Paddle Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT

Hopeville Pond croppedWhen you’re looking for an easy paddle on a pretty pond, consider Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT.

It’s a lovely, long and narrow pond formed when the Pachaug River was dammed.

Donn paddling Hopeville Pond croppedThe Pachaug was a major fishing ground for the Mohegan Indians, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection which manages Hopeville Pond State Park. “At low water the stone weirs, constructed by the Indians at angles from the river banks, are still visible,” according to the DEEP website. “These weirs directed water flow as well as eels, shad, and other fish toward the center of the stream where the Indians placed baskets to trap them. Until blocked up by a dam, constructed in 1828 at Greenville, shad passed up the Quinebaug River in great numbers.”

If you go, get there before the end of October when the park’s main gate will close. It will re-open in April. The large playing field near the entrance on Route 201 is open year around. To find it, set your GPS to 929 Hopeville Rd., Griswold, CT.

The boat launch has already closed, but you can launch easily at the swimming beach. The park also offers some delightful hiking. For a map, click here.

My dog Penny and I hiked there last week, and my brother Donn (pictured here) and I paddled there today. We plan to return frequently, and the next time, we will pack fishing rods.

 

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Janet Coit: ‘What I did this summer’

Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, wrote these loving memories of her summer among her state’s natural wonders. The essay has appeared in The Providence Journal and the latest newsletter of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association. We’re pleased to share it here, too.

janet coitLast week, I bit into my first apple of the season, a fresh MacIntosh from Phantom Farm in Cumberland, and tasted the sweetness of September. As they have all summer, my senses felt acutely alive.

Showing off the tastes, smells, sights and sounds of beautiful Rhode Island to millions of residents and visitors is the work and pride of dedicated professionals at the Department of Environmental Management and organizations across the state. The special qualities of the experiences and places that we safeguard and steward provide tens of thousands of jobs across a variety of economic sectors.

When I think back on “what I did this summer,” here’s what comes to mind.

Kayaking down the Blackstone River, enjoying conversation with other paddlers, who also marvel at how the teeming, green corridor has rebounded from the pollution and stress associated with its industrial past.

Picking strawberries in the sun, my daughter’s fingers and lips stained red with juice, anticipating my favorite dessert — strawberry shortcake.

Climbing to the Fishermens’ Memorial at Camp Cronin on a lovely summer evening, paying respects to the people who have lost their lives at sea, and recalling the power of the surf the day I watched the waves toss boulders around that cove during Superstorm Sandy.

Fly-fishing (poorly) in the Narrow River, my heart pumping as I pulled in a small and feisty skipjack, and later, watching the sun drop behind the ridge lighting up the spartina in Pettaquamscutt Cove.

Attempting “geo-caching” for the first time in the woods of Arcadia (and deciding it is for those who are more techno-savvy).

Frying my first, homemade calamari, and enjoying the special texture and tang of squid harvested earlier that day from Narragansett Bay.

Pedaling down the East Bay Bike Path and seeing every kind of person — from a little girl in her patent leather shoes to a bald, buff, tattooed fisherman — taking in the view off the bridge over the Palmer River, as I ride to my destination at Colt State Park.

Crunching sweet kernels of fresh-picked corn purchased hours earlier from a farmer at his road-side stand, and swearing there is nothing better.

Shooting at a modern range in a beloved old club in Tiverton, excited to finally hit a bullseye.

Drinking Rhody Fresh milk at the “Great Outdoors Pursuit” event at Fort Adams State Park, while drinking in the sights of the kites and kids on the north lawn, surrounded by the breezy backdrop of Newport’s world-class sailing venue.

Spotting the bright-red bill of an oystercatcher at Napatree Point, and delighting in the diversity of birds that find sustenance where the shifting sands and eel-grass beds frame the edge of Little Narragansett Bay, and the Pawcatuck River meets the sea.

Slurping a raw oyster off its rough shell in Matunuck, appreciating the unique flavor, and knowing that, for thousands of years, others have enjoyed the same sensation.

Meeting friends in the gray light of dawn to motor out beneath the Mount Hope Bridge and catch some stripers — my friend’s daughter reeling in one big enough to take home for a delicious dinner.

Getting lost in the maze at the Clayhead Trail on Block Island’s northern bluffs on a hot day in July, and then cooling off with a therapeutic swim in the cold Atlantic.

Helping to measure and weigh the fish we hauled in as part of DEM’s regular trawl survey, and seeing firsthand what our fishermen know innately, that the diversity of life in our salty waters is a natural bounty that sustains us (and sometimes confounds us).

Laughing with sheer joy at the power of the waves that toss me on the sand as I boogie-board at the beach.

Joining family and friends in a towering natural amphitheater at Camp Yawgoog for my son’s Boy Scout ceremony.

Clambering up Pulpit Rock, wading through Nag’s Marsh, and taking in the panoramic view from the T-wharf on Prudence Island.

Watching an osprey scoop up a fish from Hundred Acre Cove out the window of my car during my daily commute.

Walking from the sandy to the rocky shore at Rocky Point, and daydreaming about the larger park that will open on that glorious stretch of coast.

Savoring steamers, fresh fluke and local tomatoes as part of a scrumptious dinner out.

Learning about the Native Americans, the colonial farmers, and the mysteries of those who lived near the Tomaquag River during a magical late-August hike in Hopkinton.

