The Dog Days of Summer: A Hike Down Memory Lane - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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The Dog Days of Summer: A Hike Down Memory Lane

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View from the top of the mountain at Penwood Forest View from the top of the mountain at Penwood Forest
A look at the Thames River from Mamacoke Island A look at the Thames River from Mamacoke Island
Sampson on the trail Sampson on the trail
Murphy taking in one of the many hikes we shared Murphy taking in one of the many hikes we shared
(WFSB) -

When I began this blog some two years ago, I imagined I’d be taking my kids on some pretty cool adventures. And even though that’s proven true, there’s no doubt it was my devoted dogs that appreciated the trips the most.

Murphy and Sampson were part of our family for close to 14 years before we lost both of them to illness just a month apart from each other. Although devastated by the loss, I’ve been going over in my mind the happiest moments we shared – some of which was chronicled here.

So, I found it a fitting tribute to share with you some of the best hikes I’ve taken with my constant companions – treks that feed the soul for humans and canines alike.

PENWOOD STATE FOREST – BLOOMFIELD

Miles upon miles of trails ending with a spectacular mountain-top view are just a couple of reasons why this hike is worth tackling. Penwood State Forest is 800 acres of pure joy complete with lakes, trees, and terrain of all types.

I brought my dog Sampson the first time I took this trek. His active personality, size and strength could endure the six miles we took to explore the area. But, shorter hikes are just as enjoyable for smaller dogs as well. Just don’t miss out on that pinnacle view!

GUIFFRIDA PARK – MERIDEN

Here’s a park with extremes. Guiffrida Park in Meriden has a strenuous mountain-side hike and a peaceful, yet rigorous trek around the tranquil waters of Crescent Lake. The lake seemed to be the best alternative for Sampson at the time. Half of the trail is wooded and relatively flat, while the other half, changes drastically over a landscape of fallen tree trunks and chunks of rocks.

Leave it to my bloodhound mix to have paved his own path through the field of boulders. It’s a great workout for bigger, athletic dogs, but stick to the more level trails if you’re looking for a quieter stroll.

MAMACOKE ISLAND – WATERFORD

I once described this 40-acre refuge a hidden Eden and, in many ways, I still feel that way. The undeveloped parcel is such a melting pot of conservation and wildlife that it’s hard not to enjoy the secret niches it reveals to visitors.

Murphy was with me on this particular trip which proved to be a dog’s paradise in addition to my own. Grassy trails lead to more wooded paths that eventually bring you to the island itself. But, the hike is an easy one for hikers and pooches alike, and with abundant wildlife in the water and in the skies, it will keep both entertained. With expansive views of the Thames River and nearby cove, it is a wonder to see.

RIVERSIDE PARK – PORTLAND

This hike isn’t as showy or awe-inspiring as some of the others we’ve been on. But, it’s a place we frequented when looking for a walk by the river to burn off some steam. Even though this was to be Murphy’s last real outing, the park’s familiarity, wide expanses and variety of habitat could still grab his attention.

There are so many nuances here to explore including the riverfront views and wooded enclaves that drive hikers into the shade. There is also a sweeping view of farmland on the backend of the park before leading to residential neighborhoods beyond its border.

This can be as easy or moderate as a hike as you want it to be. But, for my golden retriever, it was the perfect place where he could be a puppy again -- just one last time.

No doubt, I’m still at a loss without Murphy and Sampson, and, I imagine, I’ll feel that way for some time. Yet, I know, their spirits will continue to inspire and carry me through to my next adventure – wherever that may be.

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