Thursday, August 7, 2008
Ye ole swimming hole
The summer of 2008 has well worn our family of four's bathing suits.
A lifelong swimmer, my husband takes every opportunity he can to sneak over to the Higganum reservoir for a quick dip in the water.
Set back from the road, and down a dirt path in the woods at the end of a cul de sac, the water there is lightly rust-colored and has small to mid-size fish sharing the lake and you'll always see a number of swimmers, in pairs, singly or with children, if you stay there long enough. The water is very clean and oh so cool.
My 5-year-old can play happily in the shallow beginning portion or paddle around on his noodle. My 10-year-old swims for as long as we're there, and often begs for us to allow a friend or two to accompany him.
My favorite place to swim is Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. When I'm with the children, we visit Meigs Point, because they enjoy walking out on the pink sandstone rocks that jet out into the water quite far. There, adults and little kids go crabbing and fishing. There's also the Nature Center, which has tanks and tanks of crabs, mice, turtles, snakes, and even a touch tank in the basement which never ceases to delight the boys. Once the season officially opened June 21, there are foods offered in the pavilion and (my guys' favorite) an ice cream vendor. You can walk on the nature trails, hunt for shells, search for crabs when the tide goes out under rocks, or swim in the salty water.
There are walking trails that connect all three beaches - West, East and Meigs Point - and if you are industrious (which I am when I am alone), you can park at either of the flanking beach parking lots and walk the entire shoreline back and forth, stopping to cool off in the water when it's needed. A boardwalk even travels the length of the center beach.
My 5-year-old loves Wadsworth Falls State Park, which is a tamer place, when he can swim or make sand castles on shore. There are lifeguards there until 6 p.m. daily and it's free during the week. Both my boys love our ritual of crossing the Coginchaug's brook which winds through the area, under a covered bridge (where we say a troll lives), then running full-blast into the water. It is very much frequented by families and the water is tested by the DEP and has not yet this year been closed for bacteria, and though it's cool and refreshing water, you do have to contend with geese that waddle their way along the beach and possibly not the most desirable water cleanliness.
And you can always take a picnic to the falls portion of the park, which is about 1.15 miles up the road toward Middlefield/Durham. The kids love to throw rocks into the falls and marvel at their sound and strength.
Last year we got a pass for Crystal Lake in Middletown, $1 through the Parks and Recreation Department, and swam there a few times. If you work as I do, it's tough to get to after you leave work and gather the children from their various daycares/camps and swim before the lake closes at 6 p.m. However, the water is very pleasant, and probably somewhere in between the cleanliness of the Higganum Reservoir and Wadsworth Falls. Last year, we sighted many ducks and even a turtle out at the ropes which mark off the public swimming area.
One of the most diverse of the area's natural places to swim has to be Seven Falls State Park on Route 154 in Haddam. There, you can picnic and grill your food, walk on the monoliths and swim in the cool pools of water that cascade down the "seven falls," (we can't count that many). Even my little one loves finding flat rocks to skip out into the water and splashing around in the water fed by the falls.
There are hiking trails there too, which means you can walk and then dip your toes afterward as a way to banish any sweat you've worked up.
The state parks incur a fee (I bought a $50 yearly pass which admits your car anytime), and the reservoir and Seven Falls are both free.