Photos and story by Stephen Flanders, Norwich Trails volunteer
On July 25th, six explorers (one taking a portable snooze) and two hosts assembled at the trailhead to the lower Bill Ballard Trail off of Beaver Meadow Road for the third hike of the Discover Norwich Trails program. They set off as a group, passing through Ballard Park, the site of the Norwich Pool, which was destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 when it breached the wooden dam holding the swimming area.
The explorers ranged in age from infancy to over seventy. The youngest Marion Cross School attendee and oldest social-security recipient were honored with a Norwich Trails sticker, as was everyone in-between.
Now, an exploration can be about the destination or about the journey, itself, or about both. On this outing we all enjoyed fitting the pace of travel to the younger demographic. This meant exploring the tiny plants, mushrooms and bugs along the way, while the adults enjoyed conversations that included language and culture, mathematics, the making of ink from oak galls or rotting walnuts, and mycology—the identification and study of mushrooms and other fungi.
Some of the fungi that we identified included boletes (although not the delicious variety), russulas (their bright colors signaling the use of caution), and a lobster mushroom—actually a parasitic fungus. We also saw a jack-in-the-pulpit with its developing fruit and some Indian pipe (ghost plant), a non-photosynthesizing parasitic plant, emerging through the soil.
Along the way, we crossed over many bridges, but decided to turn around before we reached Norwich’s “missing bridge“.
We paused at the site of the abandoned and dismantled Norwich reservoir to look at the history of supplying water to the town.
Prior to turning around, we did some stream exploration and sampled some “zipper songs”—songs where the participants take turns substituting new lyrics at a designated line within a verse.
On the way back, we practiced balance-beam walking and skipping up the “Stairway to Heaven”—the stone steps that bypassed a landslide from some years ago.
We concluded the hike in Ballard Park where the lure of the swing set was too great to go home, having made new friends all around.
For other completed Norwich Trails Discovery hikes, click here.