Georgia Appalachian Trail Section Hike Days 4-6

As per the previous entry, my text is coming from my trail journal and my reflections at the end of each day or the following morning before breaking camp. If you’d like to see the video, it’s here.  Photos down below.

Miles Days 4-6: 28.6

Day 4: Henry Gap to Neels Gap (Slackpack). 7 miles

We had a lot of fun with Donald and Mary of Further Appalachian Shuttle at their new hang the Grateful Hiker and at the Seasons Inn in Blairsville, Ga.  We did the $6.99 pizza AYCE buffet next door and I had two plates! We dried all our stuff out .We packed our slackpack stuff and after an awesome breakfast at Hole in the Wall we got up to Neels Gap to drop our packs and went back to Henry Gap and it was cold and clear.  A great hike up and over Blood Mountain and met a lot of folks including a dog who’s trail name was “Misdemeanor”! We also met Sarge up there.  The north side of Blood was like the north side of Bear in Connecticut, but was dry and fun! Resupplied from the shop at Mountain Crossings and got some food and just enjoyed it in the bunk room and hostel, while meeting some new friends and hikers including a guy from France who had just done the 40 miles from Amicalola to here in 36 hours! We will never see him again. We will be off to Low Gap shelter tomorrow and should see Oso again, he’s at the cabins nearby tonight. Gonna get a shower now at the hostel.  We watched Moby Dick and Last of the Mohicans and talked to thru hiker Neal and Mountain Crossings manager “Worldwide”. He had a lot of cool stories.

Day 5: Neels Gap to Low Gap shelter. 11.8 miles (including shelter trail)

(written the next morning, the morning of day 6)

A good climb out of Neels Gap on a brisk morning. 11.8 tough miles with lots of views before arriving at Low Gap shelter.  Cowrock mountain had great views as did the next one. Since it’s winter we have views all day long when it’s clear. There were a lot of people out enjoying the holiday weekend. There were lots of really steep ups and downs especially out of Tesnatee Gap. We met some maintainers out on the trail before Low Gap. There was a great creek there and a great crew. We caught up with Oso just after Neels so he was there plus about 12 others. Thru, weekend, and other section hikers and 3 dogs including Molly or “weezy” who we followed up trail. We met Neal again at the shelter and he made a great fire. I really enjoyed that night until it got so cold and despite my extra pad and layers my bag just did not cut it so I made the call to end at Unicoi Gap the next day so as not to risk another dangerous night with the wrong gear. I let everyone know I would be getting off at Unicoi and arranged my shuttle and ride to Atlanta. We also met Woodstock from Alabama at Low Gap and I learned some Appalachian Talk like “Djeet” and “Mayonaise” from him! Lots of laughs.

Day 6: Low Gap shelter to Unicoi Gap. 9.8 miles, FINALE

(written the next morning, the morning of day 7, my return day)

Much or almost half of this was level and nearly and the locals and maintainers all said this was the “flat” section. But lots more rocks and the hills that were there were still good climbs and descents but it was only 1,880ft of elevation over 10 miles. Hiked my last day with my friends Rockflipper and Oso and had some goodbyes at Blue Mountain shelter. Neal too. Also met Odin. Then it was my turn to do my first real miles alone.  It was another 300ft up then a 1,000ft descent, luckily a long gradual one. Mary met me coming down the hill then we spent some time at the Grateful Hiker before heading down to their friend Whittle’s (a GATC maintainer) in Atlanta for the night and he will take me to the airport soon. My second toe on my right foot is pretty banged up and probably would be losing a nail. I miss everyone already but am fulfilled. I never did catch up with Fresh Ground though. No mind, I got every part of the experience I really wanted, and felt strong! All that working out and winter hiking was good prep for the strenuous nature of this trail.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on why I ended the hike early (and considering the recent A.T. news and weather forecast, I’m still good with that choice), I posted another video discussing it all here.

Thanks for following along. I look forward to hiking with my new friends when they reach my area, and if I’m able maybe I will even hike with them a bit up north or down south again if time allows. For now, I am content with having such an incredible experience. Warning there is a picture of my blue toe! Also I included my sketch of Blue Mountain shelter.

