Sometimes The More Traveled Paths Aren't So Bad

East Haddam's Scenic Beebe Road A Step Back In Time

An Island

An island visible from the Moodus Reservoir Causeway. (Rick Hartford / December 13, 2012)

Everything has its exceptions, and this column is no different.

For years, I've been exploring all corners of the state looking for places to escape — places where civilization disappears. Places where you forget you are in one of the most developed places on the planet.

But I'm making an exception with East Haddam's Beebe Road.

This time I'm saying stick to the road, but not all the way. There are escapes at both ends in the form of a 20-acre preserve and an ancient cemetery.

We'll start this trip at the 20-acre William Jezek Memorial Preserve, located along the banks of the 451-acre Moodus Reservoir, which once powered cotton mills below along the banks of the Moodus River.

The white-blazed trails aren't long or strenuous and reward you at the end with panoramic views of the reservoir after passing through deep deciduous forests along stone walls and over tranquil streams.

A blue-blazed trail will bring visitors out to Beebe Road, a road that separates marshes and farmland from the reservoir. Walking north, the road turns to dirt and passes through a picturesque marsh on the east and an inlet of the reservoir off to the west. The marsh is filled with a mix of evergreens and swamp maples. A beaver has dammed Molley Brook that flows in from the nearby highlands.

After leaving the marsh and reservoir, the road bisects two huge farms with fields reaching into the forested horizon. A red-tailed hawk clasps onto one of the highest branches of a large tree waiting for an animal's movement in the field below. It's one of my favorite scenes and something I see often whether in the middle of the woods or traveling along I-91.

The road meets East Haddam-Colchester Turnpike, a 19th-century post road, and the Moodus Reservoir causeway separating the lower and upper sections of the lake. After passing a second farm and the town beach, the quarter-mile-long causeway gives visitors great views of the entire reservoir, including a large island and along a bluff, an old cemetery.

The Bashan Lake Cemetery is one of those must-see places. Graves date back to the 1700s. The setting — high on a bluff with the reservoir and distant fields as a backdrop — has huge, dramatically shaped oak trees. Graves are marked by stones or the more elaborate brownstone markers. There is even a marker for "Scout" a faithful friend believed to be the beloved horse of one of the cemetery's occupants.

Beebe Road is not exactly off the beaten path, but it is more than just a place that will get you from point A to point B.

Take Route 149 to Mott Lane. Take a left on East Haddam Colchester Turnpike and a right on Beebe Road. Follow for 2 miles and take a right on Daniel Peck Road. Park near the preserve entrance. There is limited parking along Beebe Road. Visit http://www.ehlt.org/preserves.htm for a map of the preserve.

Questions or column suggestions are welcome. Peter Marteka may be reached by phone at 860-818-7337; pmarteka @courant.com or by mail at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

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