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

13 09 2017

Huntington SP brook 09.11.17September 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.

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Vernon Rails-to-Trails and Friendly’s

23 08 2017

18 August 2017

Vernon trail view

The weather isn’t promising; in fact, my phone indicated rain most of the morning and thunderstorms at 9:15. But Cherry and I decide to hike anyway. As she quips, “The worst thing that could happen is we have a short hike and a long time to enjoy the food and ice cream at Friendly’s!”

We meet and head to Vernon around 9AM, just after rush hour traffic. Cherry’s had some family time with her half-sister, visiting from England with hubby and two kids. They all spent a day, along with her step-mom and other family members, at Look Park in Northampton, MA. Cherry describes the fun they had on the train, picnicking, and being together, which is special when some live across the pond.

Vernon rocks and plantsThrough my intuitive sense of direction (strongly lacking in Cherry, she always says), we find the Vernon Rails-to-Trails crossing on Taylor Street. We park on a nearby side street and head north. We both are surprised by the beauty of the surroundings. And the weather is holding; “I won’t say the “R” word,” Cherry declares.

Excellent signs describe the rail history of the area. We see remnants of track and talk about the Essex Steam Train, now able to travel northward into Haddam. I am disappointed the line won’t be converted into a hiking trail at this point.

Vernon Reading TrailWe see families with bicycle and other walkers, especially near the parking area. Here, we encounter a Reading Trail, something I’d not heard of but Cherry knew. For National Trails Day, the Vernon Park & Rec Department partnered with a local bookstore to establish a mile-long Reading Trail, where Curious George Makes Pancakes is parsed out, page by page. I think of my grandson’s love of George and how this would inspire children to walk!

After an hour, we decide to return to the car. We refuse to say the “R” word, but it’s starting to look ominous. We talk about friends and the difference between activities companions and true friends. Cherry’s thought a lot about this, and suggests that being friends with herself is most important, although a bit more challenging.

And then to Friendly’s, a brief six-minute drive! Well, actually I pull in too soon and we park at the neighboring fast food place and climb a small embankment to enter Friendly’s. Our waitress, Abby, can’t me more than 16; she must be at least that to work, right? Cherry notices an enlarged photo on the wall of three young women in the 1950s and tells Abby she had a dress like the one on the left and used to come to Friendly’s in Holyoke when she was young. “I used to come when I was a kid, too,” says Abby. Could that have been more than ten years ago, Cherry and I laugh, after Abby leaves our table.

Vernon Friendlys queen for a dayI try to convince Cherry to be Queen of Friendly’s for a day, but she leaves the crown at the register. And as we drive home, we laugh about the silent “R” word – it was perfect weather! We are chugging through the remaining Connecticut options; according to my notes, we only have six more to go!

 





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





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.





Hiking for Friendly’s: Tyler Mill Preserve and North Haven Friendly’s

19 08 2015

17 August 2015

Tyler Mill Park Wallingford w Diane Saunders 08.17.15 005

Diane Saunders

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!





Sprague Preserve and Willimantic Friendly’s

28 07 2015

Robinson1 Oct 2013 Sprague FranklinJuly 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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