Ted Randich (pictured right) and Field Coordinator, Brennan Turner, spent the 2020 Summer season improving the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. Below Ted shares his reflections on trails, hiking and why his love of Connecticut runs so deep.
I write this as an unabashed and unashamed Connecticut fanatic. I love this state. I love the diversity of cultures and foods. I love UConn basketball. I even love the little things, like the plethora of local college and public radio stations on the left side of the dial. And of course I love how much of my (quite large) extended family resides in the state. But some of my most enduring affection for the Nutmeg State is directed at its landscapes. I love the hills, rivers, cliffs, beaches, and perhaps most importantly, the trails that connect us to them. But I didn’t realize how deep this affection ran until I spent 8 years calling other places home.
When I graduated high school in 2012 and left for college, I felt I knew Connecticut’s outdoor spaces pretty well. After all, I had spent most of my childhood exploring them- camping with my cousins in Granby, hiking with my dad and brother on the blue-blazed trails, and slowly learning every inch of my neighborhood’s local forests with my friends. These were spaces synonymous with recreation- places where memories are made. Simply put, ideal places to grow up.
After hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015, I gained a deeper appreciation for public trails and lands. Instead of simply looking at a trail as a way to reach a lake or a mountaintop, I recognized the value and potential of a network of trails connecting distant communities. It was powerful to walk into the woods in Georgia and come out a thousand miles later in Kent. The blue blazed trails, I realized, were a unique opportunity for that kind of connection within my own state.
Returning from an AmeriCorps term in Michigan in 2018, my appreciation stretched even further. I had spent my term working with a conservation organization, seeing how non-profits, their variety of partners, and a committed group of volunteers can create and maintain outdoor recreational space. Once again, my view of public lands and trails was transformed. These resources don’t pop up overnight. Often they are the created after years of work by several partnering organizations, and maintained through hundreds of hours of labor from volunteers. Even the smallest preserve or the shortest trail is a worthy achievement.
And so, after 8 years of living outside of Connecticut, I came back at the end of 2019 determined to stay. I began a job search and started working at a grocery store to make ends meet. Everything proceeded according to the plan for about 2 months. Then COVID-19 hit, Connecticut was thrust into lockdown, and I found myself as an essential worker. Few things in my life have been more stressful than working through a pandemic. Once again, going for a hike took on new meaning and value. I was a little more thankful to have a trail network only ten minutes away. Open spaces became my oasis through the stress of the pandemic. It is a resource I felt would always be there, even when theaters and restaurants were closed and sports cancelled. Looking back at the spring, I can say confidently that the blue blazed trails are what preserved my sanity.
When I took the position of Trails Technician for CFPA this year, it very much seemed to be the logical conclusion of my time away. Over the years, trails have gained more and more importance in my life. They have offered me recreational opportunities, provided a sense of civic pride and connection between communities, and served as a resource for relaxation and mental health. Working on trail improvements this summer, I’ve realized that my perspective on the trails is also a work in progress. Each stage of my life has brought out something different to appreciate about our lands and trails. I don’t know what circumstances I may find myself in in the future, but I do know that our trails will help me adapt to those circumstances and thrive in this state.
-Ted Randich lives in West Hartford
Visit our PHOTO GALLERY for more highlights from the season.