The Phoenix Nest

Nickerson Farm Family Campground, near Chaplin, Connecticut

Nickerson Farm Family Campground, near Chaplin, Connecticut

A Target Destination on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour

By Jim Fulton

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A Message from the Phoenix

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Abstract

I spent a week at Nickerson Farm Family Campground, near Chaplin, Connecticut. From there I visited the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University in New Haven, as well and Dinosaur State Park new Hartford.

Page Prerequisites
Page Specifications
Id Flights_GFT_2018_0424
Title Nickerson Farm Family Campground, near Chaplin, Connecticut
Subtitle A Target Destination on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour
Keywords Chaplin, Connecticut, Nickerson Farm Family Campground, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Dinosaur State Park
Author Jim Fulton
Author's URL https://fenixnest/Phoenix/
Copyright 2017
Status Published: 2018/5/9
Last Revised 2018-10-21

Chaplin, Connecticut

Arrived 2018/4/24
Day of Tour 276
Nights Stayed 7
Departed 2018/5/1
Map miles from last stop 163
Mileage on arrival 38,030
Actual miles from last stop 315
Accumulated miles for trip 17,513

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Not only was Connecticut a natural stop on my way east, it bears the mystique of New England and also boasts some worthwhile targets for my Grand Fossil Tour, namely, the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University in New Haven, as well and Dinosaur State Park near Hartford.

Page Contents

A Week in Connecticut

New England, and that includes at least the southeastern part of New York, is different. I had forgotten how different it was from where I'm used to living. It's hilly, rock-strewn land seems good for growing nothing but houses, big houses. Homes that in my part of the world would be collected tightly into cities, or at least into towns, dot the slopes of New England, far enough apart that neighbor can't see neighbor. I suppose in part it's due to the fact that in my world farmland is too valuable to yield to mere residences, whereas farming the rocks of New England rarely proved worth the effort, so there was no constraint on spreading out.

It's also older than the country I'm used to (though not by much by European standards), so there are relics of the past. Stone fences, some seemingly far older than the nearby houses, line the hills, dividing mine from thine, in a vain attempt to ready the land for the plow.

The Journey to Connecticut

A three-hours drive on the interstate took me from southeastern New York to eastern Connecticut. I’m still in New York City’s bedroom region, though. I wonder if that accounts for the huge size of the houses that dot the landscape, as well as line the streets of the towns and villages. They’re not mansions or estates, for the most part. They’re just big! Far larger than country houses in the areas I’m used to.

I took the interstate because I anticipated (accurately) heavy traffic on the NYC-Hartford highways, and serious congestion on more local roads. I am glad I did so, because I had forgotten how hilly the terrain was, despite the fact that the Berkshires technically only cover the western part of Connecticut. Lesser roads would have meant steeper grades and more frazzled nerves.

Spring, which was blossoming several weeks ago in the Carolinas, finally seems to be arriving in New England. There is a hint of a tinge of green or red here and there in the woodlands, and the temperatures, which hovered in the 40s (F) in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York, have risen to the 60s. Though, as I write this, there is a steady light rain that is supposed to last all day.

Nickerson Farm Family Campground

If I focus on the scenery surrounding this campground, the steep, rocky hills, the babbling brook, the woodland just receiving spring's first touch, then I can say that this was a good week.

If I think about the specifics of my site and experience, I come to a different conclusion. When I arrived, no one was there to check me in or point me to a camp site. After half an hour, a staff member, friendly but without authority to made decisions, was able call the manager, who pointed me, by phone, to a site. It was a back-in, not the pull-through I had reserved, and it was right across the lane from a dumpster, so I had to set up in a cloud of fresh spring flies. The site was nice and wide, and I backed in with little trouble, but the surface was soft and muddy with recent rains. The manager did call on me later to apologize, but it took a third contact to actually get the receipt I asked for.

I had earlier posted the address of the park to Netflix, in order to receive DVDs from my queue. They discouraged that address, due to past frequent returns of shipments, so I decided to do without Netflix DVDs for a week.

The upshot is that the park suffers from weak management. There seems to be a lot of work going on in the park, but what happens in the office is slipshod.

My site had full hookups, though the water pressure was low. The rocky hills interfered with cellular service, so my wifi was weak, but still good enough to stream movies through my Apple TV.

Despite the management issues, I had a reasonably good week at Nickerson Farm Family Campground, though I would look elsewhere before going back.

Photo Gallery for Nickerson Farm Family Campground

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Nickerson Farm Family Campground
Address 1036 Phoenixville Rd.
Chaplin CT 0623
Home Page https://www.nickersonpark.com/
Phone (860) 455-0007‬
Associations
  • none
Rate (net US$) $36
Pros
  • Beautiful location along a mountain brook
Cons
  • Staff often unavailable
  • Has reputation for not processing mail
Reviews (as of 2018/5/5)
Reviewer Rating Out of
RV Park Reviews 7.5 Good 10
Good Sam 7 10
KOA n/a  
Tripadvisor 4.5 5
Phoenix 5 10
  Site Type back-in  
  Site Size 8 10
  Ease of Access 7 10
  WiFiPhoenix 7 10

Points of Interest

Although there are many things worth seeing in Connecticut, I limited my touring to just two: Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, and Dinosaur State Park.

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

What better way to spend a rainy day than visiting a good natural history museum (except for driving wet roads in heavy traffic and finding a parking place on an unfamiliar college campus and walking through the rain to the museum)? Anyway that’s how I spent my Friday.

Yale’s Peabody Museum seems highly respected, but it is old, and in some ways it seems dated in its curation. Some exhibits seem complete and well-documented and described, but those are separated by huge gaps. The collection, it seems, has been driving primarily by the interests and idiosyncrasies of university faculty (or the ghost of O.C. Marsh, its founder and first curator in the mid-1800s), rather than a goal of providing students with a complete portrayal of evolution, such as that provided by the Geology Museum at the University of Wisconsin. Life prior to the dinosaurs is virtually ignored.

That said, there were some remarkable highlights. The most memorable was a diverse collection of hominid skulls, many discovered by Mary Leakey, as well as the skeletal remains of “Lucy”, the 3 million year old Australopithecus afarensis.

Photo Gallery for Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
"Lucy"
(Click to show higher resolution image.)

Dinosaur State Park

A couple hundred million years ago, during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods, the land that makes up Connecticut was on the Equator in the middle of the Pangea supercontinent. It was lush and wet and populated by a variety of critters: large reptiles and early dinosaurs, whose footprints in the mud were filled in by silt, and left to dry. When Pangea was split apart by the opening of the Atlantic rift, these lands were pushed out and up, creating the Appalachian Mountains.Wikipedia The footprinted remnants of those Mesozoic wetlands ended up near the surface of central Connecticut, now the site of Dinosaur State Park.Wikipedia State parks often turn out to be much ado about nothing, but this one was well worth the time.

There are places where paleontological finds are so rich and complex that the best thing to do is to put a roof over the whole site and invite the public in to view it and help pay for the ongoing discovery and research. Dinosaur State Park, like Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, and Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska, are like that. DSP doesn’t have its own bone fossils (though it has imported a few, just to keep the kids interested). All it has are the trace fossils. But in a way, those are more intriguing. The big skeletal fossils we’re all used to seem little more than big dolls, but the footprints reveal the animals as active in their domain. That said, DSP is not a place to demand a lot of time, unless you’re a paleontologist engaged in active research, though it does have some pleasant nature trails. But it was a worthwhile complement to my search for fossils.

Some of the photos below are samples of what I took in the museum. The last photos are from the nature trail around it.

Photo Gallery for Dinosaur State Park

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Fossils at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

The fossils at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, as well as the trace fossils at Dinosaur State Park, were definitely worth my time, and I took lots of photos. As of right now, however, I am unable to show you more than the few I included above, since I have begun planning a major consolidation of my fossil photo collection, and the time it would take to organize a temporary local collection, for each of the museums I have not yet shown to you, would impede that redevelopment. But I'm not allowing myself to work on it until my weekly blogs are up to date. The photos will come, I promise you, though I suspect it will not be until next fall.

Onward

My next stop after leaving Connecticut was the Wawaloam Campground in West Kingston, Rhode Island. From there I visited some of the places I remember from the three years I lived there half a century ago while going to graduate school at Brown University.

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