Sunday, December 12, 2021

Over the creek...into the forest

     I visited the Cambridge Community Forest for the first time recently. Right away I foresee a big problem. You have to cross a foot bridge over White Creek to access the woods, but the scene looking up the stream is so enchanting that it's hard to go any further. Visitors may never make it beyond this view unless they know there's many more treasures on the other side.

     The 140 acre property has been open to the public for less than a month but it has been several years getting to this point. The previous owners had managed it for timber production while also allowing the school to use the land for environmental education. When the property was put up for sale local citizens recognized a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately, the Agricultural Stewardship Association, with financial support from the Open Space Institute and several other organizations and individuals, came to the rescue. ASA typically holds easements on farmland but in this case they have title and will manage the forest with help from a Friends group and volunteers. 

     If you can pull yourself away from the view of White Creek you'll come to an attractive kiosk (hewn timbers and a slate roof!). From there several marked trails branch off with many more planned. An easy, level path parallels the water. Whimsical signs attached to trees make this a natural playground for younger children. In short order you come to a tributary rivulet that was gurgling briskly downhill after a day of heavy rain. We headed up along it exploring the phyllite rock  ledges before eventually finding the den of a well-fed porcupine (judging by the copious scat at its entrance).

     The forest is a mix of white pine groves and open hardwoods with hemlocks higher up. I believe Jared Woodcock (one of the spark plugs behind the creation of the Community Forest) will be doing some horse logging here from time to time. That will be fun to see. There are some existing skid roads from previous harvests. They are wide enough and just the right grade to make great ski runs. Bring on the snow!

     What's also intriguing is the possibility of a connecting trail between the Community Forest and the Mt.Tom State Forest which lies just a ways to the east. Wood products, wildlife and quiet recreation are the bounty of these rugged Taconic hills.

     Cambridge has long been one of my favorite destinations for running and biking, for paddling and swimming. The Community Forest just makes it that much sweeter. And speaking of sweet, if you go on a Sunday morning be sure to stop at Kings Donut Cart. We picked up some amazing almond and walnut croissants. The farmers market is on Sunday as well. There's also a brew pub, several restaurants and a number of interesting shops in town. It takes a village (especially one with a community forest) to make a great getaway. 

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     Note that you park a short ways from the bridge and walk down Rockside Drive to enter the forest. Turn off Rt. 22 onto Rt. 313 and the parking area is a quick right turn (see map on right). On the trail map at left the blue and orange trails are marked and easy to follow. The green trails are planned for the future so wandering up there would be more of a bushwhack at this time.

     Here's a link to a video about the forest.


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