Friday, August 19, 2011

Was There Ever a More Perfect Day?

Written by Heather

We were soaked by the end. We came home to  warm showers and hot tea. In August. 

Come late summer, a damp and chilled to the bone feeling is a welcome blessing. Over a big breakfast of blueberry pancakes, listening to the rain pour down outside the window, we told Emily we'd head out for an early hike due to the threat of late day thunder and lightening. 

Her jaw dropped a little closer to her breakfast plate. "What? We're still going hiking? It's raining." My thirteen year old looked as though she was certain her parents had lost it. "Of course, we're going! If we get storms it won't be until later, we'll throw on our rain shells and go... it'll be great!"

I'm a big believer in parents keeping their cool and having a fun attitude (a clever approach helps too) when it comes to trying to get the kids on board with something we want to do, especially teenagers. This isn't to say I'm always Miss Graceful about it, but that morning I played my cards right and she quickly seemed fine going with the flow.  

I should mention the type of hiking Emily is used to. 

We live in New England so we have all kinds of weather. We hike in the winter, soaking up the January sun through leafless trees. We hike in the cool bug-less spring, coming alive as we leave behind the darkest months. We hike in the summer, though we (Emily and I) do not enjoy the bugs or the sweat, but floating in a river is so sweet we can't resist. And we hike in autumn, because there is no finer place on earth than autumn in New England. She is used to all that.

But we don't usually hike in the rain. Well, steady rain, to clarify.

This is for two reasons:

1. In our area, rain in the warmer months usually means a threat of thunder/lightening storms.
2. Trails are more vulnerable to damage during heavy rain so we try to give them a break and keep our human selves at  a distance. 

On this day however, we were just coming off a long dry spell (the trails would be in strong shape) and though rain was predicted all day, the thunderstorm threat was forecasted for later on in the day. We'd be off the trail by then.

When we went to bed on Saturday night I told Adam, "Let's make sure we  get out early tomorrow. I could really use a day in the rain."

So, with blueberry pancake filled bellies, and a daughter who didn't seem to think her parents were too crazy, we packed up early and headed out. 

Destination? Fenton Ruby Park and Wildlife Preserve in Willington, CT. (Locals, trail descriptions can be found in the Joshua's Tract Walk Book.)

I'm not sure if we've ever been on a more beautiful hike in eastern Connecticut. 

Maybe it was the cleansing rain, the cooler than expected August temps, the incredible diversity of flora, or simply the true beauty of this off the beaten path sanctuary. It must have been a combination of them all.  We felt like we were in a storybook. 

The terrain wasn't difficult, this would be great for families with little ones. There are four or five trails throughout the preserve so we were able to loop together a hike that covered a bit if distance which was nice, none of us wanted it to end. (Including the previously skeptical teen.)

We crossed wooden bridges, walked under tall white pines and through berry patches. There was gorgeous old growth forest and plenty of new growth too... and stone walls. Oh, how I love stone walls. There are so many of them here. We passed a beaver pond and played in a small river. The placement of a Sherpa style trail in one potentially steep area surprised us. Not something you see too much of around here. There were simple shelters made of fallen limbs and huge quartz rocks. 

And through it all, there was rain. Gentle but steady, the whole way through. 

It was so good. There's a part of me that would like to rush back there (tonight would be nice) to do it all over again and again - and another part that thinks we should never return. 

The moment was perfect and couldn't possibly be duplicated. 

My words are unable to spin the tale of how we felt that day. To make up for it, I'd normally have a dozen photos to show you from a hike like this, but it rained you know. The camera stayed in the car. 

We will of course return there, perhaps even tonight. Today is so hot and humid. I imagine there will be bugs. Maybe the small river won't be flowing as clearly with the rain gone. 

It was magical, that rainy day. But I do wonder how much of it was truly the place, and how much of it was a Sunday state of mind. Maybe tonight I'll find out.

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