Open Spaces / Vary Your Walking Route for Fun and Fitness
I am still marveling at the extraordinary trek of the South Dakota mountain lion who overcame countless natural and human obstacles to reach Milford, only to be brought low on the Wilbur Cross Parkway.
But let's remember that we humans are ancient and distinguished walkers. With due respect to our intrepid lion, human history documents far more extraordinary overland journeys.
In fact, we owe our success as a species largely to the advantages of getting around on two legs. We are built to walk, and when called upon, to run. Walking (or running, a high-intensity variation on walking) is universally singled out as a key fitness activity. But modern life has led us away from walking, to our detriment.
Can the lion's story inspire us to reclaim our biological heritage? Sure, but we would do better to take inspiration from the walkers among us. You know who they are, in outfits ranging from stylish Spandex to gym-rat T-shirts, regularly seen on foot in your neighborhood. For some, the walk is overtly purposeful: walking a dog, transporting groceries, or catching up on phone calls. For the others, well, they're just walking -- doing what comes naturally to us, for pleasure and exercise.
Even veteran walkers need varied routes to maintain interest. In the Riverfield/Mill Plain Road neighborhood, for example, there are three Open Space areas -- Springer Glen, Flower House Drive/Duck Farm, and Riverfield -- that can be linked to create an interesting street-and-trail route of up to four miles.
They are arrayed along the Mill River as it meanders south below Samp Mortar Lake. I'm going to lay out one route, but you can start or end it anywhere it suits you. It's a great chance to see the neighborhood up close, take in some nature, and get in a good walk.
You can enter 37-acre Springer Glen a few ways from the bend of Stillson Road near Mill Plain Road, or from Pheasant Lane. It's big enough to have several trails, but for this walk we'll stick to the "yellow" half-mile peripheral trail, sloped, wooded and generally in very good shape (there are some roots, and, at times, wet spots).The stretch along the Mill River is fun, especially when the river is running.
Back on Mill Plain Road below the bridge construction at Brookside, walk a quarter-mile to Flower House Drive. At the end of the street you'll find the entrance to the Flower House Open Space.
Along with the adjoining Duck Farm tract, it makes up a four-acre parcel on the east bank of the Mill River. The river is artificially wide here because of gravel excavation a century ago. The 250-yard trail, which ends at a gate at Duck Farm Road, is not always easy to follow but it's there. In the summer, the view of the river is obscured, but there are a few places where you can get down to the water's edge.
Almost directly across Duck Farm Road is a service road, but before you take it, stop on the bridge for a look upriver, and then look on the other side at a more undisturbed stretch.
The service road is about 300 yards long, and ends at the Riverfield School ball fields. The river has receded into the woods, but a Cub Scout sign marks the start of the trail into the 18-acre Riverfield Open Space area, land left over after the Riverfield School was built. The trail is about a quarter-mile long, and after you pass a meadow it will bring you alongside the Mill River. Despite some evidence of "human disturbance" here, I suspect the river looks much as it did centuries ago. There is also an outlet trail along the south end of the school.
Take a walk to honor the lion, and join our unsung heroes already out there being quintessentially human.
Ron Blumenfeld is a retired pediatrician, a member of the Fairfield Board of Health and an experienced hiker. His "Open Spaces" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.