Saturday, March 24, 2012

Running Back to an All-Familiar Time

When time passes, however fast or slow, there are some places that always remain familiar. Sarah, Odin, and I had not returned home in awhile and felt the pull to return - not just for a day, but for a good amount of time. One reason happened to be my mother's completion of her breast cancer treatment, which had entailed Chemo, a double mastectomy and radiation; quite the journey.  So upon our return we wanted to focus inward on family and perhaps the routine we so enjoyed when we so did live here in our childhood homes.

With unseasonably warm temps and beautiful weather, Sarah and I had wanted to spend as much time outside either riding or running.  When we lived home there were always places to do either and all were close enough to string together any kind of loop imaginable, right out the front door. As most of you know, this is something we strive to continue here in Vermont and have found endless possibilities. But it was on our second to last day home in the  midst of our last run that it all came together...

When we were younger we would always venture out to the UConn ski hill - or Husky Hill - when we had a lot of snow.  We would get dropped of at the top of the hill that would lead us down to the warming hut of an old ski hill, where sat the old diesel engine that once powered the old rope tow.  On this day, we chose to run through the Natchaug State Forest along the Fenton River, through my childhood memories. When we got to the Field of Dreams, I knew I wanted to try and find that old ski hill.

We took off up an old, barely used trail. A few wrong turns and flashbacks of memories brought us to the base of the rope tow, though! We are up the trail along the path of the rope tow. I was looking forward to finding the warming hut at the top, and the memories that would come along with it. Sadly, on our return run, we found that this structure is now just a pile of old white boards with the old engine underneath. With time, mother nature also reclaims what was once an open ski hill - the slope is now an overgrown young forest with a single track trail down the middle. Sledding here when we were kids, even then as the hill was starting to be reclaimed, was much more open and quite the thrill!

What struck us the most, though, was the rope tow: rusty, still there, and eerily open as if, if only it just had that hemp rope, it would still take you to the top! It even looks as if horses, runners and bike riders still use it to access trails from UConn. As I told a friend, if CT could have more consistent snow (this was not the year of course), I could see a renaissance that would reclaim the old hill. At the very least, this would be a great spot for the touring skis; again, if there was consistent snow.  This is wishful thinking of course and maybe it's for the best and even though the old hill fades back into forest the memories still feel familiar when we return.

From here as we ran up and down the old ski hill; we linked our path to all the other old trails we used to ride and run. It brought back a lot of good memories of building trails, riding, and growing up in the woods. We ran on into the Field of Dreams by the Fenton River, past the familiar old the pumping station, through the woods, and back to Gurleyville Road; back home.

 We all find new homes, find a place that feels our own, even start our own families. No matter how much our old home may change for better, or for worse, we still find that old feeling of familiarity when we return and for this it will always remain a home. After all home is where the heart or trail finds us.......

For more information on UConn's ski hill (including pictures, history, and current status), visit UConn's page on the New England Lost Ski Areas Project website (a very cool site overall).

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