Hiking for Friendly’s: Naugatuck SF and Friendly’s

1 05 2017

20 April 2017

It is raining when Cherry and I leave Middletown but clear by the time we park in the west block of Naugatuck State Forest in Beacon Falls. That is partly because the storm is moving away from us, and partly because we need to check and recheck directions to find the entrance. But we arrive around 10AM and start out. We are drawn to this site because of the promise of magnificent waterfalls. However, the trail head doesn’t match the map I’d printed; there is a blue, orange, and unmarked trail and none are on the map! We take the orange.

We talk, as we go upslope. Under a bit of stress lately, Cherry says she divided everything she was doing into whether it fed or drained her. Fortunately for me, preparing a meal for me and my family on a day that my daughter has treatments is on her positive list! Being clear about what she can do has helped her redesign some of her volunteer work. I voice my similar discovery related to some political outreach I am doing.

The trail passes through hemlock forest and I note how wonderful it is to see healthy trees not infested with hemlock woolly adelgid. I speak too soon; we encounter young branches covered with the cottony pests as we head down an unmarked trail to the noisy falls we can almost see below us.

When we reach the bottom, Spruce Brook is a delight! Beautiful yellow violets, gurgling stream, and then waterfall after waterfall. Our recent rain has swollen the flow and it’s a beautiful series of cascades all the way back to our starting point. Near an adjacent parking lot, we find informational signs and discover this was a popular pic-nic area in the 1880s, with “romantic and weird-like scenery” that was reached by train from New Haven and Waterbury.

The Naugatuck Friendly’s isn’t far away and we are hungry. When we pull in, it’s 12:30PM and only one other car in the lot. We both want Friendly’s to succeed; we both have fond memories from our youth, and now this hiking focus. Inside, we are greeted by a smiling waitress, Jill, who escorts us to our booth. As we pass the hostess stand, I notice a coloring sheet. Jill assures me I can have one and, if it’s good, she’ll put it on the wall.

Brandy-new menus, we notice when we sit! Likely the prices have increased but these now include calories next to each item. Cherry is judicious and chooses a turkey BLT but I go for the Philly Cheesesteak on a brioche roll. We forget to change our French fries to something healthy and Jill doesn’t ask. We are both secretly pleased to see fries on our plates when they arrive. Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed coloring my T-shirt that demonstrates the Good Life.

Jill is lovely, constantly smiling, cooing with a nearby baby, and calling us “girls.” Cherry comments that in her forties, she’d find that annoying. “But now,” she laughs as we relish our forbidden chocolate with hot fudge sundaes, “I love it!” Cherry pleads to let Jill in on our mission and I relent, as we are almost ready to leave. Jill thinks it’s awesome that we are hiking to Friendly’s and says she’ll look for the website. She asks how long we’ve been at this and how many we still need to visit.

We have to look it up. We started June 2015. Two years… wow! And it looks as though Naugatuck is our twelfth Friendly’s out of the twenty-two in Connecticut. I guess we will have our work cut out for us – eating more sundaes!





Milford Point and Friendly’s

25 02 2017

 

24 February 2017

beth-and-cherry-at-milford-pointThe weather could not be any better at the end of February! In the high sixties, sunny, light breeze, wow! Cherry and I head to the shoreline to continue our hiking for Friendly’s in Milford. We drive into the coastal community that hugs the Milford Point spit. Houses, large ones, vie for space on a narrow, low isthmus that merges into the mouth of the Housatonic River. Cherry wonders if FEMA supports them after hurricanes and how these mega-mansions have been allowed here. No obvious answers except money.

But we continue to the entrance of the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center. I haven’t been here in decades, from my Nature Conservancy days, but I notice that one of my former colleagues, Miley Bull, still works here! CAS, founded in 1898, supersedes National Audubon in establishment. Cherry and I see two red-breasted mergansers from the viewing stand looking into the marshes behind the barrier beach.

