Walktober is one of the best ways to see authentic southern New England. Now in its 27th year, this more than month-long event is run by The Last Green Valley, a 35-town National Heritage Corridor dedicated to preserve and celebrate the region’s cultural, historical and natural heritage. Walktober is a series of over 220 mostly free tours and events from late September to early November. The “walks” are listed in a well-organized brochure available online or in print. Although there are some self-guided, most are led by local experts and cover a wide range of terrain and topics, from mellow historic strolls and farm visits to athletic adventures and much more. Each listing describes the level of physical activity plus whether it’s child-, dog- or wheelchair-friendly.
Marcy Dawley, The Last Green Valley Project Administrator & Lead Ranger, says that popular Walktober favorites are still around. You can marvel at an enormous bison herd in Brooklyn; take a long, rigorous hike in the woods; get spooked by a cemetery stroll; or enjoy a historic re-enactment. But every year, Walktober offerings get broader and more diverse. For 2017, “Rolltober” includes handicap accessible offerings plus two off-road bike rides. The Adventure Park at Storrs is featuring a tree-top “Climbtober” discount. You can “Swimtober” and splash with hundreds of inflatable pumpkins at the Putnam YMCA or “Paddletober” on local waterways in a canoe or kayak.
One unique new offering addresses trail accessibility issues. “Stroll and Roll” is scheduled for Sept. 30 on the Air Line State Park Trail and is sponsored by The Last Green Valley and CT DEEP State Parks Trails & Greenways Program. This tour is about “a new trail assessment program using special equipment designed for the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) … the tour will demonstrate the equipment and discuss how mobility-challenged users including disabled, elderly, and even parents pushing strollers can select trails that will meet their personal interests, skills, abilities and expectations.”
According to Marcy, “The group of volunteers is led by a mom whose son had a terrible accident and is now in a wheelchair. He was always an avid adventurer and really wanted to get back into the woods. They have equipment that measures grades of steepness. There is also a database and website that shows accessible sites for trails and even fishing places.”
Walktober is ideal for visitors but also valuable for long-time residents, who might learn something new about their own back yards. “It’s great for people who live here but don’t have time to explore our area,” says Marcy. “It highlights not only our downtowns and rivers and rail trails, but the stories behind them…because they are compelling once you remember to appreciate them.”
“It’s subversive education,” she jokes. “It’s a fun kind of learning, being active and interacting. Especially with kids, who are like ‘I don’t wanna go learn something.’ But if they do an I-Spy or Scavenger Hunt, they don’t even know they are learning. Grownups are the same way. The people doing historical re-enactments make it interesting and compelling and fun. They are so excited about doing it you just can’t help love it.”
Marcy says Walktober also helps people understand concepts like open space and remove preconceptions, such as that you must be wealthy to donate property to a land trust or conservancy. “It highlights in an almost subliminal way the great things about our region. We have our great downtowns but we can get into the woods within ten minutes of any area of heavy cement.”
Walktober allows people to connect with all things that make up The Last Green Valley. “Not everybody wants to endure a robust 6-mile hike and not everybody wants to go on a quarter-mile walk listening to history,” says Marcy. “But sometimes people will tag along with a friend to something they never thought would be interesting and it opens their eyes to the big picture. What IS the Last Green Valley? What sets these 35 towns apart? Walktober answers these questions.”
For more information and to download a Walktober brochure with all the event listings, visit www.thelastgreenvalley.org or call 860-774-3300.