Walktober!

10.7.20 ~ Goose Pond, Haley Farm State Park
Groton, Connecticut

Due to illnesses and the births of grandchildren and other distractions I’ve never had a chance to participate in Robin’s Walktober invitation. See here if you think you might be interested in taking a walk and posting a blog about it: This is it: Walktober! Finally, this year, I can join in! Tim & I took this walk at Haley Farm State Park on October 7th.

starting out

Two things have worked to keep us very close to home this year. Health problems and the coronavirus pandemic. And this has led us to discover that our hometown has over 3,500 acres of open space preserved, 17% of the town’s total land area. We have 463 acres in land trusts, 1,511 acres in town and city recreation and conservation areas, and 1,586 acres in three state parks. (We live in the tiny City of Groton, which is part of the Town of Groton, and yes, we pay property taxes to both!)

meadow and woods, just a hint of fall colors

We started walking south, the narrow boardwalk leading to a wide dirt road following along Palmer Cove.

meadow obscuring view of Palmer Cove

Connecticut’s first governor, John Winthrop Jr., owned part of the farm in 1648. Over the years the land passed through various hands, including the Chester family in the 18th century, whose headstones are still on the property. When Caleb Haley owned and farmed the land in the late 19th to 20th centuries, he had a very unique hobby which can be seen throughout the park – the building of stone walls. Boulders found on the property were extracted and placed by an ox drawn stone-puller. The walls separated a number of pastures. Some remains of the farm’s buildings are still visible near the entrance of the park.
~ Haley Farm State Park website

white on light with orbs

Ahead: glimpses of Palmer Cove and one of Caleb Haley’s many stone walls.

waning gibbous moon setting over the woods
looking back down the road behind us

And then the road eventually led us into the woods, narrowed to a trail, and to the locally well-known Canopy Rock, a glacial erratic and favorite hang-out spot for local teens. We didn’t climb up there. 🙂

Canopy Rock

We cut through the woods to return to the parking lot, consulting the park map frequently because there are so many criss-crossing, unmarked trails in this 267 acre park. The stone walls are also indicated on the map, which was helpful in determining which path we might be on. map

sunlight in the woods

In 1963, efforts to protect the farm from being sold to developers began. The State of Connecticut agreed to match funds raised for the purchase of the farm. The Groton Open Space Association with the help of The CT Forest & Park Association led a successful fund raising effort that led to the purchase of the property. In July of 1970, Life Magazine featured an article on Haley Farm titled “Battles Won”. Haley Farm became an official Connecticut State Park in July of 1970. Nearby Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve was protected from great development pressures and was saved in 1975. It can be reached from Haley Farm via a bridge over the railroad tracks. The two parks, combined, offer over 1000 acres of land and are permanently protected as open space for public enjoyment.
~ Haley Farm State Park website

a path to follow another day
autumn art in a grassy meadow

Living in the southernmost part of New England, we will be the last to get a peak of fall colors. More brilliant days to look forward to. Thank you, Robin, for hosting Walktober!

covered with boulders

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Winter is well over the half-way point and we’ve had no snow to show for it. After last winter’s record-breaking snowfall amounts this is a bit unsettling. We did have a lot of snow and power outages for that freak Halloween Nor’easter in October, but that was an autumn storm, not truly a winter storm… What strange weather.

2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Bulbs are coming up months too early. Witch hazel is blooming at Mystic Seaport. Tim & I went for a walk on Saturday at Haley Farm State Park, looking for photo opportunities. The birds were chirping away as if it was a sunny spring day! This time it was warm enough for my fingers to hold the camera and take 86 pictures. Perhaps I should have tried a landscape setting for a few of them. But I’m still getting used to holding it properly and finding the shutter button at the same time…

2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Caleb Haley of Haley Farm

Caleb Haley owned and farmed this land in Noank, Connecticut, and took on the daunting task of building stone walls between the pastures all over the property. The crumbling foundations of his house, stables and barns remain. In October of 1898, Walter Hill came from New York to visit his friend here and wrote an account of their time together. Excerpts following are from the Haley Farm Souvenir Book, found transcribed at the Groton History Online website.

