Much of Cheshire is shut down at the moment, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, what remains open for use are the numerous hiking trails around town.
As the weather warms, residents stuck inside at the moment may want to take advantage of these natural resources, which provide not only much-needed exercise but a chance to escape into nature for a while.
In the summer of 2018, The Cheshire Herald ran a series of articles detailing the different trails around town. We thought now would be a good time to revisit those experiences, sharing with you what we saw on some of the trails open to the public.
It’s important to remember that all social distancing protocols should be adhered to while hiking, and that reports of mass gatherings at these or any other open space areas of town could force their closure.
There’s a popular commercial that has as its tag line, “Want to get away?”
Many are probably answering “yes” to that question about now but, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of destinations from which to choose.
The problem with the whole world being in some form of lockdown to combat COVID-19 is that opportunities for escape become limited. Moving from your front to back yard when the weather is nice, or perhaps taking a stroll around the neighborhood, counts as “getting away from it all” for many these days.
Our worlds have become much smaller.
But there are still opportunities to leave things behind for a few hours and immerse oneself in nature. And perhaps nothing offers that sense of separation from our world quite like a walk through the DeDominicis Preserve in the south end of Cheshire.
No, this beautiful piece of land does not hide a vortex through which one can step into a different dimension. It is, as is all property in Cheshire, surrounded by civilization — roads and homes and barking dogs. But for some reason, those sounds of normal life seem to fade as one heads deeper into this part of nature, leaving hikers to share a brief moment with the outside world that isn’t filled with the need for modern conveniences.
In August of 2018, The Herald spent several hours walking a few of the many trails that run through and around this property, and noticed how unique the preserve truly is:
Within minutes of beginning one’s hike, leaving behind homes and well-manicured yards, nature takes over completely.
While the faint sounds of the outside world can still be discerned, they are all but drowned out by the chirping of birds overhead, the buzz of insects, and the cries of hidden wildlife. Whichever way you go, whatever trail you decide to take, DeDominicis feels set apart from the things of man … .
In use for over a century as part of a larger farm system focused on “haying, grazing, and woodlot purposes,” according to the description of the property provided by the Town, the DeDominicis land rests entirely within the Mill River Watershed, and one is greeted by the sounds of rushing water off in the distance a few minutes into their hike. More than 26 acres of the property also overlay the Level A South Cheshire Aquifer, meaning water is found running all throughout the DeDominicis property.
The 185 acres that comprise the property were purchased by the Town of Cheshire in 2003, in conjunction with the Regional Water Authority and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The land was purchased from the Aldo DeDominicis Foundation, as well as Clorinda and Enzo DeDominicis.
Trails are accessible via two different locations — one off of Corliss Lane and another off of Old Lane Road — and the red trail serves as a central artery for the hike. The terrain is at times rough and follows many ridges, which means the hike flows much like a wave, moving from ridges to valleys and providing extraordinary scenery throughout.
There isn’t much dense vegetation, meaning the views are open, allowing the walker to see yards ahead. And though the trail offers the usual small impediments — roots, small branches, rocks — one can easily enjoy a look around while carefully watching each footfall.
And in the midst of that scenery, bursts of color can be seen through, as The Herald discovered back in 2018:
Most definitely, the landscape is a sea of green — from the tree leaves to the grass that at times covers the ground so lightly it appears like a fuzz on the ground — but every once in a while, a hiker will come upon a bright explosion of reds or pinks or white. The mushrooms, big and small, provide the most powerful infusions of color, standing out amongst the other vegetation like droplets from a painter’s brush. But the color can be seen in other places as well — the blackness of the water rushing through streams; bright yellow fungus growing on a tree stump; the deep maroon of tree shards, having broken off from a shattered trunk; and the pinked-winged butterflies that occasionally flutter by.
Walkers will have to keep their eyes out for the more unique colors, but they are there waiting to be found.
Yet, if you decide to take a walk around the DeDominicis Preserve, your eyes should not be solely focused on the stagnant life around you, but instead constantly on the lookout for the wildlife that make this part of Cheshire their home. On our journey in 2018, we came across two white tail deer standing 50 or so yards away. Startled by our presence, the large deer bounded over the many fallen limbs and giant rocks that were in their path and quickly disappeared up and over a nearby ridge.
The fluidity of their movement and athletic ability to navigate the environment was truly a site to behold.
Further down the trail, another animal came into view. Perhaps a fox or a smaller-sized coyote, it too was frightened by the sound of a hiker and scampered away — less athletic than the deer, but equally effective in quickly disappearing into the terrain.
While there is never a guarantee of seeing wildlife, the immense size of the DeDominicis Preserve coupled with the open landscape make it more likely that you’ll catch a glimpse of something before they do you.
And that’s part of the fun of the Preserve. Though smack in the middle of Cheshire, it can and does feel like a world apart. For those looking to escape this world for a few moments, it is worth the time, effort and energy.