— Linus

Drying out at the Seasons Inn Blairsville

Drying out at the Seasons Inn Blairsville

KT tape to the rescue!

KT tape to the rescue!

Resupply planning

Resupply planning

Breakfast at Hole in the Wall Blairsville

Breakfast at Hole in the Wall Blairsville

The profile for the climb over Blood Mtn

The profile for the climb over Blood Mtn

Ice needles, when its really cold

Ice needles, when its really cold

The stone shelter on Blood Mountain summit

The stone shelter on Blood Mountain summit

Inside the stone shelter on Blood Mountain

Inside the stone shelter on Blood Mountain

Linus on Blood Mountain

Linus on Blood Mountain

Meeting people on Blood Mountain

Meeting people on Blood Mountain

The view from Blood mountain

The view from Blood mountain

Fun rock formation gag on Blood Mountain

Fun rock formation gag on Blood Mountain

Mountain Crossings

Mountain Crossings

Quick fuel up at Mountain Crossings

Quick fuel up at Mountain Crossings

The abandoned boot tree at Mountain Crossings

The abandoned boot tree at Mountain Crossings

Arriving at Mountain Crossings

Arriving at Mountain Crossings

The bunkroom at Mountain Crossings

The bunkroom at Mountain Crossings

Blood Mountain sign at Mountain Crossings

Blood Mountain sign at Mountain Crossings

View north of Neels Gap

View north of Neels Gap

Hog Pen Gap

Hog Pen Gap

Low Gap shelter

Low Gap shelter

At Low Gap shelter

At Low Gap shelter

The 11.8 day from Neel Gap to Low Gap shelter

The 11.8 day from Neel Gap to Low Gap shelter

Icicles everywhere

Icicles everywhere

Oso en guard!

Oso en guard!

Linus at a cascade

Linus at a cascade

Climbing the rocks up to Blue Mountain shelter

Rockflipper Climbing the rocks up to Blue Mountain shelter

Linus and Oso

Linus and Oso

Blue Mountain Shelter, drawing by Linus

Blue Mountain Shelter, drawing by Linus

Linus on his final steps into Unicoi Gap

Linus on his final steps into Unicoi Gap

Blue toenail!

Blue toenail!

 

 

 

Georgia Appalachian Trail Section Hike Days 1-3

Last week I had the privilege of backpacking the Georgia Appalachian Trail. While I planned for up to 2 weeks, the weather was quite erratic and the cold temperatures bested my sleeping bag and all the warm gear I threw at it. I made the call after day 6 to end early as I couldn’t drop $600-800 on a zero degree bag (and wouldn’t for a section hike) and will come back to finish Georgia and make it up to Deep Gap, NC as planned when it’s warmer and the crowds have gone through. I was at the very front end of the bubble so I still found shelter space and had the honor of accompanying some new thru hikers for their first 53 miles north.

My format for this will be to copy verbatim from my trail journal that I wrote when arriving at camp or a hostel or town each day. I have already completed the video, and you can find that here, if you prefer that format. Everything in italics is an afterthought or comment I made that wasn’t in the journal itself. Photos are below the journal entries.

Miles Day 1-3:  25.7 (including the mile southbound up Springer Mountain before heading back north.

Day 1: Springer Lot to Springer Summit to Hawk Mountain shelter. 9.1 miles

Heavy rain at start, until back at the Springer lot, met Jarhead and his dog, I think they were heading into town because his dog popped his inflatable pad. Mostly downhill and flat until long climb up Hawk Mountain from Three Forks. Missed the turnoff to Long Creek Falls. Started to downpour about 2 miles before the shelter. Here with a crew of 5 and local day hiker Jamie Hiikes. We tried (or rather Paul did) to make a fire but its all wet and windy and is starting to rain again. Going to have dinner soon then sleep — was up early at Donald and Mary’s (Further Appalachian Shuttle) so I should sleep ok.

