This month we are celebrating Trails Day (June 4th-5th) and encouraging everyone to get outdoors and enjoy the natural wonders of our community. We interview Julie Hulten of the Sleeping Giant Park Association, Chuck Toal of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, and our co-worker Sandy Bartell, avid hiker and trail runner! Listen and be inspired to start (or continue) your own outdoor adventures!
Plus: check out this post from our library blog for more Trails Day resources.
Michael Pierry 0:07
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Hamden Library Podcast. I'm your host, Michael Pierry. And with me as ever is my co host and partner in crime Alyssa Bussard. This month we are talking about the great outdoors - getting out into it, that is. This episode is being released a little bit earlier than usual, because we wanted to get it out to you in time for Trails Day, which in Connecticut is actually the entire weekend of June 4th and 5th. There are hundreds of activities for you and your family to participate in, and the guests we interviewed for this episode will tell you about some of them. Please also check our website for a special blog post featuring many events in Hamden and New Haven County. Regardless of whether you participate in Trails Day, this episode will hopefully inspire you to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of our town and our state.
We interviewed Julie Hulten of the Sleeping Giant Association to discuss the history of the park, what makes it such a unique treasure that even veteran Connecticut hikers return to it over and over, as well as how the park bounced back from the devastating tornado that hit Hamden in May of 2018.
We also spoke with Chuck Toal, Connecticut Trails Day Coordinator with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. And last but not least, we chatted with one of our own staff members, Sandy Bartell, who manages the Brundage Community Branch Library, and is an avid hiker, climber and trail runner.
But before we jump into those interviews, I thought we could talk about what the outdoors means to us personally. I heard comedian John Mulaney joke recently about being an "indoorsman." And that resonated with me a bit. I always say that I like nature, but nature doesn't really like me. Allergies, bug bites, the sun, heat and humidity: these are all obstacles that have gotten in the way of me getting outside more. But I'm doing my best to overcome these and get out more, especially as I get older, and I recognize the need for exercise, fresh air, and an escape from the anxiety of being attached to our screens and our phones all the time.
One of the things I found recently that has been helpful in keeping me motivated is called the Conquerer Virtual Challenges. You track your hiking, biking and other activities and log them in the Conquerer app, which earns you rewards, including medals. The virtual challenge I'm doing right now is based on Lord of the Rings. They actually figured out the exact number of miles according to the books from the Shire where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin start out all the way to Mount Doom in Mordor. I've just gotten started recently so I'm still in the Shire, but it is very motivating to be able to track my progress every day. And once I get to Bree, I know I'll be getting a medal and the One Ring in the mail. So that's pretty cool. How about you, Alyssa? I know in the past you've done a lot of Pokemon GO and you mentioned doing some geocaching with your teens.
Alyssa Bussard 3:08
I did. Last year, it was part of our summer reading program, actually. I don't know if I ever told you about this, but back in the day before cellphones were so fancy, I did something called letterboxing.
Michael Pierry 3:18
Alyssa Bussard 3:20
Yeah, so basically letterboxing is geocaching but - hear me out - with written directions and no GPS.
Michael Pierry 3:28
Alyssa Bussard 3:30
Yeah. So basically you made a little username online, and you carve or buy a stamp that will be unique to your username. Then you find a letter box on the website and take a little trip, sometimes on a hike or to a cemetery or even to a library. You'll follow the written clues to find the letter box and then when you get there usually you'll find something like a Tupperware container. And in it there will be a little pad where you take your personal stamp and you stamp in that pad. And then there will be a specific stamp for that letterbox and you stamp your own pad or journal. You can then go online and comment on the forum that it was found so that people know that it's still an active letterbox. I honestly haven't done it in years, but I loved doing it back in the day. Meriden Library actually used to have one in their nonfiction section. And geocaching is essentially the same thing but there's a fancy app and you use the GPS to find it. Letterboxing is a lot more like, "Go to Veterans Park. Park in front of the tree stump and take the left trail. When you see the stream, take a right and find the tree with branches that come up in a Y." So sometimes it was honestly really hard to find, even with the clues. There's obviously a lot more that goes into both letterboxing and geocaching. I would visit the websites geocaching.com - and I'm honestly not sure how active letterboxing still is, but there is helpful information about what it was or maybe is on letterboxing.org and atlasquest.com.
Michael Pierry 4:56
Wow, that's really cool.
Alyssa Bussard 4:57
Yeah, and then as for Pokemon Go, that was a huge thing here, because we actually have two Gyms and a PokeStop here. So I would have programs, kind of like a drop-in program, with the teens when there was a raid happening and the teens would come and really enjoy it. People mocked it a lot at the time, honestly, but honestly, I was like, who cares? People are outside. They're walking around catching Pokemon, yeah, but they're walking around getting fresh air. Who can hate on somebody for enjoying the outside? Why? Because they're on their phones the whole time? Does that limit their fresh air? Sometimes being able to hatch an egg and get a new Pokemon is what helped me get through my extra steps in that day, honestly.
