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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Meeker Trail Loop Macricostas Preserve - Washington, CT

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

On a sunny morning in October at the start of leaf-peeping and slow drive season, I headed northwest to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. The leaves were changing and the 70-degree sunshine was what fall dreams are made of. I wanted to see the foliage and a trip up to my favorites spots in the northeast wasn't in the cards. How easily I forget that ( small ) mountain and impressive foliage can be found within our state. 

Northwest Connecticut is quintessential New England. It's rolling hills and bucolic farm properties. It's private boarding schools that rival most college campuses and historic inns and restaurants. It's hard to imagine anywhere in Connecticut is an hour and a half away, but the drive was easy, especially once I hit the back roads. 

By the time I passed the sleepy antiquey little towns of Woodbury, Middlebury, and Washington and pulled into the parking lot for the Macricostas Preserve, I was smitten. It's a wooded wonderland and the golden hues and pops of red and orange set the scene for a Hallmark movie. Macricostas preserve is a part of the Steep Rock Association, known for its gorgeous hiking trails and scenic conservation areas. This was a solo adventure with two dogs and a baby, a day I refused to waste inside. Whitney had slept (almost) the whole way to Washington and my brilliant plan to schedule the day around his naps was working. The dogs were happily whining in the backseat as I parked the car and the 10 or so cars in the parking area assured me the trail wouldn't be too busy. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Saratoga Spa State Park - Saratoga, New York

Saratoga Spa State Park

Once in a while, I stumble on a somewhat hidden gem, a place that leaves me totally surprised and a bit stunned. Surprises are rare on Katie Wanders adventures. I usually do a lot of research before I head to a new spot to try to get a lay of the land and plan my adventures (chronic over-planner). Having a baby has forced me to be a bit more flexible in my normally over-scheduled travel plans.

We were on our way to Lake George, New York for the weekend, about a 3.5-hour drive from the central Connecticut coast. Whitney had napped for nearly two hours on the ride and had been up for an hour. Even though we were only a half-hour away, he had lost his sense of humor and needed out of his car seat - immediately. 

I quickly looked at the map and opened up AllTrails to see if there was somewhere we could stretch our legs . The number one rated hike in the area was the Geyser Loop at Saratoga Spa State Park. I had been to Saratoga several times for a horseshow (and it's famous for its race track) but had never heard of this park or this hike and never knew how Saratoga Springs got its name. We got off the highway, pulled into the park, and I was instantly blown away.  

Saratoga Spa State Park

Monday, September 27, 2021

Wadsworth Falls State Park - Middletown, Connecticut

Wadsworth Falls State Park
Wadsworth Falls State Park

Mondays are for unpacking from the last weekend's adventure, and yes, for planning the next one. We got back from Lake George, New York last night and I am sitting here on a Monday morning thinking about where we should head this coming weekend. Today's adventure is something you can plan for the weekend, or if you are local to Connecticut, it's just the right about of adventure to spice up the weekday. It's a popular spot so heading out during the week may actually be best. This was my first time out to Wadsworth Falls State Park and we already have plans to come back.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Chatfield Hollow State Park - Killingworth, Connecticut

As many mourn the official end of summer, avid hikers are eagerly awaiting the cooler temperatures and disappearance of bugs, excited for fall on the trails. The end of summer/early fall is the best time to hike as the humidity drops and the black flies are no more. It's a time for backpacking trips and day trips, weeklong road trips and weekend adventures. 

Today, KW is sharing a popular Connecticut State Park loaded with a swimming pond, picnic areas, a fishing brook and of course, hiking trails. 

f i r s t  i m p r e s s i o n s 

Very beautiful park that is a popular spot to walk (a lot of families with strollers or small kids on bikes). A paved road loops around the lake and extends to the end of the park. The park has a lot of interesting sights including a restored water wheel, a covered bridge, a large pond and stream, and wooded areas. There are a lot of day-use areas with picnic tables and grills spread through the park. You can also rent an open-air shelter for private events. There is a beach and designated swimming area at the pond with large newly renovated bathrooms. An impressive boardwalk weaves its way through the marsh. There is a small network of hiking trails that runs through the park. The park also borders Cockaponset State Forest which adds additional trails to the area.  We hiked a 4-mile loop around the park and only saw two other people. While we had a nice hike and enjoyed the quiet, there was nothing "special" about the trail system (no great vistas or scenic areas). Great place to picnic or spend some time in the park but there are a lot more interesting hiking trails in the state. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Green Animals Topiary Garden - Portsmouth, Rhode Island

I have spent plenty of time in Newport, almost always stopping at the mansions to walk the grounds in the summer or see the mansions decorated for the holidays. The Green Animals Topiary Garden was always on my list but for one reason or another, we never made the trip. We were planning on visiting my grandparents in Fall River, a quick 15 minute drive from the gardens and the perfect opportunity to finally get out to the gardens. 

f i r s t   i m p r e s s i o n s

The gardens are in Portsmouth, Rhode Island (the top of the island, 25 minutes north of the Newport Mansions) so be prepared for a bit of a drive if you are coming from the mansions. 

We enjoyed our visit and the lovely grounds.  It's a great place to walk around (bring a picnic), relax, and enjoy the gardens and the view. The property has a large lawn that stretches right down to the water (Narragansett Bay). The topiaries are the main attraction and it is fun to walk around and try to identify the sculptures. The rest of the garden is also beautiful, with all different types of trees, shrubs, flowers, and even vegetables. There is a large Victorian house (closed to the public) with chairs on the shaded wrap-around porch to sit back and enjoy the views. The property also abuts a railroad where you can do one of those rail bike excursions too (extra fee). 

I thought it was a bit pricey for the short amount of time you spend in the garden and the topiary area was smaller than we thought. At $20 a person, it was a bit steep for the hour we spent. If you are a member of the Newport Mansions/Preservation Society, admission is included in the membership (they offer student discounts and some great perks if you are in the area or visit often). 

If you want to stretch your time at the garden, bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn, in the chairs on the wrap-around porch, or one of the benches or picnic tables throughout the garden. Your ticket also gets you admission to the gardens and grounds of The Breakers, Marble House or The Elms. I would pair this visit with a trip to the grounds of the other Newport mansions (10 miles south) or, visit the nearby Greenvale Vineyards (6 miles southeast) or an afternoon at the Newport Polo grounds to watch a match (4 miles south) 

Great spot for kids as they can play on the lawn, see the gardens, and enjoy being outside. Everything is outside so it is a safe place to be during the pandemic.