The Hikers Shelter at Muddy Pond

The Hikers Shelter at Muddy Pond



Spring finally seems to have arrived, though somewhat late and it’s got some catching up to do. It was on one of those warm, sunny afternoons we had last week that I decided to hike out to Muddy Pond in Westminster.

The Mid-State trail runs by it, and the Westminster Conservation Commission has built an Adirondack-style hiker’s shelter – made of logs, three walls with one side open looking out over the pond. I approached from the south, from where the trail turns back into the woods from Bragg Hill Road.

It’s about a mile or mile and a half, a nice walk in good conditions. The open sunnier areas were dry and easy going. Once into the deeper woods, however, conditions got considerably more difficult. The snowmelt had created large pools in some places and fast-moving streams in others. I had to do a lot of bushwhacking to find a suitable place to cross. The snow was still knee-deep and soft, and the ice was unreliable. These obstacles would have been impossible to negotiate without trekking poles and microspikes.

The snow and mud provided plenty of opportunities to study animal tracks. There were lots of deer tracks, and a bear had ambled along the trail for quite a distance not too long ago. The tracks were fairly fresh. Coyote tracks showed up occasionally, and possibly a bobcat, though I can’t be sure. It was old, and there had been some melting so it was distorted. And I saw signs of porcupines in the area – gnaw marks on hemlock branches, a favorite food source for them.

The pond itself was still completely frozen over. I had only been here once before, maybe 20 years ago. It was larger than I remembered it. Across the pond there was a dock reaching out into the water, but I didn’t see a house or camp. It could have been set farther back in the woods.

Two-thirds of the land around the 30-acre pond is protected from development – 500 acres of Westminster Conservation land, 32-acres of state forest land, a large parcel privately owned, but under a conservation restriction.

The Mount Grace Land Trust, based in Athol, has mounted a campaign to raise the funds necessary to place the remaining third under a conservation restriction, and to expand the trail system. The landowner is willing to sign over the conservation restriction for significantly less than the land is worth; the town has pledged some money; and the state has approved a grant.

According to a news report, $39,000 still needs to be raised.