If there’s one positive thing I can say about the frosty, snowy, dreary, loooooong winter that we just experienced, it’s that it has made me enjoy these first lovely spring days even more. Lately my outing mantra has been: I don’t care what we do, so long as we are doing it outside. Are you with me?
So I thought this would be a great time to introduce you to a park with some cute, perfectly pint-sized trails that I recently discovered in Wethersfield, Connecticut: Wintergreen Woods.
As you can probably deduce from the piles of ugly, muddy snow at the edge of the parking area (which I am sure are no longer blighting the landscape), we wasted no time in getting out for some fresh air, heading for the trails just as soon as we hit a day with temps above 40. I may have been a tad overzealous just because the melting snow made for a somewhat muddy situation in the parking lot and elsewhere, but I would imagine that after these past few weeks of milder temps and sunny days, that problem has resolved itself.
But I am getting a little bit ahead of myself. Before we start talking about the setting here, we need to talk about the getting here. That’s right. GPS deficiency strikes again. Well, I actually can’t speak for all the GPS systems out there, but my iPhone map (Google Maps) led me to the total wrong place when I typed in “Wintergreen Woods” as the destination. I mean, it took me to the spot on the map labeled “Wintergreen Woods,” just nowhere near the parking area or the trail entrance.
So keep that in mind when you are getting here. Ultimately, you want to get yourself on Folly Brook Boulevard, because that street will run you right into the parking area for the trails.
I know, I know. That snow looks totally gross. But now that it’s melted, there is a nice, big parking area there.
Okay, now here’s where this little story takes a turn for the humorous. As we unloaded Boo and the stroller (because I always like to bring the stroller along on trails just to see if it’s possible to use one), I noticed this trail map just beside the parking area.
In my infinite wisdom (not), I decided I’d just photograph the trail maps later, when we returned from our little hike. And we headed, blindly, toward the most obvious trail entrance:
Since it looked totally stroller-friendly (the surface was a pretty fine gravel), we loaded Boo up and took off without another thought.
We walked and walked, enjoying the beautiful weather and the pretty scenery, which will be even more lovely when the trees start to leaf out.
A little while later, the trail disappeared into a busy intersection at Nott Street. At that point, we got concerned. In fact, I was so concerned that I totally forgot to snap any pictures of this end of the trail.
Thank goodness for smart phones. We were able to pull up a map of the area and figure out just what had gone wrong.
So turns out this whole time we had been walking along the bike path instead of “hiking” in Wintergreen Woods. Of course, now a lot of things made sense. Like why the surface was gravel and not dirt. Why we passed so close to the high school as we walked. And why we crossed a road. But this was pretty much the most exercise I have gotten since I’ve been pregnant, and I was a little distraught at the idea of having to walk all the way back AND THEN try out the trails we had actually come to investigate. I’m not great with math or maps, but I figured we had walked about a mile between the parking area and Nott Street, so it was going to be a 2-mile roundtrip. I decided to see how I felt when we got back to the parking area, and so we turned around and headed back the way we came.
On the plus side though, it was a beautiful, stroller-friendly walk. Wethersfield actually has a wonderful network of bike paths (also used by many for walking/jogging based on my observations) and walking trails (click here for a PDF with maps of most areas; please note that this document is dated 2009, so I can’t be sure that there have been no modifications since its publication). We had ventured along only one short part of it. However, this little stretch is just perfect for a not-too-challenging walk with a stroller and has the added advantage of very convenient parking plus a nice swath of green space to play/picnic on. So all in all, it was a wonderful discovery, even if it was completely by accident. But hey, isn’t that how most great things are discovered? 🙂
When we arrived back at the parking area, I finally took a look at the trail map and realized our mistake. (And the moral of the story is: even if you think you know where you are going, always, ALWAYS check the map 🙂 )
Here’s a detail of the area we had been intending to explore:
The entrance to the hiking trails is to the far left of the parking area, all the way across the green space. You can barely tell that there is anything over there at all, unless you are really looking for it. You can see why we high-tailed it over to the more obvious-looking trail.
I decided we should try to check out the hiking trails on this visit. Their main allure was that they are short and sweet and therefore great for little ones trying out their first “hiking” experience. I could walk another half-mile or so.
Shortly into the woods, we found a trail sign.
I love how the trail is measured in time rather than mileage. That is definitely a family-friendly feature 🙂
In actuality, the Red Trail is about 1/3 mile, and the Blue Trail is about 2/3 mile. If you walk the total loop all the way around (Red and Blue), you’re still only looking at about 8/10 mile. So these are not Mt. Everest, to say the least.
For kicks, we decided to try the stroller since the ground was still a little muddy from the melting snow and my motivation for getting through this walk (besides a need for some exercise and a blog post) was a reward in the form of a basket of Softies (delicious soft pretzels served with an irresistible honey-mustard dipping sauce) from nearby Wood-n-Tap–not gonna happen if Boo was covered in mud.
I can now say with certainty that this is NOT a walk for a stroller. While the terrain is relatively flat, it’s also punctuated with tree roots and rocks and fallen twigs and all those other pesky stroller-impediments found in nature.
But that’s okay, because the point of this was really to see if a preschooler could handle it sans stroller. And the answer there is a resounding YES. These are adorable, well-marked little trails that wind to and fro with gentle slopes, pass by bogs teeming with wildlife (you’ll march to a chorus of frogs), and make you feel like you are lost in the woods even though your car is less than a half mile away. What a perfect adventure for your nature lovin’ little one!
I sheepishly admit that we bailed on the big loop and only completed the Red Trail (I was hungry!). But we’ll definitely come back to let Boo do a little exploring on his own.
And now that we know about the beautiful bike path, we can make this a multi-tasking activity– a little exercise for me, followed by some entertainment (courtesy of Mother Nature) for Boo.
Wethersfield, Connecticut (parking area at the corner of Folly Brook Blvd and Eagle Drive)
Get directions here (for a general idea, but refer to the map above to see how to get to the parking area):
- Convenient parking near the trail entrances.
- Posted trail maps.
- Gravel bike path is stroller-friendly (this segment is about 1 mile each way).
- Two nature hikes (Red Trail=1/3 mile; Blue Trail=2/3 miles; total loop=8/10 mile)
- Nature hikes are not stroller-friendly but can be easily navigated by a walking child (with adult supervision).
- Although we did not see any on the Red Trail, information I have found indicates that there may be little bridges over wet areas of the trail.
- Green space near the trails for playing or picnicking.
- Sneakers are appropriate footwear for the nature trails.
- You may want to dress your little one in long pants because although the trails are cleared, there may be unknown (and potentially itch-inducing) foliage at their edges.
- Adult supervision is absolutely required as the trail does have areas of water bordering it that children could wander into if not supervised properly.
- Also, make your child aware of the bumpy footing (roots, twigs, rocks, etc.) so they know to walk slowly and pay attention to the terrain.
- Use a wearable baby carrier to tote your non-walking baby on a nature hike.
- The natural dirt surface may get muddy when there has been rain recently, so either take that into account when visiting or plan your visit when there has not been any rain for a few days (this applies to the parking area too).
- Due to all the bog/swamp-type areas, I imagine that these trails can get pretty buggy as the weather gets warmer. This might be a good activity for the early spring. Otherwise, be sure to bring plenty of bug spray. I love BullFrog Mosquito Coast because it is Deet-free and also contains an SPF30 sunscreen.
- I did not see any restrooms or porta-potties nearby.
- Looking for more activities in this area? Check out the Wethersfield Library, Mikey’s Place Playground, the Eleanor Buck Wolf Nature Center, or the Mill Woods Park Playground.
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