winter wanderings

1.22.23 ~ Leo Antonino Preserve, Groton, Connecticut
first brook crossing on the yellow trail

On a cold and cloudy winter morning we decided to explore a relatively new open space property pretty close to home. Leo Antonino Preserve was acquired by the Avalonia Land Conservancy in 2018. What a pleasant surprise we had as we meandered along the loop trail, so many twists and turns, ups and downs and bubbling brooks to cross. We haven’t had any accumulating snow this January, not even a coating. But the woods did smell like winter and the crisp cold air soon gave us rosy cheeks and runny noses.

spotted wintergreen

We were curious about this mysterious black stuff we saw on lots of the beech trees. Is it another symptom of beech bark disease?

The Leo Antonino Preserve is an unexpected tract of woods, wetland, rock outcroppings and erratics … The trail includes short sections of wide-open travel on packed earth and longer stretches of single-file trail that are rocky and rooty with elevation changes. The trail travels through areas of beech and oak and along vernal pools and active brooks. Erratics and upthrust sections of granite illustrate the geologic history of this section of Connecticut. Also illustrative of the history of this property, the yellow trail features the wreck of an old Chevy truck. The section of the yellow trail north of the Chevy is the most challenging with a scramble over a steep rocky ridge.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

beech marcescence
very green mosses were everywhere

We made several crossings over a (or two?) brook. There were no bridges so we used the stepping stones, feeling grateful that we didn’t slip on the mosses!

another crossing
Tim left the trail, climbed the hill and then appeared from behind these erratics
yet another crossing
the wreck of an old Chevy truck
spotted wintergreen
a rusting metal circle hanging from a branch
ferns growing on top of a rock outcropping
lichen with moss
moss and lichen on different levels
sitting on top of a rocky ridge
American wintergreen
woodpecker work, I presume
???

Near the end of the trail we spotted these black lines on the path. I can’t help wondering if it’s the same black stuff we saw on the beeches…

I’ve been trying to be more selective and to include fewer pictures in my posts, but I had to make an exception for this one. When we started this hike I didn’t expect to take many pictures but it seemed like around every turn there was something interesting to notice. We’re looking forward to returning and trying the blue trail through these woods.

kinds of bark, a water view

1.15.23 ~ Town’s End

After a couple of years we finally made it back to this little 6-acre nature preserve, again in the winter. We really must try to get back here in a different season. The property is tucked between houses, a highway and Beebe Cove. Things are very drab this time of year so we took advantage of the new tree identification signs and enjoyed looking more closely at the different kinds of tree bark found in our neck of the woods.

I climbed up on the huge boulder this time and Tim took this picture of me with his cell phone. Last time we came he climbed up and I took the picture. You can see those pictures here.

view from the top, looking down on the trail leading to a tidal marsh and Beebe Cove
glacial erratic sitting on top of the boulder
view from below the boulder

I’ve seen many sassafras saplings over the past couple of years on our walks in the woods. I recognize them from their three differently shaped leaves. I wonder how many full grown trees I’ve walked by, not recognizing them. I was delighted to find myself in a small grove of them here, maybe 20 mature sassafras trees very close to the cove. Note to self: come back in other seasons to see what they look like leafed out in the spring and summer and in fall colors.

Beebe Cove

On this day it was 36°F/2°C and cloudy with a bit of a north wind. Today it was too cold and wet to go outside, for us anyway, so this morning I did some yoga for the first time in months. It felt so good!

moments of wonder and joy

1.7.23 ~ song sparrow at Moore Woodlands

Resuming our walks! When we arrived at Moore Woodlands the birds were singing and it sounded like spring. It was 44°F/7°C and cloudy on this warm-for-January day. As we started walking around the meadow a song sparrow came down to the bushes and started singing for us. This made my whole day!

standing out in the meadow
lone tree in the meadow
beech marcescence

It is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

wondering what those rusty maroon blobs are growing with the reindeer moss
~ amber jelly roll mushrooms ~
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)

In the woods we found a great many eastern red cedar trees that must have come down in a storm. Where they fell across the trail they had been cut and moved off to the side. It was interesting seeing the redness of the freshly cut wood.

We also saw a lot of English ivy growing on the ground and climbing some of the trees. I did some research when I got home and learned that the ivy is invasive and greatly weakens the trees they climb, making them more likely to fall during strong winds. It looks like the Avalonia Land Conservancy has been working to remove the ivy from this patch of woodland. We also saw quite a few eastern white pine saplings.

