There’s No Place Like Home — When it Snows

Gliding along on cross-country skis through a winter- wonderland glade of snow-covered pines the other day, I turned to my wife, Lisa.

“Doesn’t get any better than this,” I said.

She nodded. “Who needs Vermont?”

The trails we skied in fact were as picturesque as any groomed course in northern New England, but we didn’t have to drive five hours or pay for a pass because we were schussing for free on a path in Voluntown’s Pachaug State Forest, less than 20 minutes from home.

Only a week earlier, as I recounted in this forum, some friends and I had driven 250 miles to New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a two-day skiing and camping expedition. Not to take anything away from that glorious trip, but we wound up spending as much time in cars as we did on skis.

I wrestle with this dilemma every time I drive north for mountaineering, hiking or kayaking excursions.

To be sure southeastern Connecticut doesn’t have any 4,000-foot peaks, reliable snow or Class IV rivers, but in the right conditions we outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy challenging, satisfying adventure.

In this mostly snowless winter, as well as during other mostly snowless seasons, the rule of thumb, as always, is carpe diem.

As soon as flakes sufficiently cover the ground — often, even while they’re still flying — you must drop everything and grab your skis.

My buddy, Phil Plouffe, who had been on the New Hampshire outing, understands this rule and joined me on a quick trip to Pachaug the day after last week’s storm dumped about 10 inches of fresh powder. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves, except for one brief encounter with a snowmobiler. We also just missed a dozen or more dogsled racers that were packing up their gear and huskies as we slid by.

I know I have on occasion castigated snowmobiles as among the most wretched contraptions on earth, but I have to admit the one at Pachaug packed the trail perfectly for us.

The next day, Lisa and I covered the same ground, a six-mile-or-so loop near Mount Misery, including a short detour through the rhododendron sanctuary.

The temperature climbed and light drizzle fell as we finished in late morning, and by the end of the day heavy rain had wiped away most of the snow. We probably were the last ones to ski that day — who knows, the way the temperatures have been all season, maybe even this winter. Of course we’re now back to muddy, bare ground.

There are plenty of other places to ski in our neck of the woods on the increasingly rare occasions we get sufficient snow — Bluff Point and Haley Farm state parks in Groton, Barn Island in Stonington, Rocky Neck in East Lyme, and various golf courses.

I’d rather stick closer to home than waste time and gas, but at the same time am not quite prepared to give up cross-country if we don’t get any more snow this year. Odds are before long I’ll be back behind the wheel in the northbound lanes.

Here’s hoping, though, for a few more decent storms followed by extended cold stretches to keep snow on the ground here.

Hey, before you know it we’ll be putting our skis away and hopping in our white-water kayaks, ready to start the next season of fun and adventure.


Reader Comments


R.I.P. Cecil the Lion: Let's Make the Trophy Hunter an Endangered Species

The international outrage sparked by an American trophy hunter’s killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion, justifiably vilifies the despicable practice of slaughtering wildlife for sport – but it also exposes the human...

All Who Wander Are Not Lost: Searching For The Elusive South Bog Stream In Rangeley, Maine

"Head for that tree stump," I instructed authoritatively one afternoon earlier this week, as if I knew for sure where we should be heading. I have learned to exude confidence when giving directions on any expedition, even...

Scott Jurek's 'Reward' For Breaking Appalachian Trail Speed Record: Three Summonses

When internationally celebrated speedster Scott Jurek scrambled last Sunday to the 5,269-foot summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he broke the record for the fastest assisted hike of the 2,189-mile...

No Swimming at Seaside: What’s Next? No Hiking at Bluff Point?

Most of the time I’m reasonably scrupulous about abiding by government regulations.

Training For Mystic Sharkfest: The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Swimmer

Among the many benefits of active recreation is hanging out with friends – which of course you can do at a bar, pizza parlor or coffee shop, but since most of my pals prefer to spend their leisure time on the trail or water, we...

Stung By Wasps AND Suffering From Lyme Disease: I Can't Catch A Break

You know that funny, itchy feeling when something is crawling around or worse, lodged where it doesn’t belong?

Which Is Worse: Getting Devoured By A Grizzly Bear Or A Great White Shark?

During years of roaming hither and yon on land and sea, I’ve been chased by a grizzly bear, nearly trampled by stampeding yaks, charged by a bull, attacked by swarms of hornets and almost struck by a copperhead – but what...

A Whitewater Dream Taking Shape in Willimantic

Asked to name the best whitewater kayaking and canoeing stretches in Connecticut, most paddlers would single out a gnarly, 2.6-mile section of Class IV rapids on the Housatonic River from Bulls Bridge Dam to Gaylordville, or Diana's Pool...

My War With Canada Geese

Years ago I looked forward to autumn, not so much for the kaleidoscopic foliage but because the evening serenade of migrating Canada geese that lulled me to sleep.

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.