Exploring The Last Green Valley: ‘Wandering Through Winter’ with Teale

Exploring The Last Green Valley: ‘Wandering Through Winter’ with Teale

Winter seems like the perfect time to re-tell the story of one of The Last Green Valley’s most gifted writers.

If you enjoy natural history, travel, the fascinating turn of the seasons and the lyrical beauty of exceptional nature writing, then I recommend getting your hands on the four volumes that comprise “The American Seasons” series by Edwin Way Teale.

“North with the Spring,” published in 1951; “Journey Into Summer,” published in 1960; “Autumn Across America,” from 1956; and “Wandering Through Winter,” from 1965, together read as a whole volume even though several years separate their publications.

Each is written as a unique travel book that describes the changing season, special locations of natural wonder and shared adventures as Teale and his wife Nellie drove through America following the advancing seasons.

Each book is also dedicated to their only son David, who died in World War II.

The very first book of Teale’s that I read was “Wandering Through Winter,” and it was followed in quick succession by the other three.

The books are now out of print so I searched internet sources for used copies and gladly added them to my collection of books written by my favorite naturalists and nature writers.

Teale was given the John Burroughs Award for a career that spanned 40 years and included writing and editing more than 30 books.

In 1966, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “Wandering Through Winter,” the first Pulitzer awarded for a nature book in more than 50 years.

“Wandering Through Winter” begins on the Pacific coast near the border of California and Mexico and concludes in Caribou, Maine. Along the way, successive chapters and adventures describe travel through the southwest then up into the Midwest, the Appalachians, and northward through the Mid-Atlantic states and each of the six New England states before ending back at the Teale’s home in Hampton.

“And so we came home at last. We came home rich in memories. We drove along the lane to the 160-year-old white cottage under the hickory trees. We unlocked the door in spring that we had locked in autumn,” Edwin Way Teale writes in “Wandering Through Winter.”

Edwin and Nellie had moved to Hampton in 1959, where they had purchased a home and 156 acres of land they called Trail Wood.

It was from Trail Wood that their journeys across America began and concluded, and it was at Trail Wood that 10 of his books would be written, including “A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm,” with Teale’s vivid description of the flora and fauna surrounding their beloved home.

Edwin passed away in 1980, and, soon after, Nellie deeded their property to the Connecticut Audubon Society as they both had wanted to do. She lived at Trail Wood until her passing in 1993.

Today, this beautiful sanctuary is open to the public for hiking, bird watching, and the simple enjoyment of nature.

I have been to Trail Wood several times and love to hike the trails and take in a beautiful natural setting that the Teales loved so well. If you have not been to Trail Wood, I suggest you check out the information on the Connecticut Audubon Society website. You can find more at ctaudubon.org/trail-wood.

The Connecticut Audubon Society offers several programs, hikes, and activities throughout the year at Trail Wood. From Nature Book Journaling and After School Nature Club to Second Sunday Walk and Full Moon Walks, there are plenty of opportunities for all ages.

Members and guests of The Last Green Valley will be visiting Trail Wood the evening of Feb. 10 for a Full Moon Walk (or snowshoe depending on conditions). The Connecticut Audubon Society in Pomfret will also host a Full Moon Walk on Feb. 12.

In 2016, The Last Green Valley provided a grant to assist the Connecticut Audubon Society in building 10 new, high quality, durable trail kiosk signs that will help bring Edwin Way Teale’s writings to life.

This information and other upgrades planned by the Society will greatly enhance the visitor experience to Trail Wood.

Teale concludes “Wandering Through Winter” and his American Seasons series with this quote:

“We have traveled far together. We have watched the successive seasons flow and merge and intermingle. We have seen the beauty of the land through the whole cycle of the year. Those of you who have journeyed so long, who had traversed the four seasons in our company, to all farewell. For here ends the story of our travels through the spring and summer and autumn and winter of The American Year.”

Bill Reid is chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.

Find the books:

The Connecticut Audubon Society has a special reprint of each of Edwin Way Teale’s four books on the seasons as well as his delightful “A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm.” They are available for purchase at Trail Wood and at the Connecticut Audubon Center in Pomfret.

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.