Friday, July 26, 2013

Out and about in the Lakes Region By Leah Hoenen

Weekend walks with the dogs are our ritual. They signal the beginning of the weekend, two precious days to focus on our family and our home and decompress from the week at work. For the dogs, the weekend means two days of fun, adventure and our devoted attention. Typically, we start at Black Brook Preserve.

The first trail we explored when we moved to Windham, it remains our favorite. In a year of hiking, we’ve only encountered two other sets of dogs and their people, and one day we met people from The Windham Land Trust doing maintenance.

It’s so quiet there that my husband gave me the one-eyebrow-up, I’m-not-sure-this-is-your-best-idea look when I started writing this.

We start from the Windham Center Road, walk past wildflowers and head into the woods. The hiking is slowly uphill until we reach a huge boulder, climb a little more and scurry downhill and around to where beavers have dammed the brook and creating a large, gray pond. There is usually evidence of their work along the trail. Bullfrogs croak and birds rustle around in the plants along the water’s edge, confounding the dogs, who aren’t sure if they want to investigate those noises or hurry past.

It’s a little wet in the middle of the trail, but there is a series of well-maintained bridges to keep our feet dry, although the dogs reliably opt for the wet-and-muddy route.

Trails criss-cross the 105-acre Black Brook Preserve, allowing hikers to choose routes of a variety of lengths. The mid-length route is our favorite (we take the Diamond Trail to the Hawkes Trail and follow that back to Diamond), giving us and the dogs a nice bit of exercise over about two miles of rising and falling terrain. The trail runs through beautiful woods underlain with ferns and shrubs.

Though the parcel touches Roosevelt Trail and Route 202, it’s largely quiet except for the sounds of birds and frogs; just a little road noise is audible along parts of the trail. It offers a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the highways in town.

The preserve feels very well established. Some of the trees are clearly quite old and one gets the sense that the trails have been walked and the ambiance enjoyed millions of times by those with a deep appreciation for nature.

The Windham Land Trust’s website ( says Black Brook Preserve is open for hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, which is limited to certain sections.

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