If you are an avid hiker in Southeast Connecticut and are looking for some new places to hike I hope you have tried some of the great hikes offered by the Lyme Land Conservation Trust. Two of my older favorites are Hartman Park and The Pleasant Valley/ Jewett Preserves. Hartman Park has many miles of both hiking and mountain biking trails and is now part of a much larger trail system called the Goodwin Trail that extends from East Lyme in the south through The Nehantic State Forest, then through Lyme, Salem and into East Haddam.
Today I added a third Preserve to my Lyme Land Trust favorites. This is the Ravine Trail and the Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve. (There is also a third Preserve, The Selden Creek Preserve, that connects to the Ravine Trail, but I did not hike this today).
The counterclockwise loop that we hiked today started on the Ravine Trail at a small parking area on Mitchell Hill Rd in Lyme. We followed the Red trail about a ¼ mile along a creek until the trail took a sharp right turn and headed up a steep slope and joined the Purple blazed trail.
This trail continued up the hill and then into a wooded area of old trees, many of which had died and fallen. What was striking here was the lack of underbrush. I could not tell if the underbrush was eaten away or just didn’t grow due to a denser canopy of taller trees. After about another ¼ mile we reached the high point of land and started downhill.
Almost immediately the lack of underbrush was replaced by thick stands of mountain laurel. It was a dramatic change. We followed the Purple Trail northwest for another ¾ mile of undulating terrain noting the combination of mountain laurel, hardwoods, and evergreens. We followed the Purple Trail into the Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve until it intersected with the White Brockway Trail.
We took the White trail over a wooden bridge into a beautiful stand of hemlock trees.
It is not common to see large stands of hemlock trees along the southeastern CT coast due to bug infestations in the 1980-1990s. As we followed the White trail south we transitioned out of the hemlock stand and back to tall hardwoods and mountain laurel. At about mile 2 ¼ We took the Red Trail that goes southeast and follows a stream.
If you had additional time you could follow the White trail to the south and intersect the Selden Creek Preserve which has another couple miles of trails and 2 overlooks of Selden Creek and the Connecticut River. The Red Trail becomes very rough as it follows the stream through a rocky ravine. After a few 100 yards the trail levels out then crosses the stream and transitions up a steep slope rising some 60-80 feet above a swamp that was created by beaver damming some years ago. The Red Trail follows along to the east and eventually reconnects with the original Ravine Trail that we started on. After another ¼ mile and transitioning down the steep hillside we were back out to the parking area. Overall, our hike was a very enjoyable 3-mile loop that took about 1 ¼ hours.