Pyramid Mountain, New Jersey

Last weekend we finally made good on a promise to our Jersey City friends to take them on a hike and see their new place. What can I say, we’ve been super busy as have they but I’m glad we finally made it happen.

I was tasked the job of finding a suitable hike within 45 minutes of Jersey City. By suitable, I mean that we didn’t know what kinda shape they were in so they requested something not too strenuous.  I found the Pyramid mountain natural area, which many great trails and views, as well as a visitor center and nature museum. The ranger there was able to walk us through the different hike options before our friends met us, so we had a hike ready based on the criteria I gave.

While it wasn’t strenuous, our route had a steady rocky ascent at the beginning as well as at the end. They handled the rocks and trail like champs. We were treated to a great view of the New York City skyline from the trail, and would be treated to a much closer view of it from their apartment in Jersey City that evening.

There was another view at “Lucy’s overlook” but it wasn’t as nice as the first. We completely forgot to go a bit farther to the glacial erratic known as Tripod Rock! We got distracted, but we will be back to do more hiking with them and will see it next time. It was a beautiful fall day with friends on the trail. Photos below

Miles: 2.5

— Linus

Some good rock scrambles

Some good rock scrambles

Linus and Patrick on Pyramid Mountain

Linus and Patrick on Pyramid Mountain

Linus and Fielden Stream

Linus and Fielden Stream

Patrick in the ravine

Patrick in the ravine

Fielden Stream and Jenny

Fielden Stream and Jenny

The NYC skyline from Jersey City

The NYC skyline from Jersey City

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Ridgerunner Weekend #5, Bear Mountain and the Riga Plateau

One of my favorite sections (and everyone else’s) of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut is Bear Mountain in Salisbury, our highest peak. Most of the day hikers take the 2-mile Undermountain trail to the Appalachian Trail at Riga Junction. From there, the summit of Bear Mountain is just .9 miles higher.  On this trip, as others, I encountered many hikers heading up for a quick out-and-back.

I was still getting over a bad cold, so I chose to take the undermountain trail to Lion’s Head and then back to Riga shelter, so my daily mileage would not exceed 6. I didn’t want to push myself too hard. Usually I do a much longer loop up here.

I was planning to meet my friend Brian again at Riga and he would be starting after work. I had about 6 1/2 hrs to cover the 5.7 miles I did, so I took several breaks, including a long one at Brassie Brook shelter, and at Lion’s Head. Lion’s head is about .6 farther in this direction than the shelter but its easy miles and its views are not to be missed. There are actually two great lookouts; a northern one AND a southern one.  I love them both.

I knew from the register at Brassie Brook (and our chapter water reports) that the water source at Riga was dry, as were most of the others along my route, except for at Brassie Brook. So I loaded up there with another 3 liters so I was covered for the night. While this made my load heavier. these miles after the initial climb from the undermountain trail head were primarily flat with one small climb up to Lion’s Head itself.

I had a lovely break there, laughing as turkey vultures circled overhead, cawwing loudly (or whatever you call their sound) and discussing how tasty I might be. I met a northbound thru hiker along the way and a few southbounders.

When I arrived at Riga there was also a southbounder there with her dog. I also encountered yet ANOTHER fire ring against the rock under the NO FIRES sign. People can really be stinkers sometimes. Its disappointing that people can be so purposefully disrespectful. So I got to work cleaning that up and then I got a reward when looking through the register. The thru hikers we were following online and that we met in June in Falls Village had left us a note here thanking us for recommending they stay here, and how great the view was indeed. (It turns out later that we realized they also gave us shoutouts in their videos of both those days!)

This hike was an overnight on Friday the 13th, and the first Firday the 13th with a harvest full moon in over 20 years. We were thrilled when it materialized in all its glory that night. And because we never did get the famous sunrise the next morning as a storm was moving in. The wind howled all night, as well as a chorus of livestock sounds from the farms below. In the morning, the weather was moving in quicker and rain was now scheduled to come at 11. We had a quick breakfast and headed up to the top of Bear, cutting and clearing a few blowdowns on the way.  ( I had also cleared a large one the day before on Lion’s Head.)

There was still a little bit of a view and we got some photos and then hussled back down to Riga junction and the undermountain trail, passing 24 hikers and several dogs. My cold was also starting to come back a bit, so I was glad to have had another easier than usual day.

We stopped at the Cornwall Country market for some breakfast and just as we sat down it started to pour. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, but when I’m sick, and its cold and wet, that’s a bad combo. The timing worked out perfectly.

It was another great season as a weekend summer ridgerunner, and I hope to be back again for a 4th next year. Until then I will knock out a few more sections elsewhere with my wife, and do some volunteer work on our section. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 5.7

Miles day 2: 5.5

— LInus

Stickbug!

Stickbug!

