July 10-12, 2017: “G4” Vacation

Every summer, my best friend Pam (Mela), her sister Cyn, and Cyn’s best friend Tina all get together for a vacation. When we were kids/teenagers, we often vacationed with each others’ families and went away for a week at summer camp together, so it’s an old tradition we reinstated five years ago.

This year, we chose the Mystic, CT area as our destination. Since B&Bs in Mystic are quite pricey, we opted to stay in nearby Niantic at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina. It’s not inexpensive either, but it’s in a beautiful location with great hosts, lovely rooms, and delicious food! Planner extraordinaire Cyn worked in some more active things for Mela and I to enjoy. We all did a little hiking on some easy park trails and at a nature center, and Mela and I rented a tandem kayak for a couple hours and enjoyed paddling around in the Niantic River and Smith Cove. We also enjoyed some beach time, shopping, lots of yummy food, and sightseeing – but I’ve detailed only the activities relevant to this blog below (except that none of these places is in New Hampshire).

July 10, 2017: Yantic Falls/Indian Leap

This is a roadside attraction. There was supposed to be a 2-mile trail (the Uncas Leap Trail), but we couldn’t quite figure that out. The falls were nice, though. After crossing the bridge over the falls, the trail appeared to lead into someone’s backyard and/or driveway. Now that I’m able to get on a computer and research it, the trail continued onto an alley and through town. It looked like there were some unofficial trails accessed by climbing over the railing along the path on the other side of the falls. Mela and I ventured about 20 feet in, but after finding a discarded paring knife, a variety of trash, a broken and empty 40-ounce Budweiser bottle, and a herd path covered with broken beer-bottle glass, we decided it would be best to turn around.

Also in this area is the Heritage Trail, which turned out to be a 2.8-mile walk on park trails and city streets. We followed along most of the trail, then realized it may not loop back around to where we started. Luckily we were in a city and had cell service, so we could text Cyn and Tina (who were back at the car) and let them know where to meet us to pick us up. I had found the trail website on my phone, but the interactive map was not mobile-friendly and all I saw was a blank page.

July 11, 2017: Kayaking in Smith Cove and on the Niantic River

While Cyn and Tina did a little shopping, Mela and I rented a tandem kayak from Three Belles Marina for two hours and enjoyed paddling around. We saw lots of wildlife! After emerging from behind the docks in Smith Cove, the first thing we spotted was two adult swans leading their four babies out into the channel. I was able to get some photos, but we definitely wanted to keep a safe distance! On our way through the channel and while paddling up and down the river, we saw lots and lots of cormorants: perched on docks, piers, moorings, and buoys; flying through the air; landing in and taking off from the water; and swimming about, looking like mini Loch Ness monsters with their necks and heads sticking up, and their bodies mostly submerged. As expected, there were also ducks – mainly mallards – swimming in the river, as well as Canada geese. We even spotted an osprey next on a post about a hundred feet or less off shore from someone’s riverfront home. What drew us to it was hearing the osprey’s call. As we paddled closer to it, we could see what appeared to be an adult and three younger birds in the nest. Several yards away on top of a post was another adult osprey, and the two began calling to each other. This was a pretty cool thing to see and hear! We returned to the cove to explore a little more, especially near the marshy areas near the road. Here, we spotted a red-winged blackbird, a dead crab (floating), and a ridiculous number of freshwater jellyfish.

July 12, 2017: Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A quick search for something to do on Wednesday brought us to DPNC, a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation facility with an extensive taxidermy display (mostly birds and small mammals), live amphibians, rehabilitated hawks and owls that are no longer able to live in the wild, and a network of hiking trails surrounding a small pond. The center also offers a variety of camps for kids in the summer months – in fact there were several camp groups in the sanctuary on the day we visited. While walking on one of the trails, Mela and I even encountered a girls’ yoga camp outing! We talked with a couple of the girls and their two counselors for a few minutes before continuing on.

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