Ives Trail Finale

On the Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk

I thought ‘Finale’ was an appropriate word as Charles Ives was a composer, after all. And final-e I have completed the Ives trail! It did involve repeating a little ground I covered recently, but it was free of snow this time, so a different experience.

It turns out my AMC club was covering the whole trail in two hikes this weekend and next — first the eastern portion and then the western. So I took advantage of this fact and did the eastern half with them yesterday, completing the trail for me.

They have done this trail in big portions like this in the past, and even the whole 20-mile trail in one day, but up until now I always had something planned. So I was doing the trail my way, when I could, in little out-and-back pieces. It being so close to home has helped me knock off a large portion of it before now.

Trail thank yous

Trail thank yous

Down the road, I will be able to do longer sections of trails with less out-and-backs and loops. And while I enjoy any hike for the mental and physical benefits it brings me, I will be honest that having to double the mileage to see a whole trail means I have less time to explore others I’ve been wanting to. I get plenty of solo hikes in, and the convenience of car shuttling is hard to beat when I want to explore more new trails. I don’t mind the company either, especially when Fielden Stream or the kids can’t join me. I had been hoping there would be another Ives trail group hike scheduled soon, and I got my wish.

Beech and Laurel

Beech and Laurel

We met at Tarrywile Park and drove down to the Redding train station, which is about a half-mile road walk from the trailhead. Turns out we probably could have parked along the road at the trailhead, but it wasn’t exactly a tough walk either, and there was no question that we could park at the station. There is a preserve here called the Bogus Brook preserve with its own blazed trails that crisscross the Ives trail, which used to be one of these itself. Here it shares the route with its former self, a white-blazed trail called the Bogus Brook trail. I enjoyed following a different set of white blazes. After a quick ascent up to a good-sized hill, it descended and crossed a railroad track for metro-north.

It next winds through the woods of another local nature preserve until arriving at a half-mile road walk past beautiful mansions. Clearly they could not get right-of-way here because of the large swafts of private land in the area.

Climbin' ropes!

Climbin’ ropes!

This was further evidenced in the next portion where large fences cordoned off large, empty sections of woods along property lines. Seemed an awful shame to have these unsightly fences all through the woods, protecting seemingly nothing. My only positive guess to why these are here is to keep pets on the property or wild animals off, though no houses could be seen so these are obviously large tracts of land. We followed a ridge for a mile or so before crossing a brook and reaching an old woods road which we followed for another mile or so. Then, as it reached a house, the trail re-entered the forest and climbed the steep hill I finished my last snowy hike here on top of.

This is where the fun started.  I am so glad I did not venture down this hill in the snow last time. It was steep, undeveloped trail that would have made for a nice slide on the way down, and a tough climb on the way up.

Finished the trail!

Finished the trail!

Fortunately, and for good reason, there is a rope tied to a tree and hanging down the side of the hill for the tricky spots. It wasn’t that tricky going up this time except for one spot where you needed to scramble up a 3 ft rock face that was dripping wet. So I used the rope.

We took a break at the top, as it was not only a great spot in the snow last time, but even better without it. We took some group photos and I had the group leader take a picture of me poised on the rock in the center of this spot, as I said a little “woo-hoo.” Trail complete!

We then proceed down the hill and into Tarrywile Park for a few miles, passing the neat little bus stop shelter (and map-less kiosk) and along the edge of the pond before reaching our cars. I’ve spent a lot of time in the park these last few months, and on the Ives trail. I’ve had lots of adventures and ups and downs (pun intended) along the way, and look forward to returning when I can. For now, its on to the next one.

Ripples

Ripples

Although I have lots of ridge running to do this season on the A.T. in Connecticut, as well as the New York section to finish and the Massachusetts portion to start, I am thinking I will try and complete the Housatonic Range trail and or the Mohawk Trail before the end of the year as well.

Happy Trails.

Miles: 8.02 not including the walk from the station.

— Linus

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Appalachian Trail – NY Section 10 (Part 2) and Timp-Torne Ramble

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Last weekend was the first time Fielden Stream and I were on the trail together, or hiking together for that matter, since we began this section with our final hike of 2015. We were proud to have not only finished the last section of trail in Connecticut last year, but also covered 53 miles of the trail in New York — from the northern boundary at the Connecticut state line to Bear Mountain. And so Bear Mountain was where we did our first hike this past weekend, to continue our trek across the New York A.T.

We celebrated that final trail night of 2015 at the Inn as it was her birthday, and did so this past weekend as well to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our next hike together will be in about six weeks, when we finally finish section 10, and spend our first night of the season in our tent.

