It felt so good getting out for a long walk in the woods on a cool, crisp autumn day! First we enjoyed the meadows at the entrance to Coogan Farm.
Following a path past the Giving Garden we came to the Gallup Orchard Trail, which winds through the woods before arriving at a forgotten orchard that was recently discovered and is being studied and restored.
Dating back to the original 1654 Gallup homestead and actively farmed by the Greenman brothers during the age of shipbuilding in the 1800s to feed their shipworkers at what is now Mystic Seaport Museum, the orchard contains clues that will help us uncover the history and heritage of the land. ~ Anna Sawin (“Apples and Pears, Oh My!” ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center blog post, March 9, 2020)
The orchard is on a hill. We entered at the top of the hill and when we found our way down to the bottom we found this sign. The bottom entrance is off the Stillman Mansion Trail. We followed that trail back to the parking lot and encountered a cute little song sparrow, who wasn’t singing, only staring at us apprehensively.
Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)
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.
Our peak fall foliage dates are supposed to be October 24-November 6 so as soon as we got a chance between rainstorms we squeezed in this autumn walk. We enjoyed the colors but there is still a lot of green. Climate change, I suppose. We’ve been getting a lot of rain and our temperatures have been running about 10°F above normal. Sigh…
The energy from this huge American beech resonated with me. I think it might qualify as a wolf tree! It was too wide to get in one photograph! We lingered under its branches for quite a while.
A new bird for me! When I was taking the picture above I spotted some white “circles” moving in the distance, way across the pond. We followed the path around the pond and they swam in the opposite direction. So I tried my best with the zoom lens. When we retraced our steps, they swam back to where we were. Clever little things. They are a lot smaller than mallards.
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus: Year-round resident; fairly common to common migrant in March and from October to November; and fairly common in winter on fresh or brackish water on the coast or larger rivers. Uncommon and very local cavity-nesting breeder in secluded wooded swamps, beaver ponds with open water, mostly in the northwest hills and lower Connecticut River. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
What a gorgeous day for a walk! First we strolled through a meadow full of blooming buttercups…
Even though Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America, many people consider them a nuisance bird, since they destroy the eggs and young of smaller songbirds and have been implicated in the decline of several endangered species. ~ All About Birds website
Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Excursions)
We climbed until we reached the lookout indicated on the map.
Wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a tiny cemetery right below the lookout. We kept following the trail hoping to find a way down there. A man about our age came up behind us, noticed my camera and asked if I had spotted anything. I mentioned the gravestones and he led us along the path and pointed us to another path and gave us directions on how to get there.
To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as the cherry-trees full in bloom, and half-opening peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I wish you were here, Austin; you thought last Saturday beautiful, yet to this golden day ’twas but one single gem to whole handfuls of jewels. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, May, 1854)
It was a long way around but we finally came to the side path leading off to the right and to the cemetery. Much to my delight there was a “wolf tree” on the corner.
Sacred to the memory of Starr Chester Esqr. who was born Aug 23rd 1759 and died Feby 12th 1812 This spot contains the ashes of the just who sought to honour; and betray’d no trust. This truth he prov’d in every line he trod.
Sacred to the memory of Mary Chester relect of Starr Chester, Esqr. Born Nov 11, 1758 Died Jan 12, 1826 May faithful angels guard my moulding dust until the general meeting of the just. Then rise triumphant from the dark abode to realms of light, to love and praise the Lord.
Since I have both Starrs and Morgans (Mary’s maiden name) on my tree I imagine these are distant cousins of mine…
While inspecting the stones two unusual things happened. First, a young man appeared above us at the lookout with a dirt bike. He rode off the edge of the precipice, flew through the air and landed a few feet away from us. As if he did such things all the time, as I’m sure he does.
Another retired couple was a little ways down another path and saw the flight, too. We got to talking and stood there for at least half an hour chatting about all kinds of things. They moved here from Pennsylvania to retire. They love the area, close to the sea. They’ve explored many of the same parks we’ve been exploring.
After we parted ways, we finished following the other trail, stopping to see the wolf tree as we joined it. When we got close to the car I heard and finally spotted another catbird. 🙂 What a lovely ending to a pleasant ramble!
On Christmas Eve morning we headed 13 miles north to find some snow without a sheet of ice on top of it. It was melting up in Ledyard but still looking lovely and was walkable. I was delighted! I was going to get my chance to walk in the snow covered woods!
In the winter there are fewer men in the fields and woods … you see the tracks of those who had preceded you, and so are more reminded of them than in summer. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, December 12, 1859)
The preserve’s website mentioned wolf trees, which are “relics from the agricultural era when trees along the edges of fields could spread their branches.” My curiosity piqued, I soon spotted one. I’ve seen trees like this before, but didn’t know there was a term for them.
In the strictest sense, wolf trees are those spared the axe during widespread Colonial-era deforestation in order to provide shade for livestock or mark a boundary. As second- and third-growth woods filled in abandoned pasture and farmland, these titans have become crowded by dense, spindly youngsters. Where those upstarts are tall and narrow, competing fiercely for canopy light, the wolf tree they surround has fat, laterally extended boughs and a comparatively squat trunk—a testament to the open, sunny country in which it once prospered. ~ Ethan Shaw (The Old in the Forest: Wolf Trees of New England & Farther Afield)
When we got to the brook we decided to turn around because there was no bridge and crossing over by stepping on the small rocks looked like a dicey proposition. But on the way back we paid more attention to the little things peeping out from under the snow.
The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, December 11, 1855)
We will return some day, better prepared to cross the brook and make our way to the cove, where we might find osprey and waterfowl. It was good to get a great walk in before heading home to hunker down for the fast approaching Christmas wind and rain storm.
We wound up having a good Christmas, even though it was pouring rain all day. There were treasured video calls with family. We finished a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to my winter solstice playlist on shuffle. Watched the final episodes of a Norwegian TV series on Netflix, Home for Christmas, dubbed in English. (Hjem til Jul)
As we started to close the drapes at dusk we found ourselves awestruck. The eastern sky, opposite of the sunset, was violet!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! The color comes from the extra moisture in the atmosphere refracting the setting sun’s light rays so that the violet is reflected.
Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams. ~ Paul Gauguin (Perception & Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing)