Hiking for Friendly’s

Huntington State Park (Newtown/Redding) and Danbury Friendly’s

September 11, 2017

A day of extraordinary weather sends us on our way to our next Friendly’s in Danbury. We head west on I-84 and Cherry updates me about a recent family event. She, her sisters, and stepmother gathered at one sister’s home for a delightful, relaxing weekend. They thought about having a T-shirt made for their “reunion”—maybe next time! Both Cherry and her stepmother had cat issues before making it to the get-together, but all worked out.

Huntington SP sign 09.11.17Our nearby hiking site, Collis Huntington State Park, is a bit southeast of Danbury and we enter on its southeastern boundary. We start on the Aspetuck Valley Trail and head westerly to the park boundary. Trails are well marked and relatively flat as we continue on the blue trail a little more than a mile. The area is lovely, quiet, and peaceful. We share connection: I tell her about my newly discovered plumber who lives near her; she tells me she met someone who went to high school with me at her local library.

Huntington SP geological feature 09.11.17We reach an intersection and decide to take the red trail next and discover a large rock outcrop. I talk about my efforts to get ahead on maintaining my family home and the success I’ve had getting help for the house where I live. We talk about celebrations and birthdays, and I tell Cherry that I’ve booked a cabin at the beach for next June for my birthday. I’m already excited and I see her eyes sparkle. “I love the way you’re back to planning ahead and being hopeful,” she says. Before we know it, we are back at the car; it’s been 3.4 miles and two hours, but our time just flies by here. Off we go to Danbury’s main drag.

We enter the Friendly’s parking lot in the rear and I wonder if it’s even still open—no cars. Yikes, but yes, there are cars in the front and we go inside. Not many people, and Cherry and I bemoan the potential loss of what we consider a national treasure. Our waitress, Karen, exuberantly seats us and we are on a roll. She is the friendliest Friendly’s waitress we’ve yet to encounter. “If by any chance you girls are seniors, well….” she winks at us. Cherry is in love!

Huntington SP Danbury Friendlys 09.11.17We enjoy our lunch; Cherry gets grilled cheese and soup, since she’s had a weekend of sinful eating with her family. I get the honey BBQ chicken and manage to actually save half of it for dinner. Karen has learned our names and uses them frequently. She picks up Cherry’s jacket when it falls on the floor, she cleans up after us as we eat. She checks in regularly. She covers all her tables with ease and connection. “Good manners,” she says to a young boy on our left who has answered all her questions about his dessert. Our sundaes are the highlight, as usual: Cherry’s Hunka Chunka Peanut Butter fudge and I switch it up to pistachio with hot fudge.

Cherry of course wants to tell Karen about our project. She thinks it’s pretty neat and asks where we hiked today. Cherry tells her we have only five more to go and are hoping to celebrate our finality at the Cromwell Friendly’s, where we began this adventure almost three years ago. “I know it’s a distance, but you’re invited,” Cherry quips to Karen, who clearly is touched by our outreach.

We review our list of Friendly’s and, indeed, only five more to go! Just like everything else, step by step, a large task gets accomplished in (Friendly’s) bite-sized bits.

 

*~*

Pachaug State Forest, Volunteer and Norwich Friendly’s

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!

~*~*

Kettletown State Park and Southbury Friendly’s

28 June 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!

~*~*

20 April 2017

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 twelth 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
24 February 2017

beth-and-cherry-at-milford-point

The 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!

~*~*

Northwest Park, Windsor and Friendly’s, Windsor Locks
20 January 2017

The day promised to be sunny and in the high forties when Cherry and I head to Windsor for our hike to Friendly’s. It doesn’t get that warm, or sunny, but we arrive ready to go at Northwest Park and Nature Center, owned by the city.

We decide to take trails to the north in order to end up at Rainbow Reservoir. Cherry excitedly tells me she’s heard from a local researcher that he and a colleague might be interested in making a documentary about her uncle. Her father’s brother, John, was likely the last chaplain on Ellis Island and had led an interesting and colorful life. Cherry, still working through probate of John’s estate, has his notes and many relevant documents that could be useful. I’m familiar with the work of the two colleagues she’s mentioned and they would do justice to her uncle’s life.

