Peter Marteka describes a visit to the Weantinoge's Heritage Land Trust's Alice McCallister Memorial Sanctuary in Kent.
Water lilies were French impressionist artist Claude Monet's favorite subject in hundreds of his paintings. He would have found plenty of subject matter to paint along the banks of Mud Pond.
The name of Mud Pond is a bit misleading. The surface of the clear water is heavily speckled with water lilies blooming in the hot summer sun. A mile-long trail runs along the fern-lined banks of the pond giving visitors plenty of opportunity for silent reflection as dragonflies dance over the surface and frogs groan and gulp beneath the water.
The preserve is named after Alice McCallister, Weantinoge's Heritage Land Trust's founder and first president. According to the trust, the sanctuary was slated to become an 8-lot subdivision before members saved it in the early 1990s using a combination of private donations and grants. The trust notes that it protects more than 400 acres around Mud Pond and in the mountains surrounding it.
After parking along Camps Flat Road, a short right-of-way leads to the trail head next to an old dump site. The trail travels through the woods briefly in the shadow of a quartzite ridge on your right before leading to the banks of the pond.
"The sanctuary has an amazing diversity of species, including the state's biggest black ash trees," the trust notes. "It will take years to find most of the species – some rare." The pond is also popular in all seasons including ice fishing in the winter. A visit during peak foliage in the autumn must be spectacular.
The trail twists a few feet from the banks of the pond. Several large trees have fallen into the pond offering a unique way to view the summer splendor of the pond. Open areas of clear water mix in with clumps of marsh grass. Tory Mountain looms over the pond in the distance.
The trail winds south to the remains of an old cabin and ends at the town's border with New Milford although an unmarked path continues to wind through the forest. Visitors can also return to the trail head and walk east along Camps Flat Road to hike along the dirt Mud Pond Road to get a view from the eastern banks of the pond.
Within the preserve, a side trail marked with yellow blazes takes visitors up to the top of the ridge. A bench has been placed so visitors can sit and take in the view of fully leafed-out trees. Although the map notes the location as a scenic overlook, it is definitely better viewed during late fall to early spring when all the leaves are down.
So fill your backpack with paintbrushes and a canvas and head out to Kent to take in the beauty of Mud Pond. The beauty of the summer lilies may inspire you to become the next Monet.
The bottom line: Trails wind through the 64-acre preserve along the banks of beautiful Mud Pond and along a ridge with a seasonal view.
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.
Total mileage: There is a total of about 1.5 miles of trails. (Visit https://weantinoge.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MCCALLISTER-3.9.16-Updates.pdf for a map of the trails)
Parking: There is a small parking area at the trail head. There is also parking along the road.
Pet-friendly? Dogs need to be leashed and cleaned up after.