Day 2: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain shelter. 7.6 miles

Got out around 9, with Rockflipper – and I got ahead of him on Sassafras, which normally would kick one’s ass-afras but I felt strong and crushed it. Too bad the view of Atlanta and the Marietta owl towers was a whiteout. Got a few views before the rain. Justus was mercifully re-routed but I still had some climb up it, plus a few more, and 2 exciting creek crossings including Justus creek. I took my boots off for both, and that’s actually good as clean feet also means less blisters. The water was warmish and felt good but I did tear a sock so I’ll get another pair at Neels Gap. Beautiful hike and I saw Mary who was shuttling out the hikers I shared a bunk with the night before, as one of them got sick. People left water at Horse Gap and Cooper Gap

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal)  … and I found out later it was two hikers that joined us at the shelter this night: Lefty and another gentleman who didn’t have a trail name yet. They had a lot of extra so they dropped it there before hitting the trail themselves.

I just got to the shelter and had lunch and rockflipper is here now. Time to hang and have fun. And roll my muscles out.

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal) : I picked that up from Early Riser, and with that and eating banana chips daily I didn’t have a single charlie horse! I also learned later from Whittle that I could use my trekking poles to do that too — just gotta do it before I set up my tent if using my tent as they hold it up!

Day 3: Gooch Mountain Shelter to Henry Gap. 9 miles

It was torrential rain all night and thunder and lightning in the early AM. It all got wet, some rain blowing in sideways.  Lefty and his friend had came in to camp later last night as did Oso who is one of my friends now. He hikes with Sleeves and knows him well. We made a video in the AM before McGyver and Snuggles (Paul) and everyone left.  The two late arrivals headed for Neels Gap then Blairsville and Snuggles and McGyver are taking a few days in Dahlonega to switch out some gear. Rain stopped shortly after leaving camp and rockflipper and I headed up Ramrock and Big Cedar — both big climbs but we did get the views on Ramrock before it socked in at Preacher’s rock, where we met some nice local hikers. We checked out Woody Gap and took pics there too. Some pretty cascades on the trail south of Henry Gap where we got off. Mary came out to get us on the trail and we went back to get a room at the Seasons Inn in Blairsville and hang at the Grateful hiker. Then the AYCE (all you can eat) pizza buffet smash! Now we just finished organizing all our stuff for the day/slackpack to Neels Gap tomorrow and tomorrow’s resupply and stay at Mountain Crossings. Enjoying the warm room, hot shower and toilet and town food. Did laundry too and dried out our stuff in a yard sale all over the room. We leave at 10 tomorrow and hope to hit Mountain Crossings by 330. It’s 7 miles, much of it uphill. Bringing my spikes in case it’s icy but starting late so that can melt off a bit.

— Linus

The weather wasn't promising

The weather wasn’t promising

At the Atlanta airport - it's like they knew!

At the Atlanta airport – it’s like they knew!

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

At the Springer Mountain lot

At the Springer Mountain lot

On top of Springer

On top of Springer

A shoutout from my shuttle

A shoutout from my shuttle

Refilling my water

Refilling my water

Three forks - all the creeks were super high

Three forks – all the creeks were super high

Hawk Mountain shelter

Hawk Mountain shelter

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Rhodendron tunnels

Rhodendron tunnels

Justus creek crossing

Justus creek crossing

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher's rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher’s rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus at Henry Gap

Linus at Henry Gap

 

 

 

Mohawk Trail: Northern Terminus to Lake Road (Southbound)

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks (Click to englarge)

Last weekend, the weather gods were very kind. It was in the 60’s both days, and just shy of that overnight. My first instinct? Go backpacking! I got Brian on board quickly and before we knew it we were meeting in Falls Village to tackle this last 9.6 miles I had to complete. Only there was a reason I hadn’t done it yet. (Mostly, it’s just the northernmost 1.2 miles that struck fear into my and many hearts, but at that distance it was going to be part of a longer hike). This was the portion over Barrack Mountain. A bald Eagle flew just over me as I drove to the trailhead that morning, and I was hoping it was a sign of strength and that this time I’ve got this.

Once part of the Appalachian Trail, the Mohawk was created in the late 1980s (’88 I believe) when the A.T. was rerouted across to the west of the Housatonic.