Michael Pierry 5:36
Yeah. I mean, whatever gets it done, right?
Alyssa Bussard 5:39
Absolutely. I'm a firm believer in fresh air being healing. That and drinking water. Water is magic. So now let's hear from our colleague Sandy Bartell and find out what got her interested in outdoor activities and what she's going to be up to this summer.
Ariana Davis 5:56
When I was a child, it was difficult for me to see certain people I interacted with on a regular basis, doing activities outside the realm of their profession - in particular, medical and educational professionals like doctors and librarians. Perhaps you have felt the same way. I have learned to appreciate that in addition to our careers, we as individuals can be dedicated to many different pursuits and involved in a wide spectrum of activities. In addition to books and service to the community, what are other interests that librarians are passionate about? Well, today I am interviewing our very own Miss Sandy Bartell.
Miss Sandy has worked for the Hamden Public Library system for just over 18 years as the branch manager at the Brundage Community Branch. However, listen in as I get to know more about Miss Sandy, and her love for nature, the outdoors and related sports.
Miss Sandy, if you can, please share with our listeners the background behind your passion for nature and outdoor sports. Have you always been interested or has this interest developed in recent years?
Sandy Bartell 7:13
So my interest in the outdoors goes back almost 30 years ago, when I moved to Connecticut from the Midwest in the mid '90s. A co-worker of mine mentioned a hike she did with the Appalachian Mountain Club. And I had never heard of the Appalachian Mountain Club. But it sounded interesting. And I thought hiking would be a good way to get some exercise and see different parts of Connecticut, as I was new to the state. So I went on a group hike with the AMC and my very first hike was up Mount Higby in Meriden.
I discovered I really enjoyed the physical challenges of hiking along with just the serenity of being outdoors in nature. So I continued to do more hiking with the AMC, and I eventually became a hike leader for a few years in the late 1990s.
Ariana Davis 8:11
Sandy Bartell 8:11
Um, so I guess you could say that a seed was planted and hiking eventually evolved into backpacking, then rock and ice climbing and mountaineering and most recently, trail running.
Ariana Davis 8:26
Wow, that's fascinating. I love that progression - that we're able to see how your friend captured your interest and then how it developed into even more interesting nature and outdoor activities.
Sandy Bartell 8:41
Ariana Davis 8:43
So specifically, and congratulations on being Miss July for the Breaking Trail calendar.
Sandy Bartell 8:49
*Laughs* Thank you.
Ariana Davis 8:51
If you can explain to our listeners exactly what the Breaking Trail calendar is. And what does being a part of this project mean to you?
Sandy Bartell 9:01
Sure. So the Breaking Trail calendar was conceived last year by two awesome women from a trail running group that we're all part of called the Connecticut Trailmixers. And these women were looking for female trail runners over the age of 40 to be featured in a 2022 calendar. And the purpose of this was to dispel stereotypes about older female athletes that once you reach a certain age, you won't be able to do certain physical activities. And interestingly enough, I've dealt with a little of this myself, and not all that long ago. People telling me, you know, I won't be able to do all my sports once I'm old. Now I don't really know what their definition of old is. And they also haven't met my 75-year-old rock climbing friend.
Ariana Davis 9:48
Wow, that's amazing.
Sandy Bartell 9:49
But anyway, I filled out an application and I was selected to be in the calendar. So as you mentioned, I'm Miss July, and I had my photo shoot on the Salmon River Trail in Colchester, Connecticut right by the covered bridge, which is still one of the three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut.
So what does it mean to be a part of this calendar? I feel that it's really important to show that a person does not have to stop being active as they age. Full disclosure, I am in my late 50s. And I did not start trail running until I was 54. And I ran my first Ultra distance, which is any distance over a marathon, when I was 55.
So I'm not saying that everyone should just go out and run a bunch of miles on a trail, but doing anything that challenges us as we age, even if it means just going out for a short hike on one of our many beautiful trails in Connecticut, because there are trails that accommodate all abilities - I think it can just be so physically and mentally gratifying.
Ariana Davis 10:51
Wow, I love that message, your personal message, as well as the message of the calendar, that the quality of life does not have to to change, it can actually be elevated as we age, and really enjoying the beauty that surrounds us. So thank you for sharing that.
Sandy Bartell 11:13
Ariana Davis 11:14
And a question that I have for you. My last question is, do you have any outdoor plans for the remainder of the year? For example, any races or hikes that you're planning or preparing for or trails or parks that you're interested in visiting in Connecticut?
Sandy Bartell 11:33
Yep, I do. I'm going to be going back to the Midwest pretty soon to do a race called the Sugar Badger 50k. I also have a few Connecticut trail races coming up in June. One will be on the Nipmuck Trail, and one is going to be over at Gay City State Park over in the eastern part of the state. My big challenge for the year is a race called Notchview which is up in Massachusetts. That will be in July. It is 72 hours and I'm hoping to get in 100 miles. But we will see what happens. But that is my big, big goal for the year.
Ariana Davis 12:11
Wow. Well, we wish the best for you, Miss Sandy, as you prepare for that. And thank you so much for being willing to be interviewed and discuss your interests and passion for the outdoors.