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

At over 14 miles, this section is at least twice as long as most of the New York sections and with everything we have going on at any one time right now, we’re lucky when we can get away for more than two days / one night of hiking. Regardless, it was a joy to be out there again together, passing white blazes in tandem for the first time in six months. As I’m sure you know, in between and nearly every weekend, I’ve been hiking — either solo as an AMC volunteer on the Connecticut section or other local trails, or on group outings. But these hikes together are extremely special to us and this was no exception. And I have more day hikes and volunteering in Connecticut to do to keep me busy until our overnight in April.

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

If you’re reading this regularly you may also recall that our first section hike together ever was in the fall of 2013 up the impressively steep Major Welch trail (once the A.T.) on the north face of Bear, and down the A.T. from the summit to the Inn. So this time we just needed to out-and-back up the south side of the mountain to connect the dots from our final section of 2015 this past October. We did the hike today northbound up, and southbound down.

Hiker humor

Hiker humor (not ours)

I was eager to see all the incredible new rock work volunteers had done on this section over the last few seasons, which was showcased with a ribbon-cutting last fall. We parked at the hiker lot just off of Seven Lakes drive, nestled in the gap between Bear and West mountains. It was a relief to start on a Friday vs a Saturday, as I didn’t stress over the parking being full by the time we got there. It’s about an hour drive from home, and we were waiting to leave until the end of the morning rush hour, to avoid turning it into a two-hour drive. Only once have we gotten to a lot and found it full, but it provided enough anxiety that I decided starting on a workday to have less crowded lots and trails was worth the vacation time.

Shortly after leaving the parking lot on the historic 1777 trail, it joined the A.T. and we headed north through one of many groves of mountain laurel. Soon after, the 1777 trail split off on its path down the old Doodletown road and the northbound A.T. crossed 7 Lakes Drive headed for the summit. Almost immediately we were treated to displays of fine stone work and even rebar handholds as the new trail wound up the hill through glacial erratics and over terraced stone slabs.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T. intersection

After ascending the first crest we were treated to a symphony of (mating?) frogs in a pond nestled in a rocky valley, with the sounds of croaking filling the air. Unfortunately, despite two attempts to capture the audio, my GoPro’s lackluster microphone did not capture it and I wish I had just taken the second video with my iPhone. Audio is not something the GoPro excels at… but I use it for our video channel. Check out the ‘links’ section. So far we have made a video for Connecticut, though I didn’t get the GoPro until we were almost finished with that state so most of that video is stills. My son “Jiffy Pop” made the music in Garageband; it’s cool stuff. I’ve been working on and adding to the New York video as we go, and since we plan to finish the state by fall I will put up the New York video before the end of the year.

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

The trail then crossed Perkins Memorial Drive, the seasonal road that takes tourists to the top of the mountain the easy way, and then heads along an old unused portion of the road that was decades old. It was lined with impressive stone buttresses that were holding up the rock cliffs overhanging the roadway. Clearly, these were not preventing enough of the higher loose rock and debris from sliding into the road, and hence they took it out of service. That’s our guess anyway. A short distance past these, the trail ascended more well-hewn rock stairs up that rock face until leveling out and following the tops of those rocky ledges to a wide open vista facing southwest. Here there is also a short blue-blazed trail that follows these ledges a bit farther out to a view point on the western shoulder of the mountain. On our return I did explore about three quarters of the way out while Fielden took a break. We took a quick snack break here on the way up as well.

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

We then followed the western ridges of Bear through some more laurel groves and past the blue-blazed summit shortcut we would take back. About half a mile later the A.T. runs concurrently with the steep Major Welch trail, with its sweeping views north up the Hudson to Storm King and beyond. We reminisced about our first big hike here together and took some photos. The combined trails traverse the summit to the Perkins tower. There is also a large handicapped-accessible loop around the top of the mountain here for those who drive up and want to experience some of the views but have limited mobility.

End of the Major Welch

End of the Major Welch

We had a nice snack and took in the views once again at the top. We were expecting the tower, the vending machines, and at the very least the restrooms to be open, but none of them were. I guess it makes sense since the road was closed at this time. But, it was a bummer. We took some more pictures, had lunch and observed the interesting mix of those who had also ventured up the mountain in various ways, including a small lapdog. It seems somewhere in the area you can rent a powered bicycle and ride it up the Perkins drive. We saw only one pair of backpackers this Friday morning, though we did see many heading out the next morning from the parking lot at the inn, as it was a Saturday.

CIty skyline close up

CIty skyline close up

We headed for the shortcut on the other side of the tower and headed back down the mountain to the car. It was a clear, warm and beautiful day and we were elated. We had a nice dinner down the road in Tomkins Cove, passing two or three other trailheads in the park on the way. The next morning we headed for those trailheads, which turned out to be for the 28-mile long Ramapo-Dunderberg trail as well as the beginning of the Timp-Torne trail, which also crosses the park, and ascends many summits. I hiked on both of these on my solo hike last summer.

