Rantin' and Rovin'

Hiking the Moore Woodlands and Beebe Pond Park

It’s been a while. Part of that (well, most of it) is that I’ve been busy with work and theater and everything. The good news is that I have a steady job that keeps me occupied. The not as great news is that I have far less time for this blog.

Another part of my lack of posting is the feeling that I don’t really have anything to post about. Or if I do, I don’t have photos to go with it and that gets complicated.

But now I’ve decided to take up hiking, and that gives me stuff to post about. Walk around in the woods long enough and you’ll find something to think about, something to talk about. And maybe others will want to hear it.

I won’t pretend to be Bill Bryson or Henry David Thoreau. I can’t. But I can be Heather Christie, and that’s pretty darn good in my mind.

Anyway, I’ve taken up hiking. I walk a lot for my job, and I’ve had jobs that require a lot of walking in the past. Archaeology does that, and so does being a museum educator in an outdoor museum like Mystic Seaport or Casey Farm. I also have tendonitis in my ankles, so running is rather painful on most occasions. Walking is great, though.

Skye (5 of 15)

Clambering around the rocks on Skye last July

So hiking. My happiest memories in Scotland are hiking. Walking through the woods or a field or around a castle traipsing about and trying to figure out what’s around the next corner. Breathtaking views, indifferent weather, and no real concern for where we were going or how long it would take to get there.

There’s something freeing about getting out on a trail, and following it wherever it leads, leaving civilization for a while to go climb over some rocks and tree roots. Exploring.

So Thursday I decided to go out and explore. There’s a nature sanctuary about half a street away my house in Mystic. It’s actually two separate organizations – one is the Moore Woodlands run by the Avalonia Land Conservancy and the other is the Beebe Pond Park, run by Groton Parks and Recreation. The big loop around the pond is about 2 miles and can take about an hour to hike if you start on the Avalonia side. I left work early (I have flexible hours at the moment) in order to catch the last bit of sun and hit the trail.

Moore Woodland Beebe Pond-1My photos aren’t all that great, and my phone died halfway through (oops), but it was a very nice walk. I ended up taking a path that eventually lead out to the street rather than around the pond, so I turned back and retraced my steps.

And that’s when I found a letterbox!

I’ve heard of letterboxing, and I’ve taught it as an activity at summer camps, but I’ve never seen one in what I would consider normal life. It was hidden under a log that lay across the path. I had stopped for a moment to adjust my shoes or something and saw it just before I straightened up. It’s a little stamp of a goldenrod leaf, with a description of goldenrod and its uses. I didn’t have a pen on me at the time, so I just stamped the little book inside instead. The ink was somewhat frozen, but it was still incredibly cool and fun.

After my brief letterboxing detour, I managed to get back on track towards the pond. Beebe pond is fairly large (in my mind) and is, at the moment, almost completely frozen. It was fairly late in the afternoon, so I didn’t spend as much time enjoying the scenery as I would have like, but I also live next door.

Moore Woodland Beebe Pond-2

As I crossed the southernmost part of the pond, where it creates a small waterfall flowing into a small stream, I saw about four guys ice fishing out on the pond. If I’m honest, I don’t know that the ice was all that thick, but it seemed to hold them okay. It was only after I passed them and heard noises like gunshots behind me that I remembered it’s hunting season. So I should probably find some orange stuff. At the same time, I don’t think hunting is allowed in that park. I’ll have to check.

And the noise could have been the ice cracking. I was far away and it was hard to tell.

As I came around the other side of the pond, the sun began threatening to sink behind the hills. I picked up the pace a little, partly because it was getting dark soon and partly because I was now on my third mile and getting a bit tired. I’m used to walking, but usually not much more than 2 miles at a time.

It was also getting colder.

The path got fairly confusing at times. It’s not incredibly well-marked, particularly on the western side of the pond. It also changes between blue rectangles painted on tree trunks to orange caution tape tied around the branches of low bushes and shrubs. I never lost the path, but I did question several times if I was still on the correct one.

At the very end of the trail (or very beginning, depending on which way you go), there is an old cemetery. Old cemeteries are incredibly common in New England, and I know many towns have close to a hundred of them. This particular one is the Second Packer Burial Ground, also known as Packer #2. Most of the graves are from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but there are a few from the early 21st century as well. The sun was setting in earnest, so I only peaked in this time, but it’s certainly somewhere I’d like to check out again.

To get to Beebe Pond Park and the Moore Woodlands, take I-95 to exit 89 in Connecticut. From there, head south on route 614 (aka Allyn Street). Go straight at the blinking red light, straight at the stoplight, and straight at the next stop sign. Take a right on Irving Street (if you’ve hit two stop signs before this, you’ve gone too far). Go straight through the first stop sign on Irving, then make a right at the next (onto Judson Ave). After the road curves off to the left, make a left onto Capstan Ave. drive to the end and you’ll see an area to park.

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