We see no one else, as we walk past open fields and old tobacco barns. We enter the forest on the eastern edge of the reservoir and enjoy the leafy cover on well-maintained trails. I am surprised to see that the reservoir is frozen, with crows and logs perched atop the ice. We talk about recent events and my desire to be more in touch with my inner voice, to trust and listen to it. I ask Cherry for advice, and she encourages me to provide sufficient down time, by myself, to hear my voice. During the rest of our hike, Cherry points out when in fact I have heard and listened to my voice, during recent medical interventions and with interactions with others.

“A jewel for the town of Windsor,” Cherry decides. Before long, we loop back to the nature center, where we enjoy the use of real bathrooms and their exhibits, including Oreo, their California king snake.

And, fortunately, our Friendly’s is only a short ride away. I notice the exterior is bright white. “Easier for seniors to see,” suggests Cherry. And has a drive-thru! I don’t remember that from any of our visits.

We are served by a perky waitress named Michelle. When we aren’t quite ready to order, she quips, “I’m here until five!” When I ask about our free sundaes, Michelle questions if we are over 60, a flattering tribute to our youthful looks (we hope). While waiting, we review our list of Friendly’s and we have twelve more Connecticut options to visit. That will last us at least a year!

I order honey BBQ chicken melt on brioche, the lunch Cherry liked last time, while she gets a fishamajig supermelt. Big portions and I am filled instantly. But, wait! There’s still a sundae coming. We both try the new Cherry Magnolia: black cherry chocolate chunk ice cream, brownie pieces, and hot fudge topped with whipped topping, a cherry, and chocolate chips. Excellent. But, boy, I am full.

And, boy, I am still full!

~*~*
Hiking for Friendly’s: Scantic River State Park, Enfield
December 21, 2016

us-at-scantic-river-state-park-12-21-16Today 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?

I talk to Cherry about my recent experience with Miracles. First, I get a holiday card from a mutual friend, in which she writes, “We pray you have … miracles for this holiday and the new year.” Her words startle me, as I realize the upcoming Chanukah festival is the miracle of a small amount of temple oil burning eight days (instead of its expected one). We play with dreidels, four-sided tops with a letter on each side spelling out, in Hebrew, A Great Miracle Happened Here. I notice a dreidel garland at the reception desk of my daughter’s hospital floor. Yes, it is a great miracle that she has made it through this crisis and the partial CT scans show positive results of her treatments. I feel a major internal shift and I want to shout out to her doctor, A Great Miracle Happened Here. My daughter says, Please don’t, and I comply.

Then we come home and I am sorting through my mail that accumulated during our hospital stay. A note from a 93-year old cousin says, “I’ve heard of miracles here. They do happen.” Whoa! I take out a Chanukah card to thank her, and my Chanukah cards all have dreidels on the front. And the words inside the first one I pick are, “May the miracle of Chanukah fill your heart with happiness.” OK, angels and Universe and whoever else, I am listening. Then the mail carrier makes a delivery, including a card from my aunt’s lifelong friend in which she writes, “Medical science has made such progress that remission miracles happen. Let it happen!” Holy Moly. Enough. I get it. Chanukah starts Saturday night, and I will be lighting candles with my daughter and her family to celebrate our great miracle of her health and life…now and for the coming years. Cherry smiles, enjoying the story and sequence of miracles.

scantic-river-state-park-horizontal-12-21-16After a false start at Windsor Locks Canal (which is closed in the winter to protect the eagles), we find a plowed parking area for Scantic River Linear Park in Enfield. A low-key state park, we enjoy a walk through newly planted saplings to reach a yellow-blazed trail that follows the river. I ask Cherry about her holiday plans and they have shifted. Her stepmother, in England recovering from the flu, won’t be home in time for Christmas as planned. So Cherry will spend the day with a sister in Connecticut instead, which she expects to enjoy also.

