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

 

 

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

New England/Mattabessett Trail: CT Section 10

Today I was supposed to take my friend out to finish her last section of the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. Well, weather turned really nasty, and while I’ve done my share of very wet hiking, this was supposed to be a special day, and we wanted to wait for the right weather, to get all the views. So we postponed it. And the heavy rain will be here all day. So I’m happy sitting here writing about the great hike I did yesterday instead!

While the Appalachian Trail takes up most of my time and attention, I do enjoy checking out other trails. And I’ve been working a bit on the New England Trail again the last few years. Last year I did the Hike50Net challenge, and so I did knock off a good amount more of the Mattabessett, and some of the Metacomet section, with my brother. I hadn’t been back since the end of last year as my trail duties and A.T. section hiking pursuits take priority. But now I’ve got somewhere between 24 and 27 miles left of the Mattabessett. It’s hard to know exactly because of re-routes. My Walk Book from a few years ago is already outdated in areas on this trail. Luckily they have a website with everything up to date. I saw a Forest and Parks association trail crew out doing a re-route on this hike, so it may change again in the near future.

I plan to finish this trail over the winter in 3 or 4 more sections. As the trail moves east away from the traprock ledges, there will me more varied terrain as well as some historic landmarks.  I also hope to finish off the Saugatuck trail, as they added a new section right after we finished it. And perhaps the last ten miles of the Mohawk trail, if I can get a day without ice or lots of loose leaves as the bit over Barrack mountain is very steep.

Speaking of very steep, there were several very steep ascents and descents on this section. The trail crew was actually working on a switchback to save you from one of these steep ascents or descents depending on your direction. And the trail here is all red volcanic basalt. So it’s a bit like Pennsylvania here as there’s rocks along most of the entire trail and now you can’t see them because they’re under millions of leaves. I definitely had to pay attention to my footing to protect my ankles. But wow, the views. I was treated again and again to cliff side views of Pistpaug Pond, Ulbrich reservoir, and views south all the way to Long Island Sound and all the way north to the hanging hills of Meriden. The outlooks here didn’t look east enough to see Hartford. I also was treated to a red-tailed hawk doing a fly over the ridge directly in front of me.

There is a shelter about .2 from the road that local homeowners built behind their house for hikers. As this is a relatively newly designated National Scenic Trail, and you don’t have a lot of people thru-hiking it, there’s not a lot of shelters. And since much of this trail is still on private land, that won’t change for a while. I believe you are allowed to camp on trail if you’re thru-hiking but I don’t really see anything encouraging or mentioning it on their site. I’d say that’s at your own risk.  I signed the register and enjoyed checking out this great shelter. They even had 2 jugs of water for hikers. While there’s a few ponds in the gaps, these water sources are all at least a short walk off trail to get water. I saw one stream running on this whole 6.2 mile hike. I have not seen a lot of natural water sources on this trail except ponds and resevoirs near the mountain gaps. I though about doing a thru-hike of the New England Trail. And it’s always still possible. But for now I’m enjoying doing it in sections when I have a few hours here and there and need some forest walking.

I’d say the only thing that detracted from the hike was the section along a private road lined with barbed wire and the sounds of the nearby firing range the entire hike. I definitely got a lovely fall day and a good workout and the therapy the trail always provides me with. Photos below.  You can see the map of this section here.

Miles: 6.2

— Linus

Ouch!

Ouch!

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

Peaceful woods

Peaceful woods

View from Pistpaug Mtn

View from Pistpaug Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of ups up this

Lots of ups up this

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Fall colors

Fall colors

Mattabessett trail sign

Mattabessett trail sign

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

I want this sign

I want this sign

 

 

 

 

 

Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 1

The last two days we spent backpacking another section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Err.. ROCKsylvania, as its known. And it’s for real. Really real. Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of rocks. Big ones, little ones, medium ones, pointy ones, slippery ones, foot squishing ones, sideways ones… you get the picture. We knew in advance, we’ve been warned for years! ALL A.T. hikers pretty much know this, in fact.

