CT: Litchfield County- Norfolk, Haystack Mountain State Park

As noted in Wiki, Haystack Mountain is a 1,716-foot-high mountain topped with an observation tower that is the chief features of Haystack Mountain State Park, a public recreation area in the town of Norfolk, Connecticut

Soon after you enter the grounds, there is a small picturesque lake with a picnic table on either side. It’s worth a pause for a photo op before you continue the drive (or hike) up otherwise easily overlooked.

Be Present Gift of the Day

You can drive only a 1/2 mile from the tower if choose. It is a short walk to the vista but you should be sure footed to navigate the rocks and associated climb. You can easily accomplish however two legged (meaning it’s not a rock scramble where you need your arms as well).

A climb to the top introduces you to 360 views of the valley and mountains beyond. A great hike to take in the Fall.

I would recommend coupling this day with a bite at Woodcreek Bar & Grill in Norfolk and a drive over to Campbell Falls (see related blogs).

Below is a link which provides further insight to the park as well as noting that the tower was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1993. For your convenience I also added a trail map.

This day in CT State Parks History

On November 23, 1929, the State Park Commission completed construction of the memorial stone tower atop Haystack Mountain State Park in Norfolk. The tower, a memorial paid for by Mrs. Stoeckel to her father and husband, is a stone structure 50 feet in height and offers an observation platform from which one of the best views in the state may be obtained.

Trail Map

Haystack Mountain

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CT: Fairfield County- Westport, Saugatuck River (Fall Kayaking)

While the NW corner of CT is most ideal for flat water kayaking, I have enjoyed the launch in Westport on the Saugatuck River.

Initially intimidated by its proximity to the sound, I found the associated river tributary to be sufficiently insulated to feel secure.

The launch site itself has ample parking and an easy cement ramp to the water right under 95. It is a strange access however. You drive through the water treatment plant to get there. The street signs for the launch are big and easy to see. Go to Elaine Road.

I paddled here both in the Summer and the Fall of 2020 and enjoyed people and restaurant watching from the water. The experiences are different based on the season and the associated water levels. The paddle in the fall with the associated drought was quite low but in July of the same year I was watching my head going under the bridge.

July 2020 – Turning right from launch
October 2020 – lower water level

Quite different of course then my typical search for herons and turtles although a few can be found. There are even restaurants that accept docking your boat and having a bite.

October 2020- White Egret

This area is used for local rowing schools and has facilities where you can rent kayaks and take classes.

Crew Training

You turn right or left from the launch site. Left takes you towards Long Island Sound and right up the river.

Left towards Long Island Sound

Either way, the waters have a bit of a current in comparison to lakes. But they’re smooth enough for a pleasant recreational ride while allowing you to focus on the natural designs created by the currents in the water.

Be Present Gift of the Day

NY: Hudson Valley-Mario Cuomo Bridge

The former Tappan Zee Bridge had been identified as one of the more dangerous bridges to cross due to its wear and tear. Many years later the new Mario Cuomo Bridge was constructed.

It includes a walkway and bike way. Two distinct dedicated paths for walkers and bikers connecting the wonderful towns of Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow and Nyack. There is also free path parking on either side of the bridge.

Collaboration: Photo Credit-My Cousin Carol

Each of the towns have lovely vantage points from which to view the Hudson River and relax, stroll, bike ride and grab a bite.

With the 2020 pandemic, my preference is to ride the bridge which does require masks to cross – biking or walking.

Bike and walkway

There are several areas on the bridge to pause with clever structures and areas to sit and take in the views of the mountains, lighthouse, Hudson River and homes lining it.

Marked on the path is the county line between Westchester and Rockland County. A cute place for a shot.

Westchester/Rockland County Line

Each of the rides I have done I have rode to The town of Nyack – although there are other options. Nyack Main Street is lined with many restaurants from which to choose. Not far from Main Street is a lovely skateboard park on the water with a small pier with great views of the bridge.

Nyack waterside park Mallard ducks

The ride is fun either during the day or at sunset. Sunset of course is awesome as the sky lights up one set of colors and the bridge another. Just remember to stop and turnaround and you can catch the colors!

From one of the viewing areas
Be Present Gift of the Day

CT: Windham County-Woodstock, Roseland Cottage

Learning to be present doesn’t stop when you leave your destination. I have learned to increase my level of attention and awareness while driving. (Good thing, I get it).

What I’m referring to is taking my time and assessing my surroundings while I drive and not always be in such a rush to get to my next location.

Lucky for me that’s what I did as I passed Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, CT. (right it was NOT Woodstock, NY but Woodstock, CT)

Roseland Cottage through the garden

I pulled over to learn that this home was built in 1846 and is a National Historical Landmark (there’s a new tag for this blog!). This was the summer home of Woodstock native Henry Bowen.

While tours are available, I stopped by around sunset. That is the yellow glow you see on the right of the picture featured at the top. I strolled the manicured grounds and was pleasantly surprised to meet Amanda, the landscape architect.