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn (Click to englarge)

This meant features like Mohawk Mountain, Cathedral Pines, Dean Ravine and Lookout Point would be no longer part of the national scenic trail’s beautiful surroundings. Tornadoes in 1988 did a lot of damage to the cathedral pines and the trail in the area in general, which was also part of the reason it was relocated. Some of my trail and AMC chapter friends joke that they are glad this is no longer the A.T., because it is a beast. This made me feel a little better that I found it so strenuous and steep. A friend who thru-hiked back in the day reminded me that most of the A.T. in the old days was like Barrack Mountain, that is straight up and straight back down both steeply, with long road walks in between.

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain (Click to englarge)

I had attempted ascending Barrack via the southbound route a few Novembers ago as well, in similarly leafy and damp conditions. I turned around half way up. It is extremely steep, and with wet slippery leaves everywhere, it was downright dangerous. There are scant few if any actual switchbacks here folks. Same on the way down. And there are a lot of precipitous ledges that you were climbing up and along. Even with Brian there who had done this section and was spotting me, it felt just as sketchy as last time. Though I was glad he was along because as I felt last time, if I fell there, no one would hear me or find me for days. My arms are still sore; I did a lot of hand over hand work on the way up. The view up there is pretty amazing, and I noticed there’s an easier trail coming up the gentler side from a Jewish retreat center, I’ll have to see if it has public access, I imagine it does.  We’re friendly people!

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance (Click to englarge)

Heavy wind gusts barreled across the mountaintop as we took in views of Lime Rock Park raceway and Sharon Mountain beyond. We knew we would have rain and wind overnight and were worried it moved in early, at the worst time. Going down was very steep rock faces topped with millions of slippery pine needles. Wet that would have just been life threatening. It felt close as it was. The rain did not come thankfully, and I did some butt-scooting down where necessary. No shame at all. I like living thanks very much. I’m here to hike not scale cliffs. Sometimes they throw that at you though and you gotta manage. A cool highlight along the way was an old A.T. geological marker like we found on Red Mountain a few years ago.

Also luckily Brian made the best suggestion ever — bring spikes, even if just for the wet leaves. SO we did. Let me tell you, I’m not sure how I would have done Barrack with a full pack and not just slid off the mountain. It was a game changer. Also when we had to cross large wet slippery blowdowns of which there were many. And stream crossings. We stayed off rocks as much as possible so as not to wear them down, but it’s worth keeping an old pair around when you replace or upgrade them because it really made us feel much more confident and sure-footed.

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn (Click to englarge)

Dean Ravine was everything I expected — stunning. This whole section was. I have around 25 pictures this time because it was even impossible to get it down to that few. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. There is nearby parking access and a short hike down to the bottom of the falls and I recommend it. Breathtaking.

We started around 1:30 and it was a tough hike into the shelter (see the GPS grab though just the red lines because the bit above is not the topo for this bit, i moved it by accident when taking the screenshot). We got in just before dark and hung our bear bags. We knew heavy wind and rain were coming in overnight so we decided to sleep in the shelter… my FIRST time!  Good call. Besides, its hardly used because this trail is hardly hiked so not much food around to attract mice or worse. It was very clean, and the shelter log was nearly empty. Someone had a geocache in there but it looks pretty neglected too. This shelter was built in 1988, the same year they moved the A.T off here, just months later I assume. We had the place to ourselves. Some people do the Mohawk as a loop with it’s replacement A.T. portion so I’m sure some people stay here once in a while.  It was great. We had dinner and then talked in the shelter till around 9pm.

A view looking up the north side of Barrack Mtn.

A view looking up the steep north side of Barrack Mtn. (Click to englarge)

Overnight heavy winds and rain rolled in. It was heaviest and worst just before dawn, and was still going when we were getting up. But within 30 minutes as we made breakfast and packed up, it began to clear into another beautiful day. I felt safe and warm (if not too warm) in my sleeping bag in the shelter. I may be doing that more, at least when out solo with friends. As a ridgerunner I won’t take the shelter. And my wife isn’t interested in them, unless we are alone. I kind of feel the same way, though I am excited to have more shelter stays now. I got to try the loaded mashed potatoes for a dinner and it was the best! I will be redoing that one, it hit the spot. and you can throw some shredded jerky or meat or cheese you have in there to snazz it up. I brought a little olive oil. Good calories and fat and light.

