What could be more beautiful and soul-inspiring than to follow a trail of flickering luminaries through the dusky woods? Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center (DPNC) in Mystic wants to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy this magical experience on Friday, Dec. 21.
“We celebrate the Winter Solstice every year with our luminary walk,” says Kim Hargrave, education director at the center. “The walk is a wonderful family outing that comes at a special time of the year. On our trails through the woods, we light the entire way with luminaries, using Mason jars,” she says. “The lights are all around the edges of the pond, and along the trails through the woods, and the loop back. The walks are guided, and it’s such a great experience. All the leaves are off the trees, so the twinkling lights can be seen through the woods as we walk.” After this magical experience, everyone returns to the center for hot chocolate or hot cider around a campfire.
Winter Solstice is also celebrated that same day with the Gungywamp Walk from 1-3:30 p.m. The Gungywamp is an area in Groton that contains paleo and woodland Native American artifacts, like stone tools and shards of pottery, as well as Colonial and Early American structures and artifacts.
Hargrave explains, “Not everyone has answers to everything that’s happened there through time, but it’s absolutely amazing. It has incredible stone structures and shelters, but also some beautiful rocky ridges. The beavers are active and it’s fun to see the beaver lodges,” she says.
This event is geared toward adults and older children who are able to hike for a little while and are interested in learning about natural and cultural history. Registration is required; visit dpnc.org for details.
But one doesn’t have to wait for Winter Solstice to enjoy holiday-related activities at DPNC. On Nov. 17—just in time to prepare for Thanksgiving—Kids Nature Night Out will be all about turkeys. This is a great opportunity for youngsters to spend an evening learning about turkeys, eating pizza, and making S’mores around a campfire. There’s even a night hike. “It’s a fun night out for the kids,” says Hargrave. “The parents can drop them off, then go out for a relaxing dinner.”
At the end of the month, the center holds a Holiday Evergreens Workshop on Nov. 30 from 6:30-9 p.m. “This is really fun,” says Hargrave. “People are introduced to some of the different types of evergreens that are found in the area. We have all sorts of varieties that we collect to use for the event.”
Workshop attendees get to use the evergreens to make a wreath or kissing ball to take home to decorate their homes. “We teach them some basics,” says Hargrave, “but the creativity just starts to flow and everyone’s comes out a little different. And they are all beautiful.”
After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, DPNC offers a welcome program for both kids and parents. “We offer vacation programs on Dec. 26, 27, 28, and 31,” says Hargrave. “It’s a fun way for kids to get out of the house for either a half or full day.”
On Dec. 26, the program will focus on fort building, where kids will spend the day building different types of forts out in the woods. “If we have snow, we’ll use that,” says Hargrave, “but if not, we’ll use sticks and leaves.”
On Dec. 27, the program will focus on furry and feathered animals and how they adapt to winter here in Connecticut. December 28 will be all about scaly and slimy animals, and nature crafts will fill the day on Dec. 31.
There’s a lot going on at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, located at 109 Pequotsepos Road, Mystic, CT 06355. For more information call 860-536-1216; visit dpnc.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.