Cover

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pp. C-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Thanks to Tom Condon, my editor at the Hartford Courant, where many of these pieces originally appeared in a different form. His interest and insight into Connecticut’s landscape is unrivaled....

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Prologue to Deep Travel: The Merritt Parkway

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pp. 1-6

At fifty-five miles per hour I feel the twist and roll of the landscape as the road rises and descends, winding past gray ledges and clusters of pine and graceful hardwoods that stand in the median and along the shoulder, shadowing the pavement and in places creating...

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Along the Roadside

There’s a lot to see along the roadside and, as we spend ever more time behind the wheel, plenty of opportunity to experience the mundane wonders found there. I begin with milestones because they are among the most...

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Counting Miles in Four Centuries: Old Milestones

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pp. 9-13

Much to the annoyance of drivers behind me, I slowly cruised along in my pickup on a busy stretch of State Route 10 in Plainville, scanning the roadside for a tablet of brownstone. In an area of small shopping plazas, offices, and modest homes near the corner...

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What’s in a Name?: Reading Street Signs

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pp. 14-18

We get places by reading street signs. They enable others to find us. But more than just practical navigation tools facilitating the flow of letters and visitors, the street signs we read at road intersections are community memoirs forming a network of meaning, what...

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Seeing through Time: Roadcuts

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pp. 19-23

Preferring straightaways and moderate grades, modern highways slice through solid rock, exposing the bare bones of Connecticut’s countryside. These rough rock walls reveal fabulous stories about the origins of our landscape that largely can be grasped at a...

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Painted Ledges: Roadside Rock Art

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pp. 24-28

Some seemed poised to leap, startling even the calmest driver. Others stand silent sentinel, as if guarding the pavement. But roadside rock outcrops and boulders painted like huge, cartoonish animals are neither about to jump nor watchful. They merely illustrate...

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Last Picture Shows: Drive-In Theaters

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pp. 29-33

My friend Bette and I pulled into the three-screen Mansfield Drive-In Theater, located on a still rural stretch of State Route 32 just north of Willimantic. We chose The Other Guys, a madcap buddy cop movie featuring Will Ferrell’s nutty antics, over Adam...

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A Cool Drink of Water: Roadside Springs

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pp. 34-38

Stafford Springs was once renowned throughout the country for its curative mineral waters. John Adams took a dip and drink and spent several days there in 1771. Early in the nineteenth century the village became a resort with a large hotel accommodating throngs...

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A Great Good Place: Diners

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pp. 39-42

Diners are travelers’ landmarks. They measure distance like milestones, share attention-grabbing design with rock art, and offer refreshment like roadside springs. But more than most roadside attractions, a diner allows you to take the pulse of a community...

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Places We Build

Stone is the primal building substance. Not only one of the earliest of materials used, it is often all that remains of places that have long ceased to exist, whether it lingers as the stone walls of abandoned farms, the ruins of a factory, or...

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A Most Enduring Harvest: Quarries

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pp. 45-49

Standing at the edge of the pit was dizzying. Beyond the lip of Branford’s Stony Creek Quarry, with its sheer rock walls stepped in angular terraces several stories high, aeons of geologic history were visible. Steeped also in human history, stone from this...

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The People’s Castles: Stone Lookouts

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pp. 50-54

High atop the rugged East Peak of Meriden’s Hanging Hills, Castle Craig is a thirty-two-foot-tall traprock cylinder with a classic crenellated top. Like a giant chessboard rook built on the edge of a precipice, it rises just over a thousand feet above sea level, affording...

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King of Homes: Yankee Castles

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pp. 55-59

In democratic, independent-minded Connecticut, castles may seem like the stuff of fairytales, as believable as streets patrolled by knights in shining armor. Nevertheless, our state has a handful of residences to which the words of Elizabethan jurist Sir Edward...

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A Thousand Uses: Quonset Huts

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pp. 60-64

Looking like giant corrugated tin cans sawed in half and lying on their sides, Quonset huts are startling structures in Connecticut’s tradition-bound landscape. Despite their ubiquity and almost iconic status since World War II, their defiance of our built environment’s angularity...

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The Shape of Futures Past: Octagon Houses

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pp. 65-69

Several years ago I was in Middletown looking at used cars. Returning home, I crossed the Connecticut River on the Arrigoni Bridge and was heading east along State Route 66 into Portland, when from the corner of my eye I saw a couple of two-story buildings that...

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Practical, Adaptable, and Disappearing: Barns

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pp. 70-75

I find few close-to-home roadside views as soothing and reassuring as the Perry Farm’s three red barns clustered with a silo on Barbourtown Road in Canton Center. Nestled at the base of a wooded ridge and seen from across a verdant field they suggest hard work, closeness...

