Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown and Norwich Friendly’s

18 07 2017

10 July 2017

Pachaug Rhodies 07.10.17

Cherry and I pick another perfect day to head to Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown. It’s a long trip, an hour and a half, but the time flies as we chat. Recently, Cherry and her colleagues (church friends, local officials, park staff) welcomed a group kayaking down the Connecticut River when they arrived at Haddam Meadows State Park. It was pouring when they paddled up, almost perfectly on time, and all relished the food, coffee, company, and tents that had been prepared for their arrival.

Today, we travel country roads until we see signs for Pachaug. We enter the forest and park at the Mount Misery campground where we spy the sign for the Rhododendron Sanctuary. We’ve chosen this location for today because the plants will be in flower. The path, handicap accessible, is level and easy. We notice plenty of gypsy moth eggs clustered on trees, which frustrates both of us. We pass through tall cedar trees and spot the Rhodie flowers, a few at first and then tall bushes full! They have a slight aroma and it feels magical. We continue along the boardwalk to the end, where we spot a few painted turtles basking. We encounter a bicyclist on the return to the parking area, but otherwise, it is still.

We decide to walk behind the campground in search of the trail to Mount Misery. We never do find it, but enjoy the open feel to the woodlands and the mystery of not knowing where we are. We walk about 45 minutes and decide to return to the car. My stomach is rumbling and ready for lunch!

The Norwich Friendly’s is a half hour away, an easy ride, and a fresh-looking building. We are surprised inside to find it full and busy. Our server, Yo-yo, confides that she was late and forgot her name tag today (Cherry had to ask her name). We order: fishamajig for Cherry, turkey/bacon burger for me, both with applesauce (which I spy in the kitchen coming from a supermarket-sized Motts jar!). Our sundaes were cookie dough and forbidden chocolate and we eat every last drop, scraping the metal sides of our dishes.

Pachaug Norwich Friendlys empty sundae cups 07.10.17

As we finish up, Cherry confides in Yo-yo about our project of visiting all the Friendly’s in Connecticut and pairing them with a hike. She is genuinely interested and we toy with the idea of letting Corporate Headquarters know about our plans. I think maybe we are far enough along that we can let the cat out of the bag. Perhaps I will post this to their website or FB page and see if anything happens!

We are full and content as we return to Middletown where Cherry parked her car. All ready to plan our next escapade!

 





Hiking For Friendly’s: Kettletown State Park and Southbury Friendly’s

3 07 2017

 

Kettletown hemlock ravine.jpg28 June 2017

Our local weather person calls today a “10” and Cherry and I agree. We head west to Kettletown State Park around 9AM under clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. We arrive an hour later, find parking near the Brook Trail, and start off. The park is almost deserted and quite lovely. The hemlock-lined ravine provides a tranquil environment for us to talk. Cherry says Erik Hesselberg has written her uncle’s story in the July issue of the Hartford Magazine. The Singing Preacher at Ellis Island, Uncle John Evans helped immigrants arriving in America, a tradition Cherry has continued, without realizing it until Erik pointed it out.

Kettletown eraticIt doesn’t take us long to reach the junction with the blue Pomperaug Trail and then its junction with the Crest Trail. I am on the look for skinks, a type of lizard, and the only one found in Connecticut. I think the crest habitat might be a possible place for them, so we decide to walk along there first.  As we reach an open area, we notice gypsy moth caterpillars hanging from trunks in abundance. “Those head down are dead from the fungus,” I say, having just researched the topic. We look more closely at one of the trunks and see dozens, maybe a hundred pupae! I grab a stick and scrape scores of them off, only realizing I should have photographed them before doing that.

Kettletown lake Zoar

I see an area that seems “skinky” to me, so I head off the trail while Cherry parallels me above on trail. No luck and I rejoin her. After about an hour, we reach an overlook of Lake Zoar, the expanded area on the Housatonic River that is at the base of this outcrop. Views are lovely and we contemplate how Native American village remnants were flooded by the lake establishment and the hunting and fishing rights were obtained by the exchange of a kettle (hence the park’s name).

We continue along the Crest Trail, up and down, and realize it’s been awhile since we’ve covered such challenging terrain. We finally reach the southern junction with the Pomperaug Trail. “Halfway,” I say, drinking my water. The signage throughout is excellent, so we know exactly where we are.

 

 

We continue northerly and then take a side trail west to the Camp Ground and walk the rest of the way back to the car on the road, until we hook up with the path near the beach. We are impressed with the accessible camping site and enjoy walking the boards back. I suggest to Cherry we can veer off the trail, up a steep embankment and would end up right where we parked (at least I hoped so!). Up we went, and sure enough, back to our starting point. Four and a half miles; we’ve earned our ice cream.

It’s only a few minutes to the Friendly’s, according to my directions. We head north of Southbury and it’s residential, away from the highway, and I start to wonder if I’m in the right place. Suddenly, we see a sign for Heritage Village and find ourselves in the midst of the retirement community. “This can’t be right,” I start to say, as I slow for a stop sign. And there, on the corner, is Friendly’s.

Cherry and I are seated, with Hailey being our waitress. The place is full, hosting people of all ages. We order our fare: grilled cheese for Cherry (she’s going to an Ice Cream Social later today) and Philly cheesesteak (again) for me. Good food, forbidden chocolate sundaes with hot fudge, chocolate sprinkles for each of us. This is the busiest Friendly’s we’ve been in so far. Probably because of that, we agreed the service is adequate but not personal.

Cherry suggests a title for this post, “No skinks but a good time.” I agree and we set a place and time for our next Hike for Friendly’s. See you next month in Norwich!





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.