Sprague Preserve and Willimantic Friendly’s

28 07 2015

Robinson1 Oct 2013 Sprague FranklinJuly 13, 2015

Cherry and I meet in East Hampton to consolidate cars and I drive east to Franklin. Cherry has found a description of the Sprague Preserve by Peter Marteka and a Friendly’s in Willimantic. We are on our way.

 I made the mistake of asking Cherry to check the map on the way, forgetting how directionally challenged she (and her sisters and mother) is. Eventually, we arrive at the well-marked dirt road that leads into the preserve and bump our way down.

Suddenly, bright orange plastic fencing and HazMat notices. Not again (our previous encounter has not been published to protect the innocent)! We continue to the described parking area near an old cabin, where we can see orange fencing stretching for acres. In fact, there is a mobile headquarters and two rings of fencing, the actual area, and a decontamination ring around that. I look at Cherry and she justifies her choice by indicating Marteka’s recent article. The date? Oops, September 2010.

I search the bulletin board on the old cabin unsuccessfully for a trail map, while Cherry checks in with the HazMat headquarters. She returns, saying, “We can walk anywhere except in the fencing.” But we have no clue where the four miles of trail actually are. While standing on the dirt road that led us into this area, a worker is leaving the HazMat project. He carefully dips one shoe, and then another, in a pan of disinfectant before heading towards us. What in the world is out there?

We ask him about the trails and he hands us a beautiful trail guide from inside the headquarters (why the original staff person inside didn’t give it to Cherry is beyond us). I ask why the fencing? A former skeet range. Lead contamination.

And so off we go. We do our usually talking and checking in. Cherry has been spending more and more time alone and enjoying it. She says she’s changing from the extrovert to introvert. I talk a bit about how distress from relationships trickles into all interactions. Meanwhile, the trail arrives at the Shetucket River and we are stunned into silence. The broad shallow expanse running across a rocky bottom sparkles in the sunlight. A jewel. The guide says it’s part of the National Heritage Corridor and we understand why. Fortunately, the white blazed trail follows the river for a mile and we enjoy its splendor.

We return under the powerline, dubbed the waterfall trail, but we couldn’t find the turnoffs. Instead, we were treated with fresh blueberries, blackberries, and beautiful orange wood lilies. With a short stint on the Fairy Trail, it wasn’t long before we were back on the white-blazed trail and to our parking area. The two-hour loop was perfect.

The trip to Friendly’s in Willimantic went quickly as we joked about second close encounter with a HazMat site, and the date on the Marteka review. Ordering the “2 for $20,” we were pleased with our lunch but especially the included sundaes. Lunch was a welcomed respite from the hot, humid day outside and we had worked up an appetite. Our waitress, overloaded, finally cracked a smile when I asked for a chocolate covered cherry to match my forbidden chocolate and hot fudge.





Hiking for Friendly’s: Portland Airline Trail and Cromwell Friendly’s

20 07 2015

June 8, 2015

Portland Airline trail CT Trails day

CT Trails Day

Cherry and I decide to hike a new stretch of the Airline Trail in Portland that was highlighted on CT Trails Day. I checked with a local volunteer about parking details, we leave one car where the trail and power line crosses Depot Hill Road, and head back to Camp Ingersoll on Route 66 to start our two-mile trek.

We have trouble finding the trail head, although we do encounter the camp’s dump for the camp and numerous ATV trails. Eventually, we find ourselves headed in the right direction, primarily under the power line. The trail isn’t bike-ready but is certainly easy for walking.

One large puddle is filled with tadpoles that we hope will mature before they run out of water. Before you know it, with talks about summer plans and our steady pace, we are at our second car. Nothing to it, we laugh.

And then we are off to Friendly’s in Cromwell. The friendly waitress aims to please. We are her first customers of the day, as it is just past 11:00AM and we want lunch. No problem for her. Coffee for Cherry, and then we decide to split the $5 burger and focus our energy on dessert. The burger comes neatly divided on two plates, with two adorable French fry holders, lined with paper napkins, each with half an order.

When it’s time to order dessert, I notice that my two favorite ice cream flavors, chocolate almond chip and pistachio, aren’t included in the menu choices for sundaes. No problem for our waitress; she cracks open a half gallon of each from the freezer. My grandmother was working in an ice cream shop when my grandfather-to-be came in for a chocolate cone. She preferred pistachio and through some interesting genetic quirk, I’ve followed this tradition even though I learned of the story much later in life.

We joke about this hike/Friendly’s connection and then get serious. We both have great memories of times at Friendly’s and decide to try out the idea of hiking near a Connecticut Friendly’s and then having lunch. Will keep you posted.





Hiking for Friendly’s

16 07 2015

Cherry and I have new hiking plans. Check it out: Hiking for Friendly’s.