We did the flat section in Boiling Springs in July when we were nursing wounds and it was 95 degrees as day hikes but I wanted to get a good, challenging overnight in in case this was the last overnight for us together of the season. Mission accomplished! (still sore).

I also had to make it to my son’s soccer game in Kent yesterday at 330 so I didn’t want to be a 4-hours-plus drive away. Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap was 15.5 miles, with a shelter 9.1 miles in. The forecast was for 40’s-50’s temps at night and rain most of Monday. We have done our share in rain and that’s fine, but at those temps it becomes a risky combo that we had the luxury to avoid. Plus it was FIelden Stream’s birthday so we usually do a backpacking trip with one night in an inn and one on trail. So we did this again. And since Monday was actually her birthday we had an even better excuse to stay at the inn that night and wait out the rain.

We got a room at the old Deer Head Inn, right on the trail. It looked really cool last time we were in town. We loved it. The only downside was the live jazz and the restaurant weren’t open on Mondays. We will be back for that experience. We can still stay there after another nearby section. The family that run it were very friendly and we got a great rate. We had a really nice room (no TV at least in our room, but who cares!). I sat on the porch with my sketchbook, drawing the beautiful scenes from the porch while it rained, and listened to jazz on my iphone and had a glass of wine.

We got some great dinner suggestions all around the area but we were supposed to meet with a southbound thru hiker for dinner so we picked a place right on the main strip where the hostel and our inn were. As it turns out he was unable to make dinner, so we could have gone somewhere new. But we went to the Sycamore grill last time we were here when we finished New Jersey and liked it a lot. So we were just fine being there again for dinner.

We had a nice dinner and got to bed early after watching some videos on our phone. See, who needs a TV in the room these days!  We were up early to get coffee and donuts at the village farmer, and had fun taking our pictures in the pie slice and hot dog portrait sign. We also got a fresh loaf of raisin bread and cider donuts to have for breakfasts before and during the hike, and got an Uber to Wind Gap right on schedule! We had a nice talk with the driver who was also super friendly and helpful and then it was a quick climb up out of Wind Gap.

While it was a brisk ascent it was gentle on the feet here still, and it wasn’t long because we were already at 1,000ft coming up this way to the ridge. The other end is a much longer climb, and we even felt that going down it at the end!

Soon after we reached the ridge, the fields of rocks began. And kept going, and going… Elevation-wise this day was almost entirely flat once we reached the ridge. Wolf Rocks was a fun scramble, with much, much, larger rocks that formed the spine of a rocky ledge, with drops about 30 feet down on the mountain side. The views north were very nice, and we met a few day hikers here (and one backpacker) who were also taking the tricky scramble slowly. We got a few photos here and then finished the challenging technical walk as we re-entered the forest. I’m glad we waited for it to be dry, this would have been tricky and I did not want to miss it and take the bypass!

We had two more miles to go after Wolf rocks to the shelter and thankfully 1.5 miles of it was along a jeep road. We passed Fox Gap at the top of the ridge line and then it was only .5 to the shelter. We were told by lots of folks to camp at Nelson’s Overlook just beyond, and clearly many do as we found many fire ring sites. But I’m a Leave No Trace educator, and not about to break rules I teach, as lovely a spot as it was. We also met 3 southbound thru hikers at the shelter, when we thought we might be alone. And we really enjoy talking to the thru hikers, having a picnic table and shelter roof and privy when possible. So we set up on the hill behind the shelter and the water source was very close. It’s a spigot on the grounds of a religious retreat right on the same mountaintop. Wow what a view they have! Anyway the spigot is on seasonally and I called and asked on forums in advance to make sure it was still on, as that’s the ONLY water source on this entire 15.5 mile stretch except Eureka Creek at 1.2 miles south of the start. So I recommend checking that its on before you go, and if not pack in a bunch of extra water.

