Exploring Beyond Pulpit Rock’s Chasm
by Bill Coder
BLT members may be quite familiar with the central trails leading from the main parking area on New Boston Rd. to the Pulpit, into the rocky chasm and then the hemlock-shaded brook valley to Gage’s Mill. Some may have even followed the white trail following the Pulpit Brook southward to Joppa Hill Farm. It is less likely you may have ventured onto parcels added in the past two decades, heading to the east and west boundaries of the expanded conservation area. Some of these areas’ features are enhanced by seasonal changes; currently, deciduous trees are in transition to brilliant colors in these higher parts of the conservation area. Three upland areas highlighted below all contain groups of towering sugar maples adjacent to stone walls, suggesting similar past land use.
Pulpit Road Parking and Gage’s Mill Trail
Pulpit Road skirts the eastern edge of the conservation property. Near a brook crossing, a parking area on Pulpit Road and Gage’s Mill trailhead provides access to the southern end of the expanded Pulpit area. As you descend Gage’s Mill trail, a stand of old sugar maples flank stone walls, surrounded in turn by tall hemlocks alongside a spur of the Pulpit Brook. Further on, Gage’s Mill trail links up with the southern stretch of the main “white trail” system. Re-routing over a new bridge is part of significant trail improvements completed within the past year; note that the online trail map hasn’t yet caught up.
Martin Trail provides an out-and-back hike ending at a hayfield at the southwest corner of the property. Though it has a significant elevation gain, the moderate climb from the southern section of the Tufts Trail is well worth the effort. The field at the end offers excellent northward views of the Uncanoonuc peaks. In spring, a pair of vernal pools form close to the midpoint in the trail. Martin Trail may be a candidate for snowshoeing or cross-county skiing in winter. It is best accessed from the Pulpit Road parking area described above.
Another lightly used out-and-back trail heads from the center of the Pulpit area to the eastern boundary. Scouting Way begins about the mid-point of Campbell trail which bypasses the chasm area on the east. Scouting Way can be accessed from either parking area. It incorporates an old country road featuring many stone walls. Just inside a wide wall on the east boundary is a grove of about six old sugar maples that dwarf younger trees that have grown up beside them. The largest maple has a diameter over 4 ft. and an estimated height of about 80 ft.
Conservation easement monitoring of Pulpit has stimulated my exploring many parts of the property. I encourage checking out some unfamiliar areas. Please consult the Pulpit Rock Detailed Trail Map at http://www.bedfordlandtrust.org/pulpit-rock-conservation-land.