2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

If there is any one thing in which my friend delights more than another, it is the works of improvement which he is carrying forward at Haley Farm, Long Point; so breakfast dispatched we, of course, drove at once to the locality of the improvement now going forward.
~ Walter Hill

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

It may be mentioned here, that the land in this vicinity and for miles in all directions is covered with boulders, boulders large and boulders small, sometimes ledges, but boulders in all shapes, boulders in all positions, boulders on boulders—everywhere. The first settlers simply removed or cleared the smaller rocks, such as a horse could easily drag out of the way, leaving hundreds of heavier ones half embedded in the soil in all directions.
~ Walter Hill

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Thus thousands upon thousands of acres of splendid soil have been fit for naught but cattle runs of natural pasturage. To clear such land of everything to obstruct the free running of a plow, is a herculean task and it is this wrestling with the stern face of nature, that I found to be the delight of my host. A forenoon spent in watching and assisting in the operations, found me deeply interested. A device called a “Stone-puller” was quite fetching, and was the invention of a near-by resident whom I was disappointed to learn had never realized much out of it, for without it, such operations as are here going forward, would be prohibited by the question of cost. Mr. H— has 428 acres of just such land as described; skirting the shores of L. I. Sound with deep coves running up on either side of his property; forming between them, Long Point, which is all included in the Haley Farm, with the exception of a tract on the extreme point, which is owned by parties who started to boom it for Summer cottage purposes, but came to a dead-lock with the town authorities regarding approaches, and who should bear their cost.
~ Walter Hill

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

According to the the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection website:

In 1963 efforts to protect the farm from being sold to developers began. The State of Connecticut agreed to match funds raised for the purchase of the farm. The Groton Open Space Commission led a successful fund raising effort that led to the purchase of the property. Haley Farm became an official Connecticut State Park in July of 1970.

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

We found several burls on the outstretched branches of this tree:

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

I think this is a private boathouse across the water.  I thought it looked especially cheerful and welcoming!

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

So we had a good time poking around our local historic “ruins” and enjoying the scenic views of Palmer Cove. It was nice enjoying a spring day in February, but I’m starting to get a little nervous about what weather we have in store for us this summer. For now, though, perhaps I can manage to stay in the present… It is what it is and what will be will be!

Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 2.18.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Haley Farm State Park

view of Palmer Cove from Haley Farm State Park

Groton is also home to Haley Farm State Park. Last year in February Beverly and I took a long walk here, too. This winter I have not been as interested in getting outdoors, but it’s nice to remember when I had a bit more energy, and blog about last year. Above is a lovely view of Palmer Cove from Haley Farm.

backside of Canopy Rock

The backside of Canopy Rock, above. It seems to be a place for kids to hang out and leave artwork. We didn’t see any litter, which was thoughtful of them.

side view of Canopy Rock

In the above side view picture the “canopy” part of the rock is clear. In the distance is the Amtrak railroad elevation. In the picture below is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, originally used for livestock – it must have been small livestock – clearance is only 4 feet! Can’t imagine a cow crawling under there!

livestock tunnel under the railroad tracks

If one doesn’t mind crawling through, our map tells us that on the other end of this tunnel are paths connecting to the trails in Bluff Point State Park. We didn’t attempt it, curious or not, we’re not engineers but we wouldn’t want to be under there if a train should zoom by overhead. A little close for comfort, too. At least we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, still… If we turned around now, we could see Race Track Pond, or actually the reeds surrounding it.

Race Track Pond, obscured by reeds

We decided to follow a deer trail, figuring they would know the easiest way through the reeds to find the pond for a drink of water.

reeds surrounding Race Track Pond

We did find a spot where the ice had been broken through and guessed that might be where the deer would find their water.

I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Nature)

snow covered ice on Race Track Pond

It was beautiful with the long winter shadows of the reeds on the snow-covered ice. We didn’t know it then, but we were to be inexplicably unable to retrace our steps. Lost!

When a man named Caleb Haley owned the farm he built a lot of stone walls around his pastures, using an ox drawn stone-puller. I meant to photograph some of them on our way out, but, we were very cold and had very likely been walking around in circles trying to figure out a badly drawn map. When we finally saw the entrance (exit!) I quickened my step and fell on an icy spot of snow. Wrenched my shoulder so badly it still hurts a little even now, a year later.

So perhaps this year, maybe in the spring, I’ll return and try to get some stone wall pictures!