It also looks like the land conservancy is starting to identify the trees with little tags! I’d like to get more familiar with our local trees and welcome this new aid. This was a lovely first walk for the new year. 🙂

a heavily wooded glacial valley

3.16.22 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

The preserve offers diverse terrain ranging from a heavily wooded glacial valley in the northern portion to a salt marsh on a tidal cove at the southern edge. Other distinguishing features include many glacial erratics, large trees, a white pine grove, wetlands crossed by bridges, and a cultivated field.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

After several weeks of being plagued with gout/tendonitis/edema, Tim’s foot was finally healed enough to take a walk! Just in time to welcome some lovely warm spring weather. We chose a new-to-us preserve, Paffard Woods and walked for over an hour, much to my delight! It was a sunny day with temperatures around 50°F (10°C).

skunk cabbage coming up, early sign of spring
glacial erratic with a split hidden in the shadow
curious markings on tree bark
(thanks to Eliza for identifying beech bark disease)
a stone crossing ~ we made it across without incident
root covered terrain leading up to a nicely placed bench on top of a ledge
looking down at glacial erratics from the top of the ledge
moss on log illuminated by sunbeam

Even though these dark-eyed junco photos are marred by twigs I was excited to see them in the woods. They used to visit my birdfeeder when I had one but these are the first ones I’ve seen in the wild.

dark-eyed junco
tree/glacial erratic buddies

And then we saw a couple of eastern bluebirds flying to and from the hole way high up in this tree. Again, it was hard to get pictures with the twigs interfering with the focus. These were the best of my dozens of attempts! (Lots of shots with blurry wing action, too.)

eastern bluebird
trunk with many legs
trunk with many arms
more skunk cabbage
even more skunk cabbage
vine strangling a trunk
marcescence

Connecticut’s positivity rate has been hovering between 2-3%. There’s talk of a fourth shot being needed for those of us over 65. Still exercising a lot of caution in stores. Putin’s cruel onslaught on Ukraine continues. But it was good to forget reality for an hour and feel grateful for a brief dose of the healing power of nature.

a preserve by the railroad tracks

1.19.22 ~ Knox Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

It’s hard to believe after almost two years of walking outings during the pandemic we’re still finding open spaces we haven’t visited yet. Tim was reading about this one, Knox Preserve, in an editorial in the Sunday paper. The writer was frustrated because a fence had been put up between the nature preserve and the railroad tracks, keeping trespassers off the tracks, yes, but also obscuring the views of Long Island Sound.

Wednesday afternoon was finally “warm” enough to head out there, bundled up, of course. (We usually walk in the morning but decided it might be warmer after lunch!) I forgot to make note of the temperature. My new mittens did a fine job keeping my fingers warm. 🙂 We headed up a muddy path along a lovely stone wall with a rusty, golden salt meadow off to our right.

muddy path along salt meadow

What I see is mine.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

At a break in the stone wall we took another very soggy path through the salt meadow, then leading up to a grassy knoll where we found a bench with a view.

While we enjoyed the view a little boy and his mother came along and sat down to wait for the next train. Mom had an app on her cell phone that let her know when the next train would be along. The little guy was very excited, even though he had done this many times before. We smiled, thinking of all the good memories they will have to look back on some day.

view of fence, Amtrak train tracks and Long Island Sound

Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Young American)

the controversial fence

Next we decided to follow a path into the woods and along the new fence. We heard the expected train approach and hoped the little boy was enjoying himself! It was probably a high-speed Acela train.

into the woods
train whizzing by
reindeer moss

When we came out of the woods we found ourselves at Quiambog Cove and walked along it until we came back to the salt meadow where we started. It was fun completing a loop instead of retracing our steps the way we usually do.

Quiambog Cove and railroad bridge
afternoon sun

Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall — is a wintery November — February to the spring — it is a snowy March.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 9, 1854)

ice in the salt meadow

When we woke up this morning the wind chill was 0°F/-18°C. Needless to say, we did not take a walk. Instead, it was more yoga for me!

After peaking at 25% on January 7th, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate has slowly inched its way down to 13% yesterday. Baby steps in the right direction.

a thing made of holes

12.7.21 ~ Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Properly bundled up for the weather, we had a nice long walk in this 44-acre nature preserve a couple of days ago. It was originally part of 500 acres given to Capt. John Gallup in 1643, a reward from the royal court in England for his part in the Pequot Massacre.

the first colonial stone slab bridge we saw
lovely moss greenery in the dull landscape
path cutting through one of many stone walls
looking up into an old oak, a “wolf tree”
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leftover autumn leaves
Tim was captivated with this tree,
which grew sideways before it grew up
windswept pine needles
backlit oak leaf
pine sapling nursery

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

tangled up
breaking down
Pequotsepos Brook running under another colonial stone slab bridge

It was a sunny day, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 34°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. Connecticut’s positivity rate jumped to 8.33%. Sobering, indeed. So grateful we still have the woods to explore and fresh air to breathe.

