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Create-Your-Own Hike At Babcock Pond Wildlife Area

Natural ResourcesWetlandsCanoeing and KayakingClaude Monet

Ah, the art palette. You know that wooden board used for mixing colors of all sorts before the painter applies brush to canvas and creates that instant masterpiece.

Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area is kind of like that blank canvas and you have the artist’s palette filled with a blot of meadows, a squirt of swamps, a spot of lily-covered ponds and smudge of pine forests. And it is up to you to pick up your brush – um, walking stick – and create-your-own hike masterpiece because there is one main road bisecting the more than 1,500 acres of forest, swamp and ponds and miles of unmarked trails snaking through the natural world canvas.

Miles Standish Road, a narrow, dirt path along the eastern edge of Babcock Pond, is your main access through the wildlife area. The road, lined by stone walls and deep swaths of ferns, is a bit rough in places for the average car. The main parking area is located about a mile down on the right. Visitors can either park here or at a boat launch/viewing platform area off Route 16 and walk down the road.

Unmarked, easy-to-follow paths diverge from the parking area and pass through a pine forest into several open fields. A path twists through one field that is full of wildflowers and milkweed. Monarch butterflies float from one blooming milkweed to the next. The drone of honey bees and bumble bees buzzing from wildflower to wildflower is nearly deafening – and a bit unnerving.

The path eventually leads to the banks of Babcock Pond whose surface is filled with blooming Nymphaeaceae otherwise known as water lilies. Painter Claude Monet could spend hours on the banks of the pond or floating on its surface and never run out of subjects to paint. As I take a few photographs – ok, more than a few - dragonflies land on the lily pads or flowers as if striking a pose. Birds fly back and forth over the surface of the water and a hawk circles high above.

A small sliver of land connects to an island surrounded by Babcock Pond, Standish Pond and Babcock Swamp. The island, filled with towering pines, provides some scenic panoramic views of the surrounding wetlands. According to local legend, Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams – the “splendid splinter” – spent time in these wilds hunting with friends.

Returning to the parking area, visitors can find more trails by walking down Miles Standish Road. There are trails through old orchards, paths that pass by many of the ponds and swamps with clever names like “Number One Pond” and “Number Two Pond” and the mysterious “Gone Pond.” It’s hard to get lost here as most of the trails go to the banks of the pond or back to the main roads.

Another entrance along Starr Road off Route 149 will help explorers discover the western shores of the pond and its dramatic views. The pond is also a great area to take the family canoeing or kayaking. The calm surface and easily navigatable waters will provide an easy paddles. And those water lilies will be inspiring – and keep even those smallest of explorers engaged in the natural world.

So follow in the footsteps of a great Red Sox slugger and visit Babcock Pond – a land where you can create your own hiking masterpiece.

Miles Standish Road is located off Route 16 in Colchester, just east of the intersection with Route 149. The canoe and kayak launch area is located in a small parking area off Route 16 just before Miles Standish Road. Visit http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/wildlife/pdf_files/maps/maps_hunting_area/map17a.pdf for a helpful quadrangle map of the area.

Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365 or at pmarteka@courant.com or The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

   

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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