A few months ago, I stumbled across the website for The Nature Conservancy and read about some new trails in our county in the Morgan Swamp Preserve. It was shortly after the snow melted, so I figured a swamp would probably be extra muddy and I bookmarked the page and decided to save them for a drier time.
It's been hot and dry here most of the month and since the trail maps advertised trails through forests, it seemed like the perfect shady spot for a summer adventure.
The adventure got off to a rocky start. We wanted to start with the Long Pond Trail because the website advertised it as a .25-mile walk to an observation deck and then a mile to and from the observation deck, so I thought we'd be able to get a good 2 miles in there before it got to hot. But this trail head only had GPS coordinates and my Google Maps app didn't seem receptive to those, so I got a general idea of where the road was and decided to wing it.
We got near the area where the road should have been, but there were no street signs, so I kept going a little farther until I came upon a semi that was blocking the entire road with cones in front of it. We turned around chose a random road to take until we could find a good spot to pull over and search for the road on Google Maps.
All of the sudden, I saw a barn quilt with a beaver design and I knew that was near the trail head--unfortunately, the entrance to the parking lot was overgrown and I didn't see the sign until it was too late. After finding a spot to turn around, we eventually got to the trail head and could start our adventure.
Barley was so excited to be on a new trail and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was very little mud to navigate around.
The Nature Conservancy's website said that beavers and river otters were common sights along the trail, so we made sure to stop and look for them, but we saw no signs of either.
There were a lot of vines and stumps and logs that gave us an opportunity to pose for pictures and take a little breather in the shade. (It was only 77 degrees, but Barley was not a happy camper.)
I was surprised to see that we'd only gone about .58 miles total by the time we got to the end of the trail. Apparently the calculations of the trail length were calculated based on the round trip on the trail, not one way like I'd originally assumed.
|It's time for a water break!|
Overall, I'd rate the Long Pond Trail as a C+. There were no trash cans (luckily Barley listened to her mother and went before she left the house, so no trash cans were needed). The trails was pretty short, so for the length of the drive to get there, it might not be worth it. But there was endless shade, which my Abominable Snow Pup really appreciates. There were also countless chipmunks rushing through the woods, so that was another plus in Barley's eyes.
Since we'd gotten less mileage than anticipated, we went off in search of the other trails at the Grand River Conservation Campus at Morgan Swamp Preserve.
This section of the preserve had several trails that could be pieced together for a longer walk, so we started on the Bliss Pond Trail where Barley got another chance to look for wildlife. We saw a frog hop into the pond, but that's as exciting as we got.
Then we veered off onto the Grand River Trail where we got some nice views of the Grand River, but a lot of the trail was pretty overgrown. I'm not a fan of walking through tall grass, but Barley was more than happy to blaze a trail--unfortunately, I got a face full of spider webs on more than one occasion.
Eventually, we got to the Hemlock Swamp Trail that took us through a hemlock yellow birch forest. I've always loved seeing bark peeling off of trees in a scroll-like manner, so that was a big plus for this trail.
There was also plenty of shade for Barley to enjoy, but there weren't very many benches along this trail and it was harder to find good spots to take water breaks and take a breather for my pup. We saw a few benches early on, but they were surrounded by overgrown grass, so we skipped those in hopes of finding a good log to rest on or benches with clearer paths to them.
This section of the preserve also had some nice meadows. I enjoyed them more than Barley did since they were low on shady spots, but there were also lots of daisies growing along the trail and it's hard not to be happy when you see daisies.
This section definitely earned a solid B as far as trails go. It was peaceful with a variety of landscapes to enjoy. If the trails were a little better maintained on the Grand River trail, we would have loved it even more.
As we were heading back to the car, we ran into a reporter from a local weekly paper. He asked if he could take our picture for the paper and asked a few questions about our visit. Of course, I hadn't showered since I expected some mud and bugs--and I was wearing a 15-year-old t-shirt that I'd happened to sleep in the night before, but Barley smiled like a pro. Here's hoping my students and colleagues skip this week's issue of the paper!