Stone buttresses

Stone buttresses

We started on the merged trails from the lot and it ascended quickly and steeply. There were no stairs here to speak of. Just rough, steep trail. We split off on the Timp-Torne at the junction and it continued to rise and skirt the ledges, providing a challenging and exciting hike. We had just a few hours before we had to head back, so we climbed about a mile and a quarter up the mountain before taking a short break by a brook and headed back down. There were some really interesting features on this trail.

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Along the road at the start was a tunnel from the abandoned Dunderberg Spiral Railway, and about 700ft up the mountainside was a graded path and a large cave-like opening in the rock. It looks like it was originally intended to be another tunnel, for this path, but they only blasted on one side before giving up. Seeing as how it was filled with water when we saw it, perhaps that was a problem at the time as well. So the graded trail skirted instead around this rock wall on an equally wide man-made path along the ledges. There was also an unblazed, unmaintained trail called the Jones trail that once led steeply up from the road and crossed the Timp-Torne trail near our turnaround point and continued up to the top along the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. I am guessing this was an old route for getting supplies up to this point. I will definitely look into it more.

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

On another occasion I will come back here and complete the climb over Dunderberg and Bald Mountains, perhaps spending another night at West Mountain with its glorious views to New York City. The only negative to this hike is the sweeping views to Indian Point energy center and it’s smokestacks and loud announcements. I couldn’t make out the words so I kept joking that they were paging Homer Simpson to wake him up from a donut-induced nap.

Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks offer a lot of challenging, scenic, and varying terrain with hundreds of miles of trails and beautiful lakes. All of those make it a popular spot to come back to repeatedly. And I look forward to returning next month with Fielden Stream as we continue on our Appalachian Trail adventures. This weekend i will be joining my AMC club on one of their two Ives trail hikes in Connecticut, to finally complete that entire trail.

A.T. hike miles: 4.75

Timp-Torne hike miles: 2.6

Snake sightings: 1

Bear sightings: 0

— Linus

 

Mattatuck Trail – Brophy Pond to Buttermilk Falls

Beaver Pond

Beaver Pond

While I sit here lamenting a hike-less weekend, I look forward to our first Appalachian Trail section-hike of the season on Friday and want to share some of the beautiful scenery I saw on the most recent hike.

Last weekend I decided to do part of a different trail. There was an AMC-led hike and it was on a section of the Mattatuck trail I have not yet tromped on. This trail as a whole is not fully complete in the sense that there are many gaps between completed / blazed sections. I am sure they eventually hope to connect it all but I am guessing there are private land issues that prevent that at the moment.

Small cascade

Small cascade

The trail starts in Wolcott, about four and a half miles south of Buttermilk Falls, and ends at its intersection with the Mohawk trail in Cornwall on top of the Mohawk ski resort. We passed this northern terminus a few years back when hiking that trail with my son “Jiffy Pop.” Altogether it is 36 miles long and traverses nine towns and some of the state’s highest peaks. It also goes through the White Memorial Foundation and Conservation center, where I will be doing my wilderness first aid training weekend at the end of April.

There’s a great section of the trail west of here with a massive cave that was once part of the famous Leatherman’s route, and the top of the cave is a formation known as the Crane’s lookout.  I did that a few years ago as well with Fielden Stream on a day hike and then had quite an adventure as I had decided to explore a bit further than her that day, and they were working on a re-route which caused me to miss my turn back to the parking lot. Luckily since she had finished the hike at the park headquarters, she met me farther up the road when I was able to connect to it via another side path. We made it just in the nick of time as a dense fog and dusk were setting in. Hopefully they have sorted that all out by now. I definitely recommend checking out the cave and lookout which are in the eastern part of Black Rock State Park. You can park at the headquarters and its about a mile east to those great formations.

Icicles of doom

Icicles of doom

On this hike we did an out-and-back to the west from the parking area on Todd Hollow road and then another to the east, for a total of about 8.25 miles. This also included a short side path to a beaver pond. Our leader Tom pointed out that this was really the nicest scenery along this portion of trail. It did include some road walking but there was a lot of beauty in between, including multiple groves of mountain laurel and small cascading streams through the Mattatuck State Forest. This time of year water is flowing abundantly from snow melt. Because of all the laurel it also reminded me of the Housatonic State Forest sections of the Appalachian Trail in Cornwall, and I’m sure its just as beautiful here  in the summer.

I brought my microspikes but did not end up needing to take them out of my pack. Though I feel it was smart to have them as the roadway where we started was very icy and the trail very well could have been the same or worse.

