Thursday, April 12, 2012

Daffodils at Hubbard Park, Meriden

Now for something completely different.  According to this website, there are 650,000 daffodils at Hubbard Park in Meriden. And I believe every one of them was in bloom on the day I just happen to go searching for letterboxes at Hubbard. What a happy coincidence! This is most unfortunate for the big annual Daffodil Festival to be held there in a few weeks, because they'll probably all be done blooming. Good for me, though, it was gorgeous.

I've skipped ahead a bit along the trail to box at Hubbard because I pulled a muscle (blowing leaves, not hiking) and needed to "flat land" it for a bit. It's a Thursday, with changeable weather and scattered showers, which is good for keeping the crowds down. People were busy setting up rides over by the band shell. This place must get mobbed, and supposedly 100,000 people attend the Daffodil Festival each year. 

The manicured area of Hubbard is only a small portion of the 1800-acre park, but it's very well done and very well maintained. Meriden has a somewhat rough reputation, but there is not a hint of seediness in this park.  There's Mirror Lake, the duck house, playground with some neat equipment, pool, tennis courts, band shell, gazebo, dinosaur footprints, lovely walks, and of course all those daffodils. 

There were parents giving their kids bread to throw out at the ducks and geese. It's really bad for the lake and birds, but the kids were having a blast and it was really cute. The birds stand around the shoreline and make way grudgingly while giving you the evil eye. I believe these birds may be descendants of the ones use to film Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, "The Birds." 

Bluets - Native Wildflowers
Looming above it all is Castle Craig up at the top of Hubbard's "Hanging Hills." I think my first glimpse of the castle on this trail was on Mount Higby back in Middlefield.  Both the castle and the pond were built by the very rich Walter Hubbard, who bought up dozens of properties to form a park and then donated it to the City. So if Bill Gates is listening, there are some private lands along the NET that would make really nice parkland for the trail.

Wait, what? Wifi? Here's the funny part:  This area had the worst cell reception on my entire hike. My Droid deemed the wifi signal to be weak, and it wasn't until I climbed up somewhat in elevation that I really started to get a better signal, and not via the wifi.

This was cool: Some big slabs of red shale with dinosaur tracks had been set down near the pond. It's neat because this is the general region of dinosaur tracks and the same rock type they have at Dinosaur State Park. And the cliff overhead is composed of big lava flows that spewed out all over the dinosaurs. A real Jurassic Park. 

One of the things I like about letterboxing is how I get pulled into odd little corners of parks and finding unexpected things, like this LED lighted flag overlooking Main Street. The lights were all turned on during daylight hours, and I could say something snarky about showing patriotism while wasting energy, but I probably used more energy driving to the park than these lights burn in a year. So I won't. 

Japanese Knotweed
I-691 cuts right through the park and separates the manicured part with the more rugged sections.  To get from one side to the other, there are two highway underpasses and a pedestrian walkway. Paved paths use the underpasses and lead to Merimere Reservoir, where feeding the geese is strictly prohibited. A nearby water tank illustrates the important role the Metacomet Ridge plays in supplying drinking water to the surrounding areas.
Garlic Mustard
Some of the more common edible wild foods were ready to be harvested along the trails.  Garlic Mustard was supposedly brought to this country for food and is one of the more popular wild foods, especially Garlic Mustard Pesto. Japanese Knotweed can be used instead of Rhubard in recipes, and has been used by the Japanese for thousands of years to make Itadori Tea.

That purple thing hanging way up in the ash tree is a trap for the Emerald Ash Borer.  They're monitoring for the presence of this new bug, which was in New York State last I heard,  because it quickly kills all ash trees. There is no way to stop the borer.  That purple trap is just about all they can do. That tree the trap is hanging from will likely be dead within ten or twenty years. 

Squawroot is something you don't see every day, or at least I don't.  It looks like little pine cones, but is a parasitic plant native to the area that feeds off the roots of oaks and beech.

This is such a bad time of year for poison ivy.  I sat down to "stamp in" after looking for the ivy, then suddenly realized it was all over and my hand was brushing up against it. The plant was just very hard to see (the leaf in the picture is tiny).  Look for the woody stem coming out of the ground with the shiny red leaves unfurling. 

Time to cross over I-691.  They've blocked the bridge with a forest of bollards apparently designed to keep  fat people off the bridge so it won't collapse.  Or something, I don't know.

I passed the bollard test and ventured forth, hoping not to run into any Pterodactyls like that scene in Jurassic Park 3.

Immediately after the bridge the trail heads up the trap rock and the feel of the hike is completely different. Here's a spring house, though it was pretty dry. I didn't go up very far..that's for another day...but hung around a lower loop. 

Then it's rain showers and approaching darkness, so back across the bridge I go. The drive home was filled with moody storm clouds, at times pink with the setting sun. 

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