Cherry is excited about developments related to her late Uncle John, the last chaplain on Ellis Island. She has continued conversations with local researchers, who are interested in making a documentary about him, particularly in relation to current immigration issues. They’ve located footage from a CBS show covering Uncle John and perhaps some of his singing, which was legendary.

milford-point-loon-in-housatonic-riverWe head to the coastal side of Milford Point and walk a little more than a half mile to the mouth of the river below the high tide line. I talk about a lecture I’d been to the previous night given by Rabbi Daniel Cohen. He had focused on number of uplifting and inspiring ways to live. We follow a killdeer down the pebbly wrack line and bask in the sunlight. The harbor across the way (Stratford) is rimmed with condos and structures but we are reveling in sandy habitat.  As we turn the bend of the spit, a common loon is floating backwards out to the Sound on the strong current from the Housatonic. When it spots us, it turns and continues in a more dignified way.

Cherry has initiated the organization of a Sing-along at her local library in April. She lists the participating groups (youth church choir, local pianists and soloists, among others) that have come together to make this event truly a community offering (that’s the kind of thing Cherry does all the time).

We backtrack along the shore and then continue east a bit, startling a cluster of gulls, skirting around a resting mallard pair, and watching honking Canada geese in V’s incoming from various directions to gather on the shore. I spot a raft of dark birds congregated on a sand bar offshore and wish I’d remembered my binoculars. The place is abundant with bird life, as if we all are experiencing spring fever.

We return to make a quick tour of the coastal center and, by now, it’s 11:30 and time for Friendly’s. My GPS keeps sending me back on the interstate, but I want to stick with the Boston Post Road. Friendly’s is on the opposite side of the street and is by far the most difficult one to reach that we’ve yet to visit. (As an afterthought, I wonder if that’s why my directions were sending me on the highway, so I could approach the place from an accessible direction.) The restaurant is located in an old Howard Johnson’s (the attached hotel still operational). “A bit sketchy,” I say, looking around.

But once inside, we are back in familiar territory. Our waiter Stephen, a wiry man our age, seats us and brings waters. We both order the BBQ chicken again, with (healthy) applesauce. Cherry talks about attending a recent meeting with prison volunteers about an empowerment program she’d designed. She’s really pleased to see its growth since her retirement.

milford-friendlys-cherry-with-cherry-sundaeOur “friendly” waiter checks with us multiple times and eventually takes our sundae order, which comes with our meal as we are “over 29,” as he judiciously puts it. We like him even more! Cherry shares with him our hiking to Friendly’s project, which interests him as he’s also a hiker. When our Cherry Magnolia sundaes arrive (of course, we HAD to get that type, as they are Cherry’s namesake), they were full-sized, doused with hot fudge and chocolate chips! Yum!

We waddle back to the car, discussing our next options. And lo and behold, as we head north to Middletown, an adult bald eagle flies over us on the interstate.  A sure sign that our hiking to Friendly’s is appreciated!





Hiking to Friendly’s: Scantic River State Park, Enfield

28 12 2016

December 21, 2016

Today is a fitting day to hike with Cherry to Friendly’s. Besides being the winter solstice, I’ve recently ended ten days of sitting in the hospital with my daughter, who experienced a serious reaction to her medication. Partly sunny, in the high thirties/low forties – what else would I want?

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Hiking for Friendly’s: Great Meadows, Wethersfield

23 10 2016

October 11, 2016 Cherry and I are grateful for a beautiful, warm fall day to continue our Hiking For Friendly’s adventures. We want to stay fairly close to home, so we choose Wethersfield as our de…

Source: Hiking for Friendly’s: Great Meadows, Wethersfield





Mattabesset River Trail, Middletown and Cromwell Friendly’s

6 03 2016

4 March 2016

Cherry and I are back to exploring trails and hiking for Friendly’s. Today was in the thirties with a dusting of snow, but we were no deterred. We headed to northern Middletown to check out the multi-use trail along the Mattabesset River. After leaving one car at the Cromwell Friendly’s, we couldn’t locate the trail head at the cul-de-sac on Tuttle Place. We tried a few other side roads until we found a lovely entrance on Moss Glen. Meanwhile, we were catching up in the car on our lives since our last encounter.