Sandy Bartell 12:25
Thank you so much.
Ariana Davis 12:27
At the time of this episode's initial release in early June, there are still a few Breaking Trail 2022 calendars available for purchase at a 50% discount. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and Girls on the Run, a national nonprofit organization. For more information or to place an order, please visit www.BreakingTrailCalendar.com.
Michael Pierry 12:59
June 6 of this year marks the 78th anniversary of D-Day. Mike Wheatley reviewed some of his top film recommendations covering this crucial day in history. Let's listen.
Mike Wheatley 13:12
I remember in the summer of 1962, my father dragged the entire family to see "The Longest Day." I was 14, my brothers were nine and two, my sister about seven. We luckily had a station wagon to pile into. So he took us to a drive in - I think in Branford.
During the Second World War, he had missed D-Day landing by a week or so, but went on to fight in the Third Army under "Old Blood and Guts" General George Patton, where he was wounded near the German-French border just before the famous Battle of the Bulge. The movie was about three hours long and in black and white. It didn't start probably until after 8pm with an intermission. So I assume I didn't make it to the end that day. I saw it many times with him before he passed. It was our annual memorial D-Day ritual.
There are still a few drive ins left in the state. Southington Drive In, on the Meriden Waterbury Turnpike, is one to check out for a great family taste of nostalgia.
June 6 is D-Day and Memorial Day just passed on the 30th of May. With the events in the Ukraine, I've been thinking about war a lot lately. And how so often Hollywood romanticizes and makes heroes out of the employees of the business of war. So this month, I thought I would explore some interesting D-Day related films.
If you love Robert Taylor and Richard Todd and want a war time extra marital romance novel version of war, then 1956's "D-Day the Sixth of June" is for you. Except for a 15 minute opening and a 10 minute closing, there's very little about the actual D-Day landing. That's pretty much the opposite with Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," which during the first half hour contained some of the most graphic recreations of the Normandy landing set to screen. I took my father to see it in the theater, and he found it difficult to watch. The theater's explosive sounds were deafening, and I was reminded by one scene with a German tank of a dinosaur attack in Spielberg's "Jurassic Park." Controversially, "Shakespeare in Love" beat it out for Best Picture in the 1999 Oscars that year. People still argue about that.
I recently watched the 1975 84-minute Stewart Cooper film "Overlord," which was the codename for the D-Day Normandy landing. It's a strangely beautiful, badly edited, forgotten British film that came out during the Vietnam War, and couldn't find a distributor in the United States. It was made with the help of the Imperial War Museum, and tells the story of one soldier on his way to the beach. Using documentary footage and recreating wartime diary entries, I recommend it to the adventurous cinema viewers among my listeners. And the feature-rich Criterion disc is available at the library and at Best Video here in Hamden.
The film "The Longest Day" is based on an epic book by Cornelius Ryan, who also wrote "A Bridge Too Far." It was also turned into an all star 1977 epic, about a failed attempt to cut off German forces in the Netherlands during the last stages of the war. It starred Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, and a who's who of stars from 50 years ago. But unfortunately, "A Bridge Too Far" is about an hour too long. Still, an epic war film about how mistakes in war lead to terrible consequences. And finally, if you are truly interested in the immediate preparations before D-Day, a 2004 documentary "Ten Days to D-Day" is produced by the History Channel and based on the book by historian David A. T. Stafford. It compellingly brings to life the final days before the invasion through the eyes of its participants, the citizens and soldiers that made history on June 6, 1944.
Films discussed this month were: "The Longest Day," "D-Day the Sixth of June," "Saving Private Ryan," "Overlord" from 1974, "A Bridge Too Far" and the documentary "Ten Days to D-Day."
Did you know that the bugle call "Taps" played at the end of day and in memory of a fallen soldier unofficially has lyrics? The first two verses are:
"Day is done, gone the sun, from the hills, from the lake, from the skies; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Go to sleep
may the soldier or sailor God keep
on the land or the deep
safe in sleep
Ariana Davis 19:45
I have the privilege of interviewing Miss Julie Hulten. Miss Julie is an active volunteer with the Sleeping Giant Park Association, serving for several years on the board of directors as outreach chair, recording secretary, and recently as president. She is currently taking the lead in the development of the Sleeping Giant Welcome Center. With an extensive background in education and library science, Miss Julie is also an avid researcher at the Hamden Historical Society. We encourage you to register at hamdenlibrary.org and attend her in-person presentation entitled "The Sleeping Giant: 210 Million Years in the Making" on Tuesday, June 7 at 6:30pm at the Thornton Wilder Hall to learn more about Miss Julie's thorough research on the story of the Sleeping Giant, as well as its geological history and cultural significance. Thank you so much, Miss Julie, for joining me today.
Julie Hulten 21:00
You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Ariana Davis 21:02
My first question for you is, if you can please share the history of the Sleeping Giant as a state park. For example: the founding of the association itself.
