Kevin and I did an almost 2-mile hike on the Herron Pond Loop at White Memorial Conservation Center. It was a good up & down hike this afternoon. Close to the Fawn Pond we missed our trail and walked the outer path. Since we made a “mistake”, we had the chance to see the engraved boulder, a rock in memory of the White siblings, Alain & May. Back on the track, we were at the overlook of Fawn Pond. The pond looks so pretty with the tree stomps and a water lily forest beneath the surface of the water.
Once, Kevin and I made it to Herron Pond, we took the outer track again. This time, we did it on purpose. The east side of the pond was too muddy, so we decided, we take the trail on the west side. There I found an interesting plant, I’d never seen before, the flat-branched tree clubmoss. At first, I thought, it was rooted due to the pine trees above. But it is a ground cover plant. We learn something new every day.
Before the advent of the refrigerator, people kept food from spoiling by placing it in an icebox – a wooden cabinet with shelves for perishables and a large compartment for a block of ice to keep everything cold. Where did this ice come from? It was cut from lakes and ponds in the winter in regions where the temperatures were below freezing for extended periods of time. Ice blocks were cut by farmers for family use and by crews employed by significant commercial concerns. Both occurred at Bantam Lake. The commercial operation was centered on the north shore and involved one of southern New England’s largest ice block storage facilities. The company even had a railroad service making the distribution of ice to distant cities possible.
Peter Vermilyea (HiddeninPlainSightBlog.com) describes the former ice-making operation that once thrived on Bantam Lake before electricity and refrigeration were available. The site is located on the White Memorial Foundation property near Litchfield Town Beach.
Atop the most southerly hill in a chain known as the Seven Sisters, William Hooker Gillette, noted actor, director, and playwright, built this one hundred and eighty-four-acre estate, the Seventh Sister. The focal point of his effort was a twenty-four-room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle. The woodwork within the castle is hand-hewn southern white oak. Of the forty-seven doors within the structure, there are no two exactly the same. And each door has a handsome external latch intricately carved of wood. Even the Castle’s furnishings are indications of Gillette’s inspirations. The built-in couches, a movable table on tracks, and light switches of carved wood all point to his creative genius.
Since Kevin and I went to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park, we went to Gillette’s Castle State Park as well. Since they are about 15 minutes apart, and we were in this area already, mind as well we visit it. We arrived at the castle and noticed, that it is under construction. Which is okay with me. At least I know, where part of our taxes goes. And the castle needs to be maintained for future visits. During our visit, we found out that the castle was built with local fieldstones, which are supported by a steel framework. This gives the Gillette castle a Medieval look. Mr. Gillette also built a three-mile narrow gauge railroad. While the Castle sits in New London County, the biggest portion of the State Park is in Middlesex County.
William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1853. His father, Francis Gillette was a U.S. Senator. William Gillette visited numerous colleges including Trinity, Yale, Harvard, etc. But he never received a degree. In 1916 Gillette had his most famous role for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”. He passed away, due to a pulmonary hemorrhage, in 1937 at the age of 83 in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1919, the former State Park and Forest Commission obtained an 860-acre parcel located in the Millington section of Haddam. The principal feature of the park, Chapman Falls drops more than sixty feet over a series of steps in a Scotland Schist stone formation. The falls also once powered “Beebe’s Mills” named after the original owner. The mills operated until the mid-1890s.
A search for the origin of the name “Devil’s Hopyard” reveals a wide variety of different stories; none of them are verifiable and all are likely to be more fiction than fact. One of the most popular of these stories is about a man named Dibble, who had a garden for growing hops used in the brewing of beer. It seems that through usage, Dibble’s Hopyard became Devil’s Hopyard. There are records of several farmers having hopyards in the area, but there is no mention of a landowner named Dibble. However, Dibble might have been a tenant.
Another tale focuses on the potholes near the falls, which are some of the finest examples of pothole stone formations in this section of the country. Perfectly cylindrical, they range from inches to several feet in diameter and depth. These potholes were formed by stones moved downstream by the current and trapped in an eddy where the stone was spun around and around, wearing a depression in the rock. When the rock wore itself down, another would catch it in the same hole and enlarge it. We know this now, but to the early settlers, the potholes were a great mystery that they tried to explain with references to the supernatural. They thought the Devil had passed by the falls, accidentally getting his tail wet. This made him so mad he burned holes in the stones with his hooves as he bounded away.
Kevin and I drove to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park by East Haddam. I wanted to see Chapman Falls. The weather was great. We had 50℉/10℃. And there were a lot of people hiking with their kids and dogs. I believe there was also a small photo group in the park. Kevin and I hiked the short Chapman Falls Loop Trail. Some areas were a little muddy. Due to the fact, we had rain and snow last week, I can see the Eight Mile River flooding its shores. This time of year is still the best time to go hiking in these state parks. Once Spring arrives a lot more locals will come out, and tourists will be all over the place. We can’t blame them. It is a beautiful State Park.
