Ives Trail – Bennett’s Pond to Pine Mountain Out-and-back

Bennetts Pond Trailhead

Bennetts Pond Trailhead

The oh-so-convenient-to-home Ives Trail continues to provide new scenery each time I hike it. This time around I again had a time constraint so the 25 minute drive was perfect. I managed to squeeze in a nearly 6-mile hike in under 3 hrs and be back by noon to do what was needed at home!

This time I wanted to complete the southwestern section from the terminus in Ridgefield back to the Pine Mountain overlook, one of my favorite views around. I have done a tiny bit of the trail west of the overlook on our first trip up here, when we came up from the Danbury side via another trail a year or two ago.

But I never get tired of the view from this spot. It was a tougher hike this time to the summit, but one always worth the effort. I noticed even more lightning damaged trees this time, including on some lower elevation ridge lines as I reached the end of my hike. Clearly this area sees a lot of this activity.

Meadow with a view

Meadow with a view

This area of Ridgefield open space, known as Bennett’s Farm, has many trails, which then lead into the Hemlock Hills trails and Danbury trails, all which surround and intersect with the Ives Trail at one point or another. There is a nice trailhead lot here with a kiosk and map as well as other information. I found the beginning of the Ives trail at the Kiosk and headed into the woods.

Quite soon it opened into a hilltop meadow with nice views and a parking area which seems to be open seasonally for picnicking. As I descended the small hill the trail passed through more meadows which I suspect were once Bennett’s Farm, and then along side the pond. I’ve seen smaller bodies of water named lakes.

Bennetts Pond looking west

Bennetts Pond looking west

The pond stretches all the way from Rt 7 to the base of Pine mountain, and was full of beaver lodges, cattails, and even trees. Half iced over, it was very scenic, and calming. The trail follows the perimeter, crossing over a bridge and a rushing brook at another trail intersection along the way. I did not see any beavers but there were several geese on the water, filling the air with their calls.  Owls and other small birdsongs also made for a soothing soundscape.

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Though the snow had almost all melted off since the last hike here, there were patches, and where there weren’t any snow or ice patches, there was mud and more mud. I felt like I was hiking Vermont in the spring! As its not good to hike along the edges of the trail as this can expand it too much, I did my best to follow it, but I came off the trail with quite a muddy bottom half, especially my boots. But I gotta say I am impressed with how well they handle it. At no point did I feel wet in my boots. They’re going on almost 400 miles now if not more but I hope to get another 400 out of them.

Old stone foundation

Old stone foundation

Soon I reached the base of Pine Mountain and a formidable ascent from this aspect. It looked to be about 650 feet of elevation gain in a fairy short distance. So while there were no significantly steep sections, it was definitely a workout reaching the summit. On the Ives trail it ascends the western flank from the base at the pond right to the summit with a series of switchbacks. The large boulder and rock outcroppings below the overlook were visible the whole way, as well as similar topography to the west of the trail where a gurgling stream also snaked down the mountainside. In fact this section of trail had many very active water sources from the runoff, and I almost stopped to filter some of the mountain water. There was also the foundation of what seems like an old silo or other grain storage type of building. I don’t think it was a shelter though someone had made a fire pit in the middle. There were several nice viewpoints on the climb and I stopped for a break to have some shot bloks and re-energize. My hurried breakfast before I left had consisted of a granola bar and a tangerine, which didn’t provide much calories compared to my usual pre-hike carb load! I was definitely hungry by the end of the hike, but didn’t have a long trip home to lunch.

Reaching the Pine Mtn overlook

Pine Mtn ledge with scorched tree

This time I had the summit to myself so I sat to take it in and explore more of the nooks and crannies. Someone had also made a fire ring here. I continue to lust after the crooked summit in the distance which I think is Seth Low mountain in nearby Seth Low Pierrepont state park, but I don’t see a trail up it on their map. I need to research that more. It seems like it would have a nice view. But perhaps there’s private property on the other side which is not visible from here.

Bennetts Pond from above

Bennetts Pond from above

As I didn’t have much time, I ventured on over the remainder of the summit and took in a nice easterly view of Bennett’s pond from another outcrop before descending another of the Bennett’s pond trail system routes back to the pond to pick up my return route. This handled the elevation difference with many more switchbacks, and great scenery of more dramatic rock walls that are hundreds of feet high.

I took several alternate trails back, avoiding the longer route of the Ives trail this time to reach the parking lot quicker. The last of these is where I saw the additional lightning damage, and this was along a stone wall with only a small elevation difference along the ridge it marked. This trail too was quite muddy and had mountain bike tire tracks for the length of its mile distance which connects at either end with a car-width trail blazed green and makes a good loop. The trail I took is not blazed, and is narrow, so I’d worry about coming around a turn to a biker speeding at me but I don’t know if its allowed. I know some of the trails say you can, even on the summit of Pine Mountain, and they suggest you carry your bike up the steep trails to its top. Not for me folks. I can’t see how carrying a large bike 600 ft uphill would be very much fun!

Dramatic rock cliffs

Dramatic rock cliffs

With the exception of the Pine mountain climb and descent, there was little elevation to contend with on the rest of the hike so I managed a swift pace and did the entire hike in under 3 hrs, with a few breaks. This completes the trail for me from its beginning in Ridgefield to just west of the Bethel and Redding borders where I left off last time. I have about 6 miles left to do of the entire trail. Maybe when I do that one I will get a ride to one end so I don’t need to make it a 12-miler to complete solo.  While I’d love to do 12 miles, its not something very easily fit into my schedule and would require most of a day.

Mud-ville

Mud-ville

However I manage it, I look forward to completing this beautiful trail, and bringing friends and family back to explore favorite spots when we are nearby and have limited time. This weekend I’m exploring more of the Mattatuck trail with our AMC group. This section includes Buttermilk Falls which are supposed to be raging at the moment.

I signed up for a wilderness first aid course training weekend at the end of April which will be a great skill set to have for my trail patrol and our family hikes. I was also down in Florida last week and we planned our dates for our June section hike with our friends from there over Mt Race and Mt Everett in Massachusetts on the Appalachian Trail. I can’t wait! And before bed last night I planned out the logistics of our completion of the New York A.T. this summer. Happy trails.

Total miles: 5.7

— Linus

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