A Visit To Old Lyme's Champlain Farm

During one visit to Old Lyme's Champlain Farm, Bill and Bear — man and canine best friend — wrote, "Love this place!" On another trip, the pair observed "a little fog, almost spooky." On another early morning visit, the two found a bit of inspiration: "What a sunrise from the lookout!"

According to the visitors log at the Meetinghouse Lane trailhead, the pair return three times within the span of a month. My question for them is, "Why did it take so long to return?" Because Champlain Farm, from its deep cedar forest to its high ledges, will not only inspire you, but will motivate you to return again and again.

The 204-acre preserve takes visitors back to an earlier time when much of the area around the mouth of the Connecticut River was known as Saye-Brooke. This feeling is especially prevalent when you are walking down the old dirt Boggy Hole Road path that bisects Champlain and was the original road connecting the first meetinghouse in Old Lyme with the famous Boston Post Road — the first postal road from New York City to Boston.

There are nearly 4 miles of trails within Champlain, so all of you other "Bills" and "Bears" out there will be in for a workout along the paths that dip past vernal pools, bogs and marshes and then travel high along ridges and outcroppings.

During my visit, a man with a pair of walking sticks emerged from the forest with a harried look on his face. As I was looking at the detailed map with trails cutting here and there across the wood plaque at the trail entrance, I asked the best way to hike the preserve. "Do you have a few hours? There's a lot to see and a lot of places to discover."

The first place you are going to want to discover is a grove of old cedar trees on a rocky bluff. With the leaves down, visitors will be able to see a little of Long Island Sound through the trees. With the deep green of the ancient cedars and moss-covered trails, visitors will also be looking around for elves or gnomes peeking from behind the trees.

A second place to discover is a huge 100-foot-high granite cliff along a green-blazed trail just west of the cedar forest. It's a place you will see looming ahead of you as you walk the blue-blazed perimeter trail. And a place where you will feel as small as an elf or gnome as the trail runs right along the bottom of the huge chunk of rock.

The perimeter trail will give visitors a good idea of what the preserve offers. The trail runs along some formidable outcroppings, through deep mountain laurel forests and past a huge glacial erratic boulder. The northern edge nearly touches a busy I-95, so you now have an idea of what's in the forest that you pass in a blur on your way to Connecticut's eastern beaches or Rhode Island. A neat ridge trail marked with yellow and orange blazes takes visitors across the preserve's high points as it parallels the Boggy Hole path.

It doesn't matter if you are a man, woman, child or man's best friend. Or whether it is foggy and the sun is rising or setting. Or whether you are Erica and Shadow, who perhaps wrote it best after multiple log entries: "What can I say? We are regulars here." And you will be too.

Exit 70 off I-95 north. Take a right on Route 156 and take a left on Ferry Road after crossing a river. Take a right on McCurdy Road and a left on Johnny Cake Hill Road. Take a left on Meetinghouse Lane and park along the cul-de-sac.Visit http://www.flogris.org/downloads/OldLymeTrailbook.pdf for a map of the preserve.


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