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.
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
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…
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.
Looking forward to returning some day to take the Marsh (Blue) and Woodcock (Orange) Trails. And maybe to see some birds!
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. 🙂
If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂
There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.
But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.
Druid’s Cave Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.
The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.
For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken firewood from our Estate for her kitchen. In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.
If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.
We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…
Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.
But if you arrive early enough in the morning, you may still see the dying embers of a fire.
Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps, is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney, as she fights to stop shivering on her nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
Witch Stone It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here. The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time. Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone. Fortunately for visitors, she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.
The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.
They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.
They do, however, have a native cunning.
So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.
There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.
On our way out something else caught our interest:
Where Two Rivers Cross
Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close, but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained. The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin, which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.
At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen the remains of an old flax mill. It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find a place where one river passes under another. As a matter of interest, the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.
Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.
The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!
And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.
We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!
We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!
Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.
Waking up Monday morning my cold wasn’t too bad, mainly a sore throat. Katherine had to go to school and her parents had to work so Larisa dropped us off at Blarney Castle. It was another damp and chilly day but we had fun.
The usual path to the castle was blocked off because they are in the middle of some major renovations.
When we got close to the castle we stopped and had the most delicious and warm bowl of Irish Stew at the Coach House Cafe. It really hit the spot. In spite of my sensitivity to wheat I took a bite of the warm brown bread that came with the stew. Yummy! 🙂 It’s not often one finds something that tastes so good at a cafeteria!
The cafe was in the old stables and we ate in the main room. As we were leaving we saw that in the summer there was space right in the stalls for overflow dining. My only complaint was (again) no heat in the restrooms! Brrrr….
Because of the castle renovations we could not take the usual stairway up to the Blarney Stone. We never made it to the stone at the top because, well, the alternate steps were very small and continued to narrow the higher we went. We made it about 3/4 of the way up before we called it quits and retreated. We had to return home without our gift of eloquence. Notice in the picture above that the only railing we had was that wobbly rope. I’m only 5 feet tall and I had to duck to go through that doorway. And going down was even harder to pull off for these senior citizens. Phew!
On the castle grounds there are several other things to see. For this trip we chose the Rock Close. Pictures of that magical place in my next post…
After our long afternoon at Coumeenoole Beach we found our bed and breakfast, The Plough. The hostess, Beatrice, made us feel right at home. When we got warmed up and settled, we headed out again for dinner at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest gastro pub and largest restaurant. Tim & I had one of that night’s specials, Slow Roast Shank of Kerry Lamb & Red Wine Sauce. (local and grass-fed lamb) It was so delicious that we are still talking about it!
When we returned to our B&B I was feeling chilled so Beatrice warmed up a hot water bottle with a faux fur covering to take to bed with me. I warmed up quickly and slept very soundly. 🙂
Sunday morning Tim & I woke up before the others and took a morning walk. The surrounding scenery was soothing and pastoral. We were overlooking Ventry Harbour and the moon was still in the sky.
When we returned for breakfast we had a pleasant surprise. The first thing offered was porridge and was it ever tasty! Beatrice said the “secret” ingredients were local, sweet cream and a little shot of Bailey’s. 🙂 Then we had a choice of various egg, ham, and sausage breakfast combinations.
I loved the pillows Beatrice used in her sitting room! This was our first time ever staying at a bed & breakfast ~ thank you Larisa & Dima for the special treat!!!
We had a long day ahead of us and so we were then off for the next adventures.
The lovely flower you sent me is like a little Vase of Spice and fills the Hall with Cinnamon – You must have skillful Hands – to make such sweet Carnations. Perhaps your Doll taught you. I know that Dolls are sometimes wise. Robins are my Dolls. I am glad you love the Blossoms so well. I hope you love the Birds, too. It is economical. It saves going to Heaven. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to Eugenia Hall, c. 1885)
Before the bud swells, before the grass springs, before the plow is started, comes the sugar harvest. It is the sequel of the bitter frost; a sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter. ~ John Burroughs (Signs & Seasons)
We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we checked into a motel in Orange, Massachusetts Saturday night. Our plan was to spend the night, grab a breakfast somewhere, and head over to a family reunion in the neighboring town of Athol on Sunday afternoon. In the morning we discovered a great place to have breakfast, on Johnson’s Farm, a restaurant, sugar house, and gift shop! Maple syrup production was well under way, the old-fashioned way.
Sugar weather is crisp weather. How the tin buckets glisten in the gray woods; how the robins laugh; how the nuthatches call; how lightly the thin blue smoke rises among the trees! The squirrels are out of their dens; the migrating waterfowls are streaming northward; the sheep and cattle look wistfully toward the bare fields; the tide of the season, in fact, is just beginning to rise. ~ John Burroughs (Signs & Seasons)
If only some way could be found to share the smell of New England in maple sugar season on a blog post! Our olfactory receptors were tickled with delight to whiff in the aromas of wood-burning stoves and sap boiling down into syrup. We bought a couple of jugs of pure maple syrup! Mostly we’ll be using it in marinades, since pancakes are no longer on our grain-free diet…
It was if we had been transported back in time to a place in the heart of New England. It made me appreciate anew that there are more “seasons” than the four four we normally notice as the year goes around. The gnarly old tree in the above picture caught our attention – what an amazing life it has had. And I loved the knotty pine interior of the sugar house in the picture below – so typical of New England.
When we got home Sunday night Zoë and Scarby seemed a little angry with us (ears pinned back, ignoring us) for leaving them overnight, but they’re back to purring and following us around, rubbing our legs and talking to us again.
The above picture was taken in the Connecticut College Arboretum a year ago today, a warm and bright sunny day. Tonight will be a full moon. Native Americans in this area called this full moon the Worm Moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “as the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins.” I have seen a lot of robins recently. And tomorrow will be Spring! We made it!
The period leading up to the spring equinox is … a time of great upheaval in nature: the first full moon of March usually heralds high tides and strong winds that enliven the long-dead period of late winter. The change of spring is one that we welcome with all our hearts, but we appreciate it warmly only because of what has gone before it. Our ability to cope with change will improve if we discover the art of living in the present moment, of being at home where and when we are. Caitlín Matthews (The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)
Poor Tim is working another weekend… The upheavals at his job have corresponded with the recent upheavals in nature. But he handles changes with a lot more grace than I can usually manage. As for me, I plan to go down to the beach this evening and take in the full moon and a little meditation and grounding. Perhaps there will be a high tide and a strong wind… Maybe something to photograph as I welcome spring.