Time to Spring Outdoors

What a winter it has been here in The Last Green Valley. Winter skated into December with deep-freeze temperatures. January brought a whole new mind-boggling meteorological term, “bomb cyclone.” I didn’t hear a bomb or see a cyclone, though we had some snow and high winds.

February was relatively mild and a perfect start to the maple sugar season. March has come in like a lion with three nor’easters within 11 days. The heavy wet snow brought down limbs and trees and many people went without electricity for days. I, for one, am really looking forward to spring, which arrives Tuesday.

I am sure the signs of spring are still somewhere under the snow. Peepers are waiting patiently under frozen ponds and wetlands. I have yet to see the crocuses at our house peek their delicate heads up through the soil, though a friend reported seeing some in February. Last week, I heard the mating call of the tufted titmouse and bluebirds have been checking out my nesting boxes, but at this writing, spring seems very far away.

Here at TLGV we’ll be celebrating our 3rd annual Spring Outdoors program, and I hope you’ll check out the growing calendar of outdoor hikes, walks, paddles and events happening during the three months of spring. Like TLGV’s fall Walktober program, Spring Outdoors provides many opportunities to explore the region’s natural and cultural resources with knowledgeable guides.

It takes place from the spring Vernal Equinox March 20 until the Summer Solstice June 21. Our objective is to connect you to lands, waters, trails, stories and places in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, including some properties not normally accessible to the public.

We’re going to kick off the spring fun with a Vernal Equinox Hike. The Vernal Equinox and the first day of spring arrive about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. To celebrate the start of spring, I plan on leading a hike at West Thompson Lake in Thompson.

We’ll step off at 11:30 a.m. and enjoy the views of the lake as the clock ticks off the final moments of winter and welcomes spring. If you want to come along just let me know by emailing me at bill@tlgv.org or call me at (860) 774-3300.

The hike is just the first opportunity to enjoy spring. You can find the Spring Outdoors guide at the TLGV website by going to the link below. Make sure to check back often because the list is updated regularly: http://thelastgreenvalley.org/explore-the-last-green-valley/spring-outdoors/.

There are several walks and experiences that caught my eye that I hope to attend. Here is a sampling for March and April:

One of the more interesting and somewhat challenging ways to identify a tree species is by its bark. You can learn all about this on Friday at Goodwin Conservation Center from 3:30–5:30 p.m. To register, call Jasper Sha at 860-455-9534 or email jasper.sha@ct.gov.

TLGV’s Acorn Adventures have quickly become a favorite monthly activity for families. On March 25 we’ll be letterboxing at Camp Laurel in Lebanon from 1–3 p.m. To register, call Fran Kefalas at (860) 774-3300 or email Fran@tlgv.org.

Our mill and industrial heritage is intertwined with the stories of many families with roots to our region. The Killingly Conservation Commission is offering a back roads bus tour focusing on the mills along Whetstone Brook, plus scenic vistas and a historic farm. The tour is scheduled for March 25. Reservations are required before Wednesday by calling (860) 779-5311 or email dguertin@killinglyct.gov.

I am a firm believer that the best way to discover nature is to allow it to come to you. On March 30 from 4–5:30 p.m. the Goodwin Conservation Center is providing an interesting opportunity to learn the lost art of the sit spot. This observation increases awareness, calms the body and mind and opens up new possibilities to nature sightings. To register, call Jasper Sha at (860) 445-9534 or email jasper.sha@ct.gov

One of the great things about living in The Last Green Valley is the extensive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project locations in our region. Now is your chance to visit Buffumville Lake in Charlton with Ranger Jamie on a mile-walk each Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening in April. The walks are from 6:30-7:15 p.m. There will be a surprise each time with nature-themed information tidbits and more. No need to register, just show up at 48 Old Oxford Road, Charlton, Mass.

Do you know what Candlewood is? Well you can learn all about it by visiting the state’s newest wildlife management area – Candlewood Hill Wildlife Management Area – April 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located at 1245 Gold Star Highway in Groton. This is a 4.5-mile hike featuring scenic rock formations, cliffs, historic quarries, granite ridges and hollows. A 44-acre rare pitch pine/scrub oak forest is a key feature of this property. This hike has difficult and rocky terrain so good balance and endurance is needed.

I have been waiting for a chance to visit the new Bull Hill Wyndham Land Trust property and this Spring Outdoors program is already on my calendar. Bull Hill is amazing with hundreds of acres and scenic views of Thompson and Woodstock. On April 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., I’ll be heading over to 401 Ravenelle Road in North Grosvenordale to meet up with TLGV Volunteer Ranger Janet Blanchett and Wyndham Land Trust board member Jeff Stefanik for a hike up to a scenic viewing area. We’ll hike six miles and will cross streams, up hills and over rocky wet trails, but it will be well worth it to see this beautiful property. Contact Janet for more information at blanchettejanet@gmail.com. Bring a lunch, snacks and water. There is a rain date for this hike on April 15.

Nothing says spring like wildflowers and you can learn more about them April 28 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Joshua’s Trust Hubbard Sanctuary/Agnes’ Pasture in Chaplin. Naturalist Deb Field will lead the two-mile walk as you look for wildflowers. This is one of five wildflower walks being offered by Joshua’s Trust. Reservations are required and the group will be limited in size. To register, go to activities@joshuastrust.org.

I hope you enjoy this sampling of opportunities for “springing” outdoors here in The Last Green Valley. These are only a few of the opportunities, and I didn’t even include what is already scheduled for May and June. I’ll provide an update in a later column. Please remember to check out TLGV’s website Spring Outdoors page and TLGV’s Facebook page, too, for regular updates on walks, hikes, paddle, events and experiences during Spring Outdoors 2018.

We live in a beautiful region full of interesting cultural traditions and breathtaking natural beauty. I hope you will join me and together let us care for, enjoy, and pass on this special place we call home – The Last Green Valley.

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