Connecticut State Forests - Seedling Letterbox Series Clues for Nepaug State Forest
Nepaug State Forest -
Nepaug State Forest was originally established to protect the streams feeding the State Fish Hatchery in Burlington. The acquisitions in this area were known as the Burlington Block. In 1927, additional acquisitions were made to the north, in what became known as the Satan’s Kingdom Block of Nepaug Forest. In 1942, it was divided to create two forests. The southern Burlington Block became Nassahegon State Forest while the northern Satan’s Kingdom Block became Nepaug State Forest. Recent acquisitions have brought the size of Nepaug to 1,374 acres. The majority of the forest is found in New Hartford, with only a few acres being in Canton.
The forest is managed for sawtimber, firewood, wildlife habitat, and recreational activities such as hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, tubing, and bird watching.
To find this letterbox you will need to know how to figure distance by pacing. A good place to start would be to figure how many paces you take in 100 feet. A pace can be counted as one step or, as it is in forestry, as two steps. For a forester, one pace is measured from the heel of one foot to the heel of the same foot in the next stride. Whether you count your pace as a single step (one foot to the next) or as every two steps (one foot back to the same foot) does not really matter, as long as you are consistent. To learn your pacing, first measure a 100’ distance on the ground. Walk this distance at a comfortable pace for yourself, taking “normal” steps. Count the number of paces it takes to walk the 100’. Repeat this several times to figure your average pace for 100’. Now that you know your pace, you are all set to find the letterbox.
To follow these clues, you will also need to bring a compass.
Description: The letterbox is located off the Tunxis Trail within Nepaug State Forest. The walk is just over one and one-half miles for a round trip and will take about one hour. Much of the first half of the walk on the way in is an uphill climb.
Clues: Head east on route 202 through New Hartford. After going through the Nepaug section of town you will pass an intersection known as Browns Corner. This is the intersection of Route 202 with Steele Road and Southeast Road. Approximately 0.3 mile east of the intersection you will see a State Forest Shield Sign and a gravel forest entrance road on your left. Turn on this road. Continue up the road and park at the first intersection. At this intersection you will see the Blue Blazed Tunxis Trail heading into the forest.
Follow the Tunxis Trail. After crossing an old forest road, you will start to climb up hill. The area you are walking through was a forested area (a stand) composed of white pine, red pine, with some hardwood trees (mainly oak and maple). The red pine was removed in 1988, because it was infested with red pine scale, an insect capable of killing the trees. The area was allowed to regenerate naturally from seed or from hardwood stump sprouts.
From the top of the hill, continue along the trail. The trail starts to head downhill. As the trail begins to descend more steeply, it begins to turn right and you will enter a part of the forest that had a timber harvest in 2002. This was a stand composed of hemlock, white pine, and mixed hardwoods. Many of the hemlocks were removed in this harvest because they were infested with hemlock scale and hemlock woolly adelgid. Like the red pine scale on the red pine, these insects are capable of killing the hemlock. White pine and hardwoods of undesirable quality were also removed.
The trail will come out on a forest road. The Tunxis Trail crosses this road and follows the forest road directly across from you. Continue following the Tunxis Trail along the roadbed. At the next intersection (you will see a power line in front of you) the Tunxis Trail turns right following another forest road. Keep walking along the Trail/roadbed. At the next intersection the main branch of the Tunxis Trail turns left and follows the road under the power line. You do not want to follow the main branch. At the same intersection you will see a branch of the Tunxis trail that bears to the left into the woods. This is the trail that you want to follow. From the intersection head up the trail approximately 510’ until you come to a large rock on your right. You will also cross the power line before you reach the rock. From the southern tip of the rock, head on a magnetic compass bearing of 253 degrees approximately 95’ until you reach a white pine tree that is 20” in diameter, or as a forester would say, 20” DBH (diameter breast height). Foresters measure the diameter of a tree at a point on the tree that is 4.5’ above the ground. Look on the ground behind the pine tree, between the pine and a small chestnut tree, for the letterbox.
This area was harvested in 1998. The “fresh” tops (very hard, sound wood that shows some evidence of decay) on the ground are the result of storm damage during October 2011. The tops from this harvest are much softer and well on their way to recycling nutrients back into the soil. Many of them are hidden by the new growth of young trees. The openings in the canopy created by the harvest let additional sunlight reach the forest floor to help promote the growth of these trees so they may become part of the “next” forest. Although other species are present, pine will be the main component in this section of the forest.
Learn more, earn a patch: The area you just walked through contains many white pine trees. Much of the pine in Nepaug is found in the southern portion of the forest. The pine trees grow better than the hardwoods in this area because of the soils. Most of the soils are excessively drained, droughty, sandy soils. The pine trees are better adapted to live with these soil conditions. To get high quality hardwoods more soil moisture is one requirement.
This is one of 32 letterbox hikes that is being sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Division of Forestry. When you have completed 5 of these sponsored letterbox hikes, you are eligible to earn a commemorative State Forest Centennial patch.
When you have completed five of these hikes, please contact us and let us know what sites you have visited, what your stamp looks like and how we may send you your patch. We will verify your visits and send the patch along to you. Contact DEEP Forestry
Content last reviewed June 2020