McLean Game Refuge Trails

Remember the McLean Sandwich? This is Better
Simsbury/Granby, about 13 Miles, solo

October 12 & 13, 2008

mr1.jpgLet’s be honest: I could have chosen a better place to hike during peak foliage this year. For there are very limited views at the expansive McLean Game Refuge, which straddles both Granby and northern Simsbury. But this year, I think I enjoyed the Fall colors in a different, more contemplative way.

I got my views – though, as you’ll read, the best ones weren’t on official CT 400(825) trails – but I got something much, much, MUCH better here than beautiful views of foliage…

Western Region 10/12/2008
Eastern Region 10/13/2008

McLean is a National Natural Landmark

The history of this place is fairly unique – as taken from the McLean Website:

Senator, and former Governor, George McLean was most at home in the woods. They gave him refuge and respite from the pressures of state and national politics. The woods and the creatures living here taught him the natural rhythms of season and weather. As his career allowed, he accumulated 3400 acres of abandoned farms and wild acres.

McLean hunted and fished the land, sharing it with his friend Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and with Presidents Coolidge and Taft and Hoover. He relied on the woodcraft and wisdom of a Native American, Amos George, a Pequot, whose sons succeeded him in caring for the trails, streams, and ponds that linked the land as it grew wild again.

mr2.jpgIn his will, Senator McLean left the Refuge, with a limited endowment, under the care of Trustees, to be open to the public, “subject to such restrictions and provisions as said trustees may in their discretion make for the preservation of said property and the wildlife thereon.” He wanted it to be, as he put it, “a place where some of the things God made may be seen by those who love them, as I loved them, and who may find in them the peace of mind and body that I have found.” The Trustees have added over a thousand acres to the Refuge since the Senator’s death, thanks to the generosity of several families and the state of Connecticut, and have cared for the land as the Senator provided in his will.

The passage of nearly a hundred years has brought challenges to historic Trout Pond and to the unique system controlling Bissell Brook which feeds it. This farsighted design, controlling the flow of the brook and the depth of the pond, was an example of the Senator’s vision and crafted by Amos George.

As in his work in Congress for preserving migrating birds, the Senator again was thinking as what we would now call an Environmentalist. Despite the encroachment of “civilization” the Yale study of the Refuge in 1981 noted 19 fish species, 17 amphibian species, 17 reptiles, 194 species of birds and 42 mammals within the Refuge. Sixteen of these species are rare or endangered.

The Refuge has always been open to the public for free for passive recreation and photography.

mr3.jpgWhich is all I ever ask for.

For more, there is a pdf link at the bottom here.

I hiked the Refuge over two consecutive days, splitting in half just as the CFPA Walk Book does – And Eastern and a Western section. The Walk Book does say that there are many more trails here than they describe. This is absolutely true, but what’s weird to me is that some that they do choose to describe/map are utterly unremarkable.

There are two rules of thumb here, avoid blue trails and and blazes are almost all sideways for some reason. Let’s get to it.


One response to “McLean Game Refuge Trails”

  1. Donna Niwinski says:

    Is this place a good spot to take a class of children birding?
    Im looking to take my Adventurer class first time birding and I would like to know if we would see several different varities of bird life there.

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