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Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Hiking and Paddling at Huntington State Park

It may seem that four months without a blog post is a bit excessive.  Of course, on the other hand, I'm not really sure how many folks were sitting at home and checking my blog every couple of hours in the hopes that I'd written something.  For those of you who have been doing so, please accept my apologies.  The rest of you can just read this and murmur something about how time flies.

Since Ian and I returned from General Synod, the big family adventure was our family vacation in the Canadian Maritimes, where we stayed with friends on Prince Edward Island and then camped for the rest of the trip as we visited Cape Breton Island, Halifax, Lunenberg and Cape Chignecto on the Bay of Fundy. These places would probably have made great blog posts, except that we didn't have much going in the way of internet access. Upon returning home to Connecticut, things have been work-work-work, all the time, with a bunch of funerals and meetings. Oh well....
So today, which was a genuine day off for EVERYONE in the family, Kimberly, Ian and I loaded up our canoe and kayak and headed up to Collis P. Huntington State Park, located on the borders of Bethel, Newtown and Redding, Ct.  On this October day, the drive was beautiful, with the autumn leaves providing just a hint of color.

Starting Down the First Stretch
When we reached the park, we popped the boats in the water right next to the parking area and paddled down the first bit of water toward the main pond, passing down the West Lagoon, an area a couple hundred yards long that had the feel of a lazy river, rather than a pond.  In spots, the tree branches from both sides of the pond met and formed an arch down which we paddled.  At the end of this first stretch, we paddled under a foot bridge and entered a somewhat larger pond, the East Lagoon.

Mallards Ignoring Us
As we entered the East Lagoon, the feature that first caught our attention was a spillway on the far side.  After paddling over to it, went to the north end of the pond, where we encountered a flock of mallards who seemed completely unconcerned with our presence.

Returning to the south end of the pond, we paddled under another foot bridge into Lake Hopewell.  We paddled past a small stone "lighthouse" into the channel between an island and the west shore of the lake and found ourselves in wonderfully clear water, where we could easily see the bottom, along with fish and a huge turtle that was probably 16" or so across.  Other turtles sunned themselves on a log, plopping into the water in a most undignified way as we neared them.

Turtles, Prior to Their Retreat
 After circling the island, looking for a landing spot, we went ashore and climbed to the top of the hill for lunch, There were lots of trees that had been chewed by beavers, but we never did see a dam or a lodge anywhere in our trip.  After lunch, we made a fairly quick circuit of Lake Hopewell, watching a couple throwing sticks into the water for their black lab to retrieve and seeing a couple of anglers casting, but nobody catching anything.  With a quick duck back under the two foot bridges, we paddled back to the end of the East Lagoon, with maybe an hour and a half's actual paddling time elapsed.  After we loaded the boats back on top of the car, we switched from Tevas to hiking boots for a ramble around the park's trail system.

Horses Graze as Their Riders Picnic
Much of the trail that we hiked had a lot of what Ian called "PUD," Pointless Up and Down, going over several ridges that run across the park (though the park map gives absolutely no sense of terrain).  A surprise for us was that we ended up sharing the trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders, who must have stayed on the somewhat gentler trails.  The park website says that they also offer cross-country skiing in the winter, so I expect that we'll have to venture back in a few months to see which trails are designated for that.

It was a fantastic day, just warm enough for great paddling and just cool enough for comfortable hiking.  This is what fall in New England is supposed to be!

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