Middlesex County Rocks!

20 05 2013

Jim at Bible Rock 001Jim, who’s interested in caves and rocks, visited yesterday from Pittsfield, MA, so we did a rock tour of Middlesex County. We started at Bible Rock in Middletown/Haddam. Set back about a hundred feet from the road, this eight-foot high split rock looks like an open book, or Bible. The nearby brook is also named after this feature.

After taking photographs, we crossed the road to take a brief stroll along the rocks and stream flowing near the Seven Falls picnic area. Likely a CCC project, a mostly-intact table served as a spot for us to review maps and set our next stops.

We agreed to drive north to Dripps Road and visit Spiderweed, a Nature Conservancy preserve. After a brief exploration Spiderweed 002 of the ruined cottage, we reached the beryl-rich pegmatite outcrops and saw Appalachian sandwort (Arenaria glabra). Common to the south and abundant in these unusual rock formations in the north, it’s a spring flowering annual. We caught a glimpse of the Connecticut River through the lush spring foliage.

After a snack and return to the car, we drove south to Durham to start on the Mattabesett Trail leading directly to Coginchaug Cave. Rising thirty feet high and stretching more than fifty feet along the base of a cliff, it provided shelter to Native Americans long ago. Blacked rock and stone fire pits suggest recent fires but artifacts have apparently been uncovered at this site.

When we returned to the car, we decided to take a lunch break. We then went across the Connecticut River to Portland to try to find Bodkin Rock. After several futile efforts (and getting covered in low-tide mud), we decided a water approach would be more successful and would have to wait for a future adventure.

Before returning to Middletown, we drove along the old Portland quarry, recently converted into a tasteless zipline and water park (preference for the natural features showing here). By then, it was raining and the park was closed to visitors.

The Ledges 001In Middletown, we explored the conglomerate rock ledges off Kelsey Street. We saw flowering lady’s slippers and columbine, along with a long series of shelters. We attempted unsuccessfully to match the now overgrown landscape with some 1910 photos of the area. We enjoyed the flow of East Round Hill Brook before calling it a day.

Obviously, many other rocks of notice and importance are in Middlesex County, but this was a good start!





Higganum Reservoir

29 04 2013

Haddam Reservoir 04.29.13 001Cherry and I were ready to start hiking again! This time, we decided to focus on trails in Haddam, her hometown. We used www.haddamtrails.org as our guide.

It turns out there were thirteen trails in town, of which we’d already hiked one as part of the Mattabessett Trail. There also were three in Cockaponset and we’d tried some of that already. So, today, we started with Higganum Reservoir Trail. A round-trip of about a mile and a half, we knew it wouldn’t take long.

It was a cloudy day with temperatures in the fifties, which made for a perfect hike. At 8:30, we parked at the north end of the reservoir to look at the spillway, comprised of large brownstone slabs. We then meandered through a nearby cemetery to reach Hull Avenue and locate the trailhead. We talked about Cherry’s upcoming retirement and issues related to continuation of her programs once she was gone. She also shared about a potential trip she might take to Buenos Aires in January, which sounded quite exciting.

We were disappointed that the trail was so far from the reservoir, so we bushwhacked down to it and tried to follow along. We did get a few nice views of the waterway, while we talked about the current state of my writing. I talked about an in-progress short story and challenges in completing it by Thursday and Cherry was encouraging about its plot line.

Haddam Reservoir 04.29.13 002 Seeing no clear way to continue along the reservoir, we returned to the trail and encountered two women walking three barking dogs. We were glad to move past them and find the source of the reservoir, a lovely stream flowing over rock outcrops. Reaching the other trailhead, we backtracked, staying on the official trail. Cherry asked about my recent trip to Stockholm and Denmark and I told her about the various foods and sights we’d seen. By then, we had returned to our parked car.

 Since it was still early, we decided to hike along the railroad tracks along the river in the center of town. Not an official trail, it crossed Higganum Cove (a superfund site containing PCBs, municipal solid waste, and asbestos.) before reaching the river. Being very low tide, we were able to explore the small beach before hiking north along the tracks. After a half hour, we turned and retraced our steps and returned to our cars at 11:30AM.

 Cherry hadn’t been to either of these areas, so we had a nice introduction to Haddam’s trails. To top it off, we decided to lunch at Mamma Roux’s on chili and gumbo. Cherry suggested a plan for future adventures that included selecting a Connecticut town and spending the day exploring trails, shops, and museums, and sampling a restaurant. I didn’t hesitate to agree. We’ll pick our first town after retirement at the end of June. Meanwhile, we’ll head back to Haddam in May to sample another trail or two.





