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Devil’s Hopyard, East Haddam, CT


Over this past weekend, me and Taz went on a nice hike over at Devils Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT.  The park was significantly further from my house than I expected.  For some reason I thought it was only about 25 minutes away, but really, it was an hour.  boooo.  Anyways, it was absolutely gorgeous out, about 50 degrees without a cloud in the sky.  Of course, being me, I always wish for it to be warmer, but hey, at least the sun was shining.

I had some major issues with this hike, which I’m sure does not come as a surprise.  I started out on the Orange trail (which for some reason in my head I thought was the Yellow trail, which could have been part of the problem), and things were going well for a while, but after I hit the scenic overlook (see pic below), things got hairy and I got lost.  Must have been those devils in the hopyard.  Anyways, Taz and I were hoping all over the dang yard…we kept thinking we were back on the path, but then the path would disappear again and we were basically just walking through the woods.

Eventually I came to this road, and decided to it was in my best interest to walk back on the street…We had already walked about an hour and a half to two hours and we had 2 more stops on our Sunday Funday Adventure before going home…and the way this was going, it really could have taken all day!  All in all, we had a great time though, see for yourself:

Taz posing by the State Park Sign.  What a handsome fellow

Taz posing by the State Park Sign. What a handsome fellow

Me and Taz taking a quick scenery break

Me and Taz taking a quick scenery break

Waterfall along the way

Waterfall along the way

Me and Taz at the waterfall.  He was a bit stressed.  I think it was probably because he fall in a waterfall as a puppy and was having terrifying fashbacks.  He was willing to take a quick picture near the falls, but only one! haha

Me and Taz at the waterfall. He was a bit stressed. I think it was probably because he fall in a waterfall as a puppy and was having terrifying fashbacks. He was willing to take a quick picture near the falls, but only one! haha

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Gillette Castle


To top off an amazing weekend, I went on a nice hike with my oldest friend!  We went to Gillette Castle, located in East Haddam, CT and walked around for a while.  Unfortunately all the trails we hiked were loops that were about 5 minutes long,  and we didn’t realized that there was also a bunch of other trails on the other side of the parking lot, which may or may not have been longer and more “hike-like”.  It doesn’t really matter though, because we had a fantastic time!  Sometimes its more about the catch-time and socialization than it really is about the hiking and exercising.  We saw the castle, which overlooks the Connecticut River, and although it’s “off season” so we couldn’t go inside, the outside was amazing and we took a ton of pics.  

According the The DEP, Gillette Castle sits on the  most southerly hill on the Seven Sisters.  The land was purchased by actor William Hooker Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”, and most of the castle and grounds were designed by him personally.  The castle itself is built of local fieldstone, and supported by a steel frame, and took 5 years and 20 men to build.  Gillette created a system of walking trails, which are still available for people like us to walk on today.  He also had an underground vegetable cellar (like the one on Alaska: The Last Frontier, for you Discovery Channel watchers), a railroad station, and a goldfish pond.  The fact that the castle is still a tourist attraction and upkept for visitors would have been the wish of Gillette, who gave specific instructions to see that the property did not fall into the hands “of some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”

gillette 1

Left: Kelly on the trail (you can see that the trails are completely lined with cantaloupe-sized rocks throughout).
Top right: images of the castle’s amazing architecture that was built almost 100 years ago! (notice the stone awnings!)
Bottom right: Me and Kel

Gillette Castle

Me posing in Front of Gillette Castle!

 

Gillette Castle

Kelly in front of the Connecticut River View

town tavernOn our way home we stopped at The Town Tavern, in East Haddam.  It was quite the interesting establishment.  It was super fancy when we walked in, with long maroon curtains with gold silk overlays.  The funny part was, it was not a fancy place. It was just a regular bar with regular bar food.  It was basically like the Holiday Inn trying to be the Ritz-Carlton.  It wasn’t a bad place though!  The food was delicious!  I had a BLT, which you can’t really mess up, unless you get it at Hanifan’s in Glastonbury, CT.  I got one there once and in addition to it not being a B (Bacon) L (Lettuce) T (Tomato), was just horrible all the way around.  But I digress, like I said, the Town Tavern, while a very nice place to eat, seemed a little too fancy for it’s own britches.  This was especially evident by the time we left, if by nothing else, by the clientele. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but by the time we left the bar area was crowded with multiple mechanics, landscapers, and even what looked like a set of grandparents with their teenage grandson…in pajama pants.  haha.

Walks and Wines


This weekend has been absolutely GORGEOUS!  This is unusual for me to say in the middle of January, since it’s cold and I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything under 50 degrees, but I was definitely able to see the bright side this weekend as I did lots of walks, hikes, and wine tastes!  Yesterday was an all-out adventure day for me and Taz and we had a fabulous time!  We decided to knock of some Bucket List tasks, and I thought I could use some alone time.  With the holidays, traveling and working a ton I don’t get too much of it.  Trust me, I’m not complaining in the least – I LOVE being around people, but sometimes it’s nice to have a day for yourself!

