Bald Mountain Preserve
The summit of Bald Mountain is 1,121 feet above sea level, which makes it the highest point in Somers. Many different kinds of wildlife pass through, or make Bald Mountain their home including turkey vultures, black bear, deer, red fox, and many more!
A Bald Mountain Bird Habitat Assessment conducted for the Northern Connecticut Land Trust by the Connecticut Audubon Society in August, 2014 identified over twenty species of songbirds on Bald Mountain.
The mountain represents a large 633 acre area of contiguous protected open space with portions protected by the town of Somers, The State of Connecticut, and the Northern Connecticut Land Trust. Protection was completed when The NCLT partnered with the Town of Somers to acquire the final parcel consisting of 138 acres which was purchased from Hugo and Selma Trappe in 2009. The full preserve included the Bridge and Galbraith Properties in addition to Trappe. Once the project was completed, the town conveyed its interest in this parcel to the NCLT for management and preservation.
Bald Mountain Trail Loop
The Bald Mountain Trail Loop is 1.25 miles long including sections of challenging, steep terrain, and is marked with white medallions. This is a non-motorized trail open to everyone during daylight hours for passive recreation. Where the trail splits approximately 1/8 mile from the parking area, take the left fork for a more gradual climb or the right fork for a steeper, more direct route to the summit.
To reach the trailhead, follow Rte. 190 east 2 miles from the center of Somers to Randell Road. Turn left on Randell, then Left on Lance and right on County Road. The small parking area is located on the left just past 159 County Road.
McCann Family Farm
McCann’s is open to the general public for passive recreation during daylight hours on weekends and holidays. Land Trust members are welcome throughout the week. Campfires are prohibited as are wheeled or motorized vehicles such as mountain bikes, dirt bikes, ATV’s and snowmobiles. Dogs are welcome but must be kept leashed in the parking area and along the access trail as far as Gulf Stream and under control beyond. Hikers are free to explore off the trails but must stay out of the hayfields and away from the vernal pools.
PARKING LOT AND TRAIL HEADS
The parking lot is on the edge of a hilly hayfield on the south side of Route 190 (Main Street) in Somers, CT. It is about 0.7 mi. east of the light at Route 83 or 0.5 mi. west of the light at Gulf Road.
The trailheads for both trails leave the southeast corner of the parking lot.
Two trails are open to the public. Both are maintained, well marked with plastic diamonds and both finish back at the parking lot. The 1.95 mile Shady Brook Trail (blue diamonds) stays in the northern two-thirds of the property while the 3.0 mile Escarpment Trail (yellow diamonds) visits the southern boundary area. Both run together until reaching Shady Brook hence both yellow and blue diamonds are present on the trees on those sections.
A trail touring part of the Whit Davis Bird Sanctuary is under development but is not yet blazed. It starts on the south side of the Gulf Stream bridge and follows the stream before crossing the farm road. It then loops through the western fallow field before ending in a stand of white pine onto the blue-yellow blazed trails near where the farm road approaches the upper hay fields. A left turn would bring you back to the parking lot after a hike of about 0.6 miles.
Free interpretive walks are offered occasionally by NCLT volunteers from May through October. While specific topics are stated for each, e.g., birds, spring wildflowers, summer ferns or fall foliage, all tend to include broader themes such as natural history, conservation and environmental issues.
The beautiful, hilly 84 acre McCann Family Farm stretches from near the center of Somers on Highway 190 almost to Mountain View Road on the northwestern slopes of Soapstone Mountain. About one third of the acreage is used to produce hay. The rest exhibits a wide variety of habitats.
These habitats include streams (both intermittent and perennial), vernal pools, wetlands, fallow fields, early successional stands, mixed forest, and pine plantations, making it a delight for hiking and a valuable resource for teaching about natural history related subjects. More than 300 species of trees, flowers, ferns, and other plants have been identified thus far and more than 120 species of birds have been recorded. Bluebird, Kestrel and Wood Duck nesting boxes plus bat roosting shelters have been placed and are monitored regularly.
