Two identical very different trips through the Alford Valley

Alford this past week was a string of turquoise days. Dry air and golden sunshine combined into a perfect backdrop for a couple of ambles through the Alford Valley.

On two different days, I took identical routes with different forms of transportation. The first was a walk with my friend Bess, as we surveyed winter damage and restored the trails to passable condition. Along the way, we treated ourselves to a visit to the Devil’s Den. The second outing was with Alice (Spot’s Mom), on horseback.

Here is a crude map of the ground we covered.

[All of the pictures here can be enlarged by clicking on them; return to the post with the “back” arrow on your browser.]



The orange square indicates our starting point (Thyme Hill) on East Road. The green square has no particular significance other than to mark the point south of which I had cell coverage in only one direction. Although our routes out and back were identical, the app I was using seemed to be only approximately accurate. Still, it’s a nice picture of the ground covered that would be hard to map any other way.

I’m very appreciative of having neighbors who generously allow passage over their trails. From my house, heading north, I traverse over the land of the Haas’s, and thence into the property of Frank & Mary Wilcox. When Frank was alive, he took his small ATV out on his trails and kept them open. He was always delighted to hear that I had been using them for hiking, skiing, or horseback riding. Along the ridge (on the westerly dogleg just above the green square), we come to Ray Wilcox’s property. His is the large pasture to the west of all that. The route then jogs north into Henry Flint’s large network of trails. The Devil’s Den is above one of his trails. At the top of the lollipop, we skirted the edge of a pasture used by the Scribner Brook Farm, which is clearly visible to its west. The westernmost loop turns south along the Alford Brook, and takes an old road with an impressive stone wall, overlooking a large beaver pond. Although the beaver dam is mostly intact, we did not see any signs of recent activity.

The entire route was nearly 4 miles. On foot, what with flower-watching, wrangling downed trees, and taking a break in the coolness of the Devil’s Den, the trip took us nearly 4 hours. On horseback, the same route took about an hour to cover.

Along the way, we saw many ephemerals and other items of interest. Bess and I had the pleasure of stopping to enjoy them and to tour the cave, but the horses were not interested in any such distractions.

Here is the first trillium we saw:

Devil's Den 0001

And then, a triumvirate of trilliums (no, “trillia” is not the plural of trillium!):

Devil's Den 0002

There were many trilliums flowering on the hillside below the Devil’s Dan. There were also large patches of ramp and blue cohosh; the latter being nearly a foot tall at this point. We headed up the rocky slope to reach the hidden Den.

Devil's Den 0003

Bess admired the moist colors above the entrance, and beneath her was a large residual block of ice.

Devil's Den 0004Devil's Den 0005

As we carefully made our way down into the interior to inspect the Alter Stone, we could look back to gauge the thickness of the ice.

Devil's Den 0006

We looked back at the entrance as we turned to head back down the hillside by a different path. Devil's Den 0007Devil's Den 0008

While taking care not to slide too fast on the slippery oak leaves and hemlock needles, we noticed leavings of a porcupine winter feast. Evidently, they like to eat the tender needles at the ends of small branches, but doing that on the tree is a little tricky, so they gnaw off the branches and let them fall to the ground, where they are easy to munch on. It may be hard to tell from the photo, but this was quite a pile of such hemlock branches, with clear teeth marks where than had been cut.

 Devil's Den 0009

On the way back to the trail, we saw another trio of trilliums. We figured we could say we saw (at least) a troika of triumvirates of trilliums.

Devil's Den 0010

On horseback, it was a bit difficult to take pix. On the way past the beaver pond, I wished I had taken some on the previous trip, because we were moving too rapidly to be able to grab a photo without stopping, which didn’t seem to be the thing to do. By then, the horses realized we were heading home, and if they had shown any signs of tiring (which they really hadn’t, despite this being their first long outing of the season), that was all forgotten in their eagerness to get back to the barn.

The first shot is how the world looks to someone on Stewart’s back. He is patiently waiting for Spot to get ready. The second picture is of Alice as she finishes tacking Spot in my yard. Then come a couple of photos taken along the trail.

All in all, a glorious pair of days!

First Ride of the Season 0001First Ride of the Season 0002First Ride of the Season 0003First Ride of the Season 0004

1 comment

    • Barbara Lafer on May 10, 2015 at 9:10 AM
    • Reply

    this trail looks wonderful! I’ve lived in Alford for 15 years, have been an avid hiker, but have never heard of it. Where does it begin?


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