Julie Hulten 21:13
The Giant has always been a target, a destination place for Hamden, local Hamden people. Farmers moved from New Haven in the early 1700s. But as far as the state park, people always admired the Giant and felt the link to it. The thing that prompted the formation of Sleeping Giant Park Association was the quarrying on the Giant's head, but the founders believed that it was a little too ambitious to try to tackle the quarrying company right off. So they worked with a local man, John Heaton, who owned what is euphemistically known as "the chest", [which] was about 200 acres. And they prevailed upon him -- he was no longer living in the States -- they prevailed upon him to donate those 200 acres. And once he donated those for the express purpose of creating a state park, the newly formed Sleeping Giant Park Association contacted the state and turned -- with the help of CFPA, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association -- turned that land, that 200 acres, over to the state to for the purpose of creating the State Park. And then following that they went to work on stopping the quarry and acquiring the head, because the giant would be nothing without all of his ridges.
Ariana Davis 21:16
That's very interesting, and I think that's a little known -- little known facts and information to know and I think it's very interesting to to have that information, so thank you for that.
May 15 marked four years since a destructive tornado damaged the landscape of the Sleeping Giant. Remarkably, the State Park was able to reopen at the start of the 2019 summer season. What was the process behind such an extensive restoration work? And how has this natural disaster impacted how the association cares for the park moving forward?
Julie Hulten 23:27
The day after the tornado, we were literally in tears. We - the organization - for many, many years has maintained the trails and there's just a love of the Giant that infuses all of the volunteers.
Then, obviously for safety reasons, the state closed the park and would not let anyone in until some kind of cleanup could be done. So it wasn't until June that we as volunteers were able to get out onto the back trails and start clearing. It took - I'm trying to think - probably the season through the winter or into the winter. The trails crew went out, we -- an incredible outpouring of enthusiasm from the community. I think we had at one point 90 people volunteer. Not all of those people were appropriate for the task at hand given the damage. We were not involved at all in clearing what was known as the Picnic Grove. That area has primarily been the state's responsibility. Sleeping Giant Park Association has taken keeping the back trails clear and safe. And so in June we started with like I said not all volunteers were appropriate simply because not all of them were trained. But because the the community donate -- did, really outdid itself in donations, we were able to train a squadron of people in proper chainsaw technique, we were able to buy safety equipment, chaps and headphones and the proper gear. And within those probably six months, our trails crew went out and cleared over 2,000 trees on the back trails, all on the back trails.
So and then since then, obviously, the Pine Grove is never going to be replaced. I mean, it took 100 years to grow. And they were not the proper trees according to current environmental and forestry standards. So there we are doing some work in terms of replanting, and that will be an ongoing operation. We hope to not only plant trees, but to create a map that will be an educational-- a piece of information so people can say, well, "this is a red maple. This is its Latin name, this is what it's, you know what, what it brings to the environment, why it's important to have trees" and sort of to educate the public and that will -- to segue into the Welcome Center -- that's one of the purposes of the Welcome Center is to also foster that kind of education.
Ariana Davis 26:23
And that's a perfect segue into my next question: along with the Welcome Center, what makes the hiking experience at Sleeping Giant unique?
Julie Hulten 26:32
I have read -- I can't give a source of that quotation -- but I have read that on Sleeping Giant, most bio systems in New England are represented. So there is scree slope, there is savanna, there is pine forest, there is swamp, there is all kinds of different open spaces. So really Sleeping Giant is almost a microcosm of New England, number one. Number two, its trails are varying degrees. I know many, many people come to train for hiking the Appalachian Trail, they come to gain experience for hiking some of the National Parks out west. I know folks who have, you know, done the 100 peaks in Connecticut, and they use Sleeping Giant to train.
The trails are among the best kept in the state due to the dedication of our trails crew. And it's -- and I think, you know, for Hamden, it's a special place that people come. I've heard all kinds of stories. People come for the calming experience, they come for the exercise, they come for getting in touch with the the birds and the bees.
But it's just -- and it's so unique in this area, because it's here, it is tucked between New Haven and Hartford, Waterbury, all these urban areas. And it's, it's a little hopeful bit of life before industrialization and everything. You can get away from all of that congestion and hubbub of city life or urban life.
Ariana Davis 28:24
I couldn't agree more. As a Hamdenite myself, I always enjoy going to the Sleeping Giant, and it is very calming, very peaceful. And just such a beautiful view, especially when you get to the top just seeing everything. I know many people, I'm not surprised, feel very much the same way.
For experienced hikers and trail enthusiasts, can you please explain the Giant Masters program?
Julie Hulten 28:55
Oh, thank you. The Giant Masters program was developed by Erwin and Barbara Beach, who used to be our trails coordinator, hiking coordinators. And the idea was sort of a perk of membership. Also to encourage membership.
And they created a map and they divided the Giant into sections. If you hike all 32 miles of blazed trail, then you get a certificate, a patch for your hat or your short sleeve [shirt], and a nice letter of congratulations. And it's to be motivational, "Hey, get out there and hike", you know, try the different trails. When I started hiking, I did the Tower Path. And I thought, "wow, that's the most I can do". And then one day I decided, well, let me try one of these other little trails. You can always turn back. There's no shame in turning back. And so I started that and "Well, let me try this one, and let me try that one". And eventually I said, "Well, let me work on my Giant Masters".
