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.
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)
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.
This was my first visit to this 140-acre park in our town, but Tim hiked here many years ago with one of his friends. The Pequots were the first people living here before the English colonized what is now the town of Groton and the village of Mystic.
The infamous Pequot Massacre occurred near here on May 26, 1637.
Capt. John Mason led English, Mohegan, and Narragansett warriors in an attack on the main fortified Pequot village on the site of modern-day Mystic, Connecticut. The Pequot were surprised but quickly mounted a spirited defense that almost led to an English defeat. Realizing that he could not defeat the Pequot in the close quarters of the palisade, Mason ordered their wigwams set afire; some 400 Pequot men, women, and children were burned alive or slaughtered when they tried to escape. ~ Encyclopædia Britannica
There have been archaeological digs conducted in this park, unearthing musket balls and arrowheads. But there are no memorials here to tell the terrible story.
After the English took over, this land was cleared for farming, and today there are plenty of stone walls remaining from those days, before farms were abandoned and many people went out west. The woods came back. Now we have hiking trails, wildlife viewing and an abandoned farm pond.
We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience, and our acceptance of scientific insights, in particular, is incremental, gained one experience at a time. ~ Bernd Heinrich (Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival)
It was a partly cloudy day, very cold, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 33°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. We had a nice conversation about cameras with the man in the next picture. He was trying to get a picture of the mallards, too, and wondered about my telescopic lens. His mother has a camera like mine and he’s considering getting one, too.
As far as coronavirus pandemic statistics go, I’ve decided to chronicle Connecticut’s positivity rate to make my tracking simpler. Looks like we’re headed into yet another surge. On the day of this walk our positivity rate jumped to 6.32%, the highest it’s been since last January.
Picking our own strawberries used to be a favorite way of marking the summer solstice, but since my diet is so restricted now we decided to visit a different kind of farm this year. The beautiful, sweet-smelling Lavender Pond Farm fit the bill perfectly.
I had to laugh at myself. We were almost there when I realized I still had my house slippers on! So I wore my slippers all day! (Absent-minded old lady!) Thankfully there was no mud on the ground to deal with.
There were quite a few attractions and activities and it looks like they are still adding more. First we took a walk through the formal garden.
The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows. ~ William Cullen Bryant (Prose Writings, Volume 5)
Then we took a nice long, slow train ride on the purple Lavender Express, through the lavender fields and around the ponds. We also passed by more than a few fairy gardens in the woods.
We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction. They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a garden. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
After the train ride, we did a quick walk-through in the gift shop, which smelled lovely, and then met a sleepy rooster outside. Tim spent a fair amount of time admiring a very old red truck. It felt a little strange being so close to people without a mask on, actually, just being close to people, period. I never know what to make of people who are wearing masks. Are they unvaccinated? Or playing it safe?
We had a lovely taste of the best kind of summer morning, with low humidity and comfortable temperatures. On the way home we stopped at my favorite restaurant for lunch, where they graciously take and prepare my special order. 🙂
The next day we went to an estate sale, something we haven’t done since before the pandemic started. Again I felt uncomfortable being in such close proximity to people with and without masks. (We’re not wearing them unless required by an establishment.) But I found a nicely-framed needlepoint of two chickadees on a branch, for only $5! And since the garden rake we use to spread mulch every year was falling apart we found one in good condition to replace it, also for $5. It doesn’t take much to delight us! 🙂
One of Tim’s friends told us about this lovely park. This bridge goes over the overgrown tracks of the Norwich & Westerly Railway.
The Norwich and Westerly Railway was an interurban trolley system that operated in Southeastern Connecticut during the early part of the 20th century. It operated a 21-mile line through rural territory in Norwich, Preston, Ledyard, North Stonington, and Pawcatuck, Connecticut to Westerly, Rhode Island between 1906 and 1922. For most of its length, the route paralleled what is now Connecticut Route 2. ~ Wikipedia
It’s a blurry picture but I was so excited to finally see a Carolina wren in Connecticut. I first heard its pretty song and saw a few of them while at my daughter’s home in North Carolina in the fall of 2018. I’ve been hearing them sing in the spring and fall since returning to to Connecticut but haven’t been able to spot one until this day.
A “Natural Stone Throne” was indicated on the map but we almost missed it behind all the brush. Tim bushwhacked his way up a steep incline and got the above picture on his cell phone. I wasn’t about to follow but then he noticed a cleared trail joining the main trail a little ahead of where I was. So I walked around and up and got the following two pictures. I made one attempt to climb up and sit on it but it was too high to pull it off!
We proceeded up the hill and found ourselves at eye level with the top of the 23-story Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods Resort Casino, a mile and a half away (2.4 km).
A little farther along we got to the end of the trail at High Ledge Overlook. Thank goodness there was a fence marking the edge. It was a long way down. And then we turned around and noticed different things on our way back down the hill.
