One of the best parts of winter is the maple tree tapping program at the New Canaan Nature Center.
My family and I await with anticipation this quintessential New England activity each February. Sure, we sled down our luge track of a driveway each year, and Colin has dubbed the six-foot snow pile at the bottom of our driveway “Camp Raccoon” —perfect for ducking behind when a snowball whizzes by one’s head.
However, nothing beats the Norman Rockwell feeling of leading your kids through the snow to outfit a maple tree with a spile (the spout that gets tapped into the tree) and a bucket just like pioneers must have.
This year, donning our new snow shoes, my son Aidan and I trekked through the snow with several other families to find the right tree. It takes more thought than choosing a Christmas tree because the maple actually has to produce sap to be turned into syrup, thanks to the Sugar Shack, evaporator, and superior sapping staff at the Nature Center.
We looked for the perfect leaning maple only because the one we’ve tapped for the last two winters was already commandeered by the Nature Center’s preschool program. That tree produces full buckets of sap every time. But we trudged on, making a path in the snow so Bill the intrepid Nature Center employee can get through to put the hole in just the right spot of the trunk.
After Aidan and I found an ample maple, and Bill went off to help other sapping families, my son and I decided to snowshoe the trails of the Nature Center. Along the way we packed down the snow and came upon several tracks and and wintry beauty we thought worth mentioning. Enjoy a few of our discoveries below:
Small woodland creature thoroughfare. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith