Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Warm Sunday - Bluff Point State Park, Groton, CT

Buford's Family Restaurant
We got out of the house in good time this week and drove to Groton, Connecticut for a great breakfast at Buford's Family Restaurant. We parked in front of the Happy Tails Dog Grooming shop directly across the street from Buford's and wen we arrived, all the seats were taken so we sat at the counter. I have to say that this was  one of the friendliest places we had been in quite some time. It seems like everyone that was working at Buford's was genuinely happy to be there. This is just a small hole in the wall, neighborhood diner but it gets a five star rating from me.
Nana and Pappa at the counter
It was great sitting at the counter as this is where all the action is.  We had a great chat with the waitresses and the food was great, prompt and generous portions. Nana had a reuben omelet and I had my usual and they got the toast right. so score one for the small town diner. Nana and I chatted and caught up on all the happenings of the past week. Sunday mornings are always great this way as the week days are busy and it can be difficult to get it all said, so we get it all out on Sunday mornings, over eggs and coffees and home fries. Once we were fortified we set off to find Bluff Point State Park. We had hiked here once before, (before this blog) back in late November of last year and have great memories of that time. The big loop part of the trail is 
just over 4 miles starting in a dusty parking area. We chose this spot because it is near the water and has beaches on Long Island Sound. Nana needed to be by the water and this seemed to be just the spot.
Nana gets her bearings
It was building into another hot day as we started up the path but we walked in comfort in the shade of Hickory and Oak and had a great breeze coming in off the Sound. The trail here is wide and well traveled and there is no need of trail markers. No blazes on the trees here.
Out on the point, overlooking the Sound.

As is usually the case I began to perspire heavily a short way into the walk, it is just what I do...  but this time Nana had reminded me to bring my hat so the sweat wouldn't run into my eyes. It worked! Thanks Nana! However there was at least one noticeable drawback. The picture on the right taken at the diner turned out pretty good and Nana wanted a copy to send to our son who lives on the far shore in California. When I went to send it to her (it was on my iPhone) I had to look down at my screen and when I did that a puddle of water formed on my screen. Yep, I had sweat my hat completely full, so when I tipped my head down, it would run in a stream from the bill. I was able to overcome these hardships and press on. As the sun got higher in the sky, more and more fun seekers arrives along the trail and we passed quite a few heading for the beach with arms full of beach toys and towing wagons and baskets behind. We made it back to the start having logged over 4 miles. The apps are still in conflict - I am guessing 4 miles even. Once back to the car we swapped out our backpacks for beach chairs and found a great spot in the shade. Nana was reading and I was sketching and all the while we had a good conversation going. Once when I needed to go the the mens room (they actually had a solar powered mens room) I was fortunate to have a hot dog stand in my path, so on my return trip I made the acquaintance of the purveyor of fine dogs. He was a large guy who was falling asleep in his chair while playing Sudoko - I think I save him from the pain of boredom. We ended up chatting for quite a while. Not only does he sell hot dogs but raises champion 'coon hounds. Growing up in Illinois my neighbor had several runs of hounds and 'coon hunting was a big sport in my childhood. Even though we became kindred spirits, he still charged me full retail for the dog. I took my dog back to my spot in the shade and Nana and I were in a cool, breezy spot on a hot summer day. Oh and did I mention that there is a Dairy Queen at the entrance to the park. . . 

Some Pictures
On the 'trail' 
By the beach
Even though it sys 4.5 I bet it was only 4
The view from my chair

