Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer. From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
FARM RIVER STATE PARK
Ospreys, eagles, and egrets – oh my!
These aren’t your everyday backyard visitors. But, if you live on the cusp of Farm River State Park, they very well may be.
The East Haven preserve is relatively small – making up a mere 61 acres. But, its very existence is a picture-perfect snapshot of a true coastal ecology.
With my two children in tow, we set out to explore this shoreline wonderland--leaving early in the morning to beat the worst of the heat. Parking by the northern entrance, we spotted a gravel path and headed into the woods. It leads to an unmarked trail that cuts a narrow swath through the forest. Other paths split off from the trail as well which we took the time to explore before leading us to yet another gravel road that cradles the marsh.
The air here, heavy with humidity, hummed with the sound of nearby cicadas. The familiar briny smell of Long Island Sound also greeted us – sparking my children’s excitement of what was yet to come.
The trail picks up again at this particular crossroads, leading back into the woods, but quickly opens up to some incredible vistas near the Farm River. The trail here is marked with 22 blue-numbered blazes encircled in yellow. The folks at Quinnipiac University have provided an on-line guide to correspond with the numbers to help visitors on this self-guided hike.
We found ourselves checking out the most interesting highlights -- working our way backwards on the trail. One such spot was on a rocky outcrop that looks over the salt marsh.
This is where we had our first real encounter with the bird life that runs rampant here. A pair of great egrets swept in on silent wings landing softly some 50 feet below. The birds stood motionless as they watched for signs of fish in the watery mosquito ditches that weave through the marsh.
That wasn’t the case for two ospreys atop their man-made perch on the far bank. We could see one bird with a fish pinned to its talons busy feeding another in its nest. The sight of such majestic birds in this beautiful cliff-side setting was fascinating. And it certainly captured the attention of my kids - with my oldest scurrying about the rock to get snapshots with her camera.
If you find yourself cliffside, take care to watch your step. As it is with a few more stops along the trail, the views are dramatic but tinged with potential danger because of the steep drop – something I had to keep in mind as I held on to my 5-year-old’s hand.
Soon enough, we retreated and took advantage of some of the trail’s others highlights such as views of the nearby marina and some cool glacial rock formations. But, our encounters with predatory birds weren’t over yet.
Spotting yet another osprey nest a mere 50 yards away, the kids and I hunkered down to watch. The bird in its perch stared right back at us - vocalizing occasionally into the air. Maybe it was calling to the other osprey we noticed sitting stoically on a tree branch nearby.
The icing on the cake was yet another sighting, this time of an eagle – on the far reaches of the marsh – perched among the trees. The sight was so mesmerizing it literally silenced my kids for a good 20 minutes – not an easy feat by any means.
As these majestic birds took flight, we moved on as well. And as we headed back to the car, we chattered the whole way about our experience – grateful that our visit was anything but routine.
Directions: Take I-91 S to I-95 N (left exit) toward New London. Take exit 51 to merge onto US-1 toward East Haven/Frontage Rd. Turn right onto Hemingway Ave./Route 142. Turn left onto Short Beach Road (Route 142). Parking is on the right between Stone Pillar Rd. and Fairview Ave.
Trail Distance: > 1 mile
Trail Difficulty: Easy