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.
MILLERS POND STATE PARK
Scaling a mountain or hiking up a waterfall – does have its perks. But, sometimes just a simple trek around a scenic pond is exactly the right amount R & R one needs to get through the day.
Millers Pond State Park in Durham is the ideal spot to make that happen. The 30-acre pond – named after Thomas Miller – sits among a heavily-forested reserve that spans more than 170 acres across Durham and Haddam. Miller built a dam here some time before 1704 to secure a reservoir for his gristmill. Now, it serves as recreation spot for hikers, fishermen, and picnickers alike.
On this lazy summer day, I took my youngest daughter, Lilah, and my dog, Sampson, for the laid-back trek. Starting out from the parking lot, there are several trails to choose from. But, our quest was the pond. The white-blazed trail we took was pretty straightforward and led us directly to a sandy patch right at the water’s edge.
There are no lifeguards here and swimming is not listed as an activity. But, despite a number of drownings here, people do take to the water – although it’s at their own risk. Sampson bolted for the water at first shot – but, he didn’t get far, opting to tiptoe in the shallow depths instead.
Once his curiosity was satiated, we continued on. For the most part, the path is easy to maneuver, except for the random foot-tripping roots that can catch you off guard. After conquering our tricky footwork, the real exploration began.
There are literally dozens of mini trails that lead to the water from the main path. I made a game of it - allowing my 5-year-old to ‘take charge’ and direct us to where she saw fit. Many of these paths end in large rocks that jut out into the water. The pond is spring-fed and is great for fishermen looking to reel in that prized bass or trout.
As we headed deeper into the park, I noticed random pieces of litter popping up from time to time. It’s a well-visited park, so it’s not surprising. But - it’s still a disappointment to see.
The trail narrows some as well, proving to be a bit more treacherous in its gradual climb. As we neared the end of the pond, we came across a rock summit – and in spite of a poorly placed sign warning of its dangers – it did provide us with a pretty view.
As we rounded the pond, the trail becomes rockier still. Along the way, we passed the random kayaker and a pair of fishermen hunkered down in their boat – patiently awaiting a bite on their lines.
Here, the trail splits off and joins the blue, Mattabasset Trail. It leads to what’s known as Bear Rock, located at the Cockaponset State Forest, and offers a beautiful vantage point of the woods below. Despite the temptation, I couldn’t gamble on my daughter’s stamina or my own to make the additional trip, and decided to stick to the original plan.
In time, after weaving through some densely-forested laurels, we came across our final clearing and took the time to soak up the view. It’s an ideal resting spot – especially for hikers with little kids in tow.
It also was a satisfying end to a hike meant to bring some peace and quiet to our day - made only more memorable with Lilah’s words to me, “That was amaaazing!”
Directions: Take CT-9 S to exit 11 for CT-155/Randolph Rd. toward CT-17/Durham. Turn left onto CT-155 W. Turn left onto Millbrook Rd. Take slight left onto Foot Hills Rd. Parking is on the right.
Trail Distance: 2 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy
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