The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 2010

 


Exploring the Conant Land

by Helen Lyons


Distinctive rocks frame a view of Fishtail Pond (Photo by Helen Lyons)

The weather has warmed and the late-winter floodwaters have begun to recede. With spring comes the opportunity to get re-acquainted with the local hiking trails and to observe the abundant wildlife in Carlisle. Thanks to the Carlisle Trails Committee, Carlisle residents can enjoy miles of well-maintained trails that cover a variety of terrains, from riverside to farmland to forest. Spring is a great time to visit the Conant Land where a short hike reveals many unusual rock formations, vernal pools and a pond.

Landscape


One of several stone mounds visible from the Conant Trail. (Photo by Helen Lyons)The Conant Land includes over 50 acres of rolling hills, granite outcroppings, wetlands and woodlands – all in the center of Carlisle. According to the 2005 Open Space and Recreation Report, the town originally purchased the Conant Land to protect the water resources for the town center. As mixed-used municipal land, it soon became home to the Fire Department and the Town Hall. However, the inner, undeveloped core serves as a natural space and wildlife habitat and the Conant and Castle Rock Trails lead hikers to a quiet undisturbed space just minutes from the town center.

Trails and features


Ladyslipper carving from the 1997 on-site art exhibit (Photo by Helen Lyons)

The Conant Trail begins at the far end of the parking lot behind the Town Hall where a kiosk with a map marks the trailhead. The trail immediately brings the hiker to a small open field and a memorial to late Selectman Vivian Chaput. At the far end of the field, rocks carved by sculptor Joe Wheelwright, and natural boulders have been assembled to create a place for quiet contemplation. The trail then enters the woods and turns to the west, passing Fishtail Pond. Thick moss, partridge berry and low-bush blueberries line the edges of the trail which, as the weather warms, will soon be flanked by ferns. After passing over a small stream, past several stone mounds and through an opening in a stone wall, hikers will reach a trail sign where they can continue on the Conant Trail or turn left onto the Castle Rock Trail, which rises to the peak of Castle Rock. This impressive glacial formation provides great climbing spaces for children of all ages and a perfect spot to stop and watch for wildlife. From here the trail continues on to Rockland Road.

The Conant Trail (north) from the fork follows a lower ridge and crosses a stream before reaching a second fork where the hiker can continue to the left to Rockland Road, or turn to the right toward Old Morse Road to walk in the direction of the Transfer Station and eventually the Cranberry Bog. This segment of the trail crosses private land and requires permission from the landowner.

The Conant Land trails are short, less than one mile in length. A walk on both trails can be easily completed in less than an hour. The Conant Trail is one of 13 trails that residents must hike to earn the Carlisle Trekker Award.

Uses

In addition to hiking, the Conant Land is used by the Carlisle School for conservation education and for art classes. Over the years, other groups have encouraged townspeople to enjoy the Conant Land. In 1997 the Carlisle Cultural Council sponsored “On the Land,” an environmental site-specific sculpture exhibit. Some of these sculptures are still in place. Several other town groups have sponsored nature walks and vernal pool studies.

Access and parking

Hikers can access the Conant Land from the Town Hall parking lot, from Rockland Road or by trail from Old Morse Road. Parking is available at the lot behind the Town Hall.

Carlisle Trekker Award

To encourage residents to explore public land in town, the Carlisle Trails Committee sponsors the Carlisle Trekkers Award. A specially designed patch, numbered sequentially, is awarded to each Carlisle resident who hikes, jogs, skis or snowshoes the 13 trails listed on the Carlisle Trekker Award log. To earn the award, residents must also take part in at least one Trails Committee- sponsored work day. For a full list of the rules, see the Trails Committee website or download pdf file. ∆


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