I had the morning off; as luck would have it, so did my seven-year-old granddaughter.
“You want to come with us for a walk?” my wife asked me. “We have to take the dog out.”
“Let’s go to Chaugham’s Point,” I suggested. “We can show her the big boulders along the forest trail.”
My granddaughter is enamored by rocks. From the time she could accompany me on short walks, she nearly always returned home with her pockets full of all sorts of stones, anything that took her fancy. The rocks I referred to were two huge boulders, perhaps fifteen feet in diameter, that had been deposited on the ridge by glacial activity eons ago, with just enough space to walk between them.
I grabbed my old felt hat and a sleeveless fleece off the coat rack and met my wife and granddaughter and the dog out by our station wagon. Soon we were heading north on country roads, sailing along under a faultless blue sky. There was just enough crispness in the air to hint that fall was around the corner.
We breezed across the dam breast between the Barkhamsted reservoir and Lake McDonough, then down the big hill to People’s State Forest. I parked at the trailhead and we stepped out into the morning stillness of the forest.
I showed my granddaughter the blue blazes on the trees that marked the trail. Soon we were climbing through the soft cinnamon-colored needles beneath ancient towering white pines.
I explained about the glaciers as we walked through the forest. “At one time, long ago, this whole area was covered with a sheet of ice so thick that it filled the valleys between the mountains. As it moved slowly down toward the sea, the ice scoured the mountain tops and pushed the big rocks along with it. Finally, when the earth warmed, the ice melted and left the rocks behind.”
“Wow!” my granddaughter cried as we approached the two boulders, “those are big rocks!”
“What did I tell you?” I said. We stood and stared up the big boulders. The dog sniffed a nearby patch of moss and squatted.
Up ahead we stepped out onto a granite ledge overlooking the valley below. You could see the river with the town in the distance. Crows cawed from the opposite ridge.
“They sure are noisy today,” my wife commented, as the dog pricked her ears up and sampled the morning air with her nose.
“Probably badgering an owl or a hawk,” I mused.
We continued down the path to the second outlook. I pointed out some Solomon Seal and false Solomon Seal to my granddaughter along the trail. “See the difference?” I said, gently lifting the stem to expose the row of dark blue berries. “The other one has a cluster of red berries at the tip.”
The second outlook afforded an expansive southern view of the valley. You could trace the path of the river with your eye by following the stands of dark green pines among the oaks and maples.
We pushed ahead and found the other trail that would lead us back to Warner Road. My granddaughter found a small brown toad along the way.
“Look, a frog!” she said, bending down to capture the tiny creature in her small hands.
“It’s a toad,” my wife said. “Toads are brown; frogs are green.”
“This is a brown frog,” my granddaughter insisted.
“Maybe we should let him stay here,” my wife said. “His mommy is probably looking for him, and she will be upset if she can’t find him.”
“I guess you’re right,” my granddaughter said, reluctantly releasing the small amphibian among the leaves.
As I picked up the pace to scout out the road ahead, I overheard my granddaughter chatting to my wife: “You know,” she said, “when you’re a little kid like me, having a puppy dog that you can take for walks in the woods and living across the street from your grandma and pop-pops makes your life so”—she searched for the right word—“complete.”