Monday, May 29, 2017

On the Tidal Marsh Trail

I first read about North Haven's Tidal Marsh Trail over a year ago when Peter Marteka visited this humble path on the bank Quinnipiac for his Hartford Courant column. "I'm totally going to go there," I said to myself. And I put it on my list. And then I didn't go. And then I continued to not go. Until last week, when, surprised with a day that wasn't rainy, freezing, or packed with work, I finally got myself in my car and drove myself down 95 and up 91 and around behind the Target in that bland sprawl of commercial suburbia off exit 9.

Connecticut does many things well, and one of them is hiding reminders of the power of nature in places you'd never think to look for them. You can't even really see a trailhead from the parking lot behind the Target, but look carefully and you will see a sign. Walk towards it, and you'll find yourself on a little dirt track - in most places, just big enough to walk single-file - between a subtly lush marshy landscape and a dense tangle of trees busy consuming remnants of human life like old railroad tracks and cement bridges.

As you walk, you start out high on the river bank, peering down at the rippling blue water and muddy little red beaches scattered with fallen trees. And then at some point you notice the tall grasses are at eye level, and you are immersed in green.

You're never far from human habitation here. There are buildings clearly visible across the river, trains whistling in the distance, and, of course, the knowledge that Target is just minutes behind you. (The trail, a relatively straight and mostly flat line, is supposedly half a mile long but feels slightly longer.) Still, this stretch of watery woods seems quite wild. Trees twist themselves around each other and bend at strange angles, and branches braid themselves into ropes. The path is crossed by fallen trees, and more tilted and uprooted trunks can be seen in the distance.

The Tidal Marsh Trail, like many of the other smaller trails I've posted about here (Bethel's Enchanted Trail Boardwalk and Salem's Big Brook Gorge Preserve come to mind) is not the most exciting or visually striking of outdoor activities. Connecticut has dozens - probably hundreds - of spots that are more remote, more physically challenging, and more beautiful. But if you're near North Haven and you want a quick respite from everyday life, then this hidden world where the trees meet  the water is everything you need.

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