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Convolutions - Caratunk

At the ihop
This weeks' Sunday walk took place on Saturday. And so it starts. . . and fell apart quickly. With all good intentions we planned to rise early on Saturday (Sunday had other obligations) and find an exotic place and have a nice long walk. But it didn't turn out that way - as it turns out it was a very late start day. So we decided to just go to Caratunk which is the closest decent place to walk in the woods. Also as it turns out, an IHOP just opened up down the street and we thought it might be a good idea to see what it is like. So breaking with tradition and leaving all good sense at home, we struck out for the IHOP. Wouldn't you know that we were not the only ones with that idea on a warm Saturday morning. We had to wait... I hate to wait... Well they do have an extensive menu and 'Ashley', our waitress, (can I say waitress -- is that sexist? Maybe wait-person) was very pleasant and got us coffee promptly and handed us rather large menus which took a while to read, they do have a large selection of things to choose from.
$3.50 a cup!
And so we ordered, Nana had an omelet and a crepe with red berries of some kind, maybe strawberries, and I had eggs home fries and toast as normal, but also got 'country fried steak' - homage to my midwestern roots. By golly they got the toast right! It sure was busy and we had the seat right by the door and got to see the parade of humanity flowing past. I gotta say, most of them were rather large and we were thinking that maybe they had been to the IHOP one too many times. Now I know what you are thinking - I am not being to sensitive or politically correct, but I am a visual person and am just reporting what I saw. And besides, they may have been saying the same thing about me. Anyway, back to the convolutions of the morning. While we were there we realized that we had the evening free - a free Saturday - this is a rarity to be sure. I would bet that we must have no more that 5 or 6 free Saturday evenings in a year. Well with this blank slate of an evening staring us in the face we decided that we should rent a movie and my friend Giovanni had recommended 'The Intern' with Robert de Nero. Nana said that sounded fine and I figured we could pick it up at the Red Box -- checking my phone (the source of all knowledge) I discovered that this was not to be and Netflix didn't have it either. Consulting the phone device one more time I discovered that we could buy it at Walmart - which is a half a mile away - for the sum of $9.95. Excessive, but it is an open Saturday night and I wanted to impress my sweetie. We decided that we should swing by the Walmart before the hike, snag the movie and head for the woods. Walmart was out of them. . . . and because of our late start it was now after one in the afternoon and the temperature was over 90º! "Let's try Best Buy" I said trying to be cheerful " we are here already..."  Best Buy was out of them. . . .  Nana had waited in the car while I ran into Best Buy and when I gave her the news she pointed out that Target was 'just right over there' so off we went again. This time Nana also had a few things she wanted to see of Target had. . . Well I found the movie ---  $22.95!!!!!!! So in a short span of time I went from spending a buck at the Red Box to a price of $22.95!! No deal. It was the DVD, Blue Ray downloadable watch it anywhere edition - I am not paying for that - and who needs to watch it on ALL their devices.  We left.    Oh and did I mention that IHOP turned out to be very expensive.. we spent $35 for breakfast...forget the chain diners, buy local, better food, better people, better prices.
Caratunk yellow dot trail
Oh yeah, this blog is supposed to be about walking with Nana. We did arrive at Caratunk at the very peak of the hottest day so far this year. I think my phone app had the temperature at about 2000º Kelvin or something like that, it was close to the temperature of the sun. We started off on the red dot trail down over the bridge and through the tall pines. I love this little preserve. So close to home and yet when you walk back into the woods you feel very remote. Even with the heat of the day (and I really feel the heat of the day), it was a good place to be. I think that they win the award for having the most mushrooms of any trail we have hiked - they were everywhere. We saw red mushrooms, yellow and white mushrooms and mushrooms of all sizes and varieties - mushroom heaven. The other thing Caratunk had this fine day was bugs. Lots of flying, annoying bugs. I am thinking that by now you musk think that I am just an old whiner but, well, that is just how this day worked out, and it is my job to tell the story. All in all, through the heat and the bugs, we had a good walk. We walked the outer perimeter of the preserve and walked through many different types of terrain with great diversity in the types of plants and trees that grow in this forest. The ferns were spectacular and lots of princess pine and wildflowers along the trail.  And did I mention the mushrooms.
Back at the beginning
The final part of the trail Nana and I through the fields over looking the barn and the starting point. The fields are the home to a wide variety of birds and we spotted several thrushes and even a goldfinch. And of course many birds that we didn't or couldn't put a name to. While walking in the forest we were serenaded by bird song. The birds know a good thing and I suspect that is why they are here. Even though it was a convoluted start to the day..we got our walk in this weekend, in a beautiful spot, which we had all to ourselves, and as always, I was in the good company of Nana.

And of course when I got home, I had to mow the lawn..just a bit more walking in the blazing sun. . . .