THE BIRD SANCTUARY
Three separate areas, all adjacent to the hayfields, have been designated as a bird sanctuary. This sanctuary is named in memory of Whitlock Davis, a life resident of Somers, an avid birder, and a highly valued active member of the land trust’s Board of Directors through most of its early history.
The farm would not be open to the public were it not for the vision and generosity of Mary McCann who loved her land and wanted it to remain in a natural state. Following nearly 10 years of intermittent discussions with her the property was donated to the NCLT after her passing. Her niece, Kathy Dufraine, and Kathy’s husband, Walter, shared Mrs. McCann’s vision and generously granted a right-of-way on their land for a parking lot and an access trail for visitors. We owe a debt of gratitude to them all.
Scantic Riparian Area
The SRA is open to the general public every day all year for passive recreation such as fishing, hiking and bird watching. Campfires are prohibited everywhere except on bare soil along the riverside trail. Horseback riding as well as wheeled and motorized vehicles such as mountain bikes, dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles are allowed on the service roads under the power lines but not allowed in the adjacent wetlands or on the riverside trail. Hunting is only allowed with a written permit from the NCTLT. Removal of plant or other living material aside from fish is prohibited. Also please do not to disturb the beaver, their dams or their lodge(s).
The two trailheads are both on the south side of Durkee Road in Somers, CT. Durkee extends from Route 83 on the east to Four Bridges Road to the west. The trailhead for the riverside section of the trail is near the western end of the Scantic River bridge. Only roadside parking is available there. The trailhead for the power line service road section is at the gate. Ample parking is available along the road there and under the nearby steel tower.
The maintained ~1 mile loop trail is unblazed but easy to follow since alternative routes do not exist. It lies entirely south of Durkee Road. The eastern leg goes through the strand of trees that line the river. Side streams and low areas are spanned by numerous log or bog bridges. At its southern most point the trail turns abruptly to the west and crosses the marshland (partly on more bog bridges) to the service road under the power lines. It then heads more or less north to the trailhead at the gate on Durkee Road. Side trails off the service road all lead to dead ends that are interesting to explore without getting lost. NOTE: All the bog bridges can be very slippery when wet or icy.
The Scantic River is very dynamic as it flows through this area. Water levels fluctuate greatly from only a foot or so deep to overflowing Durkee Road during flood times. If the river is within its banks a storm dropping an inch of rain in its upstream drainage basin causes a rise of about a foot through the SRA within twenty-four (24) hours. As a result the riverside trail is often flooded in the spring and after heavy rains, especially along the southern section. The power line trail is usually above water except during extreme flood times.
The river along the upper half of the riverside trail is full of trees cut by beaver or toppled by other natural causes. Out of respect for our industrious furry friends the NCLT is leaving this area undisturbed. Below this area the river is kept more or less free of logs for the benefit of paddlers who have a haul out site on the lower part of the trail.
THE RIPARIAN AREA
The Scantic Riparian Area encompasses all the flood plain between the river and the higher farm fields to its West. It extends from about 150 yards north of Durkee Road all the way south to Hall Hill Brook near Four Bridges Road. In all there’s nearly 40 acres owned by the NCTLT.
Originally the land was a fully functional natural riparian wetland. It provided a buffer zone for lands farther down stream by holding water during flood times and slowly releasing it later. Such wetlands also served the vital function of helping recharge aquifers beneath them as well as providing habitat for a vast array of wildlife. Years ago these wetlands were ditched and drained to create hayfields. These have since been abandoned and are slowly reverting back to their natural state.
Biodiversity in the SRA is impressive due to the many different habitats ranging from constantly flooded land in the south to relative high and dry land nearer Durkee Road. For instance during one wild flower hike in mid August more than 80 species were found in bloom. It’s a great place for birding. Such rare and/or special species as Yellow-breasted Chats, Northern Shrikes, Solitary Sandpipers, Rusty Blackbirds and Water Thrushes have been recorded. Evidence of terrestrial vertebrates other than beaver can best be seen by their tracks in the winter following a fresh snowfall.
