Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stormy Hammonasset

The worst of the storm was over, but there were still lingering signs as I approached the Meigs Point section of Hammonasset State Park. Sand spilled out into the roadway, and low-lying stretches were flooded by tide and rain. Every so often the car would shake as it was broadsided by a leftover gust of wind.

Crowded in the summer months, I visit Hammonasset mostly during the spring and fall - occasionally in stormy weather. With few, or no others around, it's like having the amusement park all to yourself.

I walked the high-tide line of East Beach, eventually climbing the short bluff at Meigs Point, and its large glacial erratics. I thought back to my visit last fall when I stood atop these rocks and could see Falkner Island to the west, and Plum Island to the east. Looking across the Sound at Long Island, I wondered which towns it was I was viewing. Mattituck perhaps?

Today it didn't matter as I was lucky enough to see beyond the western edge of the park. 

The rain began falling again, so I pulled up my hood. The air was raw - far too cold for the month of May. After such a mild winter, this was perhaps a bit of payback for those summer days we received in March. 
Mother Nature has a way of evening the score.

CT Coastal Access Guide: Hammonasset State Park

Friday, March 9, 2012

Harkness State Park

I've often thought the estate at Harkness State Park seems a bit out of place with its surroundings. It's as if this 42-room, Roman Revival mansion drifted down from Newport or Sands Points, before being washed ashore by the tides here in Waterford.

The estate was purchased in 1907 by Edward Harkness, heir to a Standard Oil investment fortune. Named Eolia, after the island home for the Greek god of winds, the "summer home" sits on a 230-acre point with sweeping views of Plum Island, Fishers Island, and The Race. Left to the State of Connecticut in 1952, it was not until the 1990's that the buildings and grounds were restored to their former glory.

Despite the building's Gatsbyesque allure, it is the gardens here at Harkness which are the prime attraction. A late February visit may not be the best way to showcase this, but I wasn't about to complain. Following the  pergola's circular path, there was beauty in the starkness of the grounds, its barren vines, and a steel blue sparkle reflecting off Long Island Sound. 

I suppose, in a majestic setting as this, one ought to think great thoughts. Grand settings make for grand ideas? Maybe so, but not today.  

Instead, I thought of the mild winter, the cold breeze, my muddy shoes, and how long I'd been away.

CT's Historic Gardens: Harkness

Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Harbor

Sometime around Labor Day the light begins to noticeably change. It's subtle at first; only recognizable in the hours surrounding dawn and dusk. By the middle of September, however, it becomes obvious even to those not paying attention. Gone is the haze, the glare, the short shadows, and the long summer days.

Block Island in the summer sometimes feels like a spring break inspired theme park for the middle-aged. Old Harbor, with its ferry-terminal, and tipsy balance of Victorian architecture, bars and moped rentals grows too crowded, expensive, and commercialized. The views can be spectacular here, but they often go unnoticed as you weave your way between the taxicabs and foot traffic along Water Street.

In September, the tempo around Old Harbor begins to change. The ferries still run regularly, but the traffic, while steady, is no longer overwhelming. The carnival atmosphere gives way to a working waterfront which reappears from the shadows of waffle cones and Bacardi umbrellas.

Old Harbor once had a sizable commercial fleet, but the Great Depression, combined with the Hurricane of '38 provided a knockout blow. Now, the logistics of an island fishing industry are no longer economically feasible on a large scale. Seafood not sold to local restaurants and inns, needs to be transported again to distribution centers on the mainland. Today the fleet is more modest and specialized.

As the crowds thin however, the island's past image as an outpost in the Atlantic comes back into view. Commercial boats chased away by the limited summer space, will once again use the docks as a convenient layover port. Transoms which read Point Judith, Montauk, and Stonington lie berthed alongside the native fleet.

The light is different this time of year, the boats in the harbor are different too.

Boating Local: Destination Block Island
Providence Journal: Saving Block Island
Boating Local: Old Harbor Bulkhead Repair
Providence Library: Old Harbor Fleet 1930's
Soundbounder: Block Island North Light

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cos Cob Pelican

Mianus River, Greenwich, September 26

Friday, September 16, 2011


My days in Greenport often include numerous visits to the commercial fishing dock. I never plan it that way, but after an early morning walk up Front Street for coffee and a newspaper, a short detour along the waterfront usually seems like a good idea. 

Many of the boats have already left for the day, but a few remain behind to work on their gear. One boat appears to have a never-ending problem with her starboard engine. I keep a low profile and linger for only a short time. Making my way to the end of the pier, I gaze across to Shelter Island and her approaching ferry reflecting in the sunrise.
Later in the day, I often walk this pier again; creating a matching bookend to my day on the North Fork. Many of the boats have now returned, leaving the docks wet and slippery, with the smell of fish filling the air. I make a conscious effort to stay out of their way.

Every so often, I'm recognized by a fisherman who saw me here previous times. They give me a strange look, and I am never quite sure if they think I am an inspector, or just some bored tourist who doesn't know what to do with his time.
I really should tell him that I'm just someone who likes old boats and fresh fish!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phragmites Park

At the southern tip of Northport Harbor is the eleven-acre Phragmites Park. Wedged between some residential neighborhoods, the entrance to the preserve is easy to miss when traveling along Route 25A. Like many coastal access spaces, this nature area is known by several names, including Twin Ponds Park and most recently, Betty Allen Preserve-North.

Once used as a dumping site for the dredged spoils from nearby bays, this stretch of shoreline began an extensive wetlands restoration project in 2002. While I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, the results appear to be a notable success.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Northport area. It's a pretty harbor with an attractive and walkable waterfront, populated by a citizenry which appears committed to maintaining it. My afternoon spent at Phragmites Preserve only reinforced this belief.

Pbase: Northport Photos
Wikimapia: Betty Allen Preserve
NYNJCT Botany: Hiking Betty Allen/Twin Ponds
Note: I didn't visit the area south of Rte 25A. That will have to be done another time

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beached Sailboat

Beached Sailboat; Early Street, City Island