Mushrooms everywhere

On the trail

It lies - I bet it was only about 2.5 miles

Monday, July 11, 2016

Thinking of Paul - Lincoln Woods

Geneva Coffee
Today was sort of a melancholy day for a walk. Our dear friend Paul passed away yesterday so this walk has become our memorial walk. Such a good man, such a good friend. More on that later, but let me tell you how our day went. Nana and I started our day in search of some place close and decided just to walk again in Lincoln Woods, just north of the city of Providence, a few minutes from our house. I found the Geneva Diner in North Providence on the computer and it looked like a good enough place to have breakfast as we always like new diners. It all started off well enough, we were seated promptly and the waitress seemed cheerful enough. We got coffee straight away. The diner was not busy it only is a maybe too other booths with hungry breakfast seekers.
Nana ordered the 'Mexican Omelet' and I ordered my usual 2 eggs, home fries and toast. And the wait began... and continued... and continued. We began to wonder if we had been forgotten but the waitress showed up and refilled our empty coffee cups. Nana asked for a glass of water which never came. If you are a regular reader of this drivel you know I like my toast dark and without butter.
You can see here just how that turned out, and the odd thing was our toast arrived first on it's own plates long before any breakfast showed up and when a plate arrived only Nana's breakfast arrived and my two eggs did not show for almost another 7 or 8 minutes. Nana asked for a glass of water again and never got it still. . . The Geneva Diner does not get a high rating, and not much of a tip either. Nana never did get her water..we guessed they lost the recipe. A short time later we pulled into the back entrance of Lincoln Woods..this was not intentional, I just happened to miss the exit so I took the next and knew the way to the back of the park. This was actually a much better entrance to the park complete with a covered bridge over a stream. We parked and struck out to the woods along a dirt road which lead to many trails. Soon we were walking in peace and talking of our long friendship with Paul and the meaning of all this end of life stuff. Paul's passing has made us all more reflective on our own place in the world and exactly how short our time here actually is. Make the best of it. Paul was an inspiration in many ways and has touch our life in a most permanent way. While we walked we got calls and texts from friends who have also been touched by Paul wanting to know the news and what they could do and sending well wishes. He was loved by many.
Lincoln Woods
We walked toward the pond and then followed a trail around the perimeter for a while and crossed back over to the road and around back through the woods. It seemed a bit more of a wander than hike..a bit more aimless the way life seems right now. I think I will leave the blog here for the day with one final thought. As we approached the end of our walk a huge Red Tailed Hawk landed in a tree almost directly above us. Maybe it was my mood or maybe some thing real but I would like to think that it was a sign  of better things to come, of a new beginning or something I don't have words for, but a sign of something good. 

Red Tailed Hawk

Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods
Our path

Monday, July 4, 2016

Defoliated - Crawley Preserve

Iced Coffee
Well it's the Fourth of July Weekend and you know what that means.. we slept too late and the lines at the breakfast place I choose were 15 deep out the door.  Drat! -- So on to plan B. I had chosen Stepping Stone Falls for our hike today but we headed further south and ended up in Richmond RI, right near where I work and went to the Fresh Ground Cafe for breakfast. We each had iced coffees (since it was almost noon) and breakfast burritos. All very good! and good service too. Since I know this area and we were on kind of a tight schedule we decided to hike in a place nearby called the Crawley Preserve, about 5 miles from the cafe in Usquepaugh, RI - I had been there sketching several times but had never walked the trails. To our surprise the Gypsy Moth caterpillars had almost completely defoliated the area. It was amazing seeing the entirety of the forest, this time of the year without leaves. It was like winter again.
However, the trails were very well marked and we were not to be deterred by a few missing leaves. We started off on the Red Dot Trail which winds it way up a hilly countryside with several switchbacks to keep me from puffing too much. You can see in the picture  that the leaves are just gone, but the trail is wide and the walking is very easy and the scenery is still
No Leaves
No leavesvery nice. Even though it was a hot July day and we didn't have much cover, it was cool enough that I didn't work up my usual lather. Along the red dot trail we met a lady who said she live just down the road, she was walking her dog, a large white handsome dog of some unknown breed. We chatted for a few minutes and came away with a lot of local knowledge about the area and about the trails. For the longest route she recommended talking the red trail to the blue trail and the blue trail to the yellow trail which would lead us back to the parking area. This is exactly what we ended up doing. Along the way there were trail markers with numbers on them - we have learned since that they match up with a trail guide and point out natural features. We need to walk this again with the guide in hand. At he far end of the preserve we could see signs of civilization but soon were back into the forest. Interestingly the caterpillars were in the stage of development where they were becoming moths..and the woods were swarming with little white moths, amazing.
We found the yellow trail
 The trail system here was one of the best marked trails system we have walked. All the blazes were fresh and bright and they were close enough together that you never had to search them out. The yellow trail had the most diversity of terrain with a brook and large glacial boulders strewn along the way. Even thought he walking was easy the views were fantastic. The yellow trail also was just a bit greener than the rest of this defoliated forest with lush ferns and raspberry bushes, once we got near the brook, anyway. As we neared the finish of our two mile walk, a white tailed deer leapt across the trail just in front of Nana, giving her a start and it was gone before I looked up. We had heard several wild critter thrashing around in the brush from time to time and supposed it was deer, this confirmed it. After returning to the car, we drove down the hill to the Kenyon Grist Mill, a Rhode Island favorite. And now some more photos.
At the start

Well marked trail

Pappa, posing like a pioneer - what a poser!