This valuable property was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Schlaf who were both career Army Veterans.
The Schlaf Farm, located near the center of Somers, contains two fields and a wooded area with hiking trails. The fields are leased to local farmers and provide a source of income to the Land Trust.
Skyline Scenic Area
Skyline is open to the general public for passive recreation every day all year during daylight hours. Campfires are prohibited as are wheeled and motorized vehicles such as mountain bikes, dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles.
A small parking spot and the trailheads for the Skyline Scenic Area are in Somers, CT on the north side of Stafford Road about 0.2 mile west of the intersection with Root Road. It is identified as NCLT property by a large wood sign.
The 1.5 mile loop trail visits the scenic lookout before returning to the parking area. It is well marked with yellow plastic diamonds and is maintained. The shortest way to the lookout is to the left from the parking area. This half mile section, known as the Ledge Trail, includes some steep, rocky sections that may be treacherous when wet, snow covered or icy. To the right from the parking spot is the much easier mile long section leading to the same lookout. You are also welcome to explore the other unmarked trails lying within the yellow loop.
A trail leaves the northeast corner of the nature preserve. It connects to a network of trails on the central and northern portions of Minnechaug Mountain in Massachusetts. These poorly defined, unmarked trails are primarily on private property. We discourage hiking there without permission from the landowners.
On clear days it’s possible to see a broad panoramic view across the Connecticut River Valley. To the south (on your left) the highest buildings of Hartford rise above the horizon. To its left are the Hanging Hills in Meriden. The Hublein Tower is a recognizable projection on the southwestern horizon. Lights of Somers prison dominate the western scene in the evening. During the day the Silo Nursery on Hampden Road in Somers makes a picturesque scene. Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak, lies on the northwest horizon beyond Springfield. Further north the distinctive outlines of Mt. Tom and the Holyoke Range run across the Connecticut River Valley. The long buildings in front of them are on Westover Airforce Base. Mountains in Vermont are on the horizon beyond them.
AN ERRATIC BOULDER?
A very large boulder sits beside the old tote road a hundred meters east of the lookout area. Though it looks like an “Erratic” left there by the receding glaciers long ago it probably isn’t because it appears to be derived from the same rock formation beneath it.
The boulder is a biological delight since it carries a fine garden on its top and sides. Growing there are small birches, clusters of grasses, sparse flowers, blackberry vines, poison ivy, and a hanging garden of ferns. Next to the boulder is a curious oak whose trunk tightly grips its side.
THE MYSTERY PITS
There are two groups of mystery pits near the scenic lookout. One group lies across the tote road from the boulder mentioned above. The yellow trail goes through the other group as it winds through the Hemlock grove northeast of the lookout. Thus far no one has satisfactorily explained their origin. Can you?
THE HEMLOCK STANDS
The once lush, cool stands of Eastern Hemlock behind the lookout appear to be dying. They are heavily infested with wooly adelgids, invasive sap-sucking insects accidentally introduced from Asia. The toxin they inject while feeding is gradually killing the hemlocks here as well as throughout Southern New England. Ongoing research on integrated control of the pests shows some promise of eventually bringing them under control.
The property is strategically located along the ridge extending north from Bald Mountain. It contains a section of Gillette Brook and is the home to extensive wildlife since it is near other protected areas including the Shenipsit State Forest.
Whitaker Woods is one of the most popular Land Trust properties. The NCLT and the Town of Somers partnered on raising the $1,200,000.00 needed to fund this purchase and each provided half. Somers then turned the property over to NCLT ownership.
It is conveniently located near the center of Somers, is 266 acres in size, and has an excellent network of trails. A parking area is provided on Wells Road and the trail system connects to the McCann Family Farm trail system and parking area.