SYNOPSIS: This is a nice hike that includes boardwalks, footbridges, vernal pools, old campsites, an interesting “splayed hickory” and a small overlook.
APPROXIMATE TIME: One to two hours depending on the route you take.
DIRECTIONS: From the Route 84 and 684 junction, head north on 684. Route 684 will end and turn into Route 22. Turn right onto Milltown road and drive east for 2.2 miles. There is wooden sign and a small grassy parking area on the left hand side of the road. Be careful, because there is a drop-off from the pavement to the parking area.
THE HIKE: We took the Main Loop that is marked with red trail markers; it was just under a mile long. There is a second loop with yellow markers that is a half-mile long called the Cedar Loop.
A footbridge over a small stream gets you from the parking area to the trailhead. The first section of the trail has lots of brush and a few areas with a ground covering of pachysandra. A few dozen yards in, you will reach a long boardwalk that takes you over a wetlands area. After the boardwalk, there is a short, slightly uphill section through a very rocky area. Navigating this rocky section is probably the most difficult part of the trail, and the red plastic trail markers on the trees came in handy. The path climbs through a break in a stone wall, and heads uphill.
At this point on the trail, the underbrush is gone and the forest floor opens up. Pass through another stone wall at the crest of a small hill and, following the arrow sign, make a right turn immediately after the wall. The trail is straight for a short while, following along the stone wall.
A trail intersection gives you a choice to go left to stay on the Main (red) Loop or go straight to take the Cedar (yellow) Loop. We turned left to stay on the Main Loop.
Near an old, fallen and rotting tree on a small plateau there is a marker for Old Campsite #1. There is also an Old Campsite #2 but I haven’t been able to find it.
The Main Loop passes over a small stream on a wood plank bridge. On the far side of the bridge, there are arrow markers on a nearby tree. Both directions indicate the red trail, because from this point the path will make a large circle and eventually bring you back to this spot.
We went left to go clockwise around the loop. The trail goes up through a depression between two rock outcroppings. At the top of the rise, there is a small overlook with a decent drop-off. Heading downhill again, there is another large rock outcropping up ahead. When you get close to the outcropping, take a look at the “Splayed Hickory” that molded itself to the side of the rock formation.
Passing behind the big rock formation, the trail turns to the right and follows a stone wall. Look for the old hunting tree-stand on the left as the trail curves to the right. A plank bridge will take you over another wet area. After the bridge, there is another ‘rocky field’. A stream will be on your left. Follow the water downstream and you will soon be back at the bridge where the loop began. From this point, trace your steps back to the parking area.
Our hike took about an hour and fifteen minutes. I’ve been to this preserve during all four seasons and each has something to offer – the autumn colors, the stillness of winter, the vernal pools and skunk cabbage in spring, and the mature greenery of summer.
HISTORY: This property was part of the Gage family farm. Elihu Gage was one of the first settlers in the land know as the Oblong, a once-contested strip of land along the current New York and Connecticut border. The property was donated to the Putnam County Land Trust in 1977 by Dr. Henry Ross in memory of his wife, actress Glenda Farrell who died of lung cancer in 1971. Between 1928 and 1968 she was in over 100 movies, including Little Ceasar and the Torchy Blane series. She appeared on stage and on television, including a Ben Casey episode. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Dr. Ross was a West Point and Harvard Medical School graduate who served on General Eisenhower’s staff. He was one of the first high-ranking medical officers to enter the concentration camps at the end of WWII. He had a private medical practice in NYC for many years and died in 1991.
Portions of the trail, including extensive boardwalks, were part of a 2002 Eagle Scout project by Joe Becker.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit was in November 2009 when we went with another family from my son’s Cub Scout Den. Pets are allowed if on a leash. There is more info on the preserve, as well as a map, at www.pclt.net. There is a kiosk at the trailhead that contains a supply of maps as well.