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Seven Tranquil Hikes: Where To Find Peace And Solitude

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go

There's something about hiking in solitude and not hearing the sounds of civilization like the roar of a leaf-blower or the rumble of a dump truck or a motorcycle's loud muffler. Here are a few hikes where one can still find peace and quiet in one of the most heavily developed states.

Brian E. Tierney Preserve, Roxbury — One would expect a preserve in honor of a native son who died while serving his country in Vietnam to be peaceful and quiet.

The Roxbury Land Trust's Brian E. Tierney Preserve is exactly that. The 56-acre preserve is home to one of the most beautiful series of

cascades in the state. Set deep in a hemlock forest, the clear waters of Jack's Brook plunge over ribbons of limestone rock through a huge rock gorge. A 2-mile loop takes visitors through meadows and deep forests. Several memorials and plaques honor Tierney's service.

Interstate 84 to Exit 15 and Route 6 North. Take a left on Route 67 and follow several miles and take a left on Squire Road. The parking area is located a mile on the left across from Apple Lane.

— The Preserve, Essex, Old Saybrook, Westbrook — It's hard not to find peace and quiet while hiking a 1,000-acre swath of coastal forest.

The preserve has nearly a dozen miles of trails — blazed blue, yellow, green, red and orange — that cover the northern and central portion of the property. According to the state, The Preserve has 3,100 linear feet of watercourses, 114 acres of wetlands, 30 acres of scrub-shrub swamp, an Atlantic white cedar swamp and 38 vernal pools. There are 25 species of amphibians and reptiles, 30 species of mammals and 57 species of birds. So it may be noisy, but just with sounds of the natural world.

Preserve parking is on Ingham Hill Road off Route 153 a few miles south of its junction with Route 9.

Mount Misery, Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown — A peaceful hike from the Rhododendron Sanctuary to the top of Mount Misery should be on everyone's hiking list.

The sanctuary, filled with native rhododendrons (not the garden

variety) is one of the state's eight National Natural Landmarks and is set in Connecticut's largest state forest. The sanctuary is usually in bloom in early to mid-July with a boardwalk taking visitors through the heart of an Atlantic white cedar swamp. Mount Misery is about a mile away and can be accessed along the Nehantic Blue-Blazed Trail.

Interstate 395 to exit 86. Take Route 201 and a left on "Trail 2" of the Pachaug State Forest. Take a right on Cutoff Road.

Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk — Situated on top of a hill in the quiet northwest hills, this is the former home turned state park of the White House physician to President Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft.

In addition to the peace and quiet, a three-state view from the 1908 former bungalow is one of the "must-see" overlooks in Connecticut. It's about a half-mile trek up to the top of the hill. But a hike of about a mile will take visitors to a second overlook with an even more intimate look at the surroundings from a wood and stone gazebo.

Route 272 several miles south of the intersection with Route 44.

Portland Reservoir, Portland — Reservoirs by their nature are quiet places. You won't find a motorboat plying across the water or kids screaming and jumping into the water.

Orange blazes lead visitors around the 125-year-old reservoir along the old dirt Marlborough Turnpike with views out to Raccoon Hill and Meshomasic Mountain, which means "Great Rattlesnake" in Native American Indian language. The 9,000-acre Meshomasic State Forest is the second largest in Connecticut.

Visitors pass by a scenic swamp and a century-old white pine and Norway spruce plantation. The path winds across Buck Brook, a crystal-clear stream that feeds the Portland Reservoir before winding through the woods and back to the dam and spillway.

Route 17 to the intersection with Route 17A. Turn on Sage Hollow Road and take a left on Cornwall Street. Turn left on Old Marlborough Turnpike and follow to the reservoir.

Lantern Hill, Ledyard — One wouldn't expect a place near two of the largest casinos in the world to be quiet, but a trip to the top of Lantern Hill is exactly that.

From its craggy granite and white quartz summit, visitors can see the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, Fishers Island, Long Island, the hills of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and two nations — the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations.

Lantern Hill serves as a sort of gateway to the 21-mile Narragansett Trail that runs from North Stonington to Hopkinton, R.I. The path

snakes along the western side of the hill with panoramic views of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. The loop trail is marked by red signs bearing a spear-and-feather emblem.

Interstate 95 to Exit 92. Follow Route 2 west. Turn left on Wintechog Hill Road just before reaching Foxwoods.

Peoples State Forest Vistas, Barkhamsted — Whether it's Grand Vista or Chaugham Lookout, the sense of solitude is pervasive in Peoples.

The aptly named overlook, at 1,110 feet, gives visitors an amazing view southwest over hills and mountains with the Farmington River snaking through the valley. The view from Chaugham Lookout is

equally stunning with views over the distant hills of Massachusetts and the church steeples and white clapboard houses and buildings of the village of Riverton.

The trail is located along East River Road, which can be accessed off Route 318/181.

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