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NO 'NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER' IN CONNECTICUT

Walks and Hikes in Some of New England's Most Enchanting Landscapes Put Young and Old in Touch with Nature

HARTFORD, CT --- July 1, 2005 --- Recent studies have shown that many children are in danger of suffering from "Nature Deficit Disorder,"** or the lack of connectedness to the natural world. Well, Connecticut is making sure that everyone is connected - young and old, men and women, residents and visitors alike. "Take a hike, head for the hills," state tourism officials advise, "Grab a pack and head out for a memorable weekend in the country. Connecticut offers some of the most spectacular scenery in New England, hundreds of well-marked trails to travel on and dozens of organizations just waiting to assist in showing the way."

Combined with an overnight or two in comfortable accommodations in a quaint B&B, historic country inn or luxurious hotel, and a great meal here and there - summer is when Connecticut restaurants go "native," serving the finest fresh local products - a scramble over hills and mountains, across valleys and wetlands or along refreshing streams and rivers is the perfect centerpiece for a decidedly affordable and always delightful getaway.

Start with Connecticut Audubon's newest center in Pomfret, in the lovely Quiet Corner of the state. Situated in the 700-acre Audubon Bafflin Sanctuary, the center offers a wide variety of educational programs, bird walks and other activities encompassing meadows, streams, grassland and forest habitats. Or make the center in Glastonbury a first stop. It's adjacent to 48 acres of forest trails, scenic vistas and meadows above the Holland Brook River. Other Audubon sites across the state include the Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Trail Wood, in Hampton, a 168-acre sanctuary that was once the home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning naturalist writer Edwin Teale and offers marked trails wandering through wetlands, pond habitats, woodlands and fields; the Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve in Redding, named after the famous photographer and affectionately called Huckleberry Swamp; the Smith-Hubbell Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary in Milford, with its boardwalk protecting Long Island Sound dune and beach habitats; Haddam Wildflower Gorge, adjacent to Hurd State Park, a charming upland forest; and the Richard G. Croft Memorial Preserve in Goshen, offering 700 acres of some of the least developed areas of the state, including upland hardwood forests. For more information about Connecticut Audubon sanctuaries, visit www.ctaudubon.org or call (203-259-6305).

The Litchfield hills in northwestern Connecticut, filled with state parks and nature centers as well as a section of the Appalachian Trail, offer some of the state's most beautiful walks and hikes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • A rugged hike to the summit of Bear Mountain, the highest peak completely within the borders of Connecticut. Not for the wimpy, the trek takes about 6 hours, beginning with the Undermountain Trail near Salisbury and intersecting with a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which is the national trail system that runs virtually the entire length of the East Coast.
  • The Bull's Bridge River Walk, featuring a much easier forest path to the historic Bull's Bridge, one of the only two covered bridges open to vehicular traffic in Connecticut, and then a more strenuous hike high above the scenic Housatonic River, again on the Appalachian Trail, to Ten Mile Gorge and the summit of Ten Mile Hill. Great views of the Litchfield hills. Access is from Bull's Bridge Road outside of Kent.
  • A search for Indian lore, by walking the trails created by Connecticut's first settlers. Highlights include an ancient soapstone quarry and Indian campsites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located in the Peoples State Forest in Pleasant Valley, the woodland walks past babbling streams and wetlands reveal an abundance of native animal life and New England's unique flora as well as evidence of Native American and Colonial settlements.
  • Prospect Mountain and Rand's View offer glimpse into another aspect of Connecticut's history: the mining of iron ore. The area's quaint villages and pastoral landscapes conceal what was once a thriving center of industry. Walking time is about four hours (from near Iron Bridge and Falls Village) and features spectacular views of the Housatonic River and Great Falls from the Appalachian Trail and a ¼ mile iron history trail that tells the story of the 19th century iron works of the region.
  • The Mountain Laurel Loop at the Barnes Nature Center in Bristol. Connecticut's state flower blooms through early July and here forms the forest canopy for easy walking trails through colorful wetlands.

Detailed descriptions and instructions for these and other walks and hikes can be found at www.litchfieldhills.com or by calling (860-567-4506). The Litchfield area is also known for its charming, often elegant country inns and B&B's and outstanding restaurants.

Need other ideas or more help with planning a hiking getaway in Connecticut? The 184-acre Gillette Castle State Park, in East Haddam (860-526-2336), offers extensive hiking trails in addition to the castle itself, built overlooking the Connecticut River by the legendary stage actor, William Gillette who made a career of impersonating Sherlock Holmes. Mt. Tom State Park in Litchfield (860-868-2592) offers hiking to the mountain's 1,325-foot peak (with a stone tower) as well as other summer recreation, including swimming, boating, even Scuba diving.

The Farmington Valley Greenway is a broad, paved trail running 25 miles from Farmington to the edge of Massachusetts. Used by cyclists as well as walkers and hikers, it follows the route of the historic Farmington Canal Railroad (1828-46) and is planned to be part of an even longer trail stretching right down to New Haven (www.greenway.org, (401-789-4625). Lock 12 Historical Park in Cheshire (203-272-2743) is part of the Farmington Canal and has a three mile hiking and biking trail as well as a museum.

Housatonic Meadows State Park (860-672-6772), also in northwestern Connecticut, features the Pine Knob Loop Trail, which joins the Appalachian Trail, as well as fly fishing and canoeing while Shenipsit (860-684-3430), in central Connecticut near Ellington, and Mashamoquet Brook, in Pomfret, are other examples of parks offering hiking, walking trails and other recreation in the summer. Tarrywile Park & Mansion in Danbury (203-744-3130), with 658 acres, is the setting for seven miles of hiking trails as well as horseback trails and Lake McDonough (860-379-0938), near Barkhamsted, even has a Braille nature trail as well as other hiking paths, boating and fishing.

In addition to the organizations already mentioned, would be walkers and hikers should check in with the Connecticut Forest & Park Association at www.ctwoodlands.org. Since 1929, the volunteer organization has been creating a Blue Trail System to identify and mark the state's hiking and walking trails. The network now includes some 700 miles of them - many on private property - and the website can provide valuable advice. CFPA also has published the Connecticut Walk Book, a comprehensive guide to the state's walking/hiking system, with suggested walks and pull-out maps, blue waterproof cover.

Other recommended books on hiking and nature preserves in CT include: Country Walks in Connecticut: A Guide to the Nature Conservancy Preserves, by Susan D. Cooley (917.46 Cooley), with maps, photos, directions and commentary for hiking on the Nature Conservancy's Connecticut properties; and Fifty Hikes in Connecticut: Short Walks and Day Hikes Around the Nutmeg State by Gerry and Sue Hardy (917.4604 Hardy) also with maps, photos, times, distances, directions and what to see as well as ratings.

For more information about hiking and walking and the 52 Getaways to Connecticut, restaurants, resorts, country inns, B&B's and other places to stay in Connecticut, please call 888-CTVisit (888-288-4748) or log on at www.CTVisit.com. Connecticut offers visitors a multi-faceted wealth of attractions, historical, cultural and recreational activities, diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, parks, beaches and wilderness sure to fulfill any getaway need.

** Nature Deficit Disorder source: Richard Louv, author of The Web of Life, Fly Fishing for Sharks, and Last Child in the Woods.

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