In 1851, Eli Terry built a dam on the Pequabuck River to supply water power for a new factory, the Terryville Manufacturing Company. Located on Canal Street, the shop made clocks and clock parts. Water from the pond was diverted down a canal to turn a water wheel that generated 35 horsepower at full speed. In 1864, the factory became the Eagle Bit and Buckle Company, manufacturers of harness bits and buckles for the Union Army during the Civil War. Eventually, locks for mailbag pouches were made here. Later a sawmill occupied the site, and by 1908, it was a woodturning plant.
Originally Kevin and I planned to hike the Orenaug Park Trail in Woodbury. But we couldn’t find the entrance to the park. So, we went down to the Trolley Bed Trail. There we followed Stone Brook to the Woodbury Reservoir. Even with temperatures in the mid-30s and snow in the forecast, it was a comfortable hike.
At the turn of the century, this was the site of the Diamond Match Company. Scenic waterfalls are at the northwest end of the Park on the Eight Mile River. The Larkin Bridle Trail is nearby. Southford Falls was established as a state park in 1932 and has 169 acres.
Temperatures near the freezing point, a chilly wind, and some snowflakes won’t stop Kevin and me from a hike in January. We are good to go as long as we are bundled up and the trails are not icy. Last weekend, we decided we hike in Southford Falls State Park. Mainly, I wanted to see the falls close to the parking lot. But we went further down the trail before the fallen trees stopped us in our tracks. There we’ve noticed, bigger snowflakes coming down. Before it got too messy, Kevin and I went back up the trail. I captured a few more photos And then we warmed up in the car. Winter weather is cold in Connecticut. However, we don’t have to deal with the bugs in the Winter season.
Change has been constant throughout the 100-year history of this piece of countryside. Where once a shared landscape of farmland and woodland dominated, a campus of higher education overtook them and ruled the property for nine decades. But it too, like the farms and fields before it, lapsed into disuse allowing the woodland to reassert itself and provide us with the landscape we enjoy today.
Since it was a beautiful day, Kevin, Sara, and I went hiking in Camp Columbia State Park for New Year’s Day. It was chilly a little bit. But we bundled up. We took the Camp Columbia Tower Trail, which is a short (0.6 miles/1 km roundtrip) trail. When Kevin, Sara, and I climbed the stairs of the tower, we had a nice view of the Camp Colombia State Forest. I can only imagine, how beautiful the view will be in Autumn again. While Kevin went down the steps and looked up some history about the Instrument House, which is now a ruin, and the tower, I had to get Sara down again. The outer staircase gave her some anxiety. Once she was on the ground and away from the tower, she did fine again.
This afternoon we went to Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport to see another lighthouse. Once at the park, we had to climb across the barrier stones between Long Island Sound and Black Rock Harbor to get to the island. This was quite a puzzle. But I also watched other people on which stones they stepped to make the walk easier on the way back. It was a beautiful, sunny day. And a lot of anglers were out to catch fish. One guy caught a bluefish that was over a foot and a half long.
Arriving at the Fayerweather Island Lighthouse, Kevin, Sara, and I took a short break and looked up its history. We found out, that this lighthouse is not the original building. The original wooden lighthouse was built in 1808 and was destroyed in the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane on September 3, 1821. In 1823 it was replaced with an octagonal stone tower, which we visited today. Same as the original lighthouse, this building is 40 feet (12.1 meters) tall.
As mentioned before, the walk back was much easier and faster since we knew on which stones to step. Sara was so far ahead, I told Kevin to catch up with her and pick me up in the car. Meanwhile, I sat on a bench and watched the gull on Seaside Beach.
The same morning, but in a different part of Watertown: Kevin and I took a short trip to Black Rock State Park. While we were driving further down into the valley, the fog became denser. Actually, I wanted to capture some Autumn photos across the lake. Instead, I’ve got some fantastic fog photos of some golden maple trees. When we drove home, we got back out of the fog. On top of the hill, we had a nice view of the Naugatuck River Valley. The mist lay there like a blanket. The scenic view was stunning.
Kevin and I waited until sunrise before we drove to Veteran’s Memorial Park for a nice walk on this crisp morning. We both warmed up quickly once we walked our first round. Since it was so nice, we decided to go for another round. While Kevin and I were at the park, we saw all these beautiful October Autumn colors. An Eastern Gray Squirrel munched on an acorn and built a bed after breakfast. Our critters prepare for the cold weather.
It has been a while since I was at Echo Lake Park. The last time Kevin and I visited the park we saw the beaver pulling a big tree branch across the lake. This was shortly after school ended. Now that school is back in session and Autumn is coming, I’ll visit the lake more frequently again. A few trees showed signs of Autumn. But I also enjoy the native blooms at the park. The Common Evening Primroses, Goldenrods, Joe-Pye Weeds, Knotweed, and Purple Loosestrifes are in full bloom. Geese and ducks hang out at Echo Lake Park. They enjoy the cooler mornings and warm afternoons as well. It was a beautiful day today.
This morning Kevin and I went on another hike at the White Memorial Conservation Center. The Apple Hill Trail has an elevation gain of nearly 500 feet and is 3.3 miles roundtrip. Along this trail, there are quite a few tree roots and stones and a marsh boardwalk to get to the observation deck. The Observation deck is a wooden platform with a staircase. From there we had a good view over a field, Bantam Lake, and the surrounding mountains. The wind was very refreshing in this humidity. It got warmer, and we made our way back to the car across the Marsh Point Road entrance.
