December 29, 2011: It’s twenty-three degrees, the coldest it’s been since March and Cherry insists that we start our new trek today. “It will be invigorating,” encourages a friend. So, off we go, to the southern most part of a new adventure, Cockaponset State Forest.
We leave a car at the parking area off Route 145, near Messerschmidt Pond, and drive to the western parking area off Tower Hill Road in Clinton. Along the way, we curve our way through beautiful old homesteads reminiscent of somewhere outside of Connecticut.
At the parking area, signage is poor and the dirt roadway is filled with partly-frozen puddles large enough to engulf a car. We pull of to the side and start off. It’s 8:45 and still in the twenties. But the sun is strong and we both have multiple layers. Cherry is sporting a new LLBean coat that she bought at a bargain price from consignment and we are comfortable.
We walk along, skirting icy depths along the woods road until we locate a green blaze to our east. We have discovered that Cockaponset is nowhere as well-marked as the blue trail and trails indicated as “unmarked” are pretty much unfindable. So, our initial 4.2 mile hike has been cut to probably three because we can’t locate some of the unmarked spurs from the green trail, particularly a half-mile one near the parking area. We agree this is supposed to be fun and we will enjoy covering the trails that we can locate.
Conversation turns to the holidays and Cherry explains how much she needed to get out for this walk to clear her head. “I’m sick of Christmas,” she confides. We share stress of unwanted gifts, challenges of finding an appropriate one, expectations during the holidays, and remembering those loved ones who have died.
We come to a T-intersection, marked green in each direction, resembling nothing on the map. Cherry points left; I suggest right, towards to sun, where our second car is parked and we follow my lead. We amble along, into a mowed field, along fence rows, and end up at the back of someone’s farm with three large cows. Wrong choice, and back we go to the other part of the green trail.
We talk about retirement ideas of several friends that focus on Cape Cod or Florida and consider our own. Both of us single, we noted that their plans counted on the continued good health of partners and wondered how that would work out. Commenting on a recent tragic fire where a woman lost her three children and parents, we know how quickly things can change and how a wonderful, content world can be rapidly shattered. We agreed on the importance of looking within to find answers to our needs, connecting with nature and our spiritual self, for this is where we get our most consistent support.
It isn’t long before we reach an intersection with blue and then orange trails, which we take about a half mile toward our parked car. A series of well-made bridges cross cascading brooks and we even see a skunk cabbage peaking out prematurely. After two hours, we are back at our second car and retrace our route to pick up the first car. Cherry remarks on the ease of the hike, which is primarily flat through deciduous woods. “Much easier that Mattabessett,” she notes.
Having spotted a small store on our way to hike, we decide to stop there to review our map to plot our next hike. We thoroughly enjoyed pancakes and muffins at Wade’s Country Market in Deep River. In fact, we already told the staff we’d be back after our next leg in January.