Exploring The Last Green Valley: Explore Guide has suggestions for every season

Exploring The Last Green Valley: Explore Guide has suggestions for every season

When it comes to getting out and exploring our region, no one season has an advantage over another.

While Cape Cod fills with people during the summer, and Vermont is a popular destination for skiers in the winter, here in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, every season brings opportunity for enjoying rich and diverse natural and cultural resources.

The Last Green Valley’s updated 2017 edition of “Explore” is a comprehensive and complimentary guide to the region, and I suggest you get your hands on a copy to help you plan your next outing.

You’ll find opportunities to explore throughout the year, but here are a few seasonal suggestions from the new “Explore” guide to consider.

Camping is a great way to introduce children to the great outdoors, and camping season is here! “Explore” lists 30 locations and resources for your next outdoor camping adventure.

There are several private campgrounds like Charlie Brown Campground in Chaplin, as well as state-run facilities in many of our state parks and forests such as Pachaug State Forest and Mount Misery Campground.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s properties also provide camping, and a popular location is West Thompson Lake in Thompson.

My favorite camping location is Breakneck Pond in Nipmuck State Forest in Union. The effort of backpacking over a mile to the camp site is rewarded with beautiful wilderness habitat on the shores of the pond. There are two lean-to shelters and one tent camping location. You need to register and there is a fee. Go to deep.stateparks@ct.gov for information.

A fall tradition in many New England households includes a visit to a local orchard, and there are more than 30 entries in “Explore” for farms, orchards, nurseries and forest and wood products.

There are many orchards to pick from, but I especially enjoy getting my apples from either Lapsley Orchard in Pomfret, Woodstock Orchards in Woodstock, Palazzi Orchard in Killingly or Buell’s Orchard in Eastford. I prefer older apple varieties like Macintosh or Courtland, and I’ll usually stock up with a bushel or more.

The fall season also includes opportunities to visit local farms that have established corn mazes – always a fun family activity. Fort Hill Farms in Thompson and Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling both offer wonderful amazing corn maze opportunities.

Winter in The Last Green Valley offers plenty of outdoor activities and “Explore” provides 40 locations for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating, and ice fishing.

The Air Line State Park Trail from Lebanon through Windham, Chaplin, Hampton, Pomfret, Putnam and Thompson is flat, linear and perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. More challenging locations for snowshoeing include James Goodwin State Forest in Hampton with 10 miles of wooded trails, and Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown with miles of trails and even dog sled competitions on selected days.

A favorite ice skating location is actually a town green, when a portion of the Lebanon Green is flooded for skating and is even lighted in the evening.

When it comes to ice fishing you have many opportunities, and the one my friends frequent is Quaddick State Park and Forest in Thompson. The lake is a 400-acre reservoir and is also a favorite ice skating location.

Our many cultural institutions, museums and historic sites provide year-round educational opportunities and exceptional indoor explorations. There are 45 museums and historic sites listed in “Explore” waiting for your next adventure of historic proportions.

Here in The Last Green Valley, we have everything from well-established larger museums such as the Lebanon Historical Society in Lebanon, the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich and Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, to smaller historic house museums such as the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury and the Huntington Homestead/Governor Samuel Huntington Trust in Scotland.

Our region is rich in history and our museums and historic sites help define who we are and bring greater meaning and clarity to the important role our region played in the country’s history. We can all take pride in our local history and these many institutions help to preserve our past for future generations.

As winter turns to spring my feet hit the trails, my paddle dips into clean rivers, and I let our region’s exceptional natural beauty transport me to another place.

“Explore” lists more than 100 hiking locations including many regional land trust sites, as well as town and state hiking and recreation opportunities. If you’re looking to get outdoors, The Last Green Valley has it all.

“Explore” is also a wonderful resource for those interested in paddling. All the public launches for the Quinebaug, Shetucket and Willimantic Rivers are listed as well as many public launches on lakes and ponds. More than 40 locations with detailed instructions are provided to ensure a wonderful and safe day enjoying our waterways.

You can obtain a 2017 “Explore” guide at local libraries and information kiosks throughout the region, or you can call TLGV at (860) 774-3300 for your copy.

Get your hands on a copy and reconnect with the treasures and nearby getaways awaiting you throughout the year.

We live in a beautiful region full of places to “Explore” and experience the resources we hold dear. I hope you’ll join me in caring for them, enjoying them, and passing them on.

Bill Reid is chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.

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