Although this was the Fall, the flowers were still stunning and there was a tree filled with pink and white flowers and a beautiful shape. Amanda was kind enough to share that the pink in the flowers only appear where the sun hits them – otherwise they’re white!

Roseland Cottage, Hydrangeas

Amanda then cut four beautiful branches for me and told me to hang them upside down to dry and they should stay the same color for a long time (she actually said forever).

What a perfect ending to my day. What a gift to be present.

Be Present Gift of the Day!

Roseland Cottage in Woodstock is on Connecticut Route 169- 556 CT-169, Woodstock, CT

NY: Hudson Valley-Garrison-Manitoga

Open your ears to nature.

I could not have imagined such a beautiful event as iForest. It is music created for the forest and is heard in the forest.

My view while listening to iForest
Open your ears to nature
Garrison, New York

After the IForest walk, a tour of the Russel Wright home and grounds was provided.

Artist Studio

The inside of the studio incorporated elements of the outdoors into its design.

Birch door into the study.

The artist studio and the home were connected by a beautiful arbor with a vine whose leaves looked like hearts to me. I’ve since learned the vines are morning glory.

The home itself was multilevel and built into the sides of what was a stone quarry. I was entranced by the symbiotic relationship of the home and nature.

Main home

There are artists that continue to display in the home. I enjoyed one in particular that felt like she brought the fall colors inside the house.

New artist pencil art

He built a waterfall from which the water filled a small pond they used for swimming and ice skating. The side of which appears to be a dinosaur with his snout going into the water (although I see more of an alligator)

What do you see?

What do you see?

When leaving the property, I made a left onto route 9D and not too far down is the bridge that crosses the Hudson River. Right before the bridge you can park to take some scenic pictures of the Bear Mountain Bridge. The Fall colors lit up what was otherwise a gloomy day. Additionally right on 9D at this juncture is a short but steep hike to Anthony’s Nose overlook. I have a related blog on this hike as well.

TIP: I would pause right there!

Being present gift of the day!


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NY: Hudson Valley- The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

At 2/3 less capacity, required masks and 10ft distance between everyone the Pumpkin Blaze was an awesome Fall stroll.

The walk at Van Cortlandt Manor

TIP: Ticket reservations need to be made well in advance for this event. The stroll was easy and the displays impressive.

Headless Horseman Bridge
Spider and it’s web

TIP: taking photographs in this lighting isn’t simple and tripods are not allowed. You need a steady hand and a place to set the camera to take in the light (like the stone fence)

There is a large parking lot and I found the event very well managed. The day I went it poured a couple of hours earlier. That at one point would have discouraged me and I likely would not have gone. I am so happy I went.

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CT: Windham County- Putnam

A small town in the Northwestern corner had a great deal to offer.

There was a beautiful waterfall as you cross the bridge to the town. On either side of the waterfall there is a park that lines the river with engaging sculptures which are worthy of photo ops.

Continue reading “CT: Windham County- Putnam”

CT:Litchfield County-Lake Waramaug

A wonderful setting for a family picnic and outdoor fun. It’s a state campground in the main and appears to be well cared for and safe (although Full disclosure I have not been camping).


A small beach allows for kids to play in the water while the bigger lake beyond has areas for kayaking and motor boating. There is even a snack bar here during the summer.

Kayaking on Lake Waramaug

TIP: Large parking area near the beach which is manned during the summer. They did a great job limiting capacity during the summer 2020 pandemic.

Additionally there is a six mile loop around the lake which is a perfect opportunity for an easy and scenic road bike ride.

TIP: Parts of the road around the lake do not have a wide shoulder so be cautious as you bike along side the cars.

TIP: The biggest challenge I had with this area is the cell phone service is sketchy at best but you can find a spot or two as you walk around lake.

One my favorite vineyards and restaurants are nearby – Hopkins Vineyard and Hopkins Inn. Will link to their blogs shortly. But certainly makes for an awesome day trip.

Being Present Gift of the Day

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Inspiration: Shoot for the Moon

To take the time for yourself by being in the outdoors is a gift you give to yourself.

Being present with your surroundings is an even bigger gift.

Sharing with others establishes a positive connection.

Sounds so simple. Not so simple.

Beauty in people, places and things are sometimes easy to see and sometimes it takes extra effort and focus.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

This blog shares pictures of different places and remarks on how “present” you may need to be to find its beauty.

An ocean facing sunset is a beautiful but an easy sight to behold.

I share some of those moments with you that were not as easy to see. I had to learn to see them. I had to be present.

A weathervane with a bow and arrow shooting the moon is not as easy to find unless you are focused on what is around you and you’re fully present in that moment.

Being Present Gift of the Day

Inspirational photograph taken at Lover’s Leap Park, October 2020

Next time you’re outside, any where, I challenge you to pause and really look around you.

The shape of a rock, the color of the leaves, the intent of the squirrel, the sounds of the water.

Do you see it any differently when you look at it with a higher degree of appreciation?

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