Legendary Hike Draws Legendary Crowd
70+ people attend a guided hike through Machimoodus State Park, led by Prof. Stephen Gencarella, local folklorist and author of the recently published book: Spooky Trails and Tall Tales Connecticut: Hiking the State's Legends, Hauntings, and History.
On Sunday November 3rd, 2019, the Friends of Machimoodus and Sunrise State Parks hosted a guided hike through Machimoodus State Park, led by local folklorist and author of the recently published book: Spooky Trails and Tall Tales Connecticut: Hiking the State's Legends, Hauntings, and History. The hike was the most anticipated event they had ever held and was as widely promoted as possible for a small organization. Even so, right up to the morning of the event the Friends anxiously hoped for a "good turn out” (maybe a dozen or so people) and good weather.
Just days after a very wet and windy Halloween, the weather that morning turned out to be all treat and no tricks! With the sun shining and a gentle breeze rustling the leaves, Friends president Tanya Bourgoin, accompanied by her husband and her dogs pulled in to the parking lot at Machimoodus State Park about 30 minutes before the hike was to start. She nervously noted that there were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. Within minutes, she received a text from Prof. Stephen Gencarella that he was on his way, eager to lead the hike. “OK,” she said to her husband Brian, “Now all we need is a group to lead!”
As if spurred by her words, cars began to fill the parking area. Folks began to congregate in small bunches. In just a short time, there were over a dozen people gathered. And the cars kept coming, one after another, until the almost all the parking spaces were full.
No one including Prof. Gencarella ever dreamed that folks would show up en masse to hear him tell tales spanning the history of the park. For two and half hours, a crowd 70-80 strong followed Prof. Gencarella almost three miles down trails, up hills and all through the forest, lured by the promise of another story just around the next bend.
“In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a group of people that large. I was profoundly honored. And I think that incredible number testifies to the power of stories and to the call of Machimoodus State Park as the very special place on earth that it is, “ said Mr. Gencarella. “As far as I am concerned, 2019 is over for me. No other day this year will top November 3 and that hike, sharing time and stories with so many people of goodwill and admiration for Machimoodus.”
The unexpected size of the crowd required a few last minute revisions to the hike, like avoiding certain areas, walking a bit more slowly and stopping more often than planned but no one seemed to mind. One attendee commented on Facebook that they “thoroughly enjoyed the hike and the stories! Great exercise too!” and another called it a “fascinating and fun afternoon.”
For the Friends of Machimoodus and Sunrise State Parks, Mr. Gencarella summed it up perfectly: “Honestly, the best part of the day for me was seeing young people—boys and girls— join in. They made the hike look easy, but more importantly, they listened to the stories and they clearly showed a love for the natural beauty of the park. We should all be proud of them. Our folklore and our parks will be in their hands someday, and that should make us all very optimistic about the future. I am grateful to every person who joined us and who shared their tales along the trails. I hope it is only the start of the conversation.”
"Although I am biased for my love of the park, as a folklorist I really do think Machimoodus is the site—or let’s say the epicenter—of the most important folklore in the state of Connecticut, and arguably in all of New England. I say that because it’s a place of active storytelling traditions that have been going on for centuries. It’s a truly remarkable place, symbolically and physically. I am so glad that the community has rallied to protect it. "
"I cannot fully express my gratitude to the Friends of Machimoodus and Sunrise State Parks for the invitation and the warm welcome, and for all the good they do as caretakers of this important site. As I said at the hike, every season at Machimoodus offers new joys for the visitor. That is only possible because of the investment to preserve its pristine beauty made by the Friends and by allies in the town and the state. I hope everyone who reads this will thank the Friends for their gift and support them in every way."
Prof. Stephen Gencarella
Stephen Gencarella posts a note of gratitude on his blog to new friends at Machimoodus thetalestheytell.com/blog/f/a-note-of-gratitude-to-new-friends-at-machimoodus