My bed was warm and the winter sunlight punched its way in through the blinds above me. Each new snowflake that rested upon the naked oaks sparkled in the brilliant morning sun and filtered through my window. It was hard to open my eyes but when I did the scene was magical. I was suddenly transfixed, yet I felt an ardent pining to get into the woods before the morning's first beauty had vanished.
A frozen creek along the Nipmunk Trail in Mansfield, Connecticut
I jumped out of bed and ran to my closet where I threw on an old pair of ripped jeans, and a cozy flannel. I grabbed a pair of wool socks out of the top drawer and ran downstairs where I threw on a pair of leather boots, my winter jacket and a beanie.
The Nipmunk Trail has been one of my favorite places to enjoy Connecticut woodland. Although being rapidly encroached on by development, the trail still offers a hiker the enjoyment of passing through several habitats, including lowland marsh, riparian forest, and upland hardwood forest.
Riparian forest along the Nipmunk Trail in the Wolf Rock Preserve
This part of the trail is protected under the Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust. The Trust is named after the Mohegan man Attawanhood (also known as Joshua) who donated his hunting grounds in Windham and Mansfield to 16 men in Norwich after he died in 1676. The trust protects more than 4,500 acres in northeastern Connecticut, an area of the state that still has nearly 70% of its land use under field, farm, or forest. This part of the state has been given the nicknames “the quiet corner” and “the last green valley.”
Icicles melt in the morning sun
The Nipmunk trail's apex is at the top of a cliff with a lone boulder known as a wolf rock. In the winter when the leaves don’t impede the view, you can see clear out across Mansfield into the hillsides of Willimantic. It has long been my favorite spot to sit and reflect upon life.
Wolf Rock on a sunny morning after a fresh snowfall
On this trip, I saw very little life, although wildlife sign was abundant. I spotted deer, rabbit, squirrel and coyote tracks throughout the hike. The only bird seen during the two-hour hike was a red tail hawk at the marsh. I think I found its old nest in a birch on the opposite side of the marsh.
My best guess as to the maker of these tracks is Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
As dull as the winter may seem at times, there is nothing quite like the unique and pristine beauty of the northeastern deciduous forest on a sunny morning after a fresh snowfall.