Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on the trails you choose and the time of year. On the center’s trail map, trails are graded as easy, moderate or difficult.
How to get there: Hidden Valley Nature Center is located at 131 Egypt Road in Jefferson. To get there, start at the intersection of Route 194 (Jones Woods Road) and Route 215 (S Clary Road) in Newcastle; drive on Route 215 for 4.4 miles and turn left onto Egypt Road. Drive 0.5 miles and the gate parking area will be on your left, just before the gate, which bars visitors from the center’s service road. Hike up the service road and you will come to a kiosk on the right, which includes a donation box, trail maps and plenty of information about the center.
Information: Home to nearly 30 miles of multi-use forest trails, Hidden Valley Nature Center is a nonprofit education center that gives visitors access to 1,000 acres of contiguous forest in Lincoln County, including more an one mile of shoreline on Little Dyer Pond.
Founded in 2007 by husband and wife David “Tracy” Moskovitz and Bambi Jones, HVNC has a three-part mission: (1) To offer premier opportunities for outdoor, non-motorized recreation; (2) To offer educational opportunities related to the natural world, ecological literacy, and sustainable communities; And (3) to model innovative and sustainable forestry practices.
Over the past seven years, volunteers have helped develop a trail network for a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. Dogs are permitted if under control at all times. Carry out what you carry in and do not take souvenirs such as plants or rocks. Since HVNC is within a state wildlife preserve, hunting is not permitted.
A gravel and grass parking area is located beside the center’s gate off Egypt Road. From there, visitors walk around the gate and up the access road to reach the gatehouse, which is filled with information about the trail network, including updated trail maps and a pamphlet for a scavenger hunt game.
The scavenger hunt involves “Trail Guys,” large wooden green men created by Aaron Weissblum, a local game designer and artist. The Trail Guys are posted on trees along the kid-friendly Warbler Trail as well HVNC’s community clearing, where
The Barn and Hi Hut are located, as well as several picnic tables and a fire pit. Each Trail Guy has a different symbol on its chest, as well as a corresponding letter. The goal is to find each Trail Guy and record their letters to decode directions to “the scroll,” where you can write your name and email to be put into a drawing for prizes.
Also not far from the parking lot is the Kettle Hole Bog Boardwalk. To get there, take the Warbler Trail from the gatehouse to the Crossbill Loop, which leads to the short boardwalk. At the boardwalk are several
educational signs explaining about the various flora and fauna that can only be found in a sphagnum moss bog. For example, in the bog are three types of carnivorous plants, roundleaf sundews, pitcher plants and horned bladderwort.
All trails in the network are graded as easy, moderate or difficult on the HVNC trail map. Some travel along a ridge to partial views of the region, while other trails travel along the shore of the scenic Little Dyer Pond, home to osprey, geese and ducks. There are also a number of vernal pools, glacial erratics and ponds on the
property to investigate. Educational signs are posted along the trail to help visitors learn about these natural features, as well as many of the different trees on the property.
For visitors wishing for more than just a day visit to HVNC, the center is home to a yurt, two rustic cabins and two pondside campsites that people can rent any time of year.
Also, stay tuned to the HVNC website, hvnc.org, to learn about the many workshops they organize for the public year round. The workshop topics vary from mushrooms and cross-country skiing to timber frame building and sustainable forestry.
HVNC is always looking for volunteers to help maintain trails and buildings, staff events and lead workshops. For information, visit hvnc.org or call 586-6752.
Personal note: The windless day on Aug. 20 meant two things: (1) I would be attacked by an army of mosquitoes and deer flies, and (2) the surface of Little Dyer Pond was so smooth that it perfectly reflected the blue sky, the white puffy clouds, and the jagged evergreens along its shore.
While I’d heard about HVNC’s various workshops and superb cross-country skiing trails, I wasn’t prepared for the bog boardwalk, which was really cool. While my dog Oreo was allowed on the boardwalk, I had to make sure to keep him on a short leash so he wouldn’t dive into the deep moss and destroy delicate plants.
In addition to the boardwalk, my favorite places in the trail network were Two Dog Hut — a beautiful little building in the middle of the forest — and the South Campsite, which is right on the shore of Dyer Pond.
Some trails were wide, others were narrow, a few were overgrown, but for the most part, the trails were well-maintained. While the trails are named and marked with signs, carrying a map is an absolute must until you get to know the place. And don’t count on seeing everything on your first visit. I walked for hours and only made it to about half of the places I wanted to go. I plan to return in the winter to cross-country ski and visit the center’s warming hut.