We keep finding new places to go on our weekend hikes; today we decided to explore a US Army Corps of Engineers property I’ve driven by a few times called Buffumville Lake.
The lake there is part of a flood control dam project, and the area is named after a mill owner named Buffum from the 19th century. After checking the trail map and based on the time we had, we decided to take the South Loop, which goes around the southern area of the lake, closely paralleling the lake shore. The map listed it as 4 miles, but our GPS readings came in at 5. We also learned from Facebook that the lake was currently a few feet low in an attempt to kill off some invasive aquatic plants.
The trail starts close to the lake, and is narrow and windy. It hugs the shoreline from a few feet up, and there were plenty of times where we felt like if we slipped on the leaves or pine needles we would end up in the water. Still, the lake is visible almost the entire time you’re hiking, which is quite a treat compared to some area trails.
For a short while, the trail winds near the dam through the disc golf course. Here the trail is wide and easy-going, well-traveled by disc golfers and dog-walkers.
It was not long, though, until the rough and winding path returned. The lake was always visible, and the trail often passed over small streams which fed the lake. On most of those, small bridges had been built, though in a couple spots we hopped across on stones.
All along the eastern edge of the long lake, the trail climbed up and down small hills and hugged the shoreline. It made for frequent pauses to admire the scenery, even if the water was surprisingly low. We were impressed by the amount of ice starting to encroach onto the surface from the edges. When the wind died down, we could hear the ice forming, cracking as it moved, sending haunting low echoes all around. It was fascinating.
The trail continued past the edge of the lake into the system of streams which fed it. Here we walked along the largest stream for some time, listening to it moving energetically over and under fallen trees.
It was a completely different trail on the west side of the lake. Here we were dozens of feet back from the shore, sometimes a hundred feet or more. Instead of closely paralleling the shoreline’s many nooks and inlets, we moved more or less straight north. We did have to climb many small hills, though, giving our legs a surprising workout. At one point the trail bordered a quarry; I climbed up the separating berm to get a quick snapshot.
We picked up the pace on this side of the lake; we were behind schedule (remember, the map said four miles, not five!) and while we were sure we wouldn’t be late to get Evie from gymnastics, we didn’t want to dally either. A few spots were worth pausing to take pictures though, including one area where the trail wound through a much younger area of forest with tons of small saplings all around.
The last surprise of the trail was that it exited on Oxford Road; we had to parallel the street back towards the parking area to loop back. We could, of course, have continued north on the north loop but we didn’t have time for another 3 miles today….
It was a mostly-easy hike, with no real strenuous climbs or rocky sections. But there were many spots east of the lake which were borderline treacherous, and I would not recommend trying to tackle that side of the trail in the winter. I am sure the lake is much prettier in the spring and summer, but even in this weather a good chunk of the southern area of the trail was muddy; I imagine in the spring it’s a real challenge to navigate the mud (and dodge the no-doubt-plentiful mosquitoes).
We plan to return for the northern loop at some point. We’re definitely fortunate to find ourselves surrounded by so many areas worth exploring within 30 to 45 minutes drive!