THE SMILES OF NATURE: AUTUMN IN CONNECTICUT PART TWO

A leading Romantic Movement poet from the early 19th Century, Leigh Hunt once said:

“Colors are the smiles of nature.”

Don’t worry, I am not about to go off on some literary treatise, I just think this is a perfect quote to begin today’s post, for Nature was indeed LOLing her head off upon our arrival at the Goodwin Conservation State Forest in Putnam, Conn. here’s a sneak peek:

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This is what we had been hoping for – a 2,000 acre property with 3 ponds, 14 miles of trails that are CLEARLY MARKED with interesting tidbits about the flora and fauna we might see:

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In addition, the rangers on site not only printed out trail maps but gave suggestions as to best spots to visit.  My cousin’s notations on this forest were prophetic:

Goodwin Conservation Center 23 Potter Rd, Hampton, CT 06247

(If Pachaug isn’t sufficient)

James L. Goodwin was one of the Connecticut’s earliest conservationists. In 1913 he purchased his first three acres and over the years continued to expand and maintain the land, selling a crop of Christmas trees every year from 1924 – 1964. The farmhouse that he lived in on the property became the Goodwin Forest Education Center in 1964 when Goodwin gifted the entire forest to the state of Connecticut.

Goodwin certainly knew what he was doing – the trails we hiked were magnificent and although we were totally immersed in the forest we never felt lost – thanks Rangers!

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Starting from the Conservation Center at the bottom of the map – we wended our way along the Pine Acres Pond using the Blue Blazed Trail (blue dashed line)

It was a bit overcast when we first started, but this only added to the hushed muted-color beauty of the pond area:

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No animals sightings – but there were some pretty berries, milkweed floss and acorns embedded in the leaves that fed my desire for macro shots:

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We then veered off into the forest via the Yellow Trail to see the Brown Hill Marsh, and it was perfectly titled:

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We were like children shwooshing our feet through the carpet of leaves:

I was reminded of Robert Frosts’ poem – “The Road Not Taken:”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There is a special quality to the air inside a forest – it’s as though everything (including myself) is holding its breath, withholding secrets – a bit scary but magical:

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Eventually we came to a clearing and were a bit disappointed to see that the Marsh was quite small:

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Yeah, we’re dumb cityfolk – this was just some run-off.  Beyond a slight incline was the actual  Black Marsh:

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Not totally sure of the water fowl but I think they were ducks – there are also herons and kingbirds and swallows and other wetland birds but they may have been in another section.  Also missing was the architect of this structure:

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Perhaps Mr. Beaver and family were taking an afternoon nap.

Now sometimes, when you least expect it and have been content with what you have been given to date, you get rewarded – as we continued on our trail loop, the late sun came out from behind the clouds – and the forest lit up with a blaze of color:

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Thank you, Nature!

Just to keep us humble, however, we had one more WTDGAP.  My cousin and I were supposedly completing our trail loop back to the car, keeping in mind this warning:

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Somehow, however we moved totally off the trail and onto an adjoining highway.  Others had obviously preceeded us on this detour:

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Fortunately my cousin and I have good directional senses and despite not having Miss Honda or Jill to guide us, we managed to get back to my car.

Onward to our next hotel in Torrington, a quick cleanup and as night fell we headed out to our dining choice, The White Horse Country Pub.  Believe me, there’s nothing like driving on an unfamiliar dark, winding country road with no streetlights.  I don’t really enjoy night driving anywhere but my cousin graciously offered to do the evening transport and taking our time we finally arrived at this quaint restaurant:

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I certainly did not waste my perk of being a passenger and started my repast with this lovely cocktail:

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Items on the menu carried an equine theme – this was a Red Horse Cocktail – Grey Goose Vodka, pineapple and orange juices with a splash of grenadine.  Of course I could not dine in a New England area without trying the cider:

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Perfect pub food followed – our miles of hiking were well rewarded. Steak and mashed potatoes for my cousin and for me a decadent House Signature Burger – blend of black Angus sirloin, brisket and short rib, with apple wood smoked bacon, carmelized onions, romaine leaf, tomato, and seasoned sage derby blue cheese sauce on a toasted buttered brioche with thick crispy fries:

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To top it off we shared a “healthy” desert named Pear Belle Helen – poached pear, warm Belgian chocolate sauce, toasted almonds and vanilla ice cream.  This desert was originally created to celebrate Offenbach’s opera in 19th century Paris. Viva la France!

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Back to the hotel, where I walked off a bit of the desert.  The moon was once again smiling down and all was well with the world.

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Coming up next on Day Three:  some hiking almost reminiscent of Peru.

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