SYNOPSIS: Walk along the edge of a swamp to end at a peaceful view of Ice Pond and the surrounding hills. The train tracks at the far end of the hike are not in service, and there are plans to convert them to a bike path.
APPROXIMATE TIME: 40 minutes.
DIRECTIONS: To get there, head north on Farm-to-Market Road from the intersection of Route 312. Go ¾ of a mile. Shortly after the high school property, there is a gate and sign for the preserve on the left hand side of the road. Go slow because it is hard to see the sign until you are directly in front of it. Be careful pulling into the parking area because there is a pretty good drop off from the pavement and you wouldn’t want to ruin your hike by damaging the underside of your car. There is enough parking for about 4 cars.
THE HIKE: The trail leaves the parking area from the lower northwest corner. As you begin to walk downhill, there is a nice carpet of pachysandra on the left hand side. At the bottom of the decent you will cross a small stream. Look to your left for a small, picturesque pool of water. Once over the stream the trail leads back uphill. The soil around the tree roots has been worn away, creating small steps, but also a tripping hazard for the less-than-coordinated. There is dense forest up the hill to the left, and there is a partially visible swamp off in the distance to the right.
The trail begins to bend right to get closer to the marsh, enters an area dominated by evergreens, and passes through a stone wall. A Y-shaped intersection forces a decision — there were ATV tracks headed uphill to the left, so we went right to head even closer to the marsh. At the second Y intersection (just a few feet past the first), take whichever branch you prefer – they meet up about 50 feet further down the trail.
Once the two paths from the second Y intersection converge, the trail follows along the edge of the swamp. We visited in the fall, and the ferns and cattails were aplenty.
Soon you will see a stone wall perpendicular to the path, coming down the hill on the left hand side. The wall ends at a large rock formation. Just past the wall you will enter a power line right-of-way that has been cleared of trees. The light and openness provide a nice contrast to the darker forest you just left. The trial narrows for a bit to almost a single-file path.
At the far end of the right-of-way, there is an ATV trail that heads uphill. Stay straight along the edge of the marsh, and get back under the canopy of the trees. The trail gets a little rockier, windier and muddier. Soon you will come to another ATV trail intersection. Straight ahead you will see the train tracks – the perfectly straight rails stand out amongst the rocky terrain and the variegated plant growth.
Once on the track bed, there is a nice view of Ice Pond and the surrounding hills. Twin Hill Preserve is to the northeast, and Ice Pond Preserve is across the pond to the west.
We retraced our steps to return to the car. At no point did I see any trail markers, but it is so well worn they really aren’t needed. In the summer the marsh has lots of bugs, but there were very few in the fall.
HISTORY: The 58 acre property was donated to the Nature Conservancy in 1962 by Leonora Clough. It was originally called the Patterson Nature Preserve. In 1978, the preserve was donated to the town of Patterson.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit was in September 2009. Dogs are allowed if on a leash. I have not been able to locate a published map, but the trail is relatively short. For more info visit www.pattersonny.org or www.historicpatterson.org