Here’s a brief tour of some of the more notable features of the trails, for those who haven’t visited Keleher yet, along with some thoughts about trail development in the new section. It’s May 2014; the snow has melted and the foliage is just starting to emerge. So don your sturdy footgear, pack some water, and perhaps a snack, grab a trail map, and we’re off!
From the trailhead on Gulf Hill Road, head east into the preserve along the White Trail, which slopes slightly downward. (After roughly 400’, you might see a line of white tape markers extending off your left, heading into the forest; this is a potential new trail, which will provide easy access to the northwest corner of the expanded preserve.) Continue on through the trees until you come to the first bridge, which has a series of tubes attached to the right-hand rails; the tubes are actually a tuned musical instrument which you can play by using the attached paddles.
In the next quarter of a mile or so, you’ll encounter rolling terrain, both wooded and open, and four footbridges; the last one spans a small ravine. Crossing the bridge leads to another sharp left turn and perhaps the steepest uphill climb in the preserve; one of the many benefits of the new parcel is the ability to add the aforementioned potential trail, which will enable visitors to access the preserve while avoiding this climb! Okay, catch your breath at the top of the steepest section and then continue onward for a few hundred yards or so, where you’ll arrive at a “Y.” Bear left to continue along the White Trail or right to begin the Blue Trail.
All of the trails connect, so let’s head right. Blue continues along the old road for a short while before making a left into the woods. You’ll wander through the forest along an
undulating trail, passing cairns and encountering a short steep downhill section, until you come to a crossing with what looks like a heavily used trail (after a distance of roughly ¼ mile from the trail split). You can make a right turn and proceed for roughly ½ mile to the southernmost tip of the Preserve, where you’ll see the Powerline right-of-way and be able to look eastward into the valley; if you follow this path, you’ll have to turn around and take the ½ mile hike back to the crossing. Or, you can cross the Trail and continue along the Blue Trail, heading downhill in sections until you come to the bottom of the last hill and you make a left onto the eastern section of the Blue trail, which runs along a ridgeline that provides views of the valley as you travel northward. Note: this trail section can be soggy, so be sure to wear waterproof boots.
Hike along for roughly 7/10’s of a mile, checking out the views to your right and keeping an eye out for the face in the base of a tree (hint: look for a bright tape marker); perhaps you’ll even see the Great Gray Owl I’ve encountered along this section of trail in the past. After the trail has travelled uphill for a while, you’ll come to another “Y;” this is the intersection with the Red Trail, which takes you on a short 1/10 mile jaunt to an overlook. You might see a porcupine sleeping atop one of the trees and you will see an “End of Trail” sign, although the trail appears to continue. We’ll be working to complete the extension of the Red Trail this Spring, so that it will reconnect to the Blue Trail on the other side. For now, turn back and then make a right when you return to the Blue Trail. You’ll continue uphill for a bit, coming out on a flat section where you’ll see low-lying blueberry bushes. The Blue trail continues to your right through the woods and then down a short steep section; look to your right at the bottom and you’ll see where the Red Trail will emerge from. Heading left, travel for a few hundred yard and you’ll come to the “end” of the Blue trail, where it rejoins the White trail. Look to your right and you’ll see another “End of Trail” marker; this will eventually be an extension of the White Trail which will take you all the way to the northwest corner of the expanded Preserve. For now, continue along the existing White trail, heading
uphill until the trail levels out and you come to another crossing with the “heavily used” trail we encountered in the earlier part of our trek on the Blue Trail. From this point on, virtually all of the remaining travel will be over level ground or downhill, so relax and enjoy! You’ll have ¼ mile hike back to the first “Y,” passing through more low-lying blueberry bushes in the last section. Once you’re back at the “Y.” head right to return to the trailhead. You hiked roughly 3 miles, unless you visited the power lines, which added another mile to your trek.
Peter Stoj | Preserve Steward, Keleher