Mattabesett River 04.04.16Heading down to the river, there was a slight sheen of snow on the paved bike path. We headed west when we reached the main route and enjoyed walking along the Mattabesset, under West Road, and along condos in the Westlake area. Cherry noted that she was thrilled that her nominee for a local award had been approved, particularly since news of the nomination had leaked out. We turned back at Westlake Drive, about a mile, and took a grassy path around a pond there, where we scared up a pair of mallards. A series of rickety wooden bridges crossed the wetlands but the dismal condition of one forced us to walk through a parking lot to return to the bike path and head east. I talked about my latest assignment in the city arts office.

Passing our entry point from Moss Glen, we continued to the trail head at Tuttle Place, which was blatantly obvious once we knew where to look. Interestingly, a “For Sale” sign that had been lying on the ground was now nailed back on a pair of four-by-fours. Cherry shared that a woman she’d met on retreat was so taken by Cherry’s butterfly garden plans that she’d made a donation, despite her limited funds, as this woman had lost her son and had a husband suffering from dementia.

Grateful for finding the proper trail head, we viewed the “rest area” and map and returned to the car. The entire trip took about an hour and a half and was four miles total. By then, the sun was peeking through clouds, although the air was still chilly.

Looking forward to visiting our first (and favorite?) Friendly’s, we were disappointed to find there was no toilet paper or towels in the ladies’ bathroom. Waiting a few minutes to be seated, we noticed a long table in the back still uncleared from breakfast. Once seated, we chatted quite a bit before finally getting to our order, which our young waiter with a hair wave graciously took. We talked about my upcoming trip to Costa Rica with my traveling friends, The Jeffs, we covered Cherry’s plans to furnish an needy person’s home, and we reviewed our enneagram types. It also turns out that I forgot to tell Cherry about my upcoming ecotherapy class at Connecticut Forest and Park Association or being discovered by yet another one of Thomas and Victoria Williams’s descendants.

Lunch came and surprisingly, my BACON & SWISS TURKEY BURGER (All-white-meat Turkey burger topped with melted Swiss cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, fresh lettuce, tomato, Honey Mustard, and mayo on a grilled Brioche roll) came without bacon. Not a huge deal, but it did detract a bit from the experience. Friendly’s has new (to us) tablets at each table for ordering, paying, and playing games. We weren’t able to use the new toy because of specifics of our order (our senior meals came with free sundaes), but they looked interesting.

And so did our sundaes, both of us getting forbidden chocolate with hot fudge. Yum. We talked about friends who needed visits and our efforts to provide support. We shared that each of us had plans following this adventure that included MORE food or drink! Finally, it was time to head in our separate directions, both of us satiated with our food and conversation. But just as important was our time outside that we both agreed was therapeutic and rewarding.

 





Barnes Memorial Nature Preserve and Friendly’s in Bristol, CT

29 10 2015

27 October 2015

Bristol Friendly hike 10.27.15.jpg 002Today, it was 37 degrees when Cherry and I met at the parking lot in Middletown to head to Bristol (where the kids are sharp as a pistol). At 8:30, there was commuter traffic and we decided we could leave later next time.

While admiring fall colors, we caught up in the car, covering Cherry’s open house a few weeks’ prior. She was pleased with the results, where her friends and family, who had heard about each other for years, finally had the opportunity to meet. I assured her that I enjoyed putting faces to all her family’s names.