Old A.T. geological marker

Old A.T. geological marker (Click to englarge)

As we hiked out on day 2, it was much more gentle terrain I dubbed the mercy miles. My arms and legs were shot from day one’s climbs and descents. We did have a few climbs this morning too but it was about 58 degrees, clear and breezy and beautiful hiking weather. We were treated to a large pond full of beaver lodges and dams and handiwork you can see in the photos below.

Driving around this area is also absolutely beautiful. The bucolic views of farms, country houses, pastures, rivers, mountains and covered bridges to postcard-worthy old towns are a treat of their own. We spotted many a home in the mountains that we’d live in ourselves!

A shot of the steepness on the south side

A shot of the steepness on the south side (Click to englarge)

We stopped at the Cornwall Country Market in Cornwall Bridge on the way home for what thru-hiker Underdog and his friends call a “hiker smash”. I had a bacon-egg-and-cheese, tater tots, a gatorade, banana and a coffee. You can fill up to 20oz of coffee for $1 at the market if you have a container. As if I wasn’t already a huge fan of their amazing food. Last time Brian and I had breakfast on the porch was after one of my ridgerunner weekends last July or August. I love having so many great hiking friends. And it was an absolute dream to be able to backpack in the middle of January. Sadly it’s pretty much guaranteed a result of climate change.

I am now done with the Mohawk, and I just received my Mattabessett completion patch! I think next I will focus on the New England Trail again and finish the bits of the Menunkatuck and as much of the Metacomet as possible before my A.T. season starts again. I am also just 1.5 miles off from finishing the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s CT Blue-Blazed 200 Mile challenge!  I am continuing my role as a weekend ridgerunner in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts again this year so from late April to Mid-October I will be mostly on the A.T. working or doing section hikes with my wife. I should be able to finish the Connecticut portions of the N.E.T. in the next season or two if I stick to it!

Miles day 1: 4.8 (.5 road-walk from parking)

Miles day 2: 5.3

— Linus

Many more photos from this hike below.

The brook below Dean Ravine

The brook below Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Breakfast at the shelter

Breakfast at the shelter

Packed up and ready for day 2

Packed up and ready for day 2

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

The pond with all the beaver activity

The pond with all the beaver activity

Beaver handiwork

Beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork – the water on the left kinda looks like the left half of Connecticut!

Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Brian Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Mossy moonscape

Mossy moonscape

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

CT NET: Section 1 (Mattabesett Trail)

All done! That’s a wrap! After about 6 years of section hikes (and only because I didn’t really focus on finishing the trail much until a year and a half ago) I have finished all of the Mattabessett trail! Some guides say 60 miles, some say 66.7, and with all the reroutes who really knows, or cares? More miles, more smiles!

Once again, even this short section of this trail had plenty of challenges and surprises. What it lacks in elevation and distance, it had in adventures.  Three friends joined me on this hike. The first was my arborist friend Brian. He does a lot of hiking and camping with me which you know if you follow me. The second was Norm, an AMC group hike leader and friend of Brian’s and now friend of mine! And lastly was my former coworker and still-friend, Karen!

We have been trying to do a hike together for years. I used to tease her about not being ready, even when she did a tough section of the Camino in Spain. Truth be told I knew she could do it, and this section sure put her (and all of us) to the test in some spots. Norm liked the variety and challenges on this section so much he is going to do it with one of his hiking groups.

We dropped a car at the ample parking on River Road in Middletown and took one of their cars back to where I left off last time, the Asylum Reservoir #2. The scene looked a bit different than last time after several days in the high 40’s and low 50’s. I made an appropriate fuss with Karen that she couldn’t go unless she had spikes, based on last time. My wife’s spikes fit on her cross trainers so we were good to go. However when we got there there was no ice. No problem. Better safe than sorry! But this section had plenty of challenges.

