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

 

 

CT NET: Section 04 (Mattabesett Trail)

A week or so before Thanksgiving I made another dent in the Mattabessett Trail, now part of the New England National Scenic Trail. This part was on the eastern spur, away from the mile-long cliff walks of the western section of the trail. It isn’t always completed by those thru-hiking the N.E.T., as it isn’t required and doesn’t really benefit any thru hiker as its about 30 miles of side trail. However, for me who wants to complete the entire Mattabessett trail, it is necessary. With this day’s mileage, I have just 15.5 miles left, or 16.5, depending which map you trust and how much was rerouted since my last edition of the walk book or the N.E.T. and CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Parks Association) websites. This section recently had a large re-route to remove a 2-mile road walk, so the section was about 1.5 miles longer. It also removed a big attraction in the process, the Coginchaug Cave.

When the re-route was done, the cave access was now on a side trail. This side trail does connect to the new current route, and the cave was only half mile out of the way. However, given the longer trail distance needing to be still covered in a certain amount of time, we had to pass up the extra mile round trip to the cave this time.  My original mileage estimate was about 7.8 miles or just under, but it ended up being 9.3 just to the side trail back to the lot where one of our cars was left at the start. All in all it was about 9.6 miles of hiking. I was not complaining though because the trail was mostly easy, had some very nice rock features like Bear Rock, and a waterfall. And also because I was hiking with a new hiking friend. We met through several A.T. and other hiking groups on social media and have some other friends in common in the hiking community. Brandon and I talked about setting up a hike for a while. When we found a day we were both free, he was happy to help me knock off another section of the trail and get closer to my completion goal. As we live at opposite ends of the state, this was conveniently located almost halfway between our homes.

I’ve been enjoying discovering a lot of towns and state parks along the way that I have never known about or explored before now. Connecticut is my home state. It’s such a small state but this part of it I have been to very few times. The trail runs through many of these small state parks, and the roads past charming and quaint old New England towns. Miller’s Pond State Park was lovely and I’m sure popular in the warmer months. Lots of places to jump in the pond and swim, both from the parking lots and the trails.

Mount Pisgah at the start has some very nice views, but they were all socked in! Oh yeah, did I mention the forecast for no rain ended up being rain for almost the whole hike? Bear rock near the end was a challenging scramble with the wet rocks and leaves everywhere.  There is a bypass trail, but we didn’t take it. We got a few views here, and a nice one above Miller’s Pond as the rainclouds began to clear, of course near the end of the hike!

Well we still made good time and had a great hike. We both have a lot of hiking experience and miles under our belts so there was no handicap to slow us down. . We will be back for the cave. Luckily, that’s only 1/2 mile from a parking area, so it would be a fun family hike sometime too. I am hoping to get another 8 miles or so complete this week, and the last 8 or so before the end of the month. I don’t think they got too much snow up there, and besides, its hardly high elevation. The temperatures will be about 40 the next few days which will be fine. Photos below.

Trail miles: 9.3

Total miles 9.6

— Linus

Linus heading up Mt. Pisgah

Linus heading up Mt. Pisgah

Linus on Mt Pisgah

Linus on Mt Pisgah

Linus on the trail

Linus on the trail

Waterfall

Waterfall

The side of Bear Rock

The side of Bear Rock

Brandon and Bear Rock

Brandon and Bear Rock

Definitely a lot of Bear-friendly crevices

Definitely a lot of Bear-friendly crevices

Brandon starting the ascent up Bear Rock

Brandon starting the ascent up Bear Rock

Brandon ascending Bear Rock

Brandon ascending Bear Rock

Linus coming up Bear Rock

Linus coming up Bear Rock

Linus and Brandon on Bear Rock summit

Linus and Brandon on Bear Rock summit

View from Bear Rock

View from Bear Rock

Approaching Miller's Pond

Approaching Miller’s Pond

Miller's Pond

Miller’s Pond