It's clear that the recession has hit the Nutmeg State pretty hard. I saw closed stores, many more homes for sale, and other stores that had greatly declined since we lived there. Our B&B host had an interesting comment - she told us that the recession had hurt, but they realize now that things had begun to turn for the worse several years before the recession officially began.
Connecticut is a bit of a conundrum; yes, the Gold Coast, Blue-blood, limousine liberal stereotype of parts of Connecticut has some real truth to it, but parts of the state are very working class, or quite rural, and in a lot of ways just as... um... backward as dear old Wisconsin.
Similarly, I have mixed feelings about the state; to this day, I am simultaneously attracted to, and repulsed, by Connecticut. The limousine liberal, Ivy League, political correctness (which can approach the totalitarian intolerance of the Taliban) repulses me, to say the very least. However, the eastern hardwood forest, the history and the Atlantic seaboard birding is very intriguing and I enjoyed those aspects of Connecticut a lot.
The hiking in CT is some of the very best we have ever experienced. The Blue Trail system is a true jewel of the state. We had the Mattabesett trail in our backyard when we lived there, and we have never hiked so much, or enjoyed hiking so much, as when we lived in Guilford. The Connecticut Forest and Park Association looks after the trails and publishes a very good guide to these trails. They are well worth supporting. Another interesting book on the landscape of the Northeast is Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels. I learned a lot from this book and had the good fortune to read it early in my time in CT, so I was able to make sense of most of what I found in the woods.
We also visited Haddam and Higganum, two small, very old towns on the Connecticut River due east from where we used to live. I always thought this part of Connecticut was particularly creepy. It's dark and gloomy, and evokes images of Ichabod Crane being chased by the Headless Horseman. Keeping with this theme, we stopped at the Burial Grounds for Thirty Mile Plantation in Haddam. I love the old cemeteries of Connecticut, and this is a particularly good one. I read, and still have, a copy of an interesting book on Puritan cemeteries and burial tradition called Graven Images. It's a very interesting read that's as much sociology as history.
And finally, the birds...
I hooked up with Jerry Connoly (owner of the Audubon Shop in Madison) for his Saturday morning bird watching field trip yesterday. A mere $4 admission got me a front row seat with one of the better birders in the Northeast, and we hit a birding hotspot near Madison that is always productive, it seems. Plus, the salt marshes at Hammonasset State Park are always beautiful, and Fall is particularly nice. Our best bird of the day was the Hudsonian godwit, but the Palm Warblers, Pectoral sandpiper, Cooper's hawks, and probable Red-throated loons were good as well.
So, I have proved to myself that if I could bum around Connecticut watching the birds, prowling the cemeteries and taking in the rural landscapes, I would be very happy indeed. Still, it's good to be home and back at my desk. More photos from the Connecticut adventure are available on the Flickr site for your viewing pleasure.