Exploring Connecticut’s State Parks

My first summer in CT, I learned an important lesson: grad students don’t really get a summer. Sure, we aren’t taking classes…but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Science doesn’t do itself.

Fortunately, I was still very early on in my grad school career so I did at least manage to have some free time most weekends. And my advisor gave us each a couple weeks of vacation time.

With weekend sunshine and my family 2,300 miles away, I assembled a new hiking crew: the fellow grad students in my lab. Over the course of the summer, we visited quite a few local state parks. Here is a little bit of information about each one.

1. Devil’s Hopyard State Park – East Haddam, CT
This park has a somewhat ominous name that perhaps paints a misleading picture. In reality, the main attraction here is Chapman Falls, located on the Eightmile River. The falls used to power an old mill, and a former landowner used to grow hops in the area, hence the hopyard part of the name. There are multiple theories as to the origin of the devil portion of the name.

Chapman Falls tumbles about 60 feet and can be seen with just a short hike. We continued on the orange-blazed trail out to Vista Point Cliff for some views. Continue reading

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Sightseeing and History in Boston, Massachusetts

When I was a kid, our vacations rarely included cities. Aside from stopping to gas up and restock our cooler, we usually just stayed out in nature. And while nature is always going to be my preferred destination, in recent years I’ve been able to spend some time visiting some US cities. And I’ve realized that I really enjoy it.

I’m still not a city person, and I don’t want to live in one for any extended period of time. But I do enjoy exploring them.

Case in point: Boston.

I live just a couple hours away so I’ve been able to visit the city 3 or 4 times in the last few years.

In 2013, my aunt was in Boston for a conference so I headed up for the day to see the city for the first time and spend some time with her. I met up with her outside the Convention Center and we walked up to Quincy Market for Brunch. I don’t remember the restaurant we went to, but I do remember that their French toast was delicious! Continue reading

In Which We Found Nemo

It didn’t take long for me to begin to hate New England weather. In late October, a random afternoon thunderstorm brought with it winds strong enough to wreak havoc on the Connecticut infrastructure. Trees here are flimsy, winds are gusty, and most power lines are above ground. Put those three facts together, and you have this:

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The result? A day and a half without power. Thankfully it was only October, so our house didn’t get too cold.

Fast forward about a month, and it happened again. Except this time, the damage was more widespread and we were without power for four and a half days. In that time, my roommates and I discovered that houses are relatively useless when there’s no power. No lights, no heat, no way to store or cook food, and – in our case – no water, because the water pump was electric. So that was fun. Continue reading

Introducing Pudgey

I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog for a year and a half now and I still haven’t introduced you all to Pudgey!

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Pudgey was my very first beanie baby; I got her for Christmas when I was seven. Over the years, she’s come just about everywhere with me – gymnastics meets, camping trips, hikes, vacations, etc. At this point, she’s basically a member of the family. If something ever happened to her, I would be bawling my eyes out.

My mom loves Pudgey just about as much as I do, so when I went off to college, we decided to do a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants type thing with her. Every time we see each other, Pudgey switches hands. And when she’s with my mom, she goes on adventures with her instead.

Despite Pudgey being quite well-traveled, she didn’t really feature in many photographs until recently. When I moved to CT in 2012, Pudgey came with me. When I went home for Christmas that year, Pudgey stayed with my mom and sister until they came out to CT the following August. Not only did Pudgey go on adventures with them, but they also started taking pictures of her at each destination. Originally it was so they could send them to me to prove that Pudgey wasn’t sitting at home alone while they went hiking. Somehow – I’m not completely clear on the details – it morphed into a photobook called Pigtures. I’m pretty sure the discovery of the “pigtures” pun was what spawned the idea. Regardless of how it began, I received a hilarious and very unexpected Christmas present that year. Continue reading

Thanksgiving in North Carolina

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was still struggling with this whole living in New England and being a grad student thing. Actually, school was going okay. Living in CT was not. I got along well with my roommates and the other students in my department, but I missed my family and friends back home. And I was in serious mountain withdrawal.

Fortunately, I had a few days off for the holiday and a good friend who was also adjusting to grad school life down in North Carolina. Neither of us could afford to fly home for the week but we both were in need of a break and a familiar face. So I bought a train ticket and headed off on a 12-hour journey down the east coast.

I’ve always loved train trips. They’re so relaxing and it’s great to not have to worry about driving and sitting in traffic. Instead, I could look out the window and catch glimpses of many east coast destinations that I’d never seen before. Continue reading

Our all-time most epic vacation fail

If you travel enough, it’s inevitable that things will go wrong. I count myself very fortunate that, so far, I’ve managed to avoid any extreme crises while traveling (knock on wood).

We’ve had a few hiccups – a couple flat tires, almost running out of gas once (this one was 100% my dad’s fault), forgetting something (this has happened more than once, we now own 3 hammers…), and I remember as a kid I once left one of my favorite books on the plane. But these are all minor inconveniences.

The time we drove 2 hours out of our way to visit Four Corners and arrived to find it closed certainly wasn’t one of our best moments.

But in all honestly, our biggest vacation fail didn’t really involve our vacation at all. In fact, we didn’t even realize what we’d done until we arrived back at home. Continue reading

Autumn in New England

I’m just going to come out and say it: New England isn’t my favorite place. It’s been a good experience for me to live somewhere different, and I’ve largely enjoyed my time here, but it’s not a place I want to stay after Pat and I finish school. Too many people, too much traffic, too many months of crappy weather…you get the idea.

But one thing that New England does better than anywhere else I’ve ever been is autumn. The colors here are just amazing!

Fortunately, I was able to begin learning this within a few short weeks. One of my then-roommates and one of her friends are as adventurous as I am; the 3 of us hit it off and began spending our weekends exploring the area.

Over the course of my first New England fall, we visited two local state parks, a state forest, and hiked a couple of local trails. I also went apple picking and pumpkin picking for the first time ever – two important New England fall traditions! Continue reading