Brassie Brook

Brassie Brook

Large blowdown I cut

Large blowdown I cut

Some kind of seedpod

Some kind of seedpod

Heading up Lions head southbound

Heading up Lions head southbound

Lions Head

Lions Head

Lions Head south view

Lions Head south view

Me on LIon's Head Northern view

Me on LIon’s Head Northern view

Turkey vultures overhead

Turkey vultures overhead

The great view at Riga shelter

The great view at Riga shelter

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Some cool mushrooms

Some cool mushrooms

Beautiful oak - a blowdown we had to cut

Beautiful oak – a blowdown we had to cut

Autumn hobblebush

Autumn hobblebush

Pointing back to Lion's Head from Bear Mtn

Pointing back to Lion’s Head from Bear Mtn

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Mts Race and Everett (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

Mts Race and Everett in the clouds (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The remains of the stone tower on Bear's summit

The remains of the stone tower on Bear’s summit

Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – Up and Down the Trail

Last weekend I saw a lot more of the Connecticut trail than one section. It started off by running into ridge runner Lizzie at the Cornwall Country Market. We hadn’t seen each other since the training days in late May, and I was stopping in to pick up some breakfast sandwiches for Brian and I. He was already out on the trail and planning to join me at the trailhead in Falls Village shortly after my stop here. Lizzie and I caught up for a bit and talked about our season so far. She was on day 6 of a 10 day stretch and was excited to be meeting friends at the market. She had met Brian on the trail earlier so she knew we were meeting up to hike later. She thanked me again for all the training I gave them, which felt nice of course. It was an honor, and a lot of fun!

I headed up to the trailhead lot in Falls Village. Set up there were a family doing trail magic out of their truck. With them they had both their daughters, and one was currently thru hiking the trail but had actually been in the Bear Mountain, New York area. They picked her up so she could join in providing the trail magic and see her family who were from Michigan. They were planning to drive her back to where she left off in New York on the way back.  They had coolers of water, gatorade, chips, sandwiches and some sugary treats. I spoke with them for a while about ridge running and then with a few other thru hikers who were arriving, and we’d see a bunch more of later on the trail.

Brian finally arrived (he got sidetracked by some other nice hikers we’d see several more times). Apparently he walked right past a large rattlesnake the other hikers saw right after their conversation by Belter’s Bump. I gave him the egg sandwich, which he had in addition to a fresh sandwich they made him. We enjoyed more conversation with hikers before finally setting off on the trail. It was getting hotter and I was ready to get into the shady covered woods.

There was a small issue here as an entry to the tracks was right next do a turn blaze on a pole. Only this wasn’t the entrance to the trail, it was about 50 ft farther. But the sign was covered by overgrown brush. Once I realized what was going on, I used some large sticks and branches to create a fence of sorts. Hopefully this will work for the time being while we can address it with the club for a more permanent solution. I’ve already raised it.

Once that was resolved it was a quick mostly flat few miles to the base of the Great Falls. We also made a stop to fill up our bottles at the power plant faucet. At the falls we ran into the trail magic family as we had recommended they come here to see the falls. They were surprised we were there already. Well, it was flat and we move at a good pace when hiking. We opted to enjoy the falls more properly and cool off on our return tomorrow. For now we wanted to get our miles down.

The long slow climb up Prospect Mountain is luckily almost all in the woods save for one short strip through a steamy meadow. We took a long break at the top and spoke with some day hikers and then two thru hikers we saw at the trail magic lot. He had left his phone in a shuttle driver’s car so Brian was helping him communicate with family who could help him make arrangements to get it back. It was a clear, bright, warm day and the view was long and clear from the summit.

We marched on, headed for the Giant’s Thumb on Rabbit Hill. I also wanted to take in Rand’s view, a glorious panorama of the Taconics and the trail ahead. There was indeed a stealth camping area here. A few of the thrus asked if they could camp in this area when at the trail magic and I said only at designated sites in Connecticut. They did comply and we saw them later at the campsite. But we had to address this stealth site. Once we made sure it was cleared of any fire evidence, I built another structure of sticks and vines to create a fence. Let’s hope it lasts. A more permanent solution is needed. But it seems people know about it and camping in the field from Guthook. Nevermind that it’s not allowed I guess a nice camp spot is more important to hikers these days than LNT.  Well, not all. And this IS one of the main reasons I’m out here. I’m hoping my fence solution sends the message without being offensive. I was certainly happy with it.

The Giant’s Thumb is a glacial erratic on Rabbit Hill that sticks straight up and resembles a thumb. It was only .3 farther up trail and mostly level so we decided it would be nice to visit it as our turn around point for the day. After nearly walking right by it, we stopped for photos and then headed back to the campsite. The big steep climb down to the campsite and shelter was next. I cut some branches hanging in the access trail and Brian taught me about how to cut tree branches so the tree keeps growing in a healthy way.