Footprints in the snow indicate others had been there before us. The river is flowing in spots, sun sparkling as it cascades along. Cherry talks about some challenges in finalizing her uncle’s estate. We head east, and then west until the trail loops back up to the start. We spend about an hour and a half and have worked up an appetite.

enfield-friendlys-12-21-16We head to Friendly’s in Enfield near the mall and find a table. Our waitress Wendy is a feisty blond wearing a Santa hat. She figures out the most economical way for us to get our senior meal and sundae. I try a turkey burger with bacon and applesauce on the side. Cherry has what she says is the best lunch yet: BBQ chicken and bacon with cole slaw. “Not a meal for a blind date,” Cherry quips as she wipes sauce from her chin. We both enjoy our sundaes (chocolate/chocolate chip). We stretch our legs, listen to the holiday music, and enjoy the steady stream of customers. “I really want Friendly’s to succeed,” Cherry says wistfully. I agree, and hope that these blogs might encourage others to frequent the chain.

~*~*

GREAT MEADOWS AND WETHERSFIELD FRIENDLY’S

October 11, 2016

great-meadows-wethersfieldCherry 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 destination. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Great Meadows, driven by a friend, so I look online unsuccessfully for an access point; I decide to wing it, as I remember the egress point (I think).

We meet at a local parking lot and I drive us up to the exit for Old Wethersfield and start down the road I think we came from many years ago. Signs on both sides of the road indicate a game club and no trespassing. But the area is lush, farmed, and floodplain forest, depending on which direction we look.

We talk about being on time and our family backgrounds. Cherry’s discomfort in being late as a youngster encouraged her to always be on time if not early as an adult. My grandmother was always early, a trait apparently I picked up from her. My family always means “two o’clock” when they say, “Thanksgiving will start at 2pm.” If you aren’t there within a few minutes, family members start to worry!

We continue driving the dirt roads, backtracking when we reach a gated section, passing migrant workers picking squash and peppers. We see a couple of older men flying model airplanes (which I remember from my first trip), some men walking dogs, and eventually end up at a paved road and neighborhood.

We park here, and backtrack, heading down a gated path (the signs here just say no hunting or shooting). Silver maple are lovely, the dappled shade a cool break from the sunny fields. Cherry talks about the aborted visit from a friend due to Hurricane Matthew, which gets us off on a tangent about how living alone provides us habits that are more obvious when someone stays with us.

We stroll, really, along the farm roads and come to an intersection. Our section of the road, looking back from this junction, is posted No Trespassing, so we backtrack, now feeling a bit uncomfortable about being there. Cherry talks about her recent house repairs, how pleased she is with her tradesman. I talk about a recent trip to the Berkshires, the views, and the experience. It’s quite peaceful and doesn’t take us long to return to my car.

Although I really don’t know exactly where we are, I am certain I can get us to the Wethersfield Friendly’s. We drive only a quarter mile and find ourselves at the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry, which is winding its way across the Connecticut River! So, it’s an easy ride back to Route 99 and our lunch destination.

The Friendly’s turns out to be located in a strip mall on the Silas Dean highway. Our waitress, Rela, is French (Cherry asks) and doesn’t stop smiling. Cherry’s having a big dinner, so she gets a salad. I don’t know what I’m doing for dinner, but it doesn’t stop me from getting a turkey chedder supermelt sandwich on brioche bun. Honestly, I hadn’t expected deli turkey, but the yummy chocolate sundae with fudge sauce easily makes up for any disappointment. And Cherry’s big dinner doesn’t stop her from including a cookie dough sundae with her modest lunch.

We are full, kindof pleased with ourselves for getting out there on such a nice day, and ready to think about our next trip, which hopefully will be in November.

~*~*

26 August 2016

LANTERN HILL AND MYSTIC FRIENDLY’S

pequot-trail-markerAfter a hiatus due to personal needs, Cherry and I head out for another Hike to Friendly’s. I’ve chosen to visit Lantern Hill, followed by the Mystic Friendly’s. We meet at 9:00AM at the Old Lyme Park and Ride and travel together to North Stonington. We chat in the car; Cherry has just returned from a week-long silent retreat at the Wisdom House in Litchfield. Each day, she would walk to Topsmead State Forest.

