Don’t Waste This Opportunity

Feb. 20, 2013

There is plenty of snow, the best in many years for snowshoeing.

After all, the whole point of snowshoes is to make it possible to walk in deep snow.

You received snowshoes for Christmas? Or maybe you got them for Christmas last winter, the winter that wasn’t. Now is the time to use them.

If you don’t own snowshoes, by the way, you can rent them by the day. Both REI and Eastern Mountain Sports shops rent them. Sales of snowshoes, of course, are booming since the big storm.

Another option is Winding Trails in Farmington, a sprawling outdoor recreation facility where you can rent snowshoes and tromp along a dedicated snowshoe trail all in one stop. It is a good choice for beginners.

“Nothing is very difficult; it is moderate, rolling terrain,” said Robb Armstrong, outdoor adventure director at Winding Trails. Follow the snowshoe trail then trek along Lake Dunning and you can put together a walk of three miles. “There is a lot of open space here for people,” Armstrong said.

A three-mile hike in snowshoes will be plenty of exercise for most people, especially the first time out for the season. You probably know what it is like to walk in soft, deep beach sand; same idea with snowshoeing. It can be very tiring.

My column on snowshoeing with suggestions on where to trek appears in today’s editions of The Hartford Courant.

Winter Walks: the Newtown Tragedy in Mind

Dec. 20, 2012

At Farmington, Ct.

Two, wide, long trails parallel sections of the Shepaug River in Washington, Ct., perfect for a restorative winter walk. Click to enlarge.

Wide, long trails parallel sections of the Shepaug River in Washington, Ct., perfect for a restorative winter walk. Click to enlarge.

Maybe a winter walk will help.

A walk in winter is always exhilarating; crisp, cold air feels fresh, uplifting. Moreover, that you get yourself outside, away from the television and into the sunlight puts a positive charge into the day.

Choose a trail along a river or brook and that winter walk can be not only pleasant, but perhaps even soothing on a grander scale. Let the river serve as restorative, its flowing waters suggesting both eternity and renewal. Is a river not the boldest, most reaffirming expression of life in a winter landscape?

Throughout the state there are rivers or parts of rivers with parallel walking paths. Some, like the section of the Farmington River Trail in Farmington, Burlington and Canton, are the interstate highways of river paths – wide, paved, maintained, heavily traveled.

A half-mile section of Jack's Brook in Roxbury is paralleled by a well-marked hiking trail. The cascades are framed by evergreen hemlocks and well worth a visit even in winter. Click to enlarge.

A half-mile section of Jack's Brook in Roxbury is paralleled by a well-marked hiking trail. The cascades are framed by evergreen hemlocks and well worth a visit even in winter. Click to enlarge.

Others are dirt paths no more than a hip’s distance wide. There is everything in between, as well. What matters is that all of them get us close to a river and its calming aura, especially welcome now, with the Newtown tragedy saddening us all.

The on-line version of my column on restorative river walks is posted today on The Hartford Courant website and appears in print editions tomorrow, Dec. 21. I suggest some pleasant walks along rivers throughout the state. There are many more, many hundreds more really. Some kind of trail meanders along most streams in the state, some short, some longer. All provide access to the soothing sounds and sights of flowing water.

Only in recent days have I discovered Jack’s Brook in Roxbury, a charmer of a stream with a parallel blazed trail for a distance of about a half mile. You want to sit near the hemlock-shaded cascades.

Maybe it will help.

Some resources for winter hikes along rivers: http://www.mcleangamerefuge.org. http://steeprockassoc.org. http://www.fvgreenway.org. http://www.roxburylandtrust.org/MapTierney.pdf. http://www.putnamct.us

Enhancing Urban Bird Populations

December 2, 2012

White-throated sparrows are among the bird species found in Hartford in winter. Click to enlarge.

White-throated sparrows are among the bird species found in Hartford in winter. Click to enlarge.

Mary Rickel Pelletier, director of the conservation group Park Watershed Inc., and Joan Morrison, a biology professor at Trinity College who is an authority on birds in urban areas, are planting native shrubs in two Hartford parks as part of a new project to enhance bird habitat in Hartford, educate children and adults about the importance of bird habitat in cities, and to identify hazards to birds living in or passing through Hartford.

“Most people who live in urban areas have this idea that wildlife lives somewhere else,” Morrison says. “We are trying to find ways to educate people in the city who are very removed from nature about wildlife and about the importance of urban habitats.”

The idea is to make the sometimes-harsh city environment with dense development far more bird-friendly, combining hands-on habitat enhancement with a major public education push.

A surprising number of species can be found in the Hartford parks, including virtually all of the colorful warbler species that pass though in migration, as well as many other songbirds and birds of prey, Morrison said.

A feature story detailing the project can be found on the cover of the CtNow section of The Hartford Courant today or The Courant’s website.