Paine Open Space in Easton is on the one hand a nice patch of woods and on the other hand really is a bit of a pain. Getting a map is the first hurdle, because the Aspetuck Land Trust requires an obnoxiously detailed registration before they let you look at their maps online. Since I've drawn trail maps and provided them free online (no registration required!) since 1995, I find that very irritating.
Or you could just take a picture of this board map at the trailhead and refer to your camera from time to time. Won't help much, though.
The online map doesn't help as much as it should, either, because as attractive and detailed as it is, there is no real trail identification system (like a "red" trail and "white" trail identified as such on a map). And there are sooo many trails, too, many of which are not shown on the map. I started to feel like I was in a corn maze rather than a nature hike.
Easton doesn't know how to mark trails. Occasionally a random trail marker will pop up, like this one below, a flimsy and tacky-looking thing that kids will probably pull down in a heartbeat (hey, maybe that's what happened to all the trail markers).
But mostly there was nothing. Hey Easton, there is a universal system for marking trails with color-coded rectangles of paint on trees. This system has withstood the test of time. It works great, give it a try! Here's the guidance book you need to do it right (use the right paint, not too many blazes, etc): AMC Guide to Trail Mainenance.
There are a series of distinctive ponds in the park, the largest called "Island Pond." The bridge was almost as big as the island.
I was looking for a seven-year-old series of letterboxes that had not been logged "found" in nearly four years (this is probably in part because the old clues refer to a trail color system that no longer exists). I knew that even if I were able to find some of these old boxes, they would likely be in rough shape, so I stuffed my pack full of maintenance gear: papertowels, heavy-duty double-zip freezer bags, and spare logbooks. Good thing I did! I found five of the boxes and four were soaked. Two boxes leaked because rodents had chewed holes in them. I've never seen that happen before.
One of the boxes was a big ice cube inside. I removed four soaked logbooks on this trip - a record by far (yuck!). Letterboxers are encouraged to provide this kind of maintenance to the boxes they find.
This tupelo tree was really getting worked over by a woodpecker. Tupelo are known for providing hollows like this.
There were lots of well-build stone walls, including this one below. The cedar post is a reminder that these lands were pasture not too long ago (as was nearly all of Connecticut).
On the way out there were some people riding horses in the field next to the parking area, as there were the last time I was here. Horses are also ridden on the trails, so if you bring a dog, be sure to leash it -- a dog can startle a horse and cause a rider to be thrown and injured.