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The Spirit of Community: Camp Meetings

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pp. 76-80

I’d crossed the Connecticut River from East Haddam hundreds of times without ever noticing the tiny houses blending into the trees along the ridge on the opposite shore. Perched on a forty-foot bluff above the water with a view of the Goodspeed Opera...

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Exploring Gasoline Alley: Racetracks

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pp. 81-86

forget whether I was searching for a roadside spring, on the trail of yet another Quonset hut, or on my way back from Aborn Castle in nearby Ellington when I passed the crowded parking lot of a building that looked like a huge gambrel-roof barn with a grandstand...

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Seeing Green: Trees, Culture, and Agriculture

Among the first spaces carved out of the wilderness by European colonists, town greens were envisioned as the core of settlement and the center of civic and religious life. Remaining among the last islands of nature in increasingly urban areas, they’ve...

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A Place for Common Ground: Town Greens

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pp. 89-93

Perhaps there’s nothing more quintessentially New England than the town green. Beloved by natives and visitors alike, it conjures images of a white clapboard church and colonial houses around a neat rectangle of grass studded with tall trees and sometimes a granite...

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Heart of Nowhere: Connecticut’s Most Remote Place

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pp. 94-98

It was a week before the solstice in December. The ground was frosted with a couple of inches of snow under a sky of hammered pewter. My thermometer registered in the low teens, while stiff, gusty blasts plunged the wind chill deep into single digits. As if the weather...

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The Measure of a State: Connecticut’s Highest Point(s)

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pp. 99-103

One might well expect that Connecticut’s highest peak is a windswept summit with a panoramic view. After all, state high points bring to mind the bare rocky top of Colorado’s Mount Elbert, the rugged heights of New York’s Mount Marcy, or the majesty of snow-capped...

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Big Trees: Old-Growth Forests

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pp. 104-109

Connecticut has no large stands of towering virgin forest, which is hardly surprising after 350 years of clearing land for agriculture; harvesting wood for heating, railroads, the iron and other industries; and the inexorable spread of development. The last substantial...

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A Sacred Grove: Hope for the Chestnut Forest

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pp. 110-114

In the northeast corner of Hamden lie a few acres unlike those found anywhere else on the planet. When I first stepped into the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s chestnut plantation, it was like finding a lost world. Sandwiched among suburban-style homes...

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The Perfect Street Tree: A Few Good Elms

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pp. 115-119

The rumors of their demise are only slightly exaggerated. Although rarely seen in colonnades anymore, single elm trees or small clusters still stand along roadsides, in parks, yards, and on the grounds of institutions. There’s a big one on State Route 30, across from the South...

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Inventing New England Autumn: Leaf Peeping

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pp. 120-124

On a cloudless day in mid-October, I hiked up a blue-blazed trail from State Route 341, in Kent, to Numeral Rock. Once part of the Appalachian Trail, the path rose steeply through oak, birch, maple, and other hardwoods, creating a dizzying kaleidoscope of color against...

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A Most Useful Tree: Season of the Witch Hazel

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pp. 125-129

In late October or early November, as the radiant hues of maples subside and ferns are bronzed by frost, come days of azure sky and unremittingly brilliant sunshine, when nothing can keep me indoors. Just as I’ve become acclimated to icy mornings and chill winds...

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Tasting the Landscape: Cider Mills

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pp. 130-133

On a crisp October Sunday, a huge crowd spilled from the doors of B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Old Mystic. I wormed my way inside the cupolated two story barn as chopped apples slid down a chute onto a cheesecloth-covered rack where a couple of young men spread mash...

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A Community Harvest: Agricultural Fairs

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pp. 134-138

Fairs conjure images of teeming crowds, noise, and bright lights. But I’ve returned, year after year, to the Goshen Fair for the relative quiet and soothing atmosphere of the spacious dairy barn. Located on a grassy, breezeswept ridge, as far from the dust and whir...

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Ghost Towns and Graveyards

Everyone loves a ghost story, and some are embedded in the landscape. Though you won’t find old-time movie tumbleweeds rolling through them, Connecticut has its share of once thriving farming and even manufacturing communities that...

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Forgotten but Not Gone: Ghost Towns

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pp. 141-145

Along the Blackledge River in Hebron just off State Route 85 lies a village existing only in legend and ruin. Now a place where chirping birds, hikers’ footsteps, and swimmers’ shouts dominate, Gay City State Park was at one time bustling with mills, homes, and a church. But...

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Ghost Streets and Routes Less Taken: Abandoned Roads

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pp. 146-150

Though it’s been a major thoroughfare between Hartford and Boston, the Connecticut Path can’t be driven on. Built through a wilderness in the 1600s, it was the interstate highway of its day. The road was bypassed about fifty years before the Declaration of Independence was...

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Beneath the Lakes: Lost Worlds

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pp. 151-155

Sparkling in sunlight or bathed in gauzy mist, lakes are among the most alluring elements of Connecticut’s landscape. But the waters of some of our largest lakes, created by damming river valleys for drinking, flood control, or power production during the first part of the twentieth...