They started pretty much right away, along with the views. Steep scramble after steep scramble, complete with slippery mud and wet leaves. I and the guys made sure Karen had backup on these steeps but she really did it all herself save for one steep ledge we all gave each other a hand to traverse. There were lots more ledge walks in the woods, tracing the contours of streams and brooks below.  The views on the hilltops stretched across the many reservoirs here, west all the way to the peaks of the western end of the Mattabessett including Fowler, TriiMountain, Higby and Beseck, which is also known as Powder Ridge ski resort. We could see the snow-covered slopes from these ledges.

Then came the marvelous rock pile caves. As we don’t have many real caves here in Connecticut, most of them are large rock formations overhanging, though some have a few smaller spaces connected. Since I didn’t get to see the cave two sections back, this would suffice. We had fun exploring and taking pictures. Someone had made a little wall of rocks along the edge, and built a fire ring. This spot would definitely protect you from bad weather in a pinch and I said to the group that I was sure that native Americans met or lived here like the nearby caves. Or at least sought shelter. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t one of the legendary leatherman’s spots on his route. I’ll have to look that up.

After the cave, it was much more gentle and winding through more tunnels of mountain laurel. There were several small streams to cross but they were deep and fast and so even the little ones presented a challenge so we all had to think and find the best route across. There was also a deep bog that a log crossed at a declining angle, and that one gave us all some pause not to mention an attempted work-around. Thickets of wild rose and fearsome thorns all around made the log the only way to go. It was touch and go doing the balance beam for the first few steps but we all got through dry!

After that was a power line section which has been slightly rerouted for construction so the Hartford views were not to be had. But we still got some great views and one or two more steep climbs. Karen was finally introduced to cairns and we enjoyed the play on words with her name’s similar phonetics. We also saw some old cellar holes and a large abandoned campsite which I reported to the CFPA.

The last mile was mostly downhill to the river, swtichbacking the whole way. We were tired. This is a much shorter hike than we usually do but it felt like twice as long with all the challenge. We were hoping for an opportunity to give Karen her trail name, and when she fell on a flat spot of wet leaves near the end and shouted “whoops!”, we knew we had it.

We all definitely got our money’s worth in views and challenge. I feel like I did 50 crunches. Next up I am going to work on the Menunkatuck portion of the N.E.T. It’s 16.7 miles and I’ve done about 7.7. This is the section that connects the Mattabessett portion to the Long Island Sound and is fairly new, thought it may be made up of older trails in the area. Much of it right by the coast is roadwalk. But it sounds like its a nice road walk, through a seaside town.

I have done the northern half except for a mile or less section where it meets the Mattabessett and I can do that as an out and back from Route 77 or the road crossing just befiore where we turned around on that hike. A small detail that annoyed me much that day!  The portion between what I did and the town portion is more woods at least. This area is also much closer to the highway so I can get to it easy and get it done quickly. I’ll plan to do that before spring barring any issues. At that time I will get back to finishing the Mohawk and our A.T. section hikes.

My new trail runners just showed up, and I am eager to put them to the test! I also got some REI Minimalist GTX mitts with a holiday gift card, on my friend Mat’s recommendation. Just the gloves wasn’t cutting it in the real cold, and I like having the layering options for hands, for when I need my fingers to do technical terrain, and the mitts over them when I just want to keep the wind, rain, or snow off my hands a little more. Those I can definitely try soon as it’s winter. The runners I will use on the next hike that’s not a snow or ice hike. Photos of the hike below.

Miles: 4.7

— Linus

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

On the reservoir ledge

Brian and Norm On the reservoir ledge

Lots of gorge-ous streams

Lots of gorge-ous streams

First tough scramble

First tough scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Scrambling over a rock pile

Scrambling over a rock pile

Karen with a view

Karen with a view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Karen on a wooded ledge

Karen on a wooded ledge

Climbing up to the second crazy schedule

Climbing up the second crazy schedule

 

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble’

Another scramble after that view

Another scramble after that view

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Karen and the cairn

Karen and the cairn

An old cellar hole with front steps

An old cellar hole with front steps

Huffin it up another hill

Huffin it up another hill

Young forest with CT river beyond

Young forest with CT river beyond

Victory pose!