Kevin, Sara, and I made use of this beautiful morning. It was only 59℉ (15℃) when we drove for a hike to the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield. At the center, we parked the car by the Sawmill Field and walked along the Bantam River. In the swamps, we’ve heard a lot of frogs croaking, but couldn’t find one. They were camouflaged in the water. Close to the Mattatuck Trail, Kevin pointed out a snake. I was lucky enough to photograph the Garter Snake from head to tail before it disappeared under a rock. There were also plenty of wildflowers like chicory, purple loosestrife, swamp weed, and water lilies. A lot of people were also hiking and biking on those trails or kayaking down the Bantam River towards Bantam Lake. When we walked back to our car, we noticed it wasn’t even 9 am, yet.
Kevin and I went for a small hike at Echo Lake Park after dinner. He’s still recovering from last week’s trip to Dallas. The jetlag is real. The best way to get rid of it is moving around and staying hydrated. We did our little walk behind the lake. Back there we’ve met the King/Queen of Echo Lake, a nice big beaver. He/she was working on its beautiful water mansion, getting small tree branches from the lake dam. It was quite interesting watching the beaver swimming with the branch across the lake. A family across the lake was fishing. Once they saw the beaver, they were quite fascinated by the strength of the beaver as well.
Kevin and I visited the Little Pond Boardwalk Trail at the White Memorial Conservation Center back in March. Since it is not far from our house and an easy hike, we decided to take the girls and Christian there for a walk, last Sunday. Instead of snow and ice, everything is green and in bloom now. We walked by a lot of wildflowers. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife. It was a nice 1.7-mile hike around the loop and back to the car.
Last Friday, Kevin and I decided to take the girls and Christian to Kent Falls State Park. We wanted to make sure, while Christian is here, he had the chance to see a few places in Connecticut. While Kevin, Sara, Katelynn and Chris hiked for a little bit, I stayed down and captured some photos at the bottom of the falls.
Yesterday evening Kevin, Zoey and I took a little stroll in Echo Lake Park. Because there is a sign to walk in twos or bigger groups due to wildlife activity, I’ve never been on the backside of the lake. The weather was beautiful and we had to stretch our legs from driving back and forth to New York City. The Echo Lake Park Trail is approximately half a mile one way. While on the trail, we saw a turkey hiking up the hill, trying to get away from our curious dog. There are several benches to sit and relax by the water’s edge. On the backside of a boulder there are a couple of artwork drawings. A beaver left its own work close by the lake. Kevin wondered how long it would take a beaver to chew through a tree that size in the photo above. Since it gets warmer, more Canada Geese come back to Echo Lake, again. Zoey really wanted to chase them. But Kevin had a good grip on her, even when she jumped right off the bench. This girl is crazy, when it involves chasing wildlife. After all, she’s part Labrador and part Pity.
On Saturday, Kevin and I decided to take a spontaneous hike at Castle Craig. Katelynn came with us to get rid of her jetlag faster. When we arrived at Hubbard Park, it seemed like there was an event going on. Later, I found out it was the weekend before the Daffodil Festival. The tents went up, and vendors prepared for the event. Unfortunately, Peak Drive was closed off. And so we had to walk along the Merimere Reservoir towards the castle. On the walk, we saw wildflowers, and a millipede and had a good view of the castle’s tower. Since we didn’t bring enough water, we turned around after approximately two miles. Roundtrip, we did about four miles. Even when Kevin, Katelynn, and I didn’t make it all the way to Castle Craig, we had a nice hike at the park.
After dropping off Sara in school, I drove over to Echo Lake Park. Echo Lake Park is my favorite spot in Watertown. And it is only half a mile from our house. Usually, when I go there, I get greeted by a lot of Canada Geese. Today, there was a lonely goose paddling on the lake. My guess is that the other geese arrived at the park, later. I’m still waiting for the trees to bud and turn green. However, this could take until the end of April into the beginning of May. Connecticut teaches me a lot of patience in nature, for sure.
Mt. Tom is one of the oldest parks in the state park system; it is named for the mountain within its boundaries. In 1915 it was established as a state park. There is a stone tower on top of the mountain that is a favored destination among hikers. The summit of Mt. Tom is 1325 feet above sea level, 125 feet higher than its Massachusetts counterpart. The tower trail is less than one mile long and rises some 500 feet.
Kevin, Katelynn and I rode to Washington Depot to take a hike in Mount Tom State Park. The hiking trail was pretty steep in some areas. But as a reward, we could go up Mount Tom Tower and have a nice scenic view over Mount Tom Pond and the surrounding area. It was very windy at the summit. So, we decided not to stay up there for too long. On our way back, we saw some cool plants. One was a tree, which grew its roots around some big rocks, while at another spot of the trail a Striped Wintergreen plant poked its head out of the brown foliage. Since we were at the park, we visited Mount Tom Pond Beach. The wind made little ripples in the water. But the water is still ice cold.