If you grew up on man-made Candlewood Lake, you’re probably familiar with its lore. Its bottom is a valley that was once home to farms and towns, and structures and possessions were left behind, making it a marine archeologist’s dream. Sometime in the 1970s after Jaws made a splash, a local artist (high on something, the rumor goes) took his boat out to the middle of the lake and painted a giant angular rock to look like a Great White’s snout thrusting up out of the water. In the southern end of New Milford, there’s a cliff, and to survive a leap from it is to prove man-hood. And some people have spotted a huge, unidentified creature which has been dubbed “Candy.”
Recently, Nathan and I were looking for a little escape for the day—something nearby, easy to get to, and inexpensive. We thought of all sorts of places—The Bronx Zoo (a frequent haunt), an hour away. Rye Playland, also an hour away. Kent Falls, forty-five minutes away. But all of that seemed like too much hassle, and it was growing late in the afternoon.
We finally decided we’d go to lunch, and then it was the usual “where the hell do you go eat in Danbury that’s even mildly interesting?” Pathetic, I know, but I Googled ‘Restaurants Danbury’ and nothing came up of interest. Then I Googled ‘Restaurants Brookfield CT’—and the first thing that popped up was Down the Hatch, a popular eatery on the lake’s shore that’s only open seasonally.
If you live on the lake—which many tourists, I’m sure, only wish they could live on—you know that Down the Hatch is as much a part of the lore as all those other stories I shared. It’s the best place to go for a cold beer and friend clams in the middle of summer, and I’d been there many times. But what sold me on the idea of going on that day was a phrase on their website: “You will feel like you’re on vacation the minute you step ashore, see the beautiful views, and grab a cool tasty drink.”
The idea of being on vacation five miles up the road appealed to me, although I doubted it would work—I’d been there many times, after all. What was so special about it?
But when we arrived, that changed. I stepped outside of myself and tried to pretend I didn’t live locally, that I’d never been to the place before. We were ushered to a table outside on the patio and ordered a couple of tropical drinks. We had cheap burgers, fed the ducks, and drank in the beauty of the lake. By the time we got back to the house about two hours later, and I felt as though I’d taken a full day off. To sum up—I felt like I’d been on vacation.
So if you can’t get away and are area-bound this Labor Day Weekend, stop and think about what treasures your locale might harbor that you’ve forgotten about, step out of yourself and pretend you’re a tourist.
You might find that a little relief is, surprisingly, just up the road.
 Rommie Duckworth of New Fairfield, CT, one of the towns bordering the lake, has written a really terrific summation of the lake’s formation, history, and the treasures that can be discovered beneath the waves. You can read all about it here: http://thescubasportsclub.org/diveInfo/Candle.html
Nathan feeds the ducks.
Here, the bluegills get in on the action. They’re no good for eating, but they are a local favorite for kids learning to fish. These little guys are actually pretty nasty-looking, and have a nasty little bite as well. If you’re swimming with any kind of ankle bracelet on, you’re asking for trouble.
He finishes feeding, and the animals are disappointed he doesn’t have more!