5.7 mile loop hike through the upper Paugussett Forest along Pond Brook and the Housatonic River. Moderate to difficult. It’s a little tough to rate – much of the trail is level and easy, but there are sections of steep up and downs, rock scrambles, and slippery eroded trail sections. But it's a beautiful area and a great hike. Hike time - including the hike, a few photo stops, and a panic stricken slap-dance (keep reading, I’ll explain later) – just under 3 hours.
|Don't miss this parking lot|
observation center on the Shepaug Dam, open during the winter. But since this is mid-August, no problem, I keep on hiking.
The trail runs near the river edge, but not close enough to see much through the trees. There are a few spots you can cut over and out to the water’s edge. It’s a beautiful area – along the water, then up a steep climb into the forest with varied terrain - open forest, ferns and mossy boulders.
At the trail peak, find a big gnarly oak tree with a letterbox. One entry from a few weeks ago reads “Never been mountain biking before. Might not survive this one. SO DIFFICULT.” Dude, there’s no biking on the blue trails!! Maybe he came in on the white trail from the Upper Gussy, but from all the bike tracks I see, my guess is there’s more bike traffic than this trail can handle. There are trail sections worn away where erosion makes the footing difficult and probably treacherous when it gets wet.
|Maple tree tapped for Syrup|
The trail goes back down toward the river, up again and then back down. Near the Shephaug Dam, the trail turns west to the Echo Valley Road parking area, and then north back through the forest to the loop’s starting point. Along the way, the trail cuts around and through stone walls, and past a grove of maple trees all strung together with white and blue tubing. The DEP runs a maple sugaring operation in the spring – collecting sap, making syrup, and managing the forest to make sure the sweetest trees thrive.
And here’s where I forgot the first rules of hiking –
1. stay on the trail
2. if you do forget #1 and go off trail, don’t backtrack getting back – pick a looping route.
Why? Cuz if you go off trail and walk through a yellowjacket nest and stir them up, you don’t want to walk straight back through the swarm! There was much slapping, running, stinging, and yes even a little whimpering. And my arms and legs were burning from the half dozen stings all the way back to the parking lot.
On the way out, I was going to stop at the Blue Colony Diner for lunch – all chrome and art deco, the food’s got to be good. But since my legs and right arm were still on fire, I didn’t have much of an appetite. Maybe there’s an ER around here instead…