So I achieved my Giant Masters and went on to achieve several other Giant Masters as well. So I think the idea is to be an incentive to get people out of doors. And also, it's really nice to have members, because it's through member support that we are able to be as successful as we are. We thank our contributors and members.
Ariana Davis 30:23
Absolutely. And congratulations to you and to all those who have completed the Giant Masters program.
Julie Hulten 30:25
There are there are about, I think, four to five hundred people who have the Giant Masters. And then I think there's only 10 or 12, who have done what we call the 12 -- what I call the 12 and 12 -- which is [that] you hike all 32 miles once a month for a year.
Ariana Davis 30:35
Julie Hulten 30:37
And then there are some people who have done it in a day.
Ariana Davis 30:53
That's inspiring, very inspiring.
Julie Hulten 30:56
I'm afraid I don't hike fast enough to do it all in one day. It would take me at least two.
Ariana Davis 31:04
And my last question for you, Miss Julie, is: are there any upcoming Sleeping Giant Park Association programs, projects or endeavors that you would like to announce?
Julie Hulten 31:16
People should keep an eye on our Facebook page and on our webpage, sgpa.org. We do have -- through June we have planned hikes, led hikes. We are taking -- we have limited the number just because of COVID. And, and also if they're educational, it's easier to talk to a small group rather than having 60 or 70 people. So check the -- go onto the sgpa.org webpage under "hiking schedule" and see -- they'll be through the end of June and then they'll pick up again in September. We do hikes for insect identification, bird identification. We do some intro to hiking like just to introduce people to the trail system. There's a -- in June there's an upcoming history hike. And we do a winter tree identification hike, a spring wildflower hike. So yeah, those are the kinds of things, those are the programs we offer in terms of getting out and hiking. We have a pollinator garden, which is seven or eight years old now and it needs a little bit of tender helping, tender loving care and a little bit of reorganization. And then, of course, the welcome center that we will hopefully have within -- I would say -- a year or two and that will be a focal point place for programs and educational information. So those are the big ones.
We also have a program of invasive species eradication. Unfortunately COVID kind of put a stop or a pause on that because we didn't want to get, you know, people together in close groups. And -- but so now trails crew is is kind of going to be taking that responsibility under the tutelage of our naturalist Gail Cameron.
Ariana Davis 33:18
Oh, so many wonderful things to look forward to and that are in store for the Sleeping Giant. Well, thank you so much, Miss Julie, not only for your time, but for all you have done and continue to do as a volunteer, keeping the experience of the sleeping giant alive and working to maintain and protect it as one of Hamden's natural gems.
Julie Hulten 33:42
Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Ariana Davis 33:44
Ryan Keeler 33:47
Hi, we have with us today Chuck Toal. He's the Connecticut Trails Day coordinator for the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association, CFPA. Hi, Chuck, how are you today?
Chuck Toal 33:57
Hey, Ryan, how you doing? Thanks for having me.
Ryan Keeler 33:59
Oh, you're welcome. Can you start out by telling us what Trails Day is and when it is?
Chuck Toal 34:06
Sure. Trails Day -- this is the 30th anniversary of Trails Day -- It's a national event. It is always held on the first Saturday of June. So CFPA and Connecticut have been there since the beginning that Trails Day was created about 30 years ago. So originally, it was designed for trail maintenance. After a long winter, people got out on the trails and cleared the trails of debris. But today it's become much more than that, where it's more about awareness, environmental awareness, and engaging people to get out on the trails and appreciate what we have here in this state. So it's a national event sponsored by the American Hiking Society.
Ryan Keeler 34:54
And you had mentioned an interesting point, that it's more than just a walk in the woods. Could you elaborate on what that means?
Chuck Toal 35:04
Yeah. It's certainly a great publicity and outreach to get people outside. But when we do get outside, it gives us a chance to get away from technology. Sometimes we are all in front of our screens and our phones at work way too much. And so when you're out in the woods, it gives you a break from that.
It also gives you time with your family and friends. We've noticed with the last two years of COVID, and people being sequestered in their homes and not working, that this time with family and friends becomes very important. And some of our trails offer us an opportunity to do that safely, outdoors and enjoy the people that we love and the people that we know, it's also a time to set your mind. And that's something that's almost philosophical, I guess. Because when you're walking a trail for a few miles and spending an hour or two on your own, have a lot of time to think about things and work things through in a quiet setting. And I can only think of what's happened recently in Texas this week, that it's a time to see that there is good in this world, this beautiful world. And there are people in it that do good things. And so when we go out in our parks in our trails, that gives us an appreciation of who we are and our society. And that's very important, I think, today, and a couple of other things.