How little there is on an ordinary map! How little, I mean, that concerns the walker and the lover of nature…. The waving woods, the dells and glades and green banks and smiling fields, the huge boulders, etc., etc., are not on the map, nor to be inferred from the map. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, November 10, 1860)
The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into opening the landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The Merritt Family Forest is part of a large block of forested open space. The upper portion includes a steep, rocky, wooded upland with a mature hardwood forest. Descendants claim the forest remained uncut since the family acquired the property in 1848. The lower portion includes a meadow, and hosts a Tier 1 vernal pool and two Class A streams – Eccleston Brook and an intermittent tributary. Eccleston Brook flows into Palmer Cove, Fisher’s Island Sound and Long Island Sound. ~ Groton Open Space Association website
I had an especially good time enjoying the paths through the trees on that lovely, warm spring day. And I had an enjoyable afternoon creating this post today, a month later. A pleasant memory to savor. It’s been rough the past few weeks, battling the poison ivy. Tomorrow will be my last dose of prednisone and it will be nice to say goodbye to its side-effects, for me, anxiety and a headache. It’s no fun being up half the night with a panic attack! I’m ready to start living again. 🙂
While video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law they mentioned an open space property where they used to love hiking when they lived up here. (They live in Georgia now.) So we set about finding Avery Tract the next day. The highlight of our adventure was spotting this scarlet tanager!
If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.
The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.
We turned around and headed back up the hill, trying to get some pictures of the scarlet tanager who was flying from treetop to treetop. He was very elusive! All taken with the telephoto lens.
The scarlet tanager sighting was definitely the most exciting part of my day!
Since I am getting frustrated trying to identify mosses online I just ordered a field guide book to mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. And since I have no idea what liverworts and hornworts are it looks like I have a lot to learn.
Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…
Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ~ John Ruskin (Words of Wisdom: John Ruskin)
Morning light in Flåm, Norway, looking off the balcony of our hotel room. (above) Morning is my favorite time of day and this particular morning we did not have to rush off to catch a train or a ferry or a bus so we could enjoy a a few leisurely hours in the village before our next adventure.
While we were eating breakfast by a picture window, enjoying the view of garden, fjord and mountain, a cruise ship very slowly pulled into port! Then we could barely see the mountain over the top of it! Cruise ships are amazingly large – Flåm was such a tiny port I am sure it couldn’t possibly accommodate more than one of them at a time.
We boarded a small bus to take us through the mountains to Gudvangen. This is the entrance to Flenja Tunnel (above) which is 5,053m long. (16,578′). We came out of it for only 500m (1,640′) before entering Gudvanga Tunnel, which is 11,428m (7.1 mi) long, Norway’s second longest road tunnel.
Next stop: Ferry ride on Nærøyfjord from Gudvangen back to Flåm.
Brevik is the place in Norway I most wanted to see. My grandmother’s sea-captain great-grandfather, Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, was born there in 1818 and emigrated to America by himself in 1836. As far as I can tell, his parents, five brothers and two sisters remained in Norway. Was he a rebellious teen? Or simply restless, adventurous? His grandfather was a ship’s carpenter, his father and four uncles, all sailors. According to Wikipedia, Brevik is thought to be one of the best preserved towns from the sailing ship era.
Brevik is now part of Porsgrunn in the county of Telemark. The Brevik Bridge (Breviksbrua) in the background (above) goes over the mouth of Frierfjord to Stathelle, which is part of Bamble. It was opened in 1962.
We arrived in the evening, much later than planned because our plane was delayed and it took forever to pick up the rental car. But the two-hour ride from Oslo was beautiful, the scenery lovely. Because the sun sets so late we were still able to stop for dinner and explore the town afterwards.
The restaurant we found was Sjøloftet (above). Brevik isn’t a tourist destination per se, but we found that our server spoke English and was even able to find and dust off 4 menus translated into English. The place was naturally full of talkative locals and it was nice to just sit back and absorb the sound of the language and imagine, while looking out the window over the water, what life was like here 200 years ago.
The roads going up and down the sides of the fjord in town were very steep!
There were sailboats and motorboats tucked into every possible mooring.
A switchback road can be seen to the left of and behind this building.
Sleepy little seaside village…
The asymmetrical Grenland Bridge (Grenlandsbrua) (above) is new, opened in 1996. According to Wikipedia, it “is Norway’s highest cable-stayed bridge with a tower height of 168 metres (551 ft) … when built, it replaced Brevik Bridge as the primary route across the fjord … the 608-metre (1,995 ft) long bridge uses cable stayed construction to provide clearance for vessels up to 50 metres (164 ft) in height.”
Inadvertently we wound up going across the bridge! We were going through a tunnel and it came out right onto the bridge! I suppose it was inevitable as we were exploring the higher elevations of the town. But we made a u-turn and crossed back to Brevik. We actually got pretty confused exploring the town. Some of the streets were very steep and had surprise dead-ends!
This little part of town is tucked under the older Brevik Bridge.
One of the dead-ends we came upon. It was fun (and a little embarrassing) having to do a 20-point turn with the rental car to back out of there…
When we found the correct tunnel to leave Brevik we had to wait and then follow a leader car through it because only one lane was open. We didn’t see any flagmen in Norway where there was roadwork being done. Everyone just waited patiently until the leader car was done leading the opposing line of traffic through and then turned around and signaled for them to follow.
Satisfied to have seen the place where my ancestor started his journey, we headed for Skien to spend our first night in Norway.