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A Walk Along The Eagle's Beak In Haddam

Peter Marteka

Nature's Path & Way To Go

7:01 PM EDT, September 6, 2012

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HADDAM — It happens each time I hike on a cloudy day.

I walk through the dark, shadowy forest until I reach the path to an overlook. As I approach the opening in the forest, the clouds part and I hear an angelic chorus as I step out and take in the view just as the sun comes out.

Well, at least that's how I imagine it happening, and on my trip along the Mattabesett Trail and Eagle's Beak, it actually happened — just minus the choral music because this is one of those places where you won't hear any manmade sounds, or angels, and see few signs of civilization.

Located just to the east of Millers Pond State Park and west of Seven Falls in a pocket of the Cockaponset State Forest, this 2.5-mile section of the Mattabesett trail is an island of sorts, reached by walking long stretches along nearby roads. The entire trail, except for Eagle's Beak and a short section at the beginning, is within the state forest.

Although you will want to get to the overlook as fast as you can — it's that wonderful — you're going to want to spend some time exploring the ruins of an old mill dam at the start of the trail. The dam is huge and built along a ledge, melding with the surrounding topography. I think some beautiful waterfalls were covered up by the massive rocks used to build the dam.

The trail snakes along the top of the dam, but drops down to a stream bed which is also fun to explore. From the stream, the trail travels through a gnarly forest of mountain laurel. The trunks of the old stand of mountain laurel twist and bend in grotesque shapes, giving the appearance that the forest is haunted.

The trail makes a gradual climb through a forest surrounded by impressive rock ledges and jumbles of boulders until visitors reach what is known as "The Pavement." No, not the asphalt or concrete variety, but a ribbon of granite through the forest that passes mushrooms and Indian Pipe and views to the forest below.

The ribbon of granite is a "Yellow Brick Road" of sorts that leads you to Eagle's Beak. And, yes, it really looks like a huge beak. The views are stunning. It was described to me by someone as "all you see is forest." You can see square mile after square mile of forest and hills across 180 degrees of the horizon.

And except for a cell phone tower, transmission lines and a farm, all in the distance, you can pretend to be are a settler staking your claim in the New World, or a wolf howling at the moon. The huge outcropping of granite, flaked with sharp points of quartz and mica, also makes a good spot for a lunch or granola concoction.

Another neat overlook is located several miles to the west just past Millers Pond. It's known as Bear Rock and, yes, it looks like the head of a granite teddy bear.

So do this part of the Mattabesett, but be prepared for some nonbelievers when you tell them you climbed along a giant beak or walked across the head of a bear.

Take Route 9 to exit 10. Follow Route 154 south toward Higganum. Take a right on Thayer Road and right on Nedobity Road. Take a right on Brainard Hill Road and look for the parking area on the left after a farm.

Peter Marteka may be reached at 860-647-5365 or at pmarteka@courant.com or The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.