Friday, March 31, 2017

Back On the List: the Papermill Trail

Built c. 1865, the Cooper Paper Mill manufactured straw board until 1890. The process involved turning straw from local farms into a type of paper tough enough to be made into boxes, which were used to ship Connecticut-made products far beyond our little state. What remains of the mill now can be seen near one of the trailheads of the Papermill Trail in Madison, a blue-blazed loop through woods maintained by the Madison Land Conservation Trust. Beside the Hammonasset River lie the mill's fieldstone ruins. Water rushes over an abandoned dam, and iron rods protrude from the earth, a spiky reminder that this place, so quiet on a cold spring day, was not always so still.

The Papermill Trail had been on my list of local places to visit for ages, but then, at some point, I removed it. I guess I decided for some reason that it wouldn't be all that interesting. But when I happened to be nearby recently, I figured I might as well find the trail* and check it out.

And I discovered, as I have many times before, a surprisingly lovely pocket of natural beauty hidden just off the busy roads I'd unthinkingly driven on for years. A few delicate, papery leaves clung to the bare spring trees. Soft moss spread over the boulders on the hills. The trail was a worn, narrow path that sometimes climbed up or down on tree-root stairs.

I didn't have the time to walk more than a short distance from the road on this trip, but I've added the Papermill Trail to my list again. I'll go back some day when the harsh cold of spring has passed. Next time, I'll walk the rest of the trail to see what other surprises await at the spots on the map marked "stonewall" and "pool" and "stream." (When I do, it will be on my Instagram.)

*About finding this place: like so many of Connecticut's lesser-known attractions, this one seems to have been designed to be as easy to miss as possible. The trailhead where the mill ruins are located is on Fawn Brook Circle, just off Green Hill Road. Look to your right as soon as you turn onto Fawn Brook Circle and you'll (hopefully) spot a tiny wooden sign and a minuscule arrow attached to a tree, just above the height you'd expect to find signage. The small parking area, which has none of the usual identifying features of a parking area, is located just past the tree.

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