I have debated telling you about my favorite summer watering hole. A hidden gem, little known to most locals, and too much trouble for most visitors to be bothered.
Marked by a small brown state park sign, you could easily miss it. If you're driving up 156, away from Old Lyme Town Center, you will eventually pass a small brown sign for Nehantic State Forest. There is a boat symbol and picnic table symbol on the sign. Oops, you blinked and passed right by it! If you get to the cows, you've gone too far. Turn around at the cows. Go back. Turn down the dirt and gravel road. Yes, your car can make it. But I hope you didn't just wash it because its about to get very dusty. Bumpity bump bump. My kids like to let out a long "ahhhh" that comes out "ah-ah-ah." You get the picture. I think its about two miles. Don't turn down the first road that has a picture of a boat ramp - unless you brought your boat - in that case take this way. No motor boats allowed though. We took our kayak a couple of times and saw all parts of the lake we don't normally, as well as turtles and frogs on lily pads. Super fun for kids of all ages.
So now you've come to the picnic table sign. Turn down here and park your dirty car. Walk towards lake. Set down your stuff. Enter lake. Ahhhhh! Now that's refreshing. The lake is shaded by trees in the late afternoon and most of the "crowds" have already gone. During the week the lake is your private hide-away. Maybe a few others are there, enjoying this best kept secret as well. If I had any blog followers, these other secret keepers would be mad at me for spoiling it.
There is no sand and if you have sensitive toes you might want to consider wearing water shoes. Stand for a long time in one place and little fish come up and nibble on your toes. That is, if you aren't surrounded by your 3 splashing children.
I've seen a woman swim across it. Someday I would like to do this too. Perhaps she was training for a tri-athelon. More likely then not she was just swimming for pleasure.
There are charcoal grills and picnic tables, as well as rustic out houses, so you can come for the day if you wish, although we usually just go for an hour or two in the late afternoon. You can bring goggles for the kids, air mattresses or other water floatie things. You can even bring your dog.
When you are finally ready to leave, and make it back down that bumpy road again, its fun to turn back towards those cows, and let the kids read the names on their ear tags. I don't know about yours, but my kids love all animals, and its not everyday they get to see a cow. My oldest daughter still remembers the names of them from the first time we read them off to her. Of course there are new cows now, but I tell her that Bella and Princess are in the other field.
To finally end your pleasure, its a special treat to go to Old Lyme ice cream shop, on your way home. Or any ice cream shop. Or you can save twenty bucks and just have ice cream at home, which is what we usually do. I should have mentioned that this Lake is free. No state park pass required.
So I hope you do this once this summer, on your staycation. I know this special place will be a part of my kids' summer memories. Just don't tell anyone else about it ;-)