a castle by the river

6.23.21 ~ Gillette Castle State Park
East Haddam, Connecticut

Another gorgeous day of mild temperatures and low humidity presented itself on Wednesday, so off we went to visit a small castle in Connecticut. The last time we were there was in 1981, when the gypsy moth infestation was in full swing. 40 years ago — where does the time go? My memories are of trees stripped of their leaves and our three-year old son stomping on every single caterpillar in his path. And there were many. It was slow going…

Wiliam Gillette as Sherlock Holmes lithograph
1900 Library of Congress Collection

The castle sits high above the Connecticut River. It was designed by William Gillette (1853-1937), an American stage actor who famously portrayed Sherlock Holmes in multiple productions. He lived in his castle from 1919 until his death. We couldn’t get any indoor pictures but it was a very enjoyable and informative tour. (We were required to wear masks inside the castle and the visitor center.) The man owned 15 cats and had designed many built-in features to entertain them, like a round table with wooden toys dangling off the edge.

Connecticut River, viewed from the castle

Looking at the river we spotted the ferry crossing from Hadlyme to Chester, which brought back another memory. One day when the caterpillar crusher was a teenager he wanted to visit a certain obscure comic book store, far from home and on the other side of the river. We went by the interstate but I decided we would take a side trip on the way home to locate an ancestor’s gravestone at a cemetery on this side of the river, and that we would take the car over the river on the little ferry. It was an adventure!

Chester/Hadlyme Ferry

Gillette also designed a short-line, narrow gauge train with three miles of track on the grounds of his 184-acre estate.

From the 1920s through the ‘30s, Gillette’s personal railroad amused visiting dignitaries from Albert Einstein to Calvin Coolidge as it carried them across bridges, trestles, and through a tunnel Gillette designed himself. The 18-inch-gauge railroad included electric- and steam-powered locomotives, two Pullman cars, and an observation car. In the 1940s the tracks and train engines were sold to Lake Compounce in Bristol. They were donated back in the 1990s and a restored passenger car is currently on display at the castle’s visitor center.
~ Connecticut History website

“Grand Central Station”
???mysterious substance hanging from ceiling of train station???
looking out from the train station towards the river
Gillette Castle from a different angle
stone wall along a driveway
entrance to ???
stone wall along a walkway

Tim spotted a bird high up in a tall tree and I did the best I could with the telephoto lens and no tripod! My first pictures of an indigo bunting!!! A lovely way to end the visit.

indigo bunting

But that wasn’t the end of the outing. On our way to the castle I had spotted a picturesque body of water and Tim had spotted a place where we could pull off the road to look at it. So on the way back we stopped. There were no signs so it took a bit of investigating when I got home to identify it.

6.23.21 ~ Whalebone Cove
Lyme, Connecticut
freshwater tidal marsh
dome-shaped beaver lodge of sticks and wood
lovely summer colors
more summer colors

And then I spotted what looked to be part of the bark on that dying tree in the first picture above. But when I zoomed in it turned out to be a bird! The bird never moved, except to turn its head, the whole time we were there. Flitting around it were two other birds who never landed for more than a second, but I managed to get the last picture below of one of them. I was able to steady my arms by leaning on the car. With help from the good folks at the What’s This Bird? Facebook group it seems to be a fledgling barn swallow and its parents.

juvenile barn swallow
barn swallow

We stopped at our favorite restaurant on our way home again and wondered how many more of these delightful days we will have before the heat and humidity return and settle in…

late spring in the woods

6.6.18 ~ wild geranium, Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

The wood is decked in light green leaf.
The swallow twitters in delight.
The lonely vine sheds joyous tears
Of interwoven dew and light.

Spring weaves a gown of green to clad
The mountain height and wide-spread field.
O when wilt thou, my native land,
In all thy glory stand revealed?

~ Ilia Chavchavadze
(Anthology of Georgian Poetry)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

“Summer is coming!” the soft breezes whisper;
“Summer is coming!” the glad birdies sing.
Summer is coming — I hear her quick footsteps;
Take your last look at the beautiful Spring.
~ Dora Read Goodale
(Summer Is Coming)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
~ George Santayana
(Words of Wisdom & Quotable Quotes)

notice the ant in the middle of the flower
new growth on a hemlock ~ might the woolly adelgid infestation be subsiding?
sunbathing on a boulder

How many Flowers fail in Wood —
Or perish from the Hill —
Without the privilege to know
That they are Beautiful —

How many cast a nameless Pod
Opon the nearest Breeze —
Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight —
It bear to other eyes —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #534)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
sweet little bluets
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Honor the space between no longer and not yet.
~ Nancy Levin
(Grief Interrupted: A Holistic Guide to Reclaiming Your Joy)

Janet overlooking the lawn where the audience sits
to watch outdoor theater in the summer
fringe tree blossoms
more fringe tree blossoms
and still more fringe tree blossoms

blossoms and birdhouses

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mountain laurel

So… there were other treasures waiting to be discovered while we were on our long hike Saturday. In 1907 the mountain laurel, a lovely native American shrub, was designated as the official state flower of Connecticut. They are just starting to blossom and we saw loads of them.

wild geranium, another native wildflower

I was raised by the melody
Of the whispering grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin
(Odes & Elegies)

eastern blue-eyed grass, another native wildflower
ferns and saplings filling the edge of a meadow

Now, the staff at the arboretum is keeping a meadow open for habitat for several kinds of animals and birds. They also erected several birdhouses and we did see a tree swallow looking out the “window.”

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

These shots were very hard to get because they were taken from so far away. I didn’t have a tripod to stabilize the camera and the zoom lens. I climbed a bank on the side of the trail, through a thicket of plants and saplings, and then leaned one arm on a tree to steady my grip, trying to avoid the gypsy moth caterpillars. (I wound up bringing at least one tick home – I hope I won’t find any more…) Even though I had to delete most of the shots I took it was a thrill to get home and find that these three came out!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

I love all the orbs I captured…

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mosses and grasses

We were just thinking of turning around and retracing our steps when Beverly was beckoned by yet another tree growing through the rocks. So we left the path and carefully navigated our way through uneven terrain of rocks and bushes. I found a spot to take the picture. More orbs!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree with orbs
looking up the same majestic tree

After finding our way back to the trail I finally put away the camera, took a long drink of water, sprayed on some more bug repellent and enjoyed the long walk back, hands free.

May 2, 2020: When this post was first published I misidentified the bird as a baby bluebird, a mistake that was pointed out to me recently by much more knowledgeable friends. Consensus is that the brightly colored bird is an adult tree swallow! I have edited the text above, but the comments below reflect my original error. Sorry about that!