Valley Exploration

It builds a good base

Winters in CT Suck.  There are exceptions once a decade or so, but usually we get a mix of cold, rain, snow, and short days that make even the most cheerful people consider random violent acts against strangers.  A “Polar Vortex”  came through recently bringing temperatures in Hartford down to -8 and a “Bomb Cyclone” brought over a foot of snow to some towns.  Then everything went ass over tea kettle, it got up into the 50s, and pouring rain melted away the snow.

As a skier, I have a dysfunctional relationship with the white stuff.  There’s not much better than day spent at the ski hill, but those days seem to be few and far between.  For some reason the big snow almost always happens during the work week, when I have to, well…work.  And snow is no fun when you have to work.  The thought of becoming a ski bum has often crossed my mind, but having a job has some nice perks; a paycheck and health insurance being a couple key ones.

Tis the season

At my last company, we would have a national sales meeting every year in mid February.  Sometimes they would be on the west coast.  Insomnia from traveling across time zones would always land me at the hotel gym at 5am the day after arrival, where I would come to the realization that I was in the worst shape I’d been in since the same thing happened last year.  January is really a struggle for me to stay in shape.  Actually so is December, and really the whole lack of daylight savings time thing from November to March seems to be a struggle.  Since I found mountain biking, “exercising” is tough.  Running, working out at a gym, or riding my bike in my basement just don’t provide the endorphin reward that ripping it up for a couple hours on singletrack does.   I don’t always feel like getting out on my mountain bike, but the pep rally in may head requires a lot less attendance for mountain biking on a warm summer night than the New Year’s parade level marching band fanfare required to mount that stupid exercise bike in my basement for an hour.

There is a point coming…

So, that was one of the reasons I decided to start a blog.  Many people use blogs to hold themselves accountable for goals.  I’ve heard this repeatedly on the podcasts I listen to.  I have an overly analytical mind that likes to make things way more complicated than they need to be so  self improvement podcasts suck me in like a moth to a flame.  For whatever reason, I think things through a million different ways, often just forgetting about it before I ever take any action.  Once in a while, though, it percolates just the right amount that action happens.  My idea was to do thing outdoors and blog about it to keep me motivated to be active in these dark dreary months just enough not to get caught at that embarrassing level of fitness come February.

So I’ve got the blog, but the initial result I was after, staying active outside, seems to be alluding me.  I seem to keep coming down with a case of the “f&*K its”.  If you are unfamiliar, the “the f&*ck its” is a term used for when your willpower conks out on you and instead of doing what you should be doing, you say “f&*K it” and eat ice cream, watch TV, lay on your couch,  or something a lot more harmful to yourself in lieu of what you’re supposed to be doing.  An example would be “I should really be working on my blog right now, f&*K it, I’m going to finish watching Narco’s on Netflix.”  Or  “I know I said I was going to go outside more during the winter, but look at it out there.  F&*ck it.”

Can I Just

I wish I could remember who said it, but one of the self help gurus I heard on one of the self help guru interview podcasts I listen to, had a way to break through the “f@c*” its.  Said guru would get himself back in the game by saying three simple words:  “Can I just?”  The idea is that when you don’t feel like doing anything you think “Can I just?”.  Like if you have a goal to write every day, and you are losing steam, you say “Can I Just pick up the iPhone and write one sentence”.  Often, that initial push to get started is the worst part, and once you get going, you can keep writing, or reading, or eating well, etc.  If you don’t feel like exercising, you say to yourself “Can I just do one pushup?”.  You do one, and then you usually find the momentum to keep going.  Sometimes it works.

So, last Thursday I decided I needed to employ a little “Can I Just”.  I live outside Hartford, CT.  My sales territory covers all of CT and part of Western MA.  Southern Fairfield County is the most densely populated part of CT, and my territory, which means I spend a lot of time driving back and forth there, which often means I drive along route 8.  From Waterbury to Derby,  Route 8 winds along the Naugatuck River.  The contrast of the steep but rounded hills and the curve of the river at the valley floor is eye catching if not hypnotic.  It almost reminds me of Vermont or Northern California, just on a smaller scale.  It’s a pretty drive.

Facing northbound on Route 8 in Beacon Falls, CT.

The Naugatuck Valley area, like many in the US once boomed with industrial activity.  The rolling Naugatuck and Housatonic rivers powered factories and brass production employed many.  That manufacturing has long gone away and from what I know, left behind a wake of less fortunate times for the valley residents.   I’m certainly no expert on the subject.  It’s just the impression I have, and it’s certainly an area I’d like to learn more about.  CT has transformed significantly several times over during the last 400 plus years from a Puritan refuge to colonial independence and statehood, a cosmopolitan financial hub that notables like Mark Twain resided in, a leader in agricultural education,  a 20th century industrial hotspot, and so on.  Rustic beauty and the hustle and convenience of modern metropolis intertwine like few other places.  There a so many stories and  things to see.  I think the Valley is one that I’m interested in learning more about.

So last Thursday my Valley curiosity and cabin fever commingled into a “Can I Just” moment and I packed up a bag with some winter boots and gaiters, and brought it along with me as I headed down to Norwalk.  On my return trip, I had enough daylight and about an hour of time I squeezed in between sales calls and paperwork to poke around Naugatuck State Forest for a bit.  NSF sprawls out along Rt. 8 between Naugatuck and Beacon Falls and there are trails within it that lead to vistas on the high ridges I regularly look up at from Route 8.

Lovely weather
Just off Rt 8, driving through Naugatuck towards the trailhead
I used Gaia GPS to locate this trailhead, which looked like it would be easy to get to from the highway and lead to some vistas from the rocks seen from Rt 8.
Not much parking at this trailhead
Gaiters and winter boots. A quick easy solution for hiking without changing out of the work clothes.
No human footprints around, but this trail seems to be well used.
Actually, there’s plenty of parking if you’re willing to look around
“Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.” — Big Bird
And back on the road before darkness.

And there you have it.  One small step for me, one giant leap…well, thanks for sticking with me.  Not a major feat by any stretch, but it was good to get outside and explore a new area.  Hopefully this is some groundwork for  more exploring and pays off with some better adventures when the weather changes.   The weather will change.  I think.

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