May 2013


Route 81 loop 002On Monday, Cherry and I continued our Haddam trails visits with a hike at what is called Route 81 loop. We found the trailhead on the north side of Beaver Brook Road, west of the junction with Route 9, and began our hike around 8:45AM. It was cool and gray as we crossed a gently flowing stream and wandered through dense vegetation. The trail was initially distinct and we had a map. Keep to the left, we decided, in order to avoid inadvertently leaving the main trail and ending up at one of the other parking areas.

 Cherry talked about nearing retirement and all the activities she’d been pursuing. Between church variety shows and a Master Gardener trip to the Cloisters, symphony performances and trying to clean out her files, she had been quite busy. She affirmed that this was the right decision for her and we laughed about how the timing evolved.

Route 81 loop 003

We found a live oak peppered with pileated woodpecker holes and trekked through large laurel thickets. We had surprise eye delights of swamp pink and lady’s slippers along the way. Cherry said she’d decided not to travel to Buenos Aires, but would be joining a church group to the Holy Land in February. She would have plenty of time to renew her passport and have something to look forward to all winter.

Route 81 loop 007We crossed several small streams cascading over bedrock. With newly emerged leaves, the mixture of colors and patterns, combined with bird calls, the trail was enticing. I managed to discover yet another tick imbedded in me (that made three over the past 24 hours) and another crawling on me. I talked about progress with my city project to convert an old school to a senior center and the improved health of the 90 year old woman I assist (after a fall and stint at the hospital, she was now at the rehab center).

The area was delightful, showing little sign of overuse. However, in a few sections, more bright green trail markings would have been useful, and perhaps a sign indicating the direction of the side trail to parking. After about two hours, we’d returned to the car parked on Beaver Meadow Road, completing a 2.7 mile loop. True confessions? We stopped by a local shop in Higganum to grab a snack, sit at an outside table, relax together, and schedule our next trip.

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Jim at Bible Rock 001Jim, who’s interested in caves and rocks, visited yesterday from Pittsfield, MA, so we did a rock tour of Middlesex County. We started at Bible Rock in Middletown/Haddam. Set back about a hundred feet from the road, this eight-foot high split rock looks like an open book, or Bible. The nearby brook is also named after this feature.

After taking photographs, we crossed the road to take a brief stroll along the rocks and stream flowing near the Seven Falls picnic area. Likely a CCC project, a mostly-intact table served as a spot for us to review maps and set our next stops.

We agreed to drive north to Dripps Road and visit Spiderweed, a Nature Conservancy preserve. After a brief exploration Spiderweed 002 of the ruined cottage, we reached the beryl-rich pegmatite outcrops and saw Appalachian sandwort (Arenaria glabra). Common to the south and abundant in these unusual rock formations in the north, it’s a spring flowering annual. We caught a glimpse of the Connecticut River through the lush spring foliage.

After a snack and return to the car, we drove south to Durham to start on the Mattabesett Trail leading directly to Coginchaug Cave. Rising thirty feet high and stretching more than fifty feet along the base of a cliff, it provided shelter to Native Americans long ago. Blacked rock and stone fire pits suggest recent fires but artifacts have apparently been uncovered at this site.

When we returned to the car, we decided to take a lunch break. We then went across the Connecticut River to Portland to try to find Bodkin Rock. After several futile efforts (and getting covered in low-tide mud), we decided a water approach would be more successful and would have to wait for a future adventure.

Before returning to Middletown, we drove along the old Portland quarry, recently converted into a tasteless zipline and water park (preference for the natural features showing here). By then, it was raining and the park was closed to visitors.

The Ledges 001In Middletown, we explored the conglomerate rock ledges off Kelsey Street. We saw flowering lady’s slippers and columbine, along with a long series of shelters. We attempted unsuccessfully to match the now overgrown landscape with some 1910 photos of the area. We enjoyed the flow of East Round Hill Brook before calling it a day.

Obviously, many other rocks of notice and importance are in Middlesex County, but this was a good start!