Victory pose!

 

 

 

CT NET: Section 2 (Mattabesett Trail)

Last week I made it back out to complete section 2 (and a tiny little bit of section 1) of the Mattabesett trail in Middletown, CT. It was a warm day for December, but the nights are still cold, so everything wet on the ground gets melty, freezes overnight, and then begins to thaw the following day, and repeat. So there was a LOT of ice sheets. There is NO way I could have done this hike without my spikes. I didn’t put them on until after the first mile and am I glad I did. I was warned about the trail conditions, and after last time, they’re never being left home again in winter.  There were several sheets of ice, including along the two foot wide ledge atop the Chinese Wall!

I made a nice video, so I thought I’d point you there to hear the story. On New Years Day my friends will join me to complete the final 4 miles and change. I can’t wait! I’ve been working on this trail in bits and pieces since 2013. It wasn’t until the last 2 years that I really started working on completing it, thanks to the NET Hike 50 Challenge.

Once I complete the Mattabesett I will probably keep working on the Metacomet trail (also part of the New England Trail) until spring. At that time, I am usually back to work on my A.T. jobs and section hikes. I only have 10 miles of the Mohawk left too so I will try and finish that before backpacking season, or as a warmup overnight for backpacking season.

Here’s the video. Photos below (these are also in the video at the end)

Miles: 4.2

— Linus

Starting out

Starting out

Heading up the first hill

Heading up the first hill

Icy falls

Icy falls

Another waterfall

Another waterfall

A steep up!

A steep up!

And another

And another

Spike time

Spike time

Steep icy descent, thank god for spikes

Steep icy descent, thankful for spikes

And another...

And another…

Blue blazin

And up the ice

Ice sheets everywhere!

Ice sheets everywhere!

Views north to Hartford

Views north to Hartford

Pegmatite rock face

Pegmatite rock face

More pegmatite rock

More pegmatite rock

The start of the Chinese Wall

The start of the Chinese Wall

Walking along the top of the Chinese Wall

Walking along the top of the Chinese Wall

Looking back at my hike along the top of the Chinese Wall

Looking back at my hike along the top of the Chinese Wall

USGS Marker for Bear Hill

USGS Marker for Bear Hill

Laurel tunnels

Laurel tunnels

Wintery creek

Wintery creek

Cresting the next hill

Cresting the next hill

Laurel Preserve indeed!

Laurel Preserve indeed!

Map at the end by the resevoir

Map at the end by the resevoir

Asylum Resevoir #2

Asylum Resevoir #2

 

 

CT NET: Section 3 (Mattabesett Trail) and Part of Section 2

There are those times when you think a hike is going to be easy. Nothing you’ve read about on the trail description to indicate otherwise. You’re prepared, but maybe didn’t overprepare as much as you should have because some items seemed unnecessary.  This was one of those hikes.

I always have my ten essentials, but I’m adding my microspikes to the winter list. Mind you I usually do bring them on a winter hike. But this one just seemed like a gentle walk in the woods. In fact, 3 miles of it was road walks. Most of it was just a walk in the woods. Until the two unexpected rock scrambles by a powerline… even more unexpected!

Eagle’s Beak is a long pointy rock ledge, and was the highlight of the hike for me. Easy to reach and you need go only as far out as you like. Covered with several inches of snow and possibly ice I stayed closer to the trail side.

I enjoyed the rock scramble below the powerline despite the cut I got on my finger from the surrounding pricker bushes while climbing up it. The second scramble seems like a new route judging by the blazes, and it was right up a 6-foot ledge, which was dripping wet and covered in snow. There was an outcropping of rock beneath, which provided a 2-foot deep crack up which to climb closer to the ledge you need to then traverse. However this was covered with 8 inches of snow.  And if one did not get a good dry grip by stepping on the top of this, and fell, well it would be about a 10-foot fall down that rock outcropping, and another 15 down the hillside into more rocks below.