We had a nice night at the shelter. We spoke to the thru hikers a bit at dinner, did our best to catch the sunset over the retreat, and then retired very fatigued to our tent. It was cold, but we were close together and warm and all bundled up and tucked in so we stayed mostly comfrotably warm. We needed the rest so getting to bed at hiker midnight was no problem. We slept almost a full 12 hours.

We were up early the next morning and spoke briefly to a man who was staying at the retreat and came out to check out the view at Nelson’s Overlook. We then made our way out of camp before 8 am, as we had 6.4 miles to do before noon so we could make it to Kent in time.  The thru hikers had said it was easy and had a long flat road section and the ascent wasn’t bad at all (so our descent shouldn’t be).

Nelson’s Overlook was a wonderful view for sure. Apparently it’s popular with the hang gliders too. We moved on a bit further to a place called Lunch Rocks, where we had breakfast! It too had a great view, including our day’s hike laid out in front of us to the east. The ridgeline ahead stretched south and then east to Mt Minsi, on the Pennsylvania side of the gap. You could see Mount Tammany in New Jersey just behind. We also passed the 900-mile mark to Katahdin, which the thrus make out of little rocks. Always neat to see. From here, it was much less rocky but several uphills caught us off guard because I didn’t have a look at the profile in much depth. They weren’t bad or long but we were tired from the tough first day. But we did eventually reach that long flat stretch of road along the spine of the ridge, and it took us all the way to the summit of Mount Minsi. There was an incredible view south of the Delaware River, and we met two other SOBOs who were friends with the ones we were at the shelter with, and they were planning to meet up. That’s why the thrus were up late and still sleeping the night we were there – they were waiting to catch up with each other as they hadn’t seen each other since New Hampshire.

Just past there was the eastern view directly of the Mount Tammany summit and the gap below. We did that hike last fall. It was so fun to be on the other side of that view. It’s very dramatic from either side.  We began the descent that would take hours. While only 2.4 miles, it felt like double that. Now it had MANY incredible views of the gap all along the rocky rhododendron-lined descent. At several points it was very close to the ledge, and the leaves and acorns made it a little sketchy at times. Again I’m so glad it wasn’t wet. It really felt more like northern New England here. There were several scrambles, and it pushed some of our limits as we were getting low in energy. But the views…

Eureka Creek was flowing, and very pretty. I saw a juvenile bald eagle flying above me on the final lookout but didn’t succeed in getting him on camera. Once we reached the road to Lake Lenape and the parking lot, we were happy to have flat ground. The towering rock ledges on the side of the trail featured a big overhang cave with a steep path up to it. I got as close as I was comfortable climbing up while filming and then headed back down where Lake Lenape was and from there it was about a half mile out to the lot and the road and back down to the Inn. We did it in 4 hours which was my long estimate, but we didn’t anticipate how slow the descent would go. We fueled up at Taco Bell on the way back to Connecticut. Hiker hunger is also very real.

Another great hike in the books. We are at 400 miles now. With luck, we will get one more in this season if we get a warm weekend before Thanksgiving. Its always so hard waiting from October until April to go backpacking again! Photos below.  Watch the video here.

Miles Day 1: 9.1

Miles Day 2: 6.4

Bald Eagles: 1

Spiderwebs in the face: too many to count, a lot!

Rocks: WAY too many to count, a whole lot!

Views: Plenty of great ones!

SOBOs we met: 5

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn Pre-hike

The A.T. goes right up that road

The A.T. goes right up that road

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

Fun at the Village Farmer

Fun at the Village Farmer

Starting at Wind Gap

Starting at Wind Gap

Rock town!

Rock town!

Rocksylvania

Rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

Aaaand more rocks

Aaaand more rocks

Even MORE rocks!

Even MORE rocks!

Frog Friend

Frog Friend ( a break from rock pics)

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

Nelson's Overlook

Nelson’s Overlook

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Lake Lenape

Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Hiker hunger is real

Hiker hunger is real