USA - Hidden Valley Preserve

This post is part of the CT bucket list

I'm already irritated. The day has not gone like I planned it. In my head there is the fantasy of a beautiful and serene hike with my partner out to a lovely quartz mine, and some posed photos on a picturesque bridge.

My partner wouldn't get out of bed to come with me, and I knew I needed to blog about something this week. I wanted it to be the aforementioned story of perfection.

Despite not having a hiking partner, I start to feel better along the way. It is an hour commute to get to Hidden Valley Preserve from where I am. Things take a sharp turn away from my fantasy story when we arrive.

The parking area is a mud hole. It's not even a lot, just a muddy unpaved section next to the road. It wasn't what I expected, welcome to nature. I try to keep the girls from walking directly in it but that is a fruitless endeavor. I sigh and drop my hands to my side. Anna and Lexi are covered up to their elbows in thick mud.

Nature doesn't care about my perfect fantasy blog story, my perfect instagram bridge photo, or the quartz I plan to take back with me for my altar.

A group of tourists are posing on the only bridge to enter the park from where I parked, and the bridge is narrow. Single file please.

I wait, visibly irritated, with my headphones in while they laugh and enjoy their perfect photos. When they realize how frozen and tough the trail is on the other side, they've already decided to turn back and go home.

The entry to the trail is well trodden for how much snow is still on the ground, but I'm determined to get this hike done. I have a blog to write, I don't have time for nature's nuances.

The first fallen tree I go around easily. It's a little slippery on the slope upwards but as long as I avoid the areas that are packed down I can avoid falling. I trek upwards until I reach a 4-way intersection. Reaching into my pocket I pull out the crumpled map I had thought well to print before coming here.

Straight ahead.

But there's only a handful of tracks going this way, the rest of them go the other ways. I hesitate to wonder why that is but don't attribute it to anything important. Perhaps the quartz mine isn't as captivating to the locals as it is to me?

I trudge forward and within seconds the rushing sound of water fills my ears, drowning out the music in my headphones. I scold myself for trying to take part in nature and not even trying to enjoy the sounds. Gently tucking them into my pocket, I take a deep breath in of the crisp air and feel my muscles relax.

The music of the water is ambient, the snow deadens any other sounds around me. I continue forward while checking my map occasionally to guesstimate where I may be. It isn't too long before I run into signs of the forest's inhabitants.. Deer, raccoon, pheasant, and the largest turkey tracks I've ever seen cross my path at various points.

I wonder how big that turkey has to be to leave a footprint so large. If I run into this turkey, I wonder if I could claim self defense as an excuse to eat it. Hey, I'm a southern girl at heart - I can't help it.

My mood has already lightened. Nature tends to have that effect on me even when I start out irritated. The trail is beginning to narrow and wind, and I've caught sight of where the sound of rushing water is coming from. As I get closer, the trail narrows even more and I start slipping regularly. I have work boots that are supposed to be winter worthy, but even the slip resistant bottoms aren't helping me on the solid ice of this trail. I finally come to a point where I am at an impasse. I know I can't continue safely, but my desire for my instagram photo is very strong. Even the dogs are struggling to keep their footing, and the ravine is steep beside the narrow trail.

I have a sudden flash of one of my girls slipping off that ravine, and how helpless I'd be, unable to reach them. Thinking better from this flash of fear, I turn back begrudgingly.

There will be no quartz, no bridge, and no perfect photo (this time!). On my way back I have time to reflect on how nature had its own plan that cared nothing about my instagram worthy photo. I find that I'm truly at peace inside.

We tried for one anyway though - a shared kiss on a small bridge over a creek, filter and all.

Hidden Valley Preserve is located in Litchfield, CT. It is a 700 acre area with several trails for various levels of hikers. You can download and print a map of it here, and various points of interest are marked - including the quartz mine.

For winter hiking, it is best to have sturdy boots and a pair of ice cleats. The bridges are narrow and do get solid patches of ice, as well as the trail.

What to know:
-The parking I utilized is off Route 47, and was an unpaved/dirt shoulder off the road. Be prepared for mud if it has rained or snowed recently.
-There is no fee for parking or entry to this park
-Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed
-There are no trash cans, carry out any trash you carry in
-There are no restrooms or water spigots
-Hours are from sunrise to sunset
-Kayak/Canoes are welcomed, and there is a launch point noted on the map near the parking area.

In the spring/summer, I returned for my perfect bridge photo and got it:



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