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.

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 red maple, 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)

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

scarlet tanager

5.12.20 ~ Avery Tract, Waterford, Connecticut

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!

5.12.20 ~ an unusual trailhead

If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.

5.12.20 ~ Tim spotted what little was left of this decaying tree
5.12.20 ~ an inviting path

The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.

5.12.20 ~ looking north
5.12.20 ~ looking south towards the Gold Star Memorial Bridge

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!

5.12.20 ~ spring green in the woods
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?

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.

5.12.20 ~ little sapling

Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…

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!