A GOOD MONTH FOR A WALK
Popular event expands to include all of October
WWhat started as a one-weekend event has grown into a monthlong celebration of the natural and historic surroundings in northeastern Connecticut. Residents and visitors can explore the treasures of the National Heritage Corridor through guided walks, bike rides and paddles. In its 18th year, the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor has expandedWalking WeekendS to the whole month— now known asWalktober.
Throughout the month, there will be more than 100 free trail events and more than 50 regional events also listed in the brochure (available at www. thelastgreenvalley.org). There are 79 different walks, some of which are repeated, for a total of 105. Thirty-four of these are new this year. Last year more than 6,000 people participated in the walks to learn more about the area and its natural resources.
Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, state archeologist, will lead a walk called “The Vampires of Jewett City.” In the 1990s, Bellatoni examined a decomposed coffin in which the bones had been arranged in a skull and crossbones pattern over the ribcage, according to the “Vampires of Rhode Island,” by Christopher Rodina.
According to “Legendary Connecticut,” by David E. Phillips, a Jewett City family in the 1850s came to believe one of their family members was coming back from the dead and making others in the family ill. So, they dug up two of the brothers’ graves and burned their remains. It is likely the family became ill with tuberculosis, which is highly contagious.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for people to get out and see portions of eastern Connecticut that they might not be familiar with,” said Bellantoni, who has been involved in the walks from the start. “I think that is why it has been so successful, people are learning about history right in their backyard.”
He said he will show people how different tombstones reflect the changing attitudes to death throughout history in New England. He also will talk about the incidents he’s been involved in exploring.
“People didn’t understand the transmission of diseases and they believed the dead came back to family members to spread the disease,” Bellantoni said.
Also in the spirit of October, ghost hunter Donna Kent and local historians will lead a “Lantern Light Graveyard Walk” in Norwich. The one-hour walking tour will be through the Old Norwichtown Burial Ground and the Norwichtown Green. It will be on Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Kent is the author of “Ghost Stories and Legends of Eastern Connecticut.”
Kent has been involved in the event for seven years and said the evening walks have been popular. If the group is large, it splits up with different guides. Along with talking about the interesting history of the cemetery, which includes Benedict Arnold’s mother’s grave and Samuel Huntington’s grave, Kent talks about how to take ghost photos and how to tell real photos from fake ones. She said there are often teens and children on the tour, so she stresses the importance of respecting cemeteries in hopes of helping to prevent vandalism.
“It is a great event to get people out and learn about the history. We have a lot of repeat visitors as well as new visitors every year,” she said. The first year 50 people registered for this walk, but more than 300 showed up.
New this year, there will be a few paddling events, two in Oxford, Mass., and one in Mansfield.
Alan Dabrowski will be the guide for “Paddle the Scenic French River,” a sixmile flat paddle. It will be a four- to five-hour leisurely paddle, starting at the base of Hodges Dam in Oxford, Mass., and ending at North Village in Webster, Mass.
Participants need to bring their own canoe or kayak and be able to paddle the distance. It will be limited to 30 boats and registration is required for this event. Contact him at dabrowski@ charter.net to register and find out more.
“It is a very underused river; people don’t realize how beautiful it is,” Dabrowski said. “It is a really nice area and could be better utilized.”
He said fall is a great time to get out on local rivers and view the foliage from a different vantage point.
The other tour on the French River also requires reservations and will be a five-mile trek from Greenbriar Recreation Park to Hodges Village Flood Control Facility.
The Mansfield paddle is an easy three-hour paddle sponsored by the Friends of Mansfield Hollow. Participants will explore the rivers that feed the reservoir and see wildlife. Osprey and bald eagles have been spotted in the past.
For citizen scientists, The Last Green ValleyWater Quality Monitoring Program Coordinator Jean Pillo will teach people how to use insects to indicate water quality. This one-mile, twoand-a-half-hour easy walk will be in Putnam, along the Little River Greenway.
There will be one bike ride this year, in Thompson. Sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Bike Ride at West Thompson Lake” will follow old paved roads and winding trails through fields and forest. The distance will depend on the group.
Call The Last Green Valley toll-free 866-363-7229 or go to www.thelastgreenvalley.org for a freeWalktober Brochure, which lists all the walks and event dates and times. Brochures also will be available at the Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry, the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury and the Sturbridge Area Tourist Information Center in Sturbridge, Mass.
WHATEVER THE WEATHER, THERE IS AN INTERESTING WALK OUT THERE FOR EVERYONE. DAY FILE PHOTOS.