a walk in the park

8.4.21 ~ Wilcox Park, Westerly, Rhode Island

For our walk on Wednesday we went to Wilcox Park to enjoy another nice weather day. It was cloudy but not humid yet — yay! (And no poison ivy!)

nonbreeding male mallard

“The people shall have a park.” So saying, in 1898 Harriet Wilcox purchased and donated to the Memorial and Library association the seven acre Rowse Babcock estate in the heart of Westerly’s business district. Established as a memorial to her husband Stephen Wilcox, the moving force behind the building of the library, the park was expanded through several smaller additions until 1905. At this time, the purchase of the adjacent nine acre Brown estate essentially fixed the park’s boundaries as we know them today. … Wilcox Park features a beautiful landscape defined by an open meadow area with surrounding trees, a fish pond, monuments and perennial gardens.
~ Wilcox Park website

very old white oak

This white oak, above and below, is the oldest tree in Wilcox Park. The second picture is taken from the top of a hill. We climbed many granite steps to get to the top of the hill on the steep side, and then followed a path down the more sloping other side.

white oak from top of hill
a sugar maple with personality

This solitary little pink water lily caught my eye from a distance. When we got close to the pond to take its picture we were subjected to a disturbing tirade from a windbag pontificating against masks and vaccines. Talk about shattering a peaceful scene. Ignoring the know-it-all, we quickly moved on to the other end of the park.

back at the fish pond
fading rose
I don’t know what this is…
…but I fell in love with it

I don’t think we were the only ones who had fled the scene. There were lots more people strolling around near the lovely gardens where we ended up.


On the way home from the park we could see an osprey sitting in a nest on the osprey platform in the marsh in Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. By the time we pulled safely off the road it had flown away but we waited a while and then the osprey came back. My camera’s poor zoom lens was maxed out and overworked again!

8.4.21 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

In the last picture it looks to me like it’s trying to decide if another stick with moss on it is needed to finish off the project. A much more pleasant ending to our outing.

light-laden air

6.2.21 ~ Moore Woodlands, Groton, Connecticut

Another delightful walk to start off the summer season! It was nice to explore Moore Woodlands again. Last year when we came it was early in the spring, just at the beginning of our pandemic quarantine: feeling warm and comforted. On this visit we were welcomed by a gray catbird. I love how often they keep showing up on our walks.

gray catbird

Hopefully we avoided all the poison ivy and ticks. Everything was lush and green after a three-day weekend of much needed rain. The day before this walk we got our front garden mulched and set up the table and chairs on the balcony. The fairy garden is set up to welcome visitors and a new summery wreath is on the front door.

patches of summer sunshine
there were all kinds of small white flowers everywhere
welcome to the woods
there are many paths here to explore
what happened here?
still life on top of stump

Realising that spirit, recognising my own inner conciousness, the psyche, so clearly, I cannot understand time. It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life. Here this moment, by this tumulus, on earth, now; I exist in it.
~ Richard Jefferies
(The Story of My Heart: My Autobiography)

shed hiding in the greenery
now is eternity
didn’t see the bee in this picture until I got home
Norway spruce
Norway spruce
some kind of oak?
the bark on the same sapling
triplets
in the midst of it

If only summer could stay this pleasant, with mild temperatures and low humidity. Sigh… Dreading the inevitable start-up of the air conditioning but determined to enjoy this weather while it lasts!

bits of color in the woods by the cove

12.2.20 ~ Town’s End, Noank, Connecticut

We found yet another place to walk! This is a very small nature preserve, wedged between houses, a highway and Beebe Cove.

On the east side of Noank Road (Rte. 215) across from Beebe Pond Park. Approximately 0.3 mile of trails beginning behind the grey gate. Mature, mixed hardwood forest, with a narrow tidal marsh extending 900 feet along the edge of Beebe Cove.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

I couldn’t help but be drawn to the little bits of color standing out in the drab woods.

And then we came across a huge glacial erratic! Complete with bench. We didn’t appreciate how big it was until he climbed up and I walked down alongside of it.

Tim bypassed the bench and headed out to the rock on top.
Tim reported that the view over the trees to the cove was “nice.”
I was about half way down to the base.
From the base.

It seemed like I was stopping every ten steps to capture nature’s art. We finally got to the cove.

tidal marsh
seaweed
Beebe Cove

The type of magical experience that Druidry fosters is … the type of experience you get when you trek out into the wilds of nature and you are overwhelmed with a feeling of awe that has nothing to do with owning or getting anything. When you can look at life, and experience that none of it belongs to you, quite magically and paradoxically you can feel then — in the depths of your being — that you truly belong in the world.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

oak leaf behind bars
view of the woods as we were leaving

You would never have known there was so much color under those cloudy skies and gray branches! After we got home we had some graupel, even though there was no precipitation in the weather forecast. All pictures were taken with gloves on. A chilly wintry day.