Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Let's All Go To Connecticut

A Connecticut-based reading brought about a day tripping nature run with my brother after having looked up all the possibilities of public parks in the state. It started with the idea of visiting the Dinosaur Park. We found that there weren’t actually dinosaurs throughout the park (we know they are extinct—we thought it would be like the park we saw in South Dakota), so we changed plans and chose four different parks. Actually, we chose three parks and then an arboretum suggested by the man who asked me to read for his series. The day of hiking would culminate in diner food at Curley’s. Diner food is my favorite. This plan could not be beat.

We got to Devil’s Hopyard a bit before lunchtime, so we decided to hike first and then eat. We had no idea where we were going or what the park actually entailed except that it had a waterfall. Then we found that there were several trails and perhaps some bears.
Rhyming makes it less scary.
 After finding the falls that were right at the entrance, we went off to find the covered bridge.

Then we crossed it in the hopes of finding Devil’s Egg/Cornhole/Oven. Neither of us could remember the name of the landmark we were looking for, but we knew it was Devil something or other. We also thought we’d find the scenic overlook after figuring out how to read distance on the map. In our defense, the map used a star system that was quite confusing and had trails marked on it that were not easy to find. I’m writing a very strong letter to the trees for better trail markers.

The woods there offered the kind of quiet you find in horror movies when someone is about to be dead. Still, it was a Zen quiet. The ground was soft with a layer of composing leaves and other nature thingies that fall. The trees grew really tall really quickly. We found ourselves climbing steeper than expected hills. I stopped us after a few moments to look back. I wanted to make sure we didn’t get lost.

 We encountered water and my brother put his hand in. It was cool. I followed suit. It was wet. We came across a swampy section, and with the balance of acrobats, we made it across several logs. Then we came across a swampier swamp. There was no crossing in our sneakers, so we turned back, encountering a slightly different path with inclines that measured maybe 45 degrees. “Lean back” became the motto so that “Tumbling Head Over Heels” did not.
We found our way out without falling or getting dead, and then we had lunch. I got a bit turned around on our way out of the park because the GPS simply stopped working. We had directions and new that the next park was close-by, so we managed to get there without the GPS and without getting dead. This day was shaping up to be a success.

A place for fine dining
At Gillette Castle, we thought we’d find a furnace. This was not just any furnace. It was supposed to be the oldest furnace in something or other. We did not find a furnace. We found the castle. We found a nice man in the parking lot who was wearing long pants, long sleeves, a big hat, and combat boots in 90 degree + heat. We got out of the car and he called to us, “Wait up!” Then he pointed to the birds I’d told my brother to look at.

I was like, “Are those hawks?”

He was like, “Look at the ones with the silver tips” and then “the others have the white across, see?” One of them was a turkey vulture and one of them was a black vulture and of those two, one of them was rare. Neither was a hawk. I need to brush up on my mad birding skillz.

We thanked him and then hit the bathrooms, which were inside. Score! No porta potty grossness!
When you sit on the toilet, you can feel a breeze. Like from below.

Then we went all around the castle and found Grand Central Station in addition to some paths down by the river, which I think was the Connecticut River. Because we were in Connecticut. We then climbed back up and around the other side of the castle and took a peek inside through the windows. The room we saw looked like a sunroom. The castle is closed on Tuesdays because of budget cuts. The gift shop was open though, and we learned there that Gillette is William Gillette who played Sherlock Holmes in some film at some time.
Moody castle
 Once we finished checking out the road map on the wall in case the GPS decided to give up on us again, we headed west towards the Stamford-Greenwich line to see the Mianus River Park. The drive wasn’t bad at all. The arrival was the snafu. The GPS sent us in circles, literally, telling me to make four lefts around a block. The destination seemed to keep changing. Then it said, “Pull the car over and walk.” What the? Never in my life have I heard of a GPS telling someone to hoof it.

We decided that this park was not going to happen. We’d driven through and around and back and saw lots of trees on either side of the road, and that was good enough for us.

Onto the Arboretum! We parked at the first spot we could find in front of a trail map and started hiking the first trail we saw. The trails criss-crossed, orange over purple, purple over teal. We went onto the swamp walk, and this one was better than the first swamp we’d encountered because this had a wooden foot path built up in it. We had no idea how long it was or if it would end, but when we found the end, we couldn’t find the path we’d started to take, so we looped around to a different one. These paths were clearly marked even though the trails sort of morphed into each other.
When we got back to the car, I wiped myself down with baby wipes and put on makeup and took off my sneakers and put on my flippies. Ahhh, to feel human again after hiking all day. I’d brought my dress with me and decided to change at the diner and not out in nature.

On our way to the exit, we found that there was a whole other parking lot and some gardens that we’d missed. Having seen enough foliage for the dead, we headed to the diner.

Curley’s is a tiny down-home diner in the middle of large urban modernity. The second we walked in, we were like, this is the place for us. We ordered. I changed. The food was delicious. Then I panicked that we were at the wrong Curley’s because I didn’t see any writers there yet. Not that I knew what anyone in the group would look like. Then in came the host for the evening and then the poets flooded in. Ahh, now I was really at home.
Before I read, they gave me an anthology of the group’s work, which was totally unexpected and really appreciated. Then I read and opened up to questions and they loved what I read and then they compared my reading to the poet laureate’s reading they’d attended the night before. Whoa. Imagine that. I’m laureate-level.
I clean up real good.

We heard from several of the poets who read their own works or poems by other people they liked. I sat next to the owner of the diner who entertained me with tales of ancient Greece and then read a poem of mythic themes. On the other side of me was a wonderful German woman who read a Rothke poem. I usually don’t point out ethnicities, but the first thing the diner owner asked when I sat down was if I was Italian. So funny.

The night wound down a bit before 10 and then we hit the road home. From way out in Eastern Connecticut to closeby Stamford to Bayside to Long Island, through the woods, through the poems, through the diner and home: that’s how to do day tripping right.

No comments: