Enjoy being outside while you can.
As the leaves fade into crimsons and browns and slowly fall from their tree branches, New Haven’s notoriously-vicious Jack Frost is inching ever nearer, threatening to deprive Yale students of that desirable outdoor recreation that remains so hard to squeeze into packed Yale schedules. With mild, breezy weather that is ideal for outdoor activities, autumn in Connecticut is prime time for getting active. And what better way to do it than to explore one of New Haven’s many beautiful trails?
Imagine the autumn colors whizzing past you in a sublime, Indian corn mish-mash of earthy reds and vivid oranges, the crisp fall breeze lightly feathering your face as you make your way past fallen acorns and the overanxious squirrels that harvest them. Bike riders and runners can find these experiences on trails at places such as East Rock Park, West Rock Park, the Supply Ponds and the Maltby Lake trails.
Emily Vince ’06, a runner on the women’s cross country team, said her team uses the trails at Maltby Lakes, located about a mile up the road from the Field House and the Intramural Fields.
“You can get a good hour run there,” Vince said. “It’s pretty wide and has good footing — it’s dirt trails.”
The trail is also surrounded by incredible scenery, as the paths often run tangent to lakes. Melissa Donais ’06, another cross country runner, noted that the park may not be open to the public.
“You usually have to hop a fence,” she said.
If one is looking for a more hospitable place to run, the New Haven park system offers several good places for a jog. Of these, East Rock is perhaps the most well-known among Yale students. The 10 miles of trails at East Rock wrap around the base of the mountain.
West Rock Park, while farther away than East Rock and mostly outside the New Haven city limits, remains nonetheless a popular option for Yalies and New Haveners, including the men’s and women’s cross country teams. Like East Rock, the main trail at West Rock forms a loop that hugs the foot of the mountain. West Rock, however, also offers trails that sprawl throughout the park’s forests, as well as stunning views of the New Haven Harbor and of Long Island Sound.
Men’s cross country runner Reed Mauser ’05 said that when his team is not practicing he prefers running at East or West Rock Park to using the streets of New Haven.
“We don’t consider New Haven to be a runner-friendly city,” Mauser said.
Donais suggested that, apart from the scenic beauty, running trails have a health advantage over the city streets as well.
“Trails are softer than pavement, so they’re easier on than legs,” Donais said. “So there’s less threat of injury — less pounding on the legs.”
While cross country runners recommend the trails, these locations have plenty to offer mountain bikers well. The trails at West Rock Park, for example, feature a variety of terrain types, including the challenging downhill Yellow Trail. New Haven’s Supply Ponds also provide some of the best biking experiences in southern Connecticut for everyone from beginning bikers to those looking for a more extreme ride. Though its main trail is nothing to write home about, if one is a bit more adventurous in exploring the park, more rigorous biking trails are tucked into the nooks and crannies of the park. One could follow the Ravine’s uphill climb and then take on the Corkscrew, a loose-terrain downhill trail that makes schizophrenic sweeps, perfect for the thrill-seeking enthusiast.
More dedicated bikers can find bicycle shops across Connecticut that make regular, endurance-testing trips. Daniello’s Amity Bicycles of Woodbridge, for example, sponsors the Laurel Bike Club, which schedules rides for intermediate and beginning bikers Tuesday and Friday evenings. The rides start from Woodbridge and span 30 to 40 miles that include exciting back roads all the way to Bethany.
Yet whatever means or setting one chooses, New Haven and the surrounding areas offer a solid selection of outdoor adventures. Even during the hellish midterms of October, who can really suppress the runner or biker tucked away in all of us?
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