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Watery Ghosts of Manufacturing: Mill Ponds

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pp. 156-160

Whenever I’ve glanced at a map or driven along highways and back roads, it quickly becomes apparent that Connecticut is bejeweled with lakes and ponds. Glistening in the sun or mirroring a cloudy sky, they infuse urban and wooded areas alike with space and light. They beckon...

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Steeped in Mystery: Gungywamp

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pp. 161-165

If you think there’s little mystery in a place as long settled and well peopled as Connecticut, then you haven’t been to Gungywamp. Situated in the northern reaches of Groton just a few miles from traffic-clogged I-95, over one hundred acres of densely forested and bony land beckons with a startling collection of unusual stone...

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Space-Age Ghosts: Nike Missile Sites

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pp. 166-170

For those old enough to remember ducking under a school desk or other air-raid drills of the early 1960s, the word “Nike” evokes not just a stylish shoe with a trademark swoosh but a system of conventional and nuclear missiles aimed at the threat of Soviet bombers. Connecticut...

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Perpetual Care Isn’t Forever: Neglected Graveyards

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pp. 171-176

Traveling on State Route 179 along the Farmington River in Burlington a few years back, I was detoured by a traffic accident onto Ford Road, just a couple miles from my home in Collinsville. Driving slowly on the unfamiliar pavement, I noticed among the trees a blackened marble obelisk memorializing the street’s...

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Haunting Stones of Metal: Zinc Grave Markers

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pp. 177-181

It’s no surprise that we use stone to mark burials. Hoping to keep the memories of loved ones alive, we demand this most enduring material. But sandstone flakes, inscriptions on marble are washed away by acid rain, and even granite darkens and can become pitted or splotched with lichen and moss. Fortunately, our cemeteries...

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Trash Talk: Landfills and Landscape

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pp. 182-186

On a low dirt plateau in the northwest part of Windsor, bulldozers were busy covering piles of freshly dumped garbage with soil. Pizza boxes, blue poly tarps, bright plastic toys, kitchen scraps, a battered lampshade, and a pile of old clothes were quickly...

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Through Artists’ Eyes

Our world is shaped more than we commonly realize by artists—writers, painters, sculptors, poets, photographers, and others—because they mold the ways in which we see the built and natural landscape. They infiltrate our imaginations. We may...

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Reinventing the Colonial Landscape: Wallace Nutting

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pp. 189-193

A few years ago I made my first visit to Southbury’s Heritage Village to see a dear friend who had retired to its sprawling pastoral campus. Styling itself the “best active adult community,” it was developed in the late 1960s and the 1970s, and it covers over one thousand...

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A Fresh Way of Looking: The Hudson River School

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pp. 194-197

I’m not one to look for reasons to spend a lot of time indoors, nor to encourage others to do so, especially where interiors have few windows. But I make an exception for art museums whose collections can change the way we see our surroundings, improving the acuity...

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In a State of Plein Air: Artists Outdoors

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pp. 198-202

I’d traveled in the echoing twilight of the Merritt Parkway tunnel hundreds of times before really seeing West Rock. Certainly the massive wall of greenery and sharp, burnt-orange cliffs through which the road passes were visible, but the great traprock barrier seemed more...

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Where the Landscape Is Art: Weir Farm

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pp. 203-207

My reaction years ago when I first set eyes on Weir Farm was to wonder how a piece of ground so bony, uneven, and seemingly inhospitable to agriculture could be called a farm. When I later learned that the 238 acres were producing alfalfa, hay, and enough apples...

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Poetic Space: James Merrill’s Apartment

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pp. 208-212

It seems as if he must have stepped out for just a moment, maybe to run an errand down the street. Pulitzer Prize–winning poet James Merrill died in 1995, but his apartment in the thickly settled seaside Borough of Stonington is alive with his presence. Its informal domesticity...

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Landscape and the Written Word: Nature Writers

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pp. 213-218

Just outside the archetypal New England village of Hampton and at the end of a rutted driveway is an 1806 white clapboard farmhouse with a large center chimney. Fronting a pond and set in fields surrounded by forest lined with stone walls, it’s a classic...

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Buy the Book: Used Bookstores

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pp. 219-224

Writing and reading are reflexive, so it’s no surprise that I find bookstores an irresistible attraction. Last autumn, while on the prowl for old milestones along U.S. Route 1, the old Boston Post Road, I took a sudden left near the center of Clinton and pulled into...

Epilogue to Further Discovery: The New England Trail

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pp. 225-230

Just the Right Place: An Explorer’s Guide

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pp. 231-246

Connecticut’s Hidden Places: Map Key

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pp. 247-249

Further Reading, About the Author

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pp. 250-251