The barren winter landscape has become downright depressing. And this from someone who loves winter. Cabin fever has rapidly become igloo fever, as bare ground hasn't been seen for weeks, and weekends are spent shoveling off roofs and taking curb-sized chunks of ice off the gutters.
And I was not alone. Nearly a dozen cars filled a small, cleared parking area. People were walking along the beach — some with their dogs — or just sunning themselves on the granite jetty jutting into the brilliant blue waters of Long Island Sound. I slipped my way through the icy tunnel underneath the train tracks, and the winter we will be telling our grandchildren about slid off my shoulders.
There before me was a ribbon of white sand that snaked along the waters of the Sound, and small waves lapped the shore. It beats the nails-on-chalkboard sound of plows scraping the road. I quickly crunched my way across the hardened snow of the upper beach and made my way to the tide line.
This was not the dirty sand that has been on the sidewalks or at the side of the road and all over my car. The briny smell in the air wasn't rock salt or ice melt. This was a summer beach under my hiking boots. It was sun-drenched and sparkling, and instead of thinking wind chill factor, I had the sudden urge to build a sand castle and skim a rock across the water.
I hopped along the granite boulders of the jetty still covered with ice from high tide. I walked all the way to the end. I bent down and popped the seaweed with those air bubbles hanging on the rocks. I felt free. I felt renewed. I was close to catching spring fever. But the cold north wind and the snow-covered hills kept my temperature down.
And I did rediscover the beauty of winter by walking through the stone tunnel underneath Ellie Mitchell Pavilion and up along the snowy slopes overlooking the Four Mile River. I reached the top of Tony's Nose Overlook — and, yes, it does look like a giant nose — with its wonderful view of Long Island Sound. Just as I reached the top, an Amtrak Acela thundered past, heading toward New York City. I found Bakers Cave encased in a snowy tomb and sat on a rock warmed by the lengthening sunlight.
Although I only spent a few hours at Rocky Neck, my batteries were recharged and now I'm ready to face the next 38 days of winter. And, really, what more could Old Man Winter possibly throw at us? If it's another curve ball, at least I know a place to escape.
Rocky Neck State Park is off I-95's Exit 72. Visit http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/stateparks/maps/rockyneck.pdf for a hiking map. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040. Visit courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.