Laurel grove

Laurel grove

The first portion was just over a mile to the banks of Brophy pond, though a good uphill climb. I always find it interesting when climbing up to a body of water. The small beaver pond was just before the climb, and both ponds provided some nice views across the water. The Brophy Pond viewpoint had a nice little rock outcropping along the bank and is definitely a nice picnic spot. Whenever I head back to finish the section from here to Black Rock State Park in the future, I will lunch here! There were a few spots on this section of trail where the trees were also marked with red and white bands, which is apparently indicates the boundary of Army Corps of Engineers land.

We then turned around and headed back past where we started and continued east on the trail along a gated older portion of Todd Hollow road in Hancock Brook Park before entering the woods at a glacial erratic known as Ed’s Big Pebble.

Lower Buttermilk Falls

Lower Buttermilk Falls

Here is where the trail climbed through the many laurel groves and over several small streams and waterfalls past a large rock outcropping that likely provided shelter for Native Americans long ago. Its multiple overhangs and nooks would have provided adequate protection from the elements. It certainly made for a nice lunch and photo spot! Large icicles hung threateningly from its upper rim, making for some dramatic photos. The trail then continued through some pine and hemlock groves, thickening with mud along its route.

There was then a short winding road walk over a railroad bed before heading back into the woods a short distance to the incredible Buttermilk Falls, which is maintained by the Nature Conservancy. I had no idea they would be so incredible. It reminded me a little of Sages Ravine, as the trail wound through boulders along the edge of the multiple cascades. It was flowing thunderously down the ledges into the ravine below the trail, and we all sat in awe and took photos. Such a dramatic waterfall was even more unexpected because it was just a quarter mile in from the road, if that.

Upper Buttermilk Falls

Upper Buttermilk Falls

I will be bringing my family back here for a visit, as its easily accessible for all abilities. Upon reaching the crest of the hill that framed the falls, we turned back and retraced our route back to the cars. This hike provided an opportunity to take in some stunning late-winter scenery, waterfalls, multiple types of forest, and massive boulders. And it was also one of my longer hikes recently, so a nice way to build up to longer portions I have planned for the summer. The last time I did over 8 miles was in November on a trail patrol walk on the A.T. in Sherman.

Last night I also tested two new sleeping pads from Therm-A-Rest, in my quest to find the one best for my active sleeping habits! While not in a tent, the hardwood floor provided an adequate comparison to sleeping on the ground. I have not had much luck with inflatables as you may know from reading my blog. The first one I bought for next to nothing at an REI garage sale knowing it had a tiny leak and just needs patching. It loses air very slowly during the night, and was a good first pad investment to see if I was going to do this regularly. I will get around to fixing it but since this is something I certainly do all season now, I needed one that would stay inflated and retain its insulating qualities until I could fix that one.

Nice watering hole but no swimming allowed

Nice watering hole but no swimming allowed

The second I am hoping was just a dud because it broke on the first night and comes from a very reputable brand. I returned that one and recently managed to pick up the Therm-A-Rest Neo Air Trekker on the cheap in an online sale. So I compared that to their foam Z-Lite model last night by sleeping on each for several hours. I bought one for Jiffy Pop’s first backpacking trip last year so I thought I’d see how I liked it.

The foam has several advantages, and is my go-to if this inflatable doesn’t hold up. It also makes a nice seat on hike breaks when nature doesn’t provide a good flat rock or fallen log. In fact they make a smaller ‘seat’ version of this pad for that reason. And it’s got a nice R-value rating due to its coating. Some other advantages are you can pick one up for about $40 and can easily cut off a few panels if you’re shorter or to keep just your upper two-thirds cozy and warm and have it take up less space. It’s also very light.

Therm-A-Rest Z-lite and Neo Air Trekker

Therm-A-Rest Z-lite and Neo Air Trekker

But the profile of these inflatables is so much more compact and I was spoiled starting off with the first one, even if it had a small leak. So I wanted to give them one more try, but this time in an environment where another failure wouldn’t mean sleeping on the cold ground! I really liked this pad, even though it’s a little narrow. While it does have a bit of that ‘potato-chip’ crinkling sound, in my experience all inflatables have some sort of sound based on what material they are made of. Foam would be the only ones that don’t. I’ll have to see how much it keeps me and Fielden Stream awake on an overnight to see if it’s something I can use with her. The R-value on this pad is also a bit lower than my other inflatables, so that would be a factor to consider on colder hikes, but I do have a new lower-rated downtek bag that would hopefully compensate for that difference. I am happy to say it held up last night so its future is secure for now!

Total Miles: 8.3

— Linus