We share experiences on the trail. Not only are we with people who when we walk the trail, but you'll come across many other people who are doing the same thing. And it's always a time to share the experience to say "Hey, what did you just see?" Or "where are you from?" and kind of hook up with people that you may never see again, but it's just an interaction opportunity. out in nature, I call it a nature immersion, where you're totally surrounded by green and water and wildlife. And it's a wonderful shared experience to have with friends and with others out there. And for Trails Day, it gives people an opportunity to go out on the trail and explore something totally new. Yet it's guided, every one of trails de events, is guided by a volunteer who knows the trail or the park very, very well. And so if you've never been to this particular park, this is a great opportunity to try something brand new. And trust the fact that you're with somebody that knows where they're going and knows what they're doing. So it's more than just a walk in the woods. It's really a wonderful experience with nature and with others.
Ryan Keeler 37:52
Definitely. How can Connecticut residents discover their trails and parks?
Chuck Toal 38:00
We're very lucky in the state of Connecticut. We've dedicated a lot of resources to building parks, maintaining parks. Connecticut, per square acre, has more parks and trail per person than any other state in the union. So there's a park or a trail probably within about 15 minutes of most everybody's house. So how do we discover those? Well, first of all, the trailsday.org site has over 200 hike and walk locations that you can explore even after Trails Day, when you want to go back and see a particular park or event. This Trails Day site will be up all year round and you can see some of the interesting places that we have.
CFPA has a link on its page for the Blue-Blazed Trail Map System. CFPA owns and maintains over 800 miles of trails in the state of Connecticut, which to me is astounding because it's all maintained by volunteers. So you can go on CTwoodlands.org And that's the CFPA site and click on "Blue-Blazed Trails", and then there's a map there that you can zoom in on and really see at the detail level where these trails are that CFPA maintains.
There are other map applications. The one I liked the best has just been created within the last 12 months. It's called CT Trail Finder, and that can be found at CTtrailfinder.org and Trail Finder goes a little bit beyond because Trail Finder will describe the trail to a first time user. Is it a rugged trail? Is it an easy trail? Is it a wet trail? What can you expect to find? Are there easy access points, parking places. So CT Trail Finder will give you a lot of information to know before you go about what you're getting into. People want to go to places for the first time. But if they're unsure what they're going to encounter, CT Trail Finder is a great resource to look up. And I think there's over 60 or 70 postings on CT Trail Finder, and they're building it all the time, they're adding more trails all the time. It's pretty new, and it's pretty good.
The other one that I like is called AllTrails. And that's a national website that has a lot of different postings by hikers that will describe what their experience is on different trails. It's similar to CT Trail Finder. But it's not a Connecticut based app. It's a national app. And so it also will give you a lot of information as to how to get to the location, and what to expect there.
Other resources that we have in the state, certainly, there's 169 towns in the state of Connecticut. And most all towns have a park and recreation department. And our towns are very proud of the parks that they have created. So if you go into a town's park and rec site, you will see the parks and the trails that that town has built and created through the town, government or the town site. So that's a great resource as well. Another one that I like is a land trust. In New Haven, there are over on the -- excuse me, New Haven County -- there are over 20 land trusts, one virtually in every town in the county of New Haven. And so I've given you a list that you can post about the different land trusts that are around New London -- excuse me -- New Haven County. You can go into those land trusts, and they have a lot of details about their preserves, and some of them have restrictions, you may not be able to bring your dog or you may not be able to hike at certain times, but land trusts have wonderful information about their local preserves. And you can explore some pretty cool things that you may not even know are in your town by going onto your local land trust site, and seeing what they're all about.
And last, the state DEEP -- Department of Energy and Environmental Protection -- has a great listing of state parks. They are throughout the state. Some of them are very small, some are very large. And this is a great place to go and see what's going on around the state. So there are a lot of resources for people to see when it comes to finding a park or a trail near them.
Ryan Keeler 43:00
Excellent. Yeah, there are so many great resources. One of the things to add on to that, though, is the Know Before You Go.
Chuck Toal 43:09
Ryan Keeler 43:10
-- as far as safety, first aid and equipment, can you talk a little bit about how people should prepare?
Chuck Toal 43:16
Sure. Know, before you go is really important. We all rely on our cell phones today and have apps that we can use to follow maps, but those apps chew through battery power very quickly. So you can get back in the woods, and all of a sudden you got a dead battery and you can't quite rely on that app. So my first suggestion is always print out a paper version of a map that you find to go on to a particular park or a trail. That's going to be your backup. So if you are relying on an app on your cell phone, make sure your phone is fully charged. And even consider bringing a backup battery or a second cell phone that will help you as a backup. Once you get back into the woods. It's hard to find your way through and often become disoriented. And that's where people get into trouble when they're hiking back, especially in large pieces of property or state forests and things like that.
