it more difficult to navigate. We cautiously continued, making sure we could find the blazes or the semblance of a used path. We were able to complete the loop we had planned and returned to the well worn trails in about a 1/4 mile. We then returned back to the Cedar Swamp trails via the same route.
Overall, our hike along these two preserves covered about 5 enjoyable miles. I am looking forward to completing the third leg of this Old Saybrook hiking trilogy when we tackle The Great Cedars East Conservation Area sometime later this Fall.