It’s a Beautiful Morning

22 06 2012

No words necessary….





HealingNatureCT workshops in June

5 05 2012

Do you miss that peaceful feeling you get from spending time outside?  Would you like to be inspired by nature? Are you interested in advocating for nature’s creatures? Join a four-class session, HealingNature, offered through the Middletown (CT) Park & Recreation Department for an introduction to ecotherapy to help us balance ourselves through connections with nature.

Instructor Beth Lapin brings 20 years experience as a field biologist and an equal amount as a social worker — and masters degrees in both – along with decades of experience leading outdoor excursions and therapeutic groups. “Not just another hike in the woods, although that’s included, we will use our senses to strengthen our connection with the natural world,” she explained.” Anyone with questions can contact her: Beth@HealingNatureCT.com or call 860 398 4470.

Sessions will meet on Thursdays in June from 6:30 until 8:00pm at Ron McCutcheon Park at Crystal Lake in Middletown, CT. Pre-register by May 21: send a completed registration form (email for copy) and check for $65 to Middletown Park & Recreation Department, 100 Riverview Center, #140, Middletown, CT 06457. Open to all mobility levels.





DST…and the sap keeps running

12 03 2012

Spring ahead! Just the words bring a quickening of the heart and spirit. But please explain to me how my cats have already adjusted their internal clocks and are yowling at the new 6AM for their breakfast.

Spring, rebirth, growth. I’ve seen crocuses and daffodils, pussy willows, and green shoots. And my friend Barb is tapping her sugar maples. These cold nights and warm days have been perfect for getting the sap running. Buckets are overflowing and the holding vat is brimming.

Now for the boil, boil, boil. Barb sends me home with a taste of the end result. I love maple syrup, always springing for the real stuff. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning’s waffles. I dip my finger into the amber liquid and taste. An exquisite shock runs through my mouth as the intensity of maple registers along all my nerves and synapses to my taste center. I remember maple sugar candies, shaped into leaves that I had as a child. Now, I’m spoiled. Even the real stuff isn’t good enough anymore. Oh, dear. Oh, yay. Life is good. Spring is here.





Spring, Spring, Beautiful Spring

5 03 2012

Spring, spring, beautiful spring.

When all the birds are on the wing.

Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?

I thought the wing was on the bird!

That little ditty appealed to my early grade school sensibilities when I learned it. But each year, unbidden, it rises to my consciousness when the days start getting longer. Signs are everywhere: green tips are pushing from the earth, cats are shedding, my nails are growing faster. But nothing says spring more clearly to me than the trill of the red-winged blackbird.

Although it happens annually, it’s always a surprise when that first “chip, chip” registers in my dormant winter brain. I keep walking past the cattails until I finally am aware, stop myself and say, “They’re here, it’s spring!” while their red epaulettes flash in the sun.

Many years ago, I had a cat, Tee, who camped with me. Tailless, she would arch her back when petted to the point that we would tell her to hump and nicknamed her the humper-doodle. On one trip, we were on the edge of a marsh and the blackbirds kept up a steady stream of their calling. “Listen, Tee, they are calling you! Hump-hump-er-doodle.”

Now, each spring, when I hear that raucous call of the blackbird, I am transported to those days and that cat and it makes me smile. I’m sure, for others, it’s a different cue. What is it that says springs loud and clear to you?





Surprise Guest

4 02 2012

It was Groundhog Day and I was filled with hope that winter might be over. Looking out the kitchen window as I washed my breakfast dishes, I glimpsed a black cat beyond the compost near the creek. I confirmed mine was inside and wondered if it was the stray black and white cat that had been MIA for a month or so.

Grabbing my binoculars, I started to focus on what became a moving target. Initially, its back was towards me and then it turned to cross my backyard, go up my driveway, across the street, and up my neighbor’s drive into her back ten acres.

All the while, my brain kept registering small bits of information. It was more of a brownish black with no other colors. Its fur was very lustrous, with a full, thick tail that curled up a tiny bit at the end. Its little face looked more like a teddy bear. It was the movement—front feet together, followed by the back—more of a lope that finally brought identification. A fisher!

I watched the beautiful animal with awe, simultaneously grateful that both cats were in the house. Suddenly, it didn’t matter much more whether it would be winter or spring today. It would just be.