On this overcast, humid, hot day, we find the Pequot Trail behind Two Trees Inn, complete with signage and map. We quickly set off, pleased with the excellent marking along the trail, which is well-maintained. We soon reach junction with the Wintechog Hill Road trail, and then a loop woods trail that we do not select. We want to get to the top of Lantern Hill (without too much climbing, though, we both agree!).

As always, we talk as we walk. I focus on our elders, their fragility, and the recent passing of one, illness of another. I am realizing that I, and my cousins, are becoming the elders; two of my mom’s sisters and my remaining uncle are in their nineties. It’s a spooky feeling; here I am, hiking and kayaking, and doing many youthful activities that it seems unreal that I may be considered the older generation. Yikes!

lantern-hill-massive-outcropWe reach a junction in the trail; to the left, it is steep, so we head right of what appears to be a loop trail. At some point, we lose the lovely Pequot Trail markers and are following orange blazes. We pass towering rock formations, joking that we hope we won’t be climbing up there.

Cherry talks about her volunteer projects at Haddam Meadows State Park, an area she walks regularly, collects litter, and organizes invasive plant removal. She shares how some staff changes there have impacted her work and we become aware of how none of us operate alone, but in community.

sachems-seatWe come to a magnificent overlook with extensive white quartz outcrops that have served as the Sachem’s seat. We marvel at the views, the expanses of forested land. Forgive those who drive through Connecticut and think it’s a boring series of cities and bedroom communities!

We continue, lose the trail markers, and finally bushwhack through a marked but overgrown section to the return loop. A bit of up and down slow us slightly, but Cherry talks about some volunteer work at her church. She is amazing, the amount that she gives, and we talk about our need for self-care also. I’ve had a few months of difficult caring for others – family sickness, loss of a close friend’s mother – and hiking Lantern Hill is one of my ways of healing and caring for myself.

We soon step carefully down the end of the loop trail that we had avoided previously, to retrace our steps back to our car. It’s after 11 and we are ready for lunch.

Back at the car, I notice my gas tank is empty. We are in the boonies of eastern Connecticut but my handy phone GPS assures me we are within five miles of gas. We end up on the highway, and my concern elevates a bit. Only one exit to the Friendly’s and there is gas across the street. I am saved!

We enter the spacious, cooled restaurant and are seated. Our cheery waitress,cherry-at-friendlys-mystic Aimee, explains the specials and we are ready. Cherry takes the high road and orders salad with chicken, knowing she’ll be indulging later. I throw caution to the wind and get a turkey burger complete with bacon and dressing. Not my usual fare, but I feel as though I am vacation, relieved of recent stress and responsibilities. Go for it! Completed with a chocolate sundae with hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles, I am replete. And absolutely full. Perhaps a nap when I get home? (I check Friendly’s website when I get home. Nine hundred and fifty-one calories, 23 grams saturated fat, and 2151 mg salt. Holy Moly! Good thing we don’t do this often! I decide not to look up the sundae.)

We drive back to Old Lyme to Cherry’s car, pleased to be chugging again through the Friendly’s in our area. We have a date, but not a location, for our next adventure.

~*~*

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.

~*~*

27 October 2015

Bristol Friendly hike 10.27.15.jpg 002BARNES MEMORIAL NATURE CENTER, BRISTOL

Today, 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.

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!

~*~*

9 September 2015

photo by Leslie M.

photo by Leslie M.

RAGGED MOUTAIN AND FRIENDLY’S IN SOUTHINGTON

So 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.

~*~*

17 August 2015

Tyler Mill Park Wallingford w Diane Saunders 08.17.15 005TYLER MILL WALLINGFORD AND NORTH HAVEN FRIENDLY’S

It may not have been the hottest or most humid day of the summer, but it was close. Regardless, Cherry and I met in Durham at 8AM to continue our Hiking for Friendly’s.

