natural stone throne

4.7.21 ~ White-Hall Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

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

carolina wren

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.

moss on the ground alongside the trail
lichen up in the trees
northern cardinal, another blurry “masterpiece”
budding, a hint of spring colors to come
this photo by Tim ~ note his walking stick leaning
against the natural stone throne

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!

natural stone throne
natural stone throne
glacial erratic

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).

Foxwoods Resort Casino in the distance
Grand Pequot Tower
moss looking like little trees

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.

view from High Ledge Overlook
an assortment of at least 4 kinds of mosses
marcescence
seed pods
branches and vines

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)

salt marsh, forest and scrubland

3.30.21 ~ Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Connecticut

Recently my blogging friend Linda, over at Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy, has been posting about her visit to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, and this inspired me to finally visit Connecticut’s own national wildlife refuge. I’ve lived in Connecticut most of my life and had never been! We decided to start with the Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook, closest to home.

visitor center

Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 10 units stretched across 70 miles of Connecticut’s coastline. It was established in 1972 and was originally called Salt Meadow National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was renamed in 1987 to honor the late U.S. Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, who was instrumental in expanding it.
~ Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge website

welcoming start of the Loop (Green) Trail
a spent heart leaf dangling in the forest
the trail was wide and well maintained
young and old
wildlife viewing platform

We were very excited to reach the wildlife viewing platform overlooking the salt marsh. Unfortunately, though, we did not see a single waterbird, even though we waited patiently for a while. Wrong time of year or maybe wrong time of day…

the Menunketesuck River runs through the Salt Meadow
looking south
looking down ~ mud
signs of human habitation in the past

I was surprised to find an andromeda bush (on the right) in the woods. Perhaps it originated in the garden of Esther Lape & Elizabeth Read, who owned the property and donated it to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1972.

andromeda aka lily-of-the-valley bush
someone planted hundreds of bulbs along the trail
rotting tree trunk
a little dollop of sunshine
squiggle art
twisty art
new green
chionodoxa

Looking forward to returning some day to take the Marsh (Blue) and Woodcock (Orange) Trails. And maybe to see some birds!

tipping rock

2.24.21 ~ Hewitt Farm, North Stonington, Connecticut

Because of the winter storms we hadn’t had a real walk in the woods in over a month. “Get out there!” my favorite TV weatherman advised on Wednesday morning. We opened the door and the birds were singing and it felt like a spring day at 45°F (7°C). Most of the snow had melted. So we headed out to a new park for us, the Hewitt Farm in North Stonington.

This 104-acre park and recreation area was purchased by the Town of North Stonington in 2008 for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors to the region. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and streams; more than a mile of hiking trails, including the town’s Bicentennial Trail; the Shunock River; 3.5-acre Lower Hewitt Pond and dam; and several structures. The dam originally provided water-power to John Dean Gallup’s woolen mill located nearby.
~ Hewitt Farm Trail Map

a preview of the bigger rock to come

We took the Bicentennial Trail. It felt so good to be outside with a just a sweatshirt and no gloves needed! We walked for an hour and a half, up a hill to Tipping Rock, a huge glacier erratic that didn’t disappoint. From the top of the hill we could see the wooded landscape 360° all around us. But there was also lots to see along the way.

moss texture
another glacial erratic with a different energy
interesting root formation

For most of us knowledge comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

perhaps the largest burl we’ve encountered

Not sure how long the trail would be we were thinking of turning back but then we saw the sign. So we pressed on up the hill…

first glimpse (telephoto lens)
what? could that be a ladder?
yes, indeed
no, we do not “do” ladders!
photo by Tim

After much oohing and aahing we headed back down the hill. It was a lot easier and faster than climbing up, but we still paused to see a lot of nature’s delights.

pincushion moss, I think
another interesting root formation

About half way down we heard the delighful sounds of excited children approaching. Two mothers with two babies and four little ones between them were coming up the trail so we took our usual six-feet-off-the-trail position as they passed. We exchanged pleasant greetings. They were wondering about the ladder…

remnants of autumn and winter

We were so happy to be out and about, as much as is possible, during the pandemic. Tim got his first shot on the 17th. Next one scheduled for March 17. My age group opens up on Monday but it may take a while to get an appointment because there are a lot more people in my age group than there are in Tim’s.

winter-patience

1.13.21 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.

looking towards the Thames River from behind Stoddard Cemetery

It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…

several kinds of moss and lichen on a rotting log

When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…

mushroom
princess pine trying to poke through the layers of leaves

Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…

Stoddard Cemetery from high above

At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.

even way up here there were a few dead fish

Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(The Unicorn & Other Poems)

We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!

hairy woodpecker, telephoto lens
same hairy woodpecker
mallards on Stoddard Cove, also telephoto lens
thin ice on Stoddard Cove

It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!

a light shines through us

12.28.20 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

We took this walk along the banks of the Thames River a couple of weeks ago. Immediately we were confronted with dead, half-eaten fish littering the path. It was pretty creepy and we wondered what on earth was going on. We had to watch our steps!

probably Atlantic menhaden

Later, after asking around, we learned that this phenomenon has been spotted by others taking walks in other natural areas near the river. We tried to ignore the gruesome scene underfoot and enjoy what else the trail had to offer…

spotted wintergreen

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

fungi? lichen? growing in tree wound cavity
Stoddard Cemetery

We found a cemetery at the foot of a hillside of jumbled glacial erratics. We noticed a couple of stones for local Revolutionary War soldiers.

Stoddard Cemetery
a huge burl on a very thin tree trunk
glacial erratics seeming to tumble down the side of the hill
lichen growing on part of an erratic

In the past month, DEEP Fisheries Division staff have received and investigated numerous calls of reported sightings of dead fish along the Connecticut shoreline, from Darien to New London, and numerous points in between. These incidents, known as fish kills, involve a species of fish called Atlantic Menhaden, also known as “bunker.” Menhaden are the most abundant marine fish species on the east coast, and fish kills involving them are not uncommon. Menhaden fish kills can occur for a variety of reasons, most often due to natural or environmental factors such as school-induced hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or cold water temperature. While DEEP continues to investigate these events, staff believe the cause of the fish kills observed over the past month have been due to more Menhaden overwintering in the Sound this year, possibly due to a missed migration cue, leading them to succumb to the cold water temperatures and a lack of nourishment.
~ The Fisherman website, December 14, 2020

jumble of erratics from another angle
Norwich & Worcester Railroad tracks, Thames River
big scramble of glacial erratics cascading down off Stoddard Hill
looking down over the very steep riverbank
every few steps, another one
???
an open acorn stash

Recently I found a website with pictures of old postcards of huge glacial erratics, many from New England. When the pandemic is over, and if health permits, we might try to visit a few of these! Boulders of the United States

off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling, Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

8 inches of snow!

12.17.20 ~ nisse by our dwarf river birch 

Nothing captures our imagination more than the idea of nature spirits. Stories about them are found in every tradition upon the planet, and they never fail to touch us in some way. The truth is that most of us have had amazing nature spirit encounters, but we have either forgotten them, didn’t realize what they were at the time or allowed others to convince us that they weren’t real. But the truth is that Nature is one of the most powerful realms of spirit contact and guidance available to us.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

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.