Red-Spotted Newts and Spider Webs

Location: Bigelow Hollow State Park/Nipmuck State Forest, Union, CT

Links: CT Deep; Trail Map PDF

Date: Thursday, September 13th

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Hike Duration: 6 miles; 3 hours

Weather: Overcast, misty and damp, 60-65 degrees F

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Our lunch with a view

This hike is being brought to you by the number 6. We hiked about 6 miles. We ran 6 hill climbs. We stopped counting at 60 red-spotted newts. And we walked through at least 600 spider webs.

*shudder*

Talk about immersing ourselves in the experience of nature. None of these webs were visible in advance, only becoming evident by the feeling of them on our skin. It was one thing to feel the webs as they stuck to our bare arms. It was a totally different experience to feel them as they covered our face!

I’m sure it didn’t help that we had encountered this spider in our field a few days earlier. How could we not be thinking of her as we felt those webs wrap around our bodies?! Dennis was my warrior for most of the hike, valiantly walking ahead of me so I could be spared from the ickiness.

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Occasionally, when one of us would take down a web with our head, we’d spastically wipe our face and asked to be checked for spiders. Although I did find two small spiders crawling on the back of my neck while we were eating lunch, I was surprised we didn’t find more!

Grandmother spider has appeared to be a theme over the course of September. She and her intricately woven webs have appeared in the bushes and tall grasses of our field, in the woods spanning across trails and between trees, covered with early morning dew and sparkling in the grass as we walk the labyrinth, and even as visitors in our home. So of course I had to look her up in Ted Andrews’ book Animal Speak to understand what messages she holds for us.

“Spider teaches you to maintain a balance – between past and future, physical and spiritual, male and female. We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Spiders are a combination of gentleness and strength, and they have learned to combine both for successful survival.”

For this hike, we parked at the boat ramp to Bigelow Pond. We then followed the trails to Grass Road, continuing our hike through woods and over streams, to eventually make our way to a camping area on Breakneck Pond where we planned to enjoy our lunch.

Much to our delight, the damp weather was an invitation to the red-spotted newts to join us on the trails. Seriously, how cute are these little guys?!

The newts displayed varying shades of orange to brown, oftentimes blending in completely with the leaf litter on the forest floor. We did our best to be cautious and aware of where we placed our feet as we hiked.

We finally arrived at the camping area towards the far end of Breakneck Pond. Finding the perfect spot to pull up a couple logs to sit on, we took in the scenery and ate our lunch.

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Nature’s stillness

Thankfully, the breeze blowing in off the water was pleasant and just perfect enough to keep the mosquitos away. We sat here for a while, enjoying the feel of the breeze on our skin, the sounds of the birds in the woods and water trickling off to the side of us. Reveling in the feeling of active stillness, a sense of stillness within our beings as nature actively continued about her day around us.

On our way back to the parking area, we encountered a couple walking in the opposite direction towards us. As we passed each other, we all acknowledged the hardship we’ve had to endure and expressed our gratitude to each other for clearing the webs on the trails ahead!

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