Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sullivan Drive Murals - Guilford

Sullivan Drive Entrance - October 2014
A day of hiking in Guilford, and the most memorable moment was when I got out of my car at the Sullivan Lane entrance and was greeted with freshly painted murals on each side of the concrete bridge that spans the East River.   Look at the transformation between the top and bottom photos -- what was once an eyesore is now an attraction.

Sullivan Drive Entrance - January 2012
According to an article in The Day, the paintings were done by students from Guilford High School to commemorate Guilford's 375th anniversary.  They did a great job! Not being local, I don't know what each of these pictures represents, so if anyone knows and wants to leave a comment below, please do so. I did try to identify some of them (thank you, Google Image Search). That also goes for the names of the artists. They deserve credit. As does the Town of Guilford, which has done an incredible job of welcoming the NET through their community. The quality of the trail (and the speed with which it was constructed) is very impressive.

South wall
Guilford Trail Station - the NET goes right across it.

Hyland House Museum
Henry Whitfield House aka the Stone House (oldest in CT)

NET Logo.  Interesting vandalism to this one....Goblins on the cliffs?  
First Congregational Church
The Red House - Grass Island

The Annual Citizen's Day Parade. Each year has a different theme.

North wall

The Guilford Fair

To top it off, there was new signage at the trailhead just a few feet up the road from the bridge. 

New NET signage
In the center of the big field were a couple of kestrel houses, which look just like bluebird houses, only much larger and higher. Kestrels are tiny falcons, and this looks like good habitat for them.  Hope it works out.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A New Beginning: East River to Long Island Sound - Part 1

My daughter took some of the photos
There's a new section of trail in Guilford heading south from East River to the shore of Long Island Sound, where the "Gateway" to the New England Trail was just recently dedicated. Of necessity, the trail abandons the woods and follows paved road for about four miles. I drove this section because that's the normal mode of travel for a paved road. Or at least that's what I tell myself.  If you are a thru-hiker or have a goal of walking the entire trail, it's not a bad stretch to walk considering how developed Connecticut is near the shore.

Driving the trail.
This section of trail runs through Guilford's historic district, and there were so many interesting things to see that I've had to break it into two sections for the blog. Guilford was one of the first towns settled in Connecticut by the Puritans back in 1639, and there are several old buildings that have been preserved as museums. Doing this section by car allowed me to spend much more time at the various attractions. We started with lunch at the Shoreline Diner where the trail crosses busy Route 1, also known as the Boston Post Road because it was the road used to carry the "post" (mail) from New York to Boston. I'm guessing it was probably an Indian road before that.
The familiar blue oval trail sign marks the Route 1 crossing
It was my daughter's last day of school and I had to pick her up from school at 10:00 am (I really don't understand High School schedules these days), so the timing worked out just right for a celebratory lunch at the Shoreline Diner (buttered lobster roll and sweet potato fries, if you must know). We could see the blue oval trail sign on Route 1 from our table out on the patio. There were a couple of hotels across the street, something a thru-hiker might make use of.

Shoreline Diner, Route 1
After crossing busy Route 1, the trail went down a much quieter road, where we passed a sign that said we were entering Guilford's historic district, and soon we came to Alderbrook Cemetery. I was initially disappointed because it seems like a modern cemetery, but upon exiting there was a seemingly random display of dozens of very old tombstones from the Puritans leaning up against a big stone wall. A few were actually cemented into the wall itself.

The blue blazes are just on the other side of the wall.
This would be very easy for a hiker to miss. Although the old tombstones are only a few feet from the trail, the wall blocks the view from the trail/road, so you need to go in the main cemetery entrance to see them. 
Would you want this picture on your tombstone? 
Many of the old tombstones had a variation of a face and wings. Some were creepy (like the one above), and others a bit less so. According to a site on the History of Puritan Gravestone Art in Connecticut, (yes! there is actually a website for this!), what started out as a seriously morbid skull and wings in the 1600s evolved into a cherub and angel wings by the 1700's, and I think we saw that evolution in these tombstones.

"Here lyeth ye Body of Mary ye wife of John Goodrich,
who dyed Decembr ye 25th: 1722 in ye 61st Year of her age.
You know a tombstone is old when the word "the" is represented as the letter "y" with a tiny "e" above it.

Some of the tombstones were cemented into the wall.
We were left with the mystery of why these tombstones were laying here. And where are the bodies?  I posed this question to our tour guide at the next stop, the Griswald House (more on that later), and she suggested these might be the tombstones that were removed from the Guilford Town Green back when the town decided to make the Green more attractive. She showed us some artwork showing the Green in the 1800's, and there was a little cemetery there with cattle grazing nearby. Later in the day, when we drove past the Green looking to buy something cold to drink, my daughter commented, "So those kids over there are playing over dead bodies?"  