Obviously, knowing before you go involves a little bit of research before you head out. I always check the weather apps to make sure that you don't have any rain or storms that are coming along or high winds. And it's also very important along that line to let somebody know that you're going to head out and that you know -- that person knows where you're going, when you're leaving, and when you're coming back and hopefully what trails you're going to be on. And so that's very important about your backup personally for others to know where you're going and even send that person a Google Maps pin to show precisely where your car is. And so that if they need to find you, or you need to find your way out, they know exactly where you are. And then obviously, last, either check CTtrailsfinder or AllTrails, for the descriptions about the difficulty. A lot of people think "Hey, it's a walk in the woods, literally, it's easy". But there are a lot of trails, especially in the Hamden area, with some of the peaks and mountains and the state parks that you have, once you get back in there, you need to have the ability, the capacity, the strength, the health, the conditioning, to be able to stay on that trail, hike 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 miles sometimes, so that you are in that good shape to be able to go in. So you need to know how difficult that trail is, how rugged it is, what obstacles you may face as you go in, and know that before you enter that particular trail, so do your homework really in advance, and you'll enjoy yourself on the trails.
Ryan Keeler 46:16
And you've provided us with a an extensive list of trails and events coming up that we will have on our website via a blog this weekend. But could you talk a little bit about some trails day events and family friendly events?
Chuck Toal 46:33
Sure. There are over -- I think about -- 25 events in New Haven County. And you're very fortunate in Hamden, because you're right in the center of New Haven County. So I sent a list of all the events in New Haven County, and then highlighted in that list, events in red, that are family friendly. And so there are some great events that cover things like an amphibian hike. I mean, talking about kids and taking kids out in the woods and turning over rocks and finding salamanders and frogs and other types of things. Kids love that. You also have a scavenger hunt. That's scheduled in New Haven County. There are nature hikes. I think it's very important to teach our young kids early on about the importance of our environment, and the our communities. And so these nature hikes really work very well for young families to introduce them to the importance of green spaces, open spaces, and how important it is to keep them well maintained, respect them and how to use them properly. So lots of nature hikes that share that information in New Haven County. There's a hike that is a wildlife and habitat hike. There's a bird walk. There's a Farmington canal history hike that you have going on there. And there's one hike that says it's family friendly, but it's a little more rugged, maybe for older kids called Rocky, Rocky Top Vista So it's a hike of a couple of miles to the top of a vista. And you can see virtually all of New Haven County from the top of that, and that's very cool. And then probably one of the most famous peaks in the area is Sleeping Giant. So there are a lot of different things in New Haven County. And on Trails Day, there are over 35 events, and about 20 of those are family friendly. So that's pretty cool. A lot of the leaders of these events have set this up and welcome kids and bringing families to these events. So it's pretty cool.
Ryan Keeler 49:05
Yeah, it is. What are some ways that people can show their support for parks and trails in Connecticut?
Chuck Toal 49:11
Okay. There are a lot of different entities. And support is not just financial support. It's stewardship, and other things. So, first of all, let's talk a little bit about financial support. I'm going to put a plug in for CFPA. Connecticut Forest Park Association maintains those 800 plus miles of trails. It is a wonderful steward of those trails and maintaining all of that and it's all done by volunteers. Sections of trails have had stewards. So there's a person assigned to a two or three mile section of a trail, Blue-Blaze Trail, and so they're always looking for volunteers to be the trail steward. CFPA is also our advocate in Hartford when it comes to legislation and passing rules and passing amendments that support our outdoors. CFPA appears in front of the Hartford Senate and legislature advocating for laws that protect our environment. And also CFPA conducts seminars and classes. And it encourages the study of forestry and forestry management. It has a very inspiring staff. It's small, it's probably about eight or 10 people. But the volunteers, I say, are raving fans. Anybody that belongs to CFPA loves CFPA. It was founded in 1895. So it's probably one of the oldest environmental groups that we have in the state of Connecticut. Yet, it is growing because of the need. So CFPA, while it's over 125 years old, is expanding, and always needs both financial support and volunteer support to be able to maintain the quality of services that they're providing for us. So anybody who is interested in CFPA, go to ctwoodlands.org. And you can find a lot more information there.
The second way, I'd like to suggest: I mentioned before the importance of land trusts. Every town has its own land trust. And so again, financial support to that land trust, and volunteering and becoming a member for that land trust is tremendous, because I say that all conservation successes are local. When we conserve a piece of property, nobody knows what property is best to conserve, other than the local residents of that community. And the local land trust is really the instrument that the local community uses to conserve land. So by donating to that land trust, becoming a member of that land trust, volunteering for that land trust is very important. So if one of your listeners would like to learn more about what land trusts are around, they can go to the Connecticut Land Conservation Council's website, that's a statewide organization, an umbrella organization for all of the land trusts and that website is CTconservation.org.
The next way I suggest to support land conservation is vote. Get out and vote, both in your local communities -- quite often they have budget items that are setting aside money for open space. Be a participant in your local elections, and get out and vote. Also volunteer. There are a lot of organizations: your park and rec department, land trusts, and all these organizations that I've just talked about are all looking for volunteers. So if you have just a few hours a month, we welcome volunteers in every case.
