Every state seems to have a Middletown in it. You can walk down a Main Street in nearly every city and town. And every forest seems to have a Roaring Brook flowing through it.
Lyme's version of Roaring Brook is special, running clear and pristine from East Haddam through Hadlyme, into Whalebone Cove and the Connecticut River. The Lyme Land Conservation Trust has always realized the importance of the waterway and has been preserving land along the banks of the energetic river for years.
The most recent acquisition – the 100-acre Banningwood Preserve – protects almost a mile of the waterway as it runs near the town's "four corners" where routes 82 and 148 meet. Teamed up with another 337 acres in neighboring East Haddam, more than 2.5 miles of the brook's banks are protected and preserved.
A loop trail was recently blazed through the preserve and passes along the banks of the tranquil river to a woods road. The trail loops along the road to a high point with distant, seasonal views south across Lyme – one of the prettiest towns along the state's shoreline.
Visitors can make their way along the ridge or the river. Since I have a strange habit of always walking trails counter-clockwise, I start with the river first. It is kind of difficult to see how the brook got its name along this stretch, with much of the waterway making its way placidly through a beech forest passing by ferns just unfurling from their winter slumber.
But the river is quite picturesque with the calm, still water reflecting the surrounding trees, clouds and sun. The water is crystal clear allowing visitors to see the pebbles on the bottom and fish darting in and out. The trail eventually leaves the river and turns into the deep forest marked by an occasional meadow before climbing up scenic rock ledges and past beautifully made rock walls.
Although there is a climb to the overlook, it is fairly gentle ascent passing by neighboring fields and an old Cadillac rusting away in the woods. The rock walls are made of long, slender rocks that appear to have been taken from small quarries – now filled with water — located along the trail. The trail loops back down to the parking area.
Within a short drive or walk is the Rufus Barringer interpretive trail within the Roaring Brook Preserve. Visitors can go to the four corners, grab a sandwich at the 110-year-old Hadlyme Country Market and walk down Route 148 to the Day Hill Road preserve. It's only 7.5 acres, but the park has 15 interpretive stations along a 0.73-mile trail that describe everything from the impact of glaciers, to colliding tectonic plates and the forest reclaiming abandoned farm fields.
The trail soon leaves the field and moves into a hemlock forest and along the top of a ravine overlooking Roaring Brook before plunging down a sand and gravel terrace into the river valley. Here visitors really get a feel for how the brook was named as the waterway quickens its pace, flowing over beautiful rock ledges on its way to the cove.
Even though they are easy to name, all the Roaring Brooks I've visited over the years are unique and usually a "don't miss" spot in the natural world. Whether at Banningwood or Roaring Brook Preserve, Lyme's rendition is no exception to that rule.
Banningwood Preserve is located at 19 Town St. (Route 82), with a parking area on the left as you pull in. Roaring Brook Preserve is located next to Hadlyme Hall on Day Hill Road off Route 148. For an online map and trail guide, visit http://www.lymelandtrust.org and click on "trails and properties."