Route 68 towards I-91 was shut down due to an accident, but fortuitously, the detour took us directly to Tyler Mill Preserve in Wallingford. Armed with a map I’d downloaded, we parked and took off at 8:30AM. We entered the 1,000-acre park at its northern end and found the well-marked red trail. We started a clockwise exploration, moving quickly past it’s junction with the yellow and then orange trails. We enjoyed crossing forested wetlands with high rock outcrops on the eastern edge.

Cherry had just returned from a week’s silent retreat where she appreciated daily walks and swims plus an occasional massage. I’d just hosted a beach day attended by 25 of my beloved family. Life was good.

We reached Tamarac Swamp Road and swung around towards our parking area. Suddenly, I was confronted by a sign suggesting a continuation of the red trail not on my map. We decided to be adventurous and take the 2.2-mile extension. Shortly, we encountered another decision point, loop to the left or right. We chose left.

Cherry was excited about an upcoming party she’s hosting where her friends and family will meet each other. After hearing about sisters Missy and Holly and stepmother Barbara for years, I too was looking forward to the event. I shared my current strategy of taking August as vacation—trying to do as much as possible to recognize and meet my needs.

When we saw a fenced area, we stopped to read the sign describing a wildflower restoration area done with the assistance of Lyman Hall students. As we contemplated the project, a woman approached and described their activities removing invasives (multiflora rose and Russian Olive) and planting bird and butterfly-friendly natives. Suddenly, both Cherry and this woman, who turned out to be Diane Saunders, recognize each other as former colleagues at UCONN Extension! We got a personal tour of the project and guidance to some of the unusual sights in the area. And a revised copy of the map to get us back to our car. Three hours after starting, we arrived, covered with sweat but pleased with both the property and serendipity that life can bring.

And then, to North Haven Friendly’s where a cheerful Danielle allowed me to grab a printed paper roll filled with mazes, word searches, and other kid-friendly activities. (She even gave me crayons!) Searching the menu, Cherry discovered we were entitled to a ten-percent discount and free sundaes due to our senior status. Will the surprises at Friendly’s ever end?

While devouring sandwiches and sundaes, we looked at our list of Friendly’s to determine our next month’s stop. To be announced!

~*~*

July 13, 2015

Robinson1 Oct 2013 Sprague FranklinSPRAGUE PRESERVE IN FRANKLIN AND WILLIMANTIC FRIENDLY’S

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.

~*~*

June 8, 2015

Portland Airline trail CT Trails day

CT Trails Day

AIRLINE TRAIL PORTLAND AND CROMWELL FRIENDLY”S

herry 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.

All in all, a wonderful experience. 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.

~*~*~

friendly's logoCherry and I have decided on a new paradigm. We are going to find hiking trails near the Friendly’s in Connecticut and combine them into a hike/lunch.

Cherry has wonderful childhood memories of walking to her local Friendly’s in Massachusetts with her father and sisters for ice cream cones. My more recent memories include bringing my daughter and her friends there after softball and choral concerts. I usually have a half gallon (which is actually now only 1.5 quarts) in my freezer. Chocolate Almond Chip is my favorite.

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7 responses

16 07 2015
Hiking for Friendly’s | Beth Lapin

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

18 07 2015
Susan Scott

This sounds like fun Beth … a friend has just left now, after having supper with us and we were talking about hiking and we’re plotting a hike somewhere, though her plans include Rwanda, Ethiopia, Chile and other extraordinary places. I’d rather include a hike where there is decent coffee ice-cream to be had!

20 07 2015
Beth Lapin

Susan, Are there Friendly’s near you?! Glad that the synchronicity was there for you, too!

12 03 2016
Preston Radsek

Cherry had just returned from a week’s silent retreat where she appreciated daily walks and swims plus an occasional massage. I’d just hosted a beach day attended by 25 of…

11 09 2016
Hiking for Friendly’s: Lantern Hill (N. Stonington) and Mystic Friendly’s | Beth Lapin

[…] Source: Hiking for Friendly’s: Lantern Hill (N. Stonington) and Mystic Friendly’s […]

23 10 2016
Hiking for Friendly’s: Great Meadows, Wethersfield | Beth Lapin

[…] Source: Hiking for Friendly’s: Great Meadows, Wethersfield […]

28 12 2016

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