Whenever I am out in the woods, I always think I'm going to become one of those victims of fate or Murphy's Law.
There is a tree leaning over the trail up ahead, so when I walk under it, the tree will fall on my head. Or the rickety, old trail bridge up ahead will collapse as I walk over it, sending me into the raging river.
If you are planning to go hiking this unofficial last weekend of summer, you might want to be aware of both these scenarios. Trail managers and other officials are urging outdoor enthusiasts to use caution in the forests and parks for the next few weeks, until damage can be assessed.
"We've received a number of calls," said Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. "People want to know if the trails are safe or if they are open. We really haven't had time to do a full survey and determine where the issues are. But we are just urging people to use common sense."
The association manages more than 825 miles of blue-blazed trails in 88 towns throughout the state. Hammerling said he hasn't received reports from trail managers because many don't have electricity and he has been unable to get in touch with them to get the word out. Volunteers maintain the entire trail system and there may be multiple work parties — with chain saws — in the near future.
"I'm sure there are some places that are worse than others," he said.
Although officials are urging outdoor enthusiasts to be cautious, they are not closing parks. Over the weekend, admission to many of the parks will be free starting Friday in hopes that residents will enjoy some down time from a stressful week. Thursday afternoon, I hiked through Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown and Middlefield and saw some scattered damage — fallen trees and a large hemlock leaning over the main trail, but nothing that would make me want to avoid the outdoors. Many of the giant trees in the park are still standing, notching another storm survival in their tree rings.
State Forester Christopher Martin of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said crews have assessed 90 percent of the state forests in eastern Connecticut. Crews haven't been able to review much of the western portions because of road washouts, but Martin is hoping to do a flyover next week to assess damage.
"What we have seen is there aren't a lot of trees down," he said. "We had some brisk winds, but it was mostly the saturated soil that brought down trees and mostly along the roads and in people's yards. Within the closed forest canopy, the power of the wind is absorbed.
"It's an unusual situation where the damage is low, but it is everywhere. We are just asking people to have patience getting back into the forest," he added.
The state's waterways haven't escaped damage, either. Along the Hockanum River — a popular fishing, kayaking and hiking spot in Manchester, East Hartford, Vernon and Ellington — crews from the Hockanum River Linear Park Committee have been working to clear downed trees.
"There are a number of large trees down, but it is in patches," said Doug Smith, chairman of the group. "The cottonwoods seem to be the ones that are falling. But our trails along the river seem to be in good shape. You just need to be extra cautious and go enjoy it."