New Year's walk commemorates dedicated nature-lovers

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hampton - posted Tue., Jan. 3, 2012
A walk participant points out some significant beaver damage to a tree near Beaver Pond.
A walk participant points out some significant beaver damage to a tree near Beaver Pond.

Lois Cole and her friend Virginia Welch liked to start each year off right with a hike in one of their favorite spots - Trail Wood, the former home of naturalist and author Edwin Way Teale and his wife, Nellie. “Lois always liked to be the first one to sign the book,” said Terry Lavoie, an administrative assistant at the Connecticut Audubon Society and a member of Friends of Trail Wood. “This year I signed the book for her.”

Both Cole and Welch passed away this past summer, after battles with cancer. Cole was 60 years old. “They were always very good friends,” said Lavoie. “I was good friends with both of them. It was very hard to lose them both in one year.” One of the ways that Lavoie dealt with her losses was to dedicate this year’s New Year’s Day walk at Trail Wood to the memory of the women. “They both dedicated so much time to Trail Wood and both loved to come here,” said Lavoie.

Friends of Trail Wood arose shortly after Edwin Teale’s death in the early 1980s. “It was started to give Nellie some help with the place after Edwin passed away,” said Lavoie. Over the years, the group has held numerous work parties dedicated to the homestead, many of which were attended by Cole and Welch. “Every year we have a work day,” said Lavoie. “This year we cleaned the inside of the information center.”

The property encompasses 168 acres, including 11 acres added via a purchase by the Connecticut Audubon Society, which manages the property with the assistance of the Friends. Ten of Teale’s 31 books, including his Pulitzer Prize winner, “Wandering Through Winter,” were written at Trail Wood, according to a web page dedicated to the homestead.

On the first day of 2012, a number of Friends members gathered to remember Cole, Welch and the Teales, and to spend some time on the property that all four loved so much. After a brief walk through the woods, the group emerged on the shore of Beaver Pond, an aptly-named 8-acre pond formed by beavers that moved in and claimed the original swamp during the Teales’ lifetime. “This was one of Lois’ favorite spots,” said Lavoie, pausing to spread some of Cole’s ashes at the edge of the pond.

There was no sign of the pond’s furry inhabitants on the inaugural morning of 2012, but there was plenty of evidence of their nocturnal activities. All along the shore of the pond were the stumps of saplings and full-grown trees, as well as trees that the rodents were in the process of debarking. “This is their slide,” said Lavoie, pointing to a slight trench in the mud along the shore. Beavers use mudslides to transport logs into the water, where they either use them for constructing their dams or store them as a source of food (a beaver’s main food source is bark). There are recorded cases of beavers felling logs of as much as 150 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Logs of this size are not intended to be used as structural members, but rather the bark is used for food. “Sometimes they’ll chew just to keep their teeth in condition,” said Lavoie.

You can read more about Trail Wood and the Teales at Trail Wood is located at 93 Kenyon Road, in Hampton, and is open to visitors daily from sunrise to sunset. Natural history programs are offered throughout the year. A schedule of programs can be found in local newspapers, in the Connecticut Audubon member newsletter, or you can call 860-928-4948 for information. The Teale museum and Mr. Teale’s study and writing cabin are open by appointment.

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