Spending a recent afternoon in Galilee, where an exciting fishing tournament and seafood festival celebrated commercial and recreational fishing at one of the most important ports in New England. The event did more than that; it brought people together.

We are fortunate in Rhode Island to have a vast diversity of beautiful places that support our economy and fill us with wonder. Our natural assets are there every season for all to enjoy. Get out there, enliven your senses, eat local, and discover beautiful Rhode Island!

It’s Walktober in The Last Green Valley

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

It’s Walktober, a celebration of The Last Green Valley, in southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut, along the  Rhode Island border.

The 23rd edition of Walktober features scores of walks and paddle trips among natural wonders and important historical sites from Sturbridge, MA to Griswold, CT.

Sunday, we visited the Coventry CT Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead (pictured above), and walked around a bit through the rain. It was wet and muddy, but several children had a blast in the puddles. (And the farmers market was wonderful.)

Walktober includes 106 walks, hikes, paddles and bike rides as well as 36 events that highlight the cultural, historic or natural resources of The Last Green Valley.  The Walktober Calendar labels each walk as easy, moderate, or difficult. Many offerings are geared specifically for families with children. The family dog is welcome at pet-friendly walks. Adventurers will enjoy 13 paddles and three bike rides included in this year’s schedule. To download the schedule as a PDF file, click here.

Walktober is such a gift!

Places to hike or paddle for leaf peeping now

pawcatuck autumnFall colors are flowing through southern New England now. Along some streams and through many beaver ponds, autumn colors are at their peak, so it’s a great time to pck up the paddling gear and go for a boat ride.

In southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, the Pawcatuck River is aflame in some places. The stretch between the Bradford fishing area (pictured above) and the Burdickville Bridge is stunning, and the foliage should be even more brilliant this weekend.

In the Arcadia Management Area, near the Connecticut – Rhode Island border, Breakheart Pond is one of the first ponds to display color in the fall. Nearby, the shores of the Wood River are beginning to show their autumn colors and scarlet cardinal flowers are still in bloom in some spots.

Too shallow to paddle, the Falls River has a lovely hiking trail to Stepstone Falls, a scenic place for a picnic beneath fall foliage. It is off Route 165, a short way from the Connecticut – Rhode Island border.

Together, Pachaug State Forest and Arcadia Management Area offer thousands of acres and miles of trails and streams with free access for a autumn adventure.

Free camp offers kids help with grief, Aug. 22 – 23

1.CampBraveHeart2009 058Camp BraveHeart, a two-day, free camp for kids grieving the death of a loved one, still has openings. The seventh edition of the camp is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Aug. 22 and 23 at the YMCA’s Camp Fuller in South Kingstown RI. The camp is organized by Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island for kids and teens ages 4 to 17.

Most of us who have been there — kids, volunteers and staff — wouldn’t miss it for anything.

CampBraveHeart2009 074When the kids arrive Thursday morning, they’ll check in, get their T-shirts, and then go to a memory tree where they will place pictures of loved ones who have died. It is wonderful to watch them and to see the natural bonding that occurs as the kids share stories about their loved ones.

The adults who support the campers will come to help make the camp fun, said Deanna Upchurch, senior grief counselor at Home & Hospice Care yesterday. The bonding among the kids happens on its own, naturally.

Deanna founded Camp BraveHeart. Her children, whose dad died, have attended as campers and volunteers.

1.WEBCampBraveHeart2009 031“Surviving children often feel isolated and lonely in their grief and may not be sure of how to handle the conflicting emotions they are feeling, she said. “At Camp BraveHeart, we provide an appropriate emotional outlet to children by offering them grief support in an environment of fun recreational activities.  We help them to understand that what they’re experiencing, although painful, is perfectly normal.”

To register, contact Deanna by Aug. 20 at (401) 415-4610 or email dupchurch@hhcri.org. Transportation is available from pre-arranged pick-up and drop-off points.

Outdoor notes: Wade and find lovely aquatic wildflowers

Marsh rose-gentian

Wading in Worden Pond, RI late yesterday afternoon  was a rewarding experience. Fish weren’t biting, but white waterlilies were everywhere and marsh rose-gentian plants were in blossom in about six inches of water along the shore.

What a stunning flower! With eight to 12 pink petals, the delicate looking flowers usually grow in brackish water, according to some online sources. The US Department of Agriculture and a couple other sources also say that Sebatia dodecandra grows as far north as Connecticut.

If you’re on the water this weekend, stop to notice the flowers.

Fishing report

On Long Island Sound, it’s a typical August, says Pat Abate of Rivers End Tackle. There is still a “fair number of bass and some good sized ones on the local reefs, mostly on live bait,” he reports. “Bunker days, eels at night. Long Sand Shoal isn’t on every day, but it’s a worthwhile shot most days. Fresh bunker chunks are the most effective way to fish if you don’t have live ones. There have been some schoolies to medium sized bass along the Old Lyme shore for eel casters. The Race has had some bass also if you can get through the blues and the winds.”

RICKA picnic

The Rhode Island Canoe/Kayak Association (RICKA) This year’s  RICKA Family Picnic will be held on Saturday, August 24, at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, RI.  There will be paddle trips in the morning, and a southern barbecue lunch (veggie burgers will be available) will be served around 12:30.

RICKA is a terrific group. For more information about the picnic, click here.