Traditionally the groundhog awakens from his nap for a nice welcomed break during the winter to see if he can see his shadow. Many believe if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If this is so, he retreats into his den and goes back to sleep. However, if he does not see his shadow, the groundhog remains outside to play, and people celebrate, believing spring is just around the corner.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has hosted the annual Groundhog day event. Thousands of people come to the town of Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day for this day of celebration.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow: Pedicts six more weeks of Winter
Connecticut’s Chuckles didn’t see his shadow: Predicts an early Spring
Texas Bee Cave Bob is an armadillo and predicts an early Texas Spring
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.
National Winnie the Pooh Day on January 18th commemorates author A.A. Milne’s birthday in 1882. He brought the adorable, honey-loving bear to life in his stories, which also featured his son, Christopher Robin.
Milne’s lovable Pooh Bear, as he was fondly called, is a fictional bear inspired by a black bear named Winnie. Winnie lived at the London Zoo during World War I. The author’s son, Christopher Robin, would visit the bear often and named his own teddy bear after her and a swan named Pooh. This friendship inspired a collection of books starting with When We Were Young in 1924. E.H. Shepard beautifully illustrated the books. Their adventures took them and millions of children through the Hundred Acre Woods. Each character played a unique role in the books. Whether the wisdom of Owl or Rabbit lead the group awry or a celebration ensued, the story’s characters became beloved around the world.
In the 1960s, Disney bought the rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters dropping the hyphen from Pooh’s name. The illustrations were a bit different, too. Milne’s stories have been translated into over 50 languages and are considered classic children’s stories today.
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.
Every time, we visit the State Fair of Texas we can’t miss out on the Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park. The girls love to see the flowers outdoors and the Butterfly House. This year, they had a special treat for Katelynn at their expo: Snakes, spiders, and bugs. Katelynn loves all these creepy crawlies. There were some venomous snakes and hairy-legged spiders. Not to forget to mention the cockroaches. Thank goodness, they have been locked in their terrariums. I like them much better when there is a protective glass between those critters and me.
We walked on the fairgrounds to look at some sculptures and go to the Texas Discovery Gardens. Big Tex celebrated his 60th Anniversary at the State Fair of Texas. Unfortunately, 13 days later he burned down to his frame. He had an electrical short in his wiring, which moved his jaw. It was a sad day in Dallas’ History. The following year, he was rebuilt.
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.
It was the first weekend of October when we visited the State Fair of Texas in 2012. And it was chilly. Most of the time, we avoided the wind and walked into buildings. Since the Automobile Building protected us from the chill, I captured photos of the Mural on the walls along the Esplanade Fountain in Fair Park, Dallas, Texas.
In 2010, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara, and I went to our local Christmas Parade again. This time, the girls got a glimpse of Santa. Katelynn was in first grade. Her class had the school play “Santa’s Suit”, where she was the “Lego” Elf. On Christmas Eve, Katelynn lost her first tooth. So, the Toothfairy and Santa visited our home on the same night. Unfortunately, Sara had a bad cold on Christmas Day. She wasn’t too happy. But we made the best out of the situation.
Santa left apples, oranges, nuts, and candy under the tree. Of course, Sara found the candy first and wanted some. Kevin and I said, she could have some after breakfast. Instead of listening, she was very sneaky, put one in her mouth, and acted like she didn’t know what we were talking about. Lexi was happy, she had a new toy duck, which was shredded by her and Ranger the same day.
In November 2011 I met with a friend and her son from Germany in downtown Dallas. This allowed us to do some sightseeing in town. We looked at a lot of buildings like the Fountain Building, the Bank of America Building (the tallest building in Dallas), the Old Red Dallas County Courthouse, the Comerica Bank Building, … etc.
I always wanted to go to the Sixth Floor Museum by Dealey Plaza. In the museum, we were not allowed to photograph. But it was very interesting to look at pictures, read history, and watch videos of Kennedy’s Presidency until the assassination at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, and the aftermath. No matter, how often I watch those videos I always become a bit sentimental.
The US Code directs that Wright Brothers Day commemorates the first successful flights in a heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled airplane. Orville and Wilbur Wright made that first successful flight on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. While other inventors created planes that flew, Orville and Wilbur invented the first mechanically propelled airplane. Those inventors who came before them also inspired the Wright brothers in many ways. From a young age, Orville Wright and his brother, Wilbur, developed a fascination with flight. Inspired by a rubber band-propelled helicopter created by the inventor, Alphonse Penaud, the brothers dedicated their lives to the invention. They first found success manufacturing bicycles, including the Van Cleve and St. Clair.
After almost a week in Walt Disney World, it was time to drive back home. That day, we made it from Buena Vista, Florida all the way to New Orleans. There we had a motel room, and drove through “The Big Easy”. Five and half years later, we still could see the signs of Hurricane Katrina, she left behind. Even our motel room smelled musky from the flooding in August 2005. It was devastating to see all these damages due to the storm.
This was the last evening at Walt Disney World. We took the kids on as many rides as possible, before we watched the firework and went to the bus station. That night my feet were hurting from all the walking around in the park. And I couldn’t wait to lift them up in our Resort room. Sara was ready to go home and sleep in her own bed, again. It was a long week. But I knew from my previous two trips to Walt Disney World in 2002 and 2007, it would be exhausting after so many days. I was beaten.
Christmas 2003 was bittersweet. It was Katelynn’s first Christmas, but at the same time, it was our last Christmas in Germany.
In December 2004, we had a Dallas Holiday Wish Celebration. The Beach Boys had a concert, and even Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto came for visit to sing and dance in front of the Dallas City Hall. I have it all on video tape footage and didn’t captured too many photo of the event.
In 2005 we bought our house in Texas. The same year, we celebrated Christmas/Yuletide in our new home.
Our family went for dinner in the late afternoon at the Crystal Palace. There we met Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh. It was great food. Especially, Sara enjoyed her Macaroni & Cheese and vegetables. She made quite a mess on the table. But, that is the fun part.
Since Kevin and I were on our way to Danbury, I mentioned the new Sandy Hooks Memorial to him. “Well, it’s not raining. Let’s get off Interstate 84 and check it out!” Arriving at the parking lot, we were not the only people visiting the Sandy Hooks Permanent Memorial. Several visitors came to look at the new place on Black Friday, since it was recently opened on November 13th. Kevin and I walked around the Reflecting Pool to read the engraved names of the victims of the school shooting, which happened almost a decade ago.
The Sandy Hooks Memorial has a Visitor Plaque at the entrance, which includes a quote from former U.S. President Barack Obama when he spoke at an interfaith vigil at Newtown High School on December 16, 2012.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world, too, has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you.
Encased within the stone is soil created from items left in impromptu memorials throughout Newtown in the days following the tragedy.
The Reflection Pool is the main feature which sits at the center of a circling network of gravel paths. In the very center of the basin is a young sycamore tree, symboling the young ages of the victims
The memorial is perfectly designed for what it sadly represents. I can only imagine how beautiful it will look in Spring and Summer when all the flowers bloom and the ornamental grasses will complement them.