I climbed halfway up into that crack and assessed every possible way to get up onto the ledge safely. After about 10 minutes of talking myself through any safe route, I deemed there wasn’t a 100% safe route and climbed back down. I have a wife and kids. I also don’t need to prove anything. I can always come back and do it when its dry. I went around, because I correctly assumed the trail would follow the ledge once on top and I was able to walk those 30 or so feet of trail below the ledge without the pointless dangerous climb. I am alright with this decision. It was the right one. Better than pride before the fall, literally! Unfortunately where as my old Connecticut Walk Book mentioned these climbs in the description, the newer single-volume Connecticut Walk Book does not still have descriptions of trail sections. The website does not either.

The spikes could have helped here for sure, and been the difference between safe and unsafe on this section. But I still likely would have made the same decision. It looks like the old route went around this and maybe this is now a bypass trail but I didn’t see the side route if there was one so that needs a sign.

I enjoyed the rest of the ledges section here though I definitely missed my spikes as there was a good deal of sliding around rock surfaces!  Mercifully, after the ledges it was a gentle descent. To be honest, besides that ledge, I think Aircraft Road where I parked was the most dangerous section! People take that name a little too literally, like they were trying to get up enough speed to take off. Be careful parking and crossing that road folks. There’s only one little oval trail sign and by the time anyone that is speeding sees it and figures out there might be a trail crossing, they’d be on top of you.

Also keep in mind snow will always slow you down. It’s more effort on the feet and makes any smooth surface slippery. Even the mostly flat sections along the Seven Falls Roadside park were very slippery with the roots wet and covered in snow and wet leaves. Crossing Bible Rock book was quite the adventure as it was a rushing brook, with large rocks for the crossing and a few feet of water in between each. This is enough of a balancing act when dry, but the snow piled on top of each made it impossible to tell where the surfaces were flat or not. It was very tricky negotiating this crossing because of the snow. Spikes would have helped here too, though it would still be impossible to see the flat surfaces on the rock.

Well I wanted an adventure and got one. The road walk was pretty, and there were really some very pretty parts of this trail including mountain laurel tunnels. It says there was a cave but while I saw a lot of overhanging boulder ‘caves’ on the rock walls, I must have missed it if there was a real cave. It was right near the scrambles so I was likely distracted.

I have only 9 miles left of the Mattabesett trail, but based on this experience and that I want to finish it sooner rather than later, its possible I will split it up into two sections so any more surprises (re-routes and unknown technical portions) and the addition of the current winter conditions don’t put me at risk of unnecessary injury. In this case the toughest parts were all in the last mile, so never assume the home stretch means easy trail. Plan extra time! Make sure you have a headlamp always because sometimes these conditions can slow you down enough to to mean you’re hiking at night, especially in the winter months. I hope to finish this trail by the end of the year. I might do another section tomorrow since the temperatures are in the 50s today and raining all day which should take care of the snow. As long as all the rain isn’t ice tomorrow after the temps drop again tonight! This means I will either do half of the last 9 miles or the whole 9 miles tomorrow. Look for that write-up soon.

I enjoyed following deer tracks for most of the route. Seems they enjoy the trail as much as people! Photos below.

Miles: 6.5

— Linus

Winter skies

Winter skies

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Approaching the Eagle's beak

Approaching the Eagle’s beak

Following more deer

Following more deer

Linus on Eagle's Beak

Linus on Eagle’s Beak

Bible Rock Brook

Bible Rock Brook

Rolling hilltops

Rolling hilltops

The first part of the first scramble

The first part of the first scramble

The non scramble route was to the left and also a scramble

The non scramble route was to the left and also a scramble

Part 2 of the first scramble

Part 2 of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Trail signs

Trail signs

First cairns I've seen on this trail

First cairns I’ve seen on this trail

The wall I didn't climb in the ice and snow

The wall I didn’t climb in the ice and snow

"The Pavement" by the powerlines

“The Pavement” by the powerlines

Or is THIS "The Pavement"

Or is THIS “The Pavement”

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Beneath the ledges

Beneath the ledges

Seven Falls Roadside Park

Seven Falls Roadside Park