And then be a good steward. As you are out on the land, remember that it's very fragile. Don't bring an ATV on a trail that can be destroyed. Don't pick wildflowers. Don't build fires. If you pack it in, pack it out. Don't leave trash in the woods. I'm a volunteer for the Avalonia Land Conservancy here in southeastern Connecticut. And we just spent last Saturday [collecting] two carloads of trash, including lawn chairs, beer cans, tires, old equipment. It's amazing what people will do to our open spaces thinking that these trash items will just go away and disappear. So be a good steward of our trails and our open spaces and protecting them.
And obviously, lastly, be an advocate for them. Share this information with others and be able to share your experiences, tell what great places that we have around and share them with people to say we need to protect these and we need to take care of the land that we have. So it's a multifaceted effort. And if we all do our part, we're going to have these preserves for a long time.
Ryan Keeler 54:46
And that was great. Thanks, Chuck. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about or add in before we wrap up?
Chuck Toal 54:56
Well, just to remind everybody that the weekend after Memorial Day is Trails Day. It's one day throughout the rest of the country, but two days here in Connecticut, because we have over 200 events, in 120 towns. Those events will cover 570 miles of hiking trails in just those two days. And so it's a lot of fun. We'll share pictures with everybody, and videos. And it's a great opportunity to go out and share this experience with everybody. So we invite everybody to come and join us for a Trails Day for a great weekend in about 10 days.
Ryan Keeler 55:45
Awesome, thank you.
Michael Pierry 55:46
Thank you so much, Chuck. That was, I have to say me personally, I live in Middletown, and I really appreciate the parks and trails that we have in Middletown. And I've just started getting out more because I need more exercise. And it's great that there's trails that are for all different skill levels. And you know, like I'm on like a little baby trail right now that I love to hike in the mornings or in the afternoons. And it's just really great. And my dad is actually a huge hiker, too. So it's great that Connecticut has this.
Chuck Toal 56:30
Yes, once once you start, you start setting yourself some goals. You went out on that first easy trail and you hiked a mile. And you go back to that same park and there's another trail, and you hike two miles. I mentioned that I have a membership and volunteer for the Avalonia Land Conservancy. They have over 4500 acres of preserves. And we have people that are trying to hike every one.
Michael Pierry 57:03
Chuck Toal 57:04
You know, so you feel good when you return from a nice hike and you say, how can I do that again? How can I expand that? How can I challenge myself? How can I get myself back into shape? How can I discover things that I never knew before? I bring an app with me on my cell phone called BirdNet. A lot of times I'm out in the woods and I hear a bird calling and I say "I wonder what that is". And so BirdNet. You can hold your phone up, record the bird song, and then identify what that bird is.
Michael Pierry 57:45
Oh, that is awesome. I definitely want to try that. Because I've heard some birds or I'm like, "what is that? It sounds like a jungle bird or something". I definitely want to try that.
Chuck Toal 57:55
And what's interesting, a lot of wildlife and birds are migrating both naturally seasonally, but because our climate is changing. So there are birds that are coming that are normally in the Virginias, in the Carolinas, that are starting to show up here in New England. There's one called the Carolina Wren that is just a spectacular songbird. I'd never heard it before until a few years ago. And so there are birds that are coming into our area that we've never heard before. So it's a great way to add a level of enjoyment to a trail outdoors.
And you can get other things like Google Lens, where if you see -- oh, in the late summer and early fall, there's a trail here in Stonington, that is just loaded with mushrooms, all different kinds of mushrooms. And so if you have Google Lens, you can take a picture of that mushroom and identify what kind it is. And so there are all sorts of tools to add to the experience that you have. And so you've just maybe taken your first few hikes, but you can build on that experience and challenge yourself to learn a little bit of something each time you go out.
Michael Pierry 59:10
That's amazing. And it's great that we can actually use technology in a good way and to help us enhance our enjoyment of nature --
Chuck Toal 59:19
Michael Pierry 59:19
-- instead of just distracting.
Chuck Toal 59:21
Right, and I think you're putting your finger on it exactly. You know, technology. We're sometimes attached to the hip with technology. But if we use it the right way, it's a wonderful tool to learn more and to grow personally, and to teach our children and our families more about the resources that we have here in the state of Connecticut. We are very lucky to live in this state with all the parks and trails and forests that we have. I think the state of Connecticut wants to set aside 27% of its total acreage in open space and and I think we're at about 20% of that. So we're still working at growing that open space. But we're very fortunate we live in a state that has that effort.
Michael Pierry 1:00:08
Yeah. That's great. That's amazing. Thank you.
Chuck Toal 1:00:11
My pleasure. All right, everybody, I guess time to wrap up. And I want to wish everybody Happy Trails Day.
Michael Pierry 1:00:18
Ryan Keeler 1:00:19
Thank you, Chuck.Take care.
Chuck Toal 1:00:22
Take care. We'll talk to you soon. Bye, bye.
Michael Pierry 1:00:23
Well, that's all the time we have for this month. I hope we inspired you to get out there and enjoy some of the natural beauty in Hamden, or wherever you are. As always, thanks for listening, and we'll see you next month. If you liked this episode, please rate us and consider leaving us a positive review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. It really helps. Thanks again.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai