One of the wonderful aspects of spring in New England is being able to spend time near woodland streams filled to the brim with melt water from winter’s snows. If any drop in elevation occurs, visitors to these streams are rewarded with the musical sounds of rushing water tumbling over rocks as the melted snow makes its way to the sea. We headed out to the “quiet corner” of Connecticut on a recent morning, to Mashamoquet Brook State Park just off Rt. 44 in Pomfret, CT, and thought we might take the loop trail through the woods. When we arrived, we saw that most other visitors crossed the bridge near the parking area that led to the woodland trail, while almost no one paid much attention to the stream running underneath the bridge. We quickly changed our plans.
We decided to stroll alongside the stream, and were soon caught up in the music of the fast moving water, offering a peaceful soundscape the entire length of our walk. A well-worn path alongside the stream said that many others had made the same choice in days past, but while we walked few visitors crossed our path.
We first headed upstream toward an old mill nestled into the bank of the stream. On our way we came to a place where the stream diverged, with laid stone wall embankments directing some water away from the main waterway (Mashamoquet Brook). With each step, we marveled that the music of the stream never ceased. The water tumbled in a steady downhill drop, nothing dramatic, simply mesmerizing. The old mill, well-maintained, stands at the edge of the water, a reminder of the many mills that have turned to water power since the industrial revolution in the early 1800s in New England.
Retracing our steps, we followed the stream as it traveled south, till we came upon a small sort of island, sand washed into a barrier for the flowing water, where trees had taken root. We hopped across and wandered this wooded patch of land, then climbed back to the shoreline and continued on.
A large group of visitors gathered in the open field near the stream, never drifting over to listen to the water. Their purpose was social, extended families playing ball games and sharing a meal together. We kept our distance and felt grateful that despite their presence, we were able to enjoy the peace of the stream in solitude.
Beyond the field, at the edge of the parking area, the stream continued on south. We wondered if a path would allow us to explore farther alongside the stream. We found our way to an easily navigable trail that appeared to have been created by park staff to facilitate visiting this part of the stream as well. We ambled another quarter mile alongside the water till we came upon someone praying out loud at the streams’ edge. Rather than disturb his meditations, we turned and retraced our steps to a perfect lunch spot next to the stream, where we pulled out bread, cheese and apples, a simple trail lunch that has served us in good stead on many of our travels.
One other pair of visitors crossed our path while we ate, and otherwise we had the stream to ourselves. The opposite shore was quite steep, providing a measure of privacy. Empty grills stood untended alongside the stream, awaiting summer visitors and their hotdogs and burgers, and piles of picnic tables stood stacked up away from the river. Clearly, this will be a much more popular spot for visitors as the weather warms. Weekend non-resident visitors will be charged a fee during the summer season, but when we visited no one manned the entry booth.
My guess is that the river will slow considerably in warmer weather, and the music will become but a whisper, compared to the orchestra of sounds we enjoyed on our spring day’s visit. Yes, we hope to return here, but probably not in summer. The off-season offered just what we were looking for.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.