Mount Tom:

We started out at Mount Tom, in New Preston, CT.  This is, obviously, one of the hikes in my “50 Hikes in Connecticut” book, and I haven’t been there yet mainly because it’s about an hour and a half from where I live.  I got there, and was shocked that I was the only one there (come on people!  get off your couch and enjoy the wilderness!)!  The trails were covered in snow and there wasn’t great markings on the trees, so after taking one trail to a dead ends, I decided to roll the dice and follow the path that had footsteps on it in the snow, hoping that it would lead to the famous tower at the top of the mountain.  Though this hike was very short (just over a mile long) I thought it was great because  of the 35 ft tower at the top that is open for people to climb and see amazing views of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York!  As can you can (kind of ) see from my picture below, the wooden steps inside the tower are narrow and extremely steep.  Taz, who was not on a leash hung out at the bottom while I climbed to the top to snap a few pics, but got impatient quickly and climbed his way to the top as well…big mistake.  Once he got to the top, he was terrified to try to go back down, and I can’t really say I blame him.  I’m afraid of heights and wasn’t crazy about the idea myself.  The top 4 steps are exposed and in addition to being very steep, they were also covered with about an inch of packed down snow and ice.  After about 15 minutes of a pep talk, he finally agreed to carefully make his way down the steps.  He was very brave.  In addition to the actual hike, there is also a pond on the premise, Mt Tom Pond, where there was an ice fishing derby going on!  I’m not an avid ice fisher or anything, but I have been ice fishing a couple times with my bestie Stef and her crew in VT and I got excited seeing this derby because I know just how fun ice fishing can be!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

 

see how steep the stairs are?  And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

see how steep the stairs are? And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

Hopkins Vineyard Winery:

From Mount Tom, our next stop was Hopkins Vineyard Winery.  This was a predetermined stop because both this winery and Mount Tom are close to each other, but not near anything else…literally.  I figured, while I’m out in the boonies I mineaswell kill two birds with one stone, right?

Address:  25 Hopkins Road  Warren, CT 06777 (860) 868-7954

Cost for a tasting:  $7.50 for a regular tasting of 7 wines (6 are already chosen, and you get to choose you’re 7th), then for an additional $2.50, you can sample their “ice wine”. (this also includes their signature glass).

Ranking:  8 (in addition to the tasting room, there is also outdoor seating and an “wine bar” upstairs from the vineyard!  Awesome!

I really enjoyed this vineyard.  The inside is very nice, and the staff was extremely nice and knowledgable.  Most of their wines are “Estate Bottled” which means that the grapes are grown on the premise and the entire wine making process happens there!  The one wine that I loved was “Peach Wine”.  The wine itself was made from fermented peaches, whereas most wines are made from grapes.  I thought this was really interesting…and even more delicious!  And, at $13.50, I thought it was only right to buy a bottle for a later date!  As far as my tasting, of course I had upgraded to the “ice wine”.  I’ve never had it before, and since this specific ice wine has won multiple international medals, including the “Finger Lakes International Wine Competition” (the Finger Lakes area has a HUGE wine country, so this is a big deal), I thought I better cover my bases and try it.  My wine connoisseur also had me try a sip of their “Night Owl Dessert Wine”.  It was probably because he was bored because no one else was there, but hey, I’ll take it.  While we were talking, he mentioned to me the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail.  Its similar to the Wine Passport Program, but there is only 6 vineyards on it and it has to be completed between December 1 – April 1.  Cool, I’m sold on the idea!  After the tasting, Taz and I took a nice long walk around the vineyard.  It was a gorgeous day, and the vineyard was beautiful, so we walked around their 38 acres for about and hour and took in the fresh air and magnificent views.

Hopkinds Vinyard2

Hopkinds Vinyard1

Haight-Brown Vineyard:

After Hopkins, we were on our way home, when I saw a blue “CT Wine Trail” sign.  I thought to myself…I would be stupid NOT to stop.  Afterall, it was only about 3:30PM and I had no immediate plans to tend to!  So I followed the sign, not knowing where it would take me, and before I knew it I landed at Haight-Brown Vineyard.

Address:  29 Chestnut Hill Rd  Litchfield, CT 06759 (860) 567-4045

Cost for a tasting:  $9, which includes 9 wines and a signature glass.

Ranking:  6.5 (this vineyard was overly crowded and does not allow outside food to come in.)

I walked into the vineyard and was initally turned off.  To be honest, I almost walked right back out.  It was very pretty insides, but it was so packed you couldn’t even more. In fact, I had to put my name on the waiting list!!  Since I was alone, they were able to squeeze me in at the counter pretty quickly, but sheesh!  Once the tasting started, my wine connoisseur was telling me about the wines and about the vineyard itself.  Haight-Brown, founded in 1976 is actually the first vineyard/winery in Connecticut, and the ONLY one that has stools to sit on while you do the tasting.  The reason for this is that they got grandfathered in with the stools.  Other wineries cannot have them because it changes the winery from a “wine tasting” to a “bar”…details, details.  As I started observing my surroundings, I noticed something that caught my eye, the “Honey Nut Apple” wine.  Over the summer one of my best friends went to the vineyard and brought this bottle home and we drank it together as a regular white wine, where it really should be drank in small quantities as a dessert wine…whoops! haha.  I enjoyed the wine here, but more than that I enjoyed the people I met!  Carol and David, who found this winery the same way I did, were from New York and were probably in their late 50’s.  They were super nice and we chatted for about an hour, until I was ready to go.    Again after this vineyard, Taz and I took a walk around their beautiful property (which included plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer wether, and enjoyed the last bit of daylight before our trek home.

Haight Brown Vineyard

I guess all in all you can say it was a successful day!  Not only did I cross THREE items off my bucket list, but I also spent a beautiful day outside enjoying the nice weather, with my dog, and got to try some amazing wine while I was at it!    I’m pretty sure Taz had a great time too, minus the heart attack at the top of the Mount Tom Tower, because when I was ready to leave my parent’s house last night, he was sitting outside in the dark cold next to my car hoping I’d bring him home with me! 🙂

 

 

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