After a brief set of wrong turns, we arrived at the Barnes Memorial Nature Preserve on Shrub Road. Originally owned by The Nature Conservancy (my former employer), the area boasted of three miles of marked trails. Although the center was closed, we could see three aviaries in the back on the second floor. One had an owl, the other a raptor, both of which must have been undergoing rehabilitation. Several woodpecker species foraged in the parking lot trees.

We started on the red trail, which included a small rash of labeled trees, before petering out. We crossed Falls Brook and continued until we reached the yellow trail. That took us to the top of Pigeon Hill, an esker formed during glacial melt twelve thousand years ago. Along the way, Cherry shared her recent adventure to the source of the Connecticut River with her stepmother, Barbara. They enjoyed poking around the quiet and peaceful small towns in northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

We missed the white trail intersection, so returned to the junction with the blue trail and followed the Tunxis Trail north. We were impressed with the large trees and lack of bird activity. This time around, we found the white trail connector and completed our loop. Our hike lasted about an hour. By then, it was almost 11:30, a respectable time for lunch.

Friendly’s in Bristol was on Route 6 and easy to find. Our waitress, Amy, was amenable and led us to a sunny table by the window. I ordered the newest $5 meal (chicken fingers), while Cherry had soup and salad. While eating, I shared my efforts to reach out to repair some gaps that had developed with some of my friends and family over time. Following the Jewish New Year tradition of seeking forgiveness, I had listed ten people to include in this effort, along with ten projects I’d wanted to work on. I felt a bit discouraged with my progress, but Cherry encouraged me to consider a longer time frame for completion.Bristol Friendly hike 10.27.15.jpg 007

By then, our sundaes had arrived and life was good again. Amazing what a little ice cream can do! Returning to Middletown, by early afternoon, we separated with intentions of making good progress on our To Do lists.

And next month? Avon!





Ragged Mountain and Friendly’s in Southington

10 09 2015

8 September 2015

Ragged Moutain 09.08.15 003So we thought it was hot last month when we hiked, but today, again, it was in the 90s and humid. A record. But fear not, Cherry and I forged ahead with our plans to hike at Ragged Mountain in Southington.

We met on Route 66 in Middletown and, after some confusion about our hike location, we piled into my car and headed off. We found the trailhead easily and were pleased to see a clear map posted there. Less exciting was the notice that coyotes were defending their young in dens and people with dogs should be on alert.

We decided to take the woods road to the peak, catch the view, and then return to the car. Although it would be only two miles, we thought that would be sufficient in this weather. We started at 8:30AM on the upward adventure.

Gratefully, the entire trail was forested and the heat hadn’t invaded the understory at that point. Cherry was excited about the balance in her life, her ability to have enough quiet time and interactions. She was choosing how to spend her energy and was looking forward to getting a new bench on her property, so she could sit and watch her garden.

It wasn’t long before we reached the top. The overview was stunning, looking into Kensington, down on the reservoirs, and across to other ridges. Surprisingly there were white pine, not pitch, on the ridgeline here. Many plants, blueberries in particular, were wilted from the drought. We saw two other hikers along the ridge who also were trying to beat today’s heat by getting an early start.

On our return trip, I talked about upcoming hikes and workshops on ecotherapy I’d be leading. Always the cheerleader, Cherry was excited that Middletown Recreation Services was supporting my work.

By 10AM, we were back at our cars and headed to Southington’s Friendly’s. It was less friendly than most of the others, so far, and the ambience was neutral. No special effects or experiences. I had the $5 bacon burger; Cherry had soup and salad. We both topped it off with sundaes. Polite wait staff but not willing to make a special effort. Am I getting jaded?

We looked at our next location, which we decided will be Bristol. I wondered aloud how long we’d been hiking together. Four years, Cherry guessed. I thought we had been hiking when she’d taken her Holy Land trip, which was five years ago. We both remembered the impetus—a summer get-together when a former hiking friend came east to visit, which Cherry pursued that following March. When I looked it up later, I discovered we started in Spring 2010. Wow, time flies.