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Trekking Through the Rain

As a kid I liked to play in the puddles and stomp around in a good rainfall, things haven’t changed much.

There’s just something about walking in the rain. It invigorates me, magically washes away the ever-growing list of to-dos and reminds me that even without the sun there is still fun to be had outdoors.

Most of all it makes me feel like a kid again, or how I imagine my kids feel when they run full throttle toward the only puddle in the yard and then launch themselves in to air landing feet, or sometimes butt, first in its middle creating as big a splash that they can muster from a half-inch deep pool of water. 

I had the pleasure of experiencing the adult version of splashing in puddles and running in the rain during a recent trek along Stafford’s Woodlawn Trail. What started out as a nice hike up a steep incline (yes, I was slightly out of breath when I got to the top) leading to a fairly flat and well marked trail, turned into a “Well, I can’t escape this one” kind of moment when half way through my walk the sky opened.

It rained, man, did it rain. And I loved it, every sopping, dripping, mucky minute of it.

I sloshed past beautiful stone walls along a pine needle-ladden trail marked with light blue blazes and watched as two large turkeys wove along the path in front of me. I paused at the lookout over the Willimantic River and took shelter under some thick tree-cover.

The sound of the rain and the smell of it breaking through the pine trees and then hitting the dirt path put me at ease and reminded me of some previous childhood hikes through Maine’s Baxter State Park.

The trail is part of Stafford’s Hyde Park and formerly owned by Julius Converse, according to Walk CT. The property is now home to an abandoned ski slope that is barely recognizable because of the heavy tree-growth, and a thoroughly enjoyable trail where you occasionally step over a stream from the famous springs that trickle down the hillside.

The quick 2-mile, soggy trek was exactly how I wanted to start my workweek.

As an aside, on Saturday, May 19, the Stafford Conservation Commission will host a trail cleanup. Interested hikers can meet at the parking lot across from the former Witt School on Highland Terrace at 9 a.m.

Other Adventures:

suggested that I spend some time at the Fenton-Ruby Park & Wildlife Preserve and Drobney Sanctuary in Willington. On a sunny, warm day in April I did just that with my 11-year-old canine companion, Harley.

If you’re looking for a great place to get a nice, fairly easy walk in and then sit on a comfortable bench overlooking a peaceful pond and thumb through a good book then this is the area for you.

Harley and I started on the Ruby Trail, which had the feel of walking through a wood in someone’s backyard. I mean this is a good way; for people new to hiking or those who want to experience the woods, but not be too far away from someplace, this is a great and comfortable trail where you can still hear the birds and the rustle of leaves.

Of the four trails we walked that day, Julia’s Trail was by far my favorite. I felt completely at ease in the not-so-dense forest where I could look ahead to see what was coming. I particularly liked the short stretch of the trail that follows the Fenton River bank, which was perfect for Harley who, by the time we got to it, really wanted a drink and to lay down in the water to cool off.

While walking along Julia's Trail the thought occurred to me that the park is perfect for anyone who wants to saunter through the woods, bring younger children or even a dog who, like his human, is a bit out of shape and trying to get back into the woods.

Two things to note: please sign the book at the beginning of the Taylor Pond Trail just before crossing over the wooden bridge and please remember to leash your dog, even when he's in the river.

Hitting the Trail

Here are some great hikes coming up in the region. If you know of more, please add them in the comment section:

New London:

Poetry of the Wild

Arboretum tours at Connecticut College

Middletown:

Trail Guide, a great resource for all the walking trails in town.

Rocky Hill:

Tolland:

You're never at a loss to find a place to hike in Tolland. There are , including a guided hike on Wednesday, May 16, of the Palmer-Kendall Mountain Conservation Area.

Another great place to get information on walking/hiking in Connecticut is through the state Forest and Park Association.

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