Ives Trail Winter Ramble

Frozen Parks Pond

Frozen Parks Pond

Last weekend I was back on the Ives trail, aiming to complete the remainder of the trail’s section through Tarrywile Park. My daughter was taking a standardized test in nearby Bethel, so I had a few hours to enjoy in the wintery woods. Fortunately, it was not as cold as it is at the moment, though it started off on the chilly side and gloves were required. I made sure to layer this time, so I could shed as needed and wasn’t sweltering in the down after a few minutes’ activity.

Connecticut rocks

Connecticut rocks

I used my favorite Houdini wind shirt for the outer with my long-sleeved wool base layer and a synthetic tee to keep my core warm. This worked great and I never did end up shedding as it was cold enough whenever I stopped to want that wind-breaking layer on. I also brought my microspikes this time, and was glad I did. While we’ve had two more rounds of snow since last weekend there was still 2-3 inches of depth on the trails from the previous storm, and significantly more in a few spots. The snow was deepest in the meadow by Parks Pond, and I actually saw snowshoe tracks there which momentarily concerned me.

View to Mountains End

View to Mountains End

I parked at my usual starting point in the lower lot and hiked up past the conservation barn and through the meadow to the pond, which is where the Ives trail cuts a 180-degree loop around the pond. It’s also where a side spur over a hill called “Mountains End” takes you past a deteriorating stone fortress called Hearthstone castle and then down across another meadow to the eastern end of the park where the birthplace of Charles Ives still stands. I’m not quite sure but Mountains End may be the shoulder of Town Mountain, or its own lesser peak.

Snowy path

Snowy path

The trail from the eastern side of the pond skirts closely to the water for a bit before climbing the aptly named Middle Mountain. It does, after all, sit in the middle of the park, and in the middle of two ponds. I have been up this hill from the other side on earlier hikes here as the Ives trail also skirts its western flank after it descends Thomas Mountain. On the way up I passed through a lovely marsh which was especially scenic in the snow.

Shelter and Kiosk

Shelter and Kiosk

After summitting the modest peak the trail reaches a junction complete with a map kiosk and a small shelter about the size of a bus stop. The kiosk was devoid of any posted material at the time, so not much use to me. A map would have shown me that continuing west here like I did would take me to where I’d already been on the Ives trail on an earlier section and that heading south was the way I wanted to go. Almost a half mile later I arrived at the junction that confused me when doing that hike as well. I then noticed these blazes were white on yellow instead of red on yellow, so I realized this was a spur, for making a loop around the pond. I headed back to the intersection and down the other route which winds past a residential area and quickly out of the park boundaries. I climbed one more hill but realizing I probably didn’t have enough time to make it to the next road crossing and back and still do the spur to the house before I had to pick up my daughter, I turned around here.

Walking with deer

Walking with deer

There were deer tracks all along this portion and I enjoyed walking alongside them. At the top of this hill there was an area that would be very nice in summer to sit and have a snack but the snow was thicker here. Even the deer tracks turned at this spot, as it then went for a steeper turn down to a brook and parallel to it for about 2 more miles before reaching the next road. However, since there was a residential road abutting the trail a mile north of here, I knew it would make for an easy re-entry point to complete this next section at a later date.

Snowy Mountain Laurel

Snowy Mountain Laurel

While heading back on the route I came, I stopped for lunch in the shelter. This would definitely protect you from rain as long as it wasn’t coming sideways into the shelter. There’s room for 3 to sit on its bench, and in an emergency you could probably lay out on the bench and sleep overnight. But since there are houses visible 100 yards from here, that would be unnecessary. Besides, I doubt they want anyone spending the night here. I made it back to the pond quickly and took the side spur to the Ives house. There is a museum there but it was closed at this time of year so I just read a few of the exterior plaques on his life and achievements and then walked the roads back. The trek through the eastern meadow and its deep snow had done a number on my already tiring legs so I thought this prudent. Though to be honest, the walk up the road was almost as much of a vertical gain as going back over the mountain!

Fall and Winter Colors

Fall and Winter Colors

The climb up Mountains End was fairly quick and steep, though easy footing. At the top was Hearthstone castle and its old wooden water tower which was covered in graffiti. I stepped briefly inside the tower to snap a photo and then over to the castle which was surrounded by wire fence and looking quite decrepit and haunted! This castle was purchased for the wedding reception of one of the original owners’ daughters. As I headed down the other side of the hill from the castle, I got a very nice view of downtown Danbury.

Danbury vista

Danbury vista

I also ended up on another side spur which led up to Town Mountain and Bogus Mountain, blazed again with the white on yellow. The blazes at the intersection of this spur and the red-blazed main Ives trail did not indicate a split and only pointed right to the white-blazed spur. So after realizing this after a few minutes I did another turn around here. I actually thought this was the main route of the trail, though it seems to be a planned future route to stay on the ridges and at the moment is just a spur. So, did I technically finish all of the trail in the park? Hard to say. I did finish all the main trail as it is currently blazed in the park!

Hearthstone castle

Hearthstone castle

And while it seems like I must not have, I DID have the official map but it didn’t really differentiate the two blaze colors as clearly as it could have. And only when I reached a large kiosk at the other end of the east meadow did a map there differentiate them. And only here did I see the next red-blaze indicating I was on the trail I wanted. Only because I knew the trail went through a meadow in this area did I venture across it and eventually find my way. The blazing definitely needs improvement here, especially for winter hiking!

Charles Ives Birthplace

Charles Ives Birthplace

All in all though I did really enjoy the hike and find this to be a beautiful park with some nice varied terrain. I love that it’s close enough for me to have a real trail experience, while also having some nice historic landmarks to keep it interesting. At some point soon when I also have a shorter amount of time to hike I will keep working on the southeast and southwest portions to complete the trail. I believe it’s 20 miles total.

I am excited because Fielden and I have just picked tentative dates for our first A.T. section hike of the year together, back in southern New York where we left off. It’s in about 6 weeks, and it seems that our hiking together seems to be becoming a new wedding anniversary tradition (followed by appropriate pampering, of course).

Total Miles: 6

— Linus

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