Guilford Town Green c. 1820, with cemetery and cattle
Shortly after the cemetery, the trail passes in front of the Thomas Griswald House, a typical saltbox house from the time of the American Revolution.  I almost passed it up, because it doesn't look like much (and is often closed, so check the hours), but I was so glad we stopped. The house is almost entirely in it's original state, and we had a wonderful tour guide. 
Our delightful tour guide explaining how the kitchen fireplace was used for cooking.
What made this house tour interesting is the focus on how ordinary people once lived, especially women and children.  We learned, for example, how women prepared baked goods within the built-in oven in the back of the fireplace (build a fire in the little oven, let it go for awhile until the surrounding bricks are hot, then pull out the fire remains into the main fireplace.  Now the oven is heated and ready to bake something. And I complain about my oven's digital controls).

A sink carved out of brownstone.
Our tour was maybe an hour long and we picked up all sorts of tips about the good old days. I enjoy learning about how ordinary people used to live, but I wouldn't want to go back to those times. Life was tedious. For the women, every day was all about cooking, sewing, weaving and, of course, child care.

Spinning wheel  for the spinster.
And if you didn't get married, you might be expected to do a lot of the spinning, and they'd call you a spinster. 

A New Beginning: East River to Long Island Sound - Part 2

Driving down the trail
Continuing on down the four-mile paved sections of the NET, it's not far from where we left off at the Griswald House to the next big historical attraction, the Henry Whitfield State Museum.  This is the oldest house in Connecticut, built in 1639, the year Guilford was founded. It's also called the Stone House, and is a landmark in Guilford (where you can also find the Stone House Restaurant and the Stone House Cafe) . 

This might be the right location
Where the Griswald House was unassuming and easy to miss, you can't possibly miss the Stone House, in the same way you can't possibly miss the Corn Palace in South Dakota.  

There's a very old house behind all this bling
The stone house was meant to function as a protective fort from the Natives Americans, although it's also said that the Indians helped quarry the stones. Maybe one tribe was hoping for protection from another tribe, which happened a lot. And regarding all those American flags draped over the building...it was built in 1639 by the British long before American flags even existed.

This is actually a real thing.
Since this is a state facility, there were signs everywhere, including a sign designating parking for Segways. This was so unexpected I had to ask the staff about it. I haven't even seen a Segway in years, and they have special parking for them?  It turns out there is a Segway rental company that advertises tours of Guilford's historic district, and the Segways were taking up all the parking places for cars. Which opens up the intriguing possibility of doing this four-mile stretch of the New England Trail by Segway.  Go ahead. I dare you.  
Blue blazes go right through the complex.  Visitor center is in the background.
We were told that the inside of the Stone House is not original. Where a walk through the Griswald House was like going back in a time machine and visiting a typical house with all it's furnishings and household tools, once inside the Stone House you could be in just about any museum building. There were displays of random old things everywhere under glass cases, roped off, or suspended from the ceiling: A gun powder horn, a saw from a saw pit, furs.  
This section of the NET is called the Menunkatuck Trail

I have no idea.
We breezed through the museum pretty quickly because we were getting hot, tired, and thirsty, and had just had an hour-long tour at the Griswald House.  

This part was original - a ten foot long fireplace
Our next stop was Metro North's Guilford Train Station. The NET goes right through the station, crossing the railroad tracks via a skywalk.  Backpackers could arrive conveniently by commuter train from New York's Grand Central Station, or from Boston. There are no blue blazes inside the building, but I have to believe hikers will figure it out.

Guilford Train Station (blue blaze on telephone pole on right)
Up in the skyway --- on the New England Trail!

Even at the train station there was history. Just to the east of the modern station was an older one dating back to the 1800's, now in ruins. There are efforts to preserve the old station

Ruins of an older train station 

The old water tower. 
After a quick trip to the attractive town center for cold beverages (there were green/blue blazes along the way as this is a side loop for the NET), we were off to our final destination: Chittendon Park. 

Heading to the shore
It didn't take long by car to reach the shore, and it wouldn't take that long if you were walking, either. 

Chittendon Park and Long Island Sound
A quick turn into Chittendon Park, and there's the kiosk I've been seeing pictures of.  Only a few weeks ago they held a Gateway Dedication here, complete with live music and refreshments. I meant to go, but didn't make it. The kiosk is located next to the parking lot, and the park itself is mostly a ballfield. There are no blazes leading you to the shore but all you need to do is walk across the grass towards the water and you'll figure it out. 
Osprey nest (left) and Falkner Island (right distance)

The last few feet of trail
There's a beautiful new boardwalk built for the trail that helps people get over some marshy areas to the shore.

The End. Or the Beginning, depending on your point of view.
What a beautiful ending (or beginning) to this trail. The shore here has just the right mixture of sand and marsh to make it accessible but still natural and wild. We took off our shoes and hung out for at least an hour.

Hermit Crab

Quahog (pronounced Coe-hog)

Sea Rocket

Jingle Shell.   I saved this one.