Hiking in Connecticut is filled with famous seat lore.
There is a cave in Simsbury on top of Talcott Mountain where King Phillip, leader of the local Native American tribe, is believed to have sat and watched his warriors burn the town to the ground.
On top of Ledyard’s Lantern Hill is a place known as “the Sachem’s seat” on the steepest side of the rise, where Pequot chiefs would scan their territory in search of enemy tribes and, later, English ships at sea.
And then there is a stone throne at Ledyard’s Whitehall Park and Forest. It comes with no history or lore, but visitors can climb up and sit on it and imagine they are viewing their kingdom as the ponds, fields and hillsides unfold before them. There’s even a “castle” in the distance.
That castle the Grand Pequot Tower of Foxwoods Resort Casino. When you are hiking the wilds of the northern and eastern part of Ledyard, it’s hard to miss the 9-million-square-foot, 325-foot-high resort.
The preserve gets its name from Sidney and Marian Hall, who donated the property to the town. “White” was Marian Hall’s maiden name. The entrance to the preserve is located along the abandoned bed of the Norwich & Westerly Railway. A wooden trail bridge crosses over the abutments of a former trolley trestle span. The bridge once crossed over a cowpath used to safely shuttle cattle from field to field underneath the trolley line.
The Norwich & Westerly Railway was opened in 1906 and ran from Norwich to Westerly, R.I., a distance of 22 miles. It was a high-speed trolley line that took 45 minutes to run — cutting the time it took on a steam engine train in half. The line brought travelers between the two cities and visitors to the Rhode Island beaches and amusement parks.
“Although the Norwich & Westerly Railway is an inland line entirely,” according to the April 13, 1907 edition of the Street Railway Journal, “the rolling country through which it passes has induced quite a bit of pleasure riding. One of the most attractive places along the route is Lantern Hill, from which an excellent view of the surrounding hills and the nearby seacoast can be secured.”
From the old trolley bed, the trails wrap around a pair of ponds where frogs sing and turtles sun themselves on rocks and logs. A path follows a power line right of way to the top of a hill. Lantern Hill can be seen in the distance.
Lantern Hill is the highest point in southeastern Connecticut. From its craggy granite and white quartz summit, visitors can see the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, Fishers Island, Long Island, the hills of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and two nations — the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations. Lantern Hill serves as a sort of gateway to the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s 21-mile Narragansett Trail, which runs from North Stonington to Hopkinton, R.I.
Also part of the viewscape is the top of the 185-foot stone and glass tower and geodesic dome of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. The trail continues across the top of the ridge past farm fields to a pair of overlooks.
The stone throne is near the ponds and has been recently cleared of vegetation so it can easily be found. I still walked past it the first time. It is noted on the map as a “natural stone throne,” but it’s hard to believe a portion of it wasn’t cut to make it appear as a throne.
A sign at the entrance notes the preserve is a “certified wildlife habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. It provides the four basic habitat elements: food, water, cover and places to raise young. For humans, the preserve will make you feel like a king or queen as you sit on a throne and survey your kingdom.
If you go: Take Route 2 to Shewville Road about two miles east of the intersection with Route 2-A. Look for the parking area about a mile on the left about a mile south along Shewville Road. Visit https://www.town.ledyard.ct.us/152/Trail-Maps for a map of the trails.