Monday, October 19, 2020

The great Avalonia trail trek

By Beth Sullivan 

It is time to hit the trails for a purpose, and if you can’t get out to do it, you can support a team or support the effort. 

A short trail may have a reward at the end.


The trek begins 

This weekend marked the beginning of the Trail Trek fund raiser for Avalonia. The organization has never done this kind of an event, and the plans were hatched before we found ourselves in the depth of a pandemic. So, not only are we trying something new, but we have to punt. Make lemonade! Or whatever metaphor you want to use to describe making the very best of a less than perfect situation. But, you know, this is turning out to be quite wonderful. Maybe even better than a bunch of big group hikes. This way we all spread out our energies and intentions and cover Southeast Connecticut with our members and friends, to spread the word of the work Avalonia is doing to preserve the beautiful open spaces that have kept many of us, especially me, sane over these past months. 

I myself have never actively participated in a walk/bike/run for any cause. Some people find it easier to simply make a donation. Of course, you can still do that (thank you!). But how much more fun it is going to be to have a purpose, a goal, to do something I love anyway. I may not cover as much ground as the runners. I can’t climb the Tri-Town mountain like the real hikers. But I am pretty sure I will really look at things along the way. I take time; I dawdle when I walk. I have to stop to look up so I don’t trip on something, and I need my bifocals to look at things really closely. I always wander with my camera, or most frequently with my phone that seems to be quite satisfactory in its quality and detail in photos. I often have binoculars hanging around my neck as well. This is a great time to look for migrant birds, both those passing through and those who are arriving here for the winter. 

It's never too soon to start trekking.

Bridges can be part of the fun.

For some the challenge will be vertical.

This fall I don't think we have to worry about too much water on the trails.


Don’t forget your phone 

I don’t carry bird books anymore because the phone apps are so wonderful for birds and plants and all sorts of things. I often take photos of things and then look them up at home. Being able to do that gets me moving a little faster. 

I also tend to wander off the trails. There always seems to be something pretty interesting around a corner, over a hill, or across the lot. I won’t admit to becoming lost, but I do get turned around pretty easily. For that reason I really love the ArcGIS Explorer app. The app is free. A dedicated volunteer has loaded all the Avalonia properties, trailed and untrailed, into a file of Avalonia online maps. You can easily locate yourself on any preserve, on or off the trail. I have not become lost even once while exploring off trail since I installed the app. 

It seems that I depend a lot on the smartphone technology. I guess I do. I am not a very tech savvy person, but I recognize how we can enrich ourselves in our hiking experiences by tapping into the great resources available at our fingertips. We developed Hike and Seek specifically with that in mind. If you are lucky enough to be able to trek with kids, check out the Hike and Seek program on the Avalonia website and get even more out of your hike. 

I may not cover a lot of ground myself being so distracted, but I hope my Sullivans and Friends group will. We will walk, stroll, hike and bike. Please check out the web page: The main event will be happening all week, but donations and team support will be welcome into November. If you have the ability to support Avalonia with a small donation, you will be helping us keep our many paths open so you can Trek any time you choose. 

Be well; hope to see you on the trails. And please be sure to send or post your photos of places you have trekked.


You may have choices to make.

Sometimes you have to stop and notice the little things.

You might have to take a break from the walk and view the trail from above.

 Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Autumn Hiking 2020


By Beth Sullivan

It has been quite a year. Even the way the plants and trees are responding to the weather is a bit off. The drought has impacted and stressed most plants. A cold snap with localized frosts also set the color changes into motion a bit early.  One constant: it is beautiful out now.  Surely every season has its fans. Each one can be considered perfect for some reason, an excuse for being out on a trail.   I would guess though, that this time of year probably is the top vote-getter for a lot of reasons.

Some times a trail opens up a view that is stunning in late afternoon light. From Knox Preserve.


You can still be outdoors

We have all tried to be outdoors as much as possible over the last months, but the summer heat was a bit daunting for strenuous work or hiking. Finally the air has cleared of the oppressive humidity.  It’s actually been enjoyable to pull on a fleece in the morning, and more enjoyable to take it off in the afternoon warmth.   We can happily don hiking boots that give us good footing to get out on rougher trails and put away the flip flops.

There is a clarity of color we haven’t seen for months. The blue of the sky is a perfect complement for the gold-hued leaves, and the perfect match for the Blue Jays acting like gangs of rowdy teens blasting noisily through the trees. 

Because the leaves have begun falling already, the density of the green is lessened.  There is more space in the woodland view, and those spaces are filled with sunlight.  Some people complain that the “deep dark woods” of summer can feel too close, claustrophobic.    I never feel that, but I do understand, and now that there is more light and an airy feeling, those folks can feel more comfortable with a longer view.  While it is not as stark and open as it will be in another month, we can now see some of the more hidden elements that summer covered up:  rocky outcrops covered in green moss, stone walls running through woodlands, skeletal trees that have not survived the last several years of stress and drought,  and bird and insect nests high in the bare trees. We can walk dry stream beds in many places like another trail.  This gives the opportunity to look for footprints of wild things searching for moisture and edibles under rocks.

But there are some things to be wary of.   Lest you become distracted by the beauty of an open field of gorgeous grasses and wildflowers, and decide to wander in for a closer look, remember that the ticks have re-emerged now and seem to be more abundant than in previous months. 

Heavy use on the trails results in more roots exposed. Look at the ground as you walk.

The bare trees create their own beautiful views. Just look up. From Hoffman Preserve.

The Woodlot glows with clear yellow in the understory of spicebush as well as the canopy.


Changes in the woods

In the woods, the leaves are already falling, and they can obscure rocks and roots that may be an accident waiting to happen.  On trails that are not heavily traveled, the trail itself may be hard to discern, so keep your eyes out for the blazes.  Cool and frosty mornings leave rocks slippery, and remember the rocks can stay moist or icy even after the rest of the ground has warmed up. You know the warning about bridges freeze before roads - that is true in the woods as well. Wooden bridges can be slippery when damp, so please be careful.

Really cherish every little bit of this season. I know I feel hyper-vigilant, seeing things with new eyes and remembering details.  This often occurs before winter sends me indoors, but this year it seems to be more important to gather in all the goodness that nature has to offer. I gather strength from nature. We get vitamin D from the sun. Exercise improves our health and mood. Our good mood improves our immune system and settles our hearts and minds. It’s all related.  

Don’t think of hibernating this winter, I know I have, but invest in some warmer clothes, some good boots, and a hiking stick. Make a list of the places you hike now so you can revisit with new eyes in the next season.  Join us for the Great Avalonia Trail Trek. Learn more here.  

 Avalonia is your local land trust. We are stewards of the land for the habitats, but also for your well-being and peace of mind.   Please join us.


Autumn exposes things we may have wished we had known about earlier.

Even a new wooden bridge can be slippery when wet, but the dry stream bed is great to explore. From Paffard Woods Preserve.

With leaves thinning out, new details are revealed. From Preston Nature Preserve.

Wherever you walk this fall, take the time to love a tree.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan