Turtle Creek Preserve
A walk around Turtle Creek Preserve brings fairytale forests to mind. A clear, earthen trail winds through thick stands of trees, tall and old enough to block out the sun in some spots. Head toward South Cove - you might see boats at the Essex marinas - and brilliant sunlight will light the path for some time before plunging the traveler back into pleasant, cool forest. Doubly exciting is the preserve's proximity to the Connecticut River, which, no matter how many times I see it, amazes me with its sheer beauty and size.
Even more encouraging is the trail's reliability; it is so well established that it seems fairly impossible to lose one's way. Keep on trekking and you'll start wondering if Grandma's house lies just around the next bend.
Notes: Watrous Point Road is narrow, curvy and bordered by forest and some homes. Take it slow heading to the preserve and keep your eyes peeled for the Turtle Creek Preserve sign, which is fairly easy to miss amid all the trees. Bring bug spray.
Town: Essex/Old Saybrook line
Directions: From Interstate 95: Take Route 9 north to exit 2. Go north on Route 154 and go 0.8 mile, then right onto Watrous Point Road. The entrance and parking area are 0.2-mile on the left. Marked by a sign (that is easy to miss).
Where to Park: Parking area along Watrous Point Road, near park entry and Turtle Creek sign
Description: Dorothy S. Bowles, wife of former Connecticut Governor Chester Bowles Sr., donated 89 acres of this 93-acre preserve. Explore the creek - which runs between the Connecticut River and Deitsch's Pond - by canoe and kayak, or observe the forest by foot along a well-established mile-long trail loop. Hikers will go past the shores of South Cove in Essex.
Regulations: Pets, collection of plant or animal specimens, camping, fires, fishing, hunting, bicycling and use of motorized vehicles are prohibited.
Natural Features: Look for wild rice and eel grass at the mouth of Turtle Creek, tidal marshes, fern groves along the trail, stands of hemlock, hickory, oak and cedar trees, mountain laurel and beech trees, Lady's slipper orchids in the wetlands, plus views of South Cove, the Essex waterfront, and the Connecticut River. Also look for wading birds at South Cove and turtles at Deitsch's Pond in the southeast corner of the preserve.
Owned by: The Nature Conservancy
More information: (203) 568-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nature.org