The only trouble with a town's best-kept secret is that no one knows about it. Such is the case with Higganum's Swan Hill.
But that's going to change soon, thanks to the volunteer-run Higganum Vision Group and Haddam Trail Initiative. They're launching a new website – www.haddamtrails.org – on Aug. 24 at the Higganum Village Farmers' Market to promote the town's 50-mile trail network, of which Swan Hill is a part.
The website will be dedicated to promoting trails across Higganum and Haddam and was created by professional cartographers and designers to be a "hub for outdoor activities promoting our town," according to Dan Dachelet. The website will showcase hikes, from "short loops to long treks, river shores to rocky outcroppings and easy to challenging" and include downloadable trail maps.
"The goal of the site is to bring all information about trails in town into one central and user-friendly location," he said. "One thing we know this town has going for it is its trails. We should be showcasing them and drawing people to town. We have a huge collection of trails no one knows about."
When Dachelet contacted me, he noted there would be a tour of one of "our town's best trails and views – Swan Hill." Having covered the town for several months early in my career, I was shocked I had never heard of this place before.
Other than the drawback of the trailhead being located in a field behind Haddam Elementary School, the journey across Bible Rock Brook, along old cart roads and up to the craggy 240-foot rocky precipice Swan Hill is a great hike. As I reached the precipice, I startled a pair of huge turkey vultures who launched from the top of a dead tree.
On top of the hill are views east and south across the Connecticut River to the relatively-untouched-since-Colonial-days fields of George Dudley Seymour State Park, where cattle from town was once ferried across the river to graze. Old Rock Landing and Haddam Island/Thirty Mile Island - where it is believed pirate Captain Kidd's treasure was buried – can be seen farther south.
As you walk along the top of the hill, the white steeples of Higganum and Haddam peek through breaks in the tree canopy. The trail loops along a ridge filled with blueberry bushes and through a forest of mountain laurel before returning visitors to the trailhead.
I can say the group's strategy of luring visitors to town in hopes they'll stay and spend money worked for this visitor. After my hike, I picked up some things for dinner at the local market (a downside of bringing a phone with you on a hike) and stopped at Higgies Restaurant just up the road from Swan Hill for a burger platter. See? Ecotourism can work in Haddam.
The website will be launched via a large screen television at the market. Dachelet will lead a hike to the top of Swan Hill at 6 p.m. from the farmers market. The market is located at the junction of routes 81 and 154 and will be open from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
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