Tucked just off the main route to Hammonasset Beach State Park is a place that provides a quiet respite for those returning or going for a day along Long Island Sound.
In between routes 79 and 80 and in the geographic center of Madison, the 115-acre parcel was purchased by the Madison Land Trust in 2003 from the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority for $1.5 million. The preserve contains a 70-acre northern section and a 45-acre segment directly south of Route 80.
The trails in the northern section total about 2.2 miles. With the undulating trails crisscrossing valleys and plateaus, figure on about two hours to complete. There are many geologic features along the trail including a "rock room." The rock formation resembles the room of a house with three nearly square sides. Another feature is a glacial table, a rock that had balanced on a pedestal of ice before it melted. Also check out glacial plucking that was caused by the glacier as it moved south pulling out layers of rock.
One of the highlights of the north section is walking along the remnants of the historic Durham-Madison Turnpike. The road for horses and horse and buggies once ran 13.5 miles from Durham Street in Durham to the center of the North Madison Green. The southern parcel contains remnants of the Fairhaven- Killingworth Turnpike. Parts of the abandoned roadways are still lined by their original stone walls.
The southern section is approximately 1.2 miles and takes an hour to walk. The trail follows the Neck River past patches of mountain laurel and ferns. Trail heads are located on Route 80 and Opening Hill Road just south of the rotary.
Hikers can access the northern section of Neck River Uplands by taking Princess Drive off Route 79 just north of the traffic circle. The parking area and trail head are on the left side of the road. There is also a trail head off Route 80 just west of the traffic circle. Detailed trail maps are available at www.madisonlandtrust.org and click on "trail maps."
You can view Peter Marteka's videos online, along with his Nature's Path column, at www.courant.com/marteka. His column also appears in Friday's Hartford Courant.