App didn't have the trails

Mill stone

Nana at Kenyons

With The Kids - Dingman Falls, PA - June 25-27

BabblingBrook Cabin 4
Our little spot in PA
This was the week the was... it seems that just about everything that could go wrong, did. But with a bad week behind us Nana and Pappa along with our grandkids Ben and Grace set off early Saturday morning for  a few days away. Our destination was a place that Nana found called Babbling Brook Cottages, near Dingman's Ferry/Dingman's Falls, Pennsylvania. The drive is about four and a half hours from our home in Rhode Island and an easy ride it was. Ben is always in the navigator seat when ever we travel and did a good job this time too. Ben has been suffering with stomach problems and I have been watching what I eat so we didn't have much in the way of snacks on the road, but we did start off at Dunkin Donuts as always and that held us for the ride. As we arrived in the area of the cabins we took a side trip to dingman's Falls, a national park. This is a wonderful park with lots of trails for hiking and we got a guided tour with a ranger named Eric. His took us along the trail to Silverhead Falls, an 80 foot tall, very narrow falls cutting vertically through very large rock walls It was spectacular. Here is a photo of the falls.
Silverhead Falls - Click for larger
We were told by others leaving the trail that we had just missed a Black Bear who was trying to get across the trail and the river..would have been pretty cool to see a bear. we continued along through the forest of Hemlock and Elm to the star attraction, Dingman Falls, which is the second highest waterfalls in Pennsylvania. We had a great time here and as it turns out is the the 100th birthday for the National Park Service this year, congrats and keep up the fine work. From here we struck out for the cabins and what a great place to call home for a few days. The cabin property backed right up to the George W. Childs Park which has an abundance of waterfalls. We hiked through the woods, an adventure in itself, and found some great spots to play. We spent the afternoon climbing all over rocks and playing in the water. The forest was a very comfortable place to spend time with the family. Ben and Grace had a great time climbing on the stones that filled the stream bed and Ben had his first encounter with what I call a crawdad but most people refer to as a crayfish.
Crawdad Boy
After the adventure we took off in search of food and drink and to pick up a few groceries and explore the village of Milford, about 7 miles away. We also found  a company to rent tubes for a river float on the Delaware River. We made reservations for the next day.  We had supper at a restaurant called simply 'The Grill' and I think everyone had a pretty good supper. on our return we found a drug store and a grocery store and arrived back at the cabin well stocked. At his point in the evening I think we were all pretty tired and about all we could do is build a fire in the fire pit out back and sit around poke stick in it. There is something very satisfying about sitting around a fire and poking it with a stick, the kids love this and we do it at home frequently too.
Ah, a fire
The next morning Pappa made breakfast, bacon and scrambled eggs and we were off to the river for a day of slow floating adventure. What a business they have going. For a mere $120 the drive us up the river three miles, drop us off where there is a stack of tubes and allow us to float back to the start. Likely cost them seven cents for gas and five minutes hourly wage for the kid who drove us. Good business plan, wish I had thought of it. The trip down the river was easy, with only a couple of spots where the water moved as fast as a walk. Once back to the start we stacked the tubes, took a shower and headed out. Benny was still feeling a bit poorly when we returned to the cabin so Nana and Grace and I wen in search of more waterfalls, and found several back at the George W. Childs Park. This time we drove over and hiked in from the entrance. Lots of people swimming and leaping from high cliffs.
George W. Childs Park, Falls
More campfires that night and a ride home the next day, stopping for a while to walk a bit on the Appalachian Trail. Now we can all say we have hike a few paces on the AT. An easy ride home from there and I think everyone had a good time exploring new places.

And now more photos.

Tubing on the Delaware

Sweetie Pie on the trail

People were jumping here

More Waterfalls
On the Appalachian Trail - if only for a minute