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Reality Refuge: McLean Game Refuge marks 90th

McLean Game Refuge is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2022 this wildlife sanctuary of nearly 7 square miles is located primarily in Granby and Simsbury, with a smaller section in Canton

• This article first appeared as the cover story in the November 2022 edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

By James Q. Rice — Special to Today Magazine

IT IS EASY to miss McLean Game Refuge as we zip past while driving by the main entrance on Salmon Brook Street in Granby. What looks like a small commuter lot is just one of about 20 entry points to these 4400 acres of wild land that are only accessible by foot.

Wandering through parts of Granby, West Granby and into Simsbury, McLean means more than just trees, birds and ponds. It is part of the fabric and soul of this area. Like any natural wonder, McLean offers something different in every season.

Visitors in the summer may enjoy access through a back entrance on Bushy Hill Road that leads them to the Summit Trail. This perch is the perfect spot to watch hawks soar over their prey in the cooling breeze while waiting for the golden hour before sunset.

It is not uncommon to startle hikers who have stretched their hammocks between a couple of cedar trees in hopes of catching a leisurely catnap just off the beaten path.

Fall brings a symphony of color and urgency to the forest as squirrels work overtime getting ready for the cooler months that lay ahead. The first frost bites and we enjoy the end of bug season.

In the several years before 2020, McLean Game Refuge averaged about 20,000 visits annually — that number jumped to 50,000 in 2020 during the COVID pandemic — photos by James Q. Rice​

Multi-hour hikes are possible and it is now much harder to get lost with the new trail signs. Early morning and late afternoon outings are darker and the noon “rush hour” now looks like the best time for a quick scramble.

Winter, though, is perhaps the best time to experience McLean because every footprint tells a story. Who was this? When were they here? Where were they going?

The kid in me has all these unanswered questions as I slide by on my ancient cross-country skis hoping to catch a glimpse of a new four-legged friend. Early birds may even arrive into McLean with virgin powder beckoning deeper and deeper into the woods for more adventure.

Spring — of course — is the time for rebirth and young love.

As the ice melts on Trout Pond, baby turtles emerge and slumber at night on the warmer dry land. Canada geese parade their goslings around the pond just until the turtles are ready for solid food. The buds start to pop around Tax Day and the forest is once again full of green by the time Memorial Day rolls around to complete the cycle.

I have gotten “lost” in McLean Game Refuge only to find that life has never been more clear to me.

Every year a major magazine publishes a list of the happiest countries in the world. Finland is almost always near the top of the list. When interviewed, the Finnish people often cite their kinship with nature as a primary reason for the smiles on their faces. Indeed, many of us enjoy a regular “woods bath” in the hidden treasures like McLean that are sprinkled around our small state.

Perhaps good things really do come in small packages and beauty is often sitting right under our noses. +

James Q. (aka Jamie) Rice, the author of this article, is the founder and owner of registered investment advisory firm JQR Capital — he was a longtime Granby resident until earlier this year

• Rice serves on the board of directors of the Granby-Simsbury Chamber of Commerce

JQR Capital • 860-325-0330

• George Payne McLean — the renowned senator and governor of Connecticut who was born in Simsbury — established McLean Game Refuge via his will in 1932

In our high-tech computer age, it’s safe to say that we sometimes need a refuge from video games and virtual reality — and the Game Refuge offers such a haven via the genuine reality of creation’s splendor • McLean website


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