As steep as I’ve ever remembered it, we took our time getting down to camp. Once there, its a lovely campsite with a piped spring, a nice breeze, and a shelter and several platforms. We got set up and I answered questions and spoke to all the hikers as they streamed in, grumbling about the descent. I assured them we are working on a solution for that. Re-routes take a lot of meetings and surveys of the land and then approvals so once we get all that done, a re-route should be in place. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

The hikers from the trail magic that asked me about camping at the field were there, as were about 8 others, including 2 section overnight hikers. And one thru-hiking poodle. We enjoyed speaking with all of them at dinner at the picnic table and I helped the two overnighters arrange to get their little sportscar out the river road gate as their GPS took them down a very treacherous road to the other side of the gate and they were afraid the car wouldn’t make it back up. We met thru hikers from Australia, and one who’s waited his whole life to retire and do the trail. It was a dry, clear, moonlight quiet night, save for an owl and some fisher cats (I think they were mating?). Even the bugs eventually left.

In the morning we all seemed to be up and heading out at the same time so it was nice to not have to wait to see that the campsite was in order. We made quick time of the steep ascent and got back to the summit of Prospect Mountain. Those two climbs would be about all of it for the day except a few 50ft ups and downs along the train track section. We spoke with the hikers Brian had chatted with on Belter’s Bump as they were just making it to this section today. They are neighbors who have already done 1,500 miles of the trail but they do it all in day hikes and stay in hotels at night. We also saw a few members of another family who were taking their dogs up to the summit. We stopped at the falls and got to the edge of the water this time to cool off and splash a bunch of cold water on our heads. We spoke with a few thru hikers here and passed about 8 more on the way back to the car including Arrow and Nav, who I’ve been following on Instagram. Nav is a little miniature Collie. It was fun to run into them and was not sure I’d see them because the car show at Falls Village was drawing a lot of hikers because of the many food vendors.

I have also been followed and was following another hiker named Lightning McQueen. My friends at the Bulls Bridge informed me they’d be barbecuing and doing some trail magic, and to come over after we got off trail. So we planned on that in the morning and I told Lightning to meet us there if the timing was right. As I got on the road I was updated that she had already come by looking for me and had gone to the store. I reached out and she was still there and said she’d be back at the trail shortly. We really enjoyed meeting and talking and having lunch with her. I also met a National Park Ranger who is working with our chapter on educating locals on the trail and rules here, as well as addressing other issues along our section. So I was able to provide her with some information on the status of issues in the section of trail we just hiked.

It was perfect weather all weekend, and I got to make a lot of new friends, and meet up with some hikers I was hoping to meet, and as always, take care of the trail and the hikers the best I can. And my planks have paid off because it really minimized my knee pain and I had a long descent to test it out! I will be back out in a few weekends to do more ridge running. I am also planning a 3 day section in North Carolina to do with Fielden Stream as we will be in the area in a month for my son’s graduation. Can’t wait. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 7.5

Miles day 2: 5.9

— Linus

 

My fence to block a fake trail entry

My fence to block a fake trail entry

Almost 1500

Almost 1500

The one and only Rand's view

The one and only Rand’s view

Brian at Giant's Thumb

Brian at Giant’s Thumb

Camping at Limestone Spring

Camping at Limestone Spring

Lilly the hiking dog

Lilly the hiking dog

On top of Prospect Mountain

On top of Prospect Mountain

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

The Great falls, from the side

The Great falls, from the side

Below the Great Falls

Below the Great Falls

New ridge runner and LNT training overnight

Last week I joined the new crew of seasonal summer ridge runners as well as the coordinators for a trail training overnight. We had four main goals: LNT (leave no trace training), set up the caretaker tent at Sages Ravine, replace the shelter registers, and learn the job. That’s why I was there, to show everyone the job. We worked hard and they learned a lot. We cleared a lot of water bars, over seven fire rings, cleaned shelters and privies (and filled the duff buckets) and packed out a lot of trash. As this was the real season kickoff for this role, a lot of these issues like the fire rings may have been left over from winter.

We had a great night at the campsite, and a lot of great hiker interactions. They were glad to have me along to show them the ropes, and I was glad to have a great crew who were eager to learn. I loved learning the LNT lessons too and getting certified.

I will be out again this weekend for my first official solo ridge runner outing. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 4

Miles day 2: 8

  • Linus
Mountain Azalea

Mountain Azalea

Bear Mountain, CT from the Paradise Lane Trail

Bear Mountain, CT from the Paradise Lane Trail

Entering Sages Ravine

Entering Sages Ravine

Setting up the caretaker tent

Setting up the caretaker tent

Sages Ravine

Sages Ravine

My campsite

My campsite

Red efts

Red efts

Trillium

Trillium

At the top of Bear looking north

At the top of Bear looking north

On the tower at the top of Bear

On the tower at the top of Bear

Looking south from Bear Mountain

Looking south from Bear Mountain

The famous Riga view

The famous Riga view

Case Mountain Family Hike, Manchester, Connecticut

Falls and bridge at the lot

Falls and bridge at the lot

Last weekend we had a happy occasion thankfully, in the form of celebrating my older brother’s 50th birthday. As you may know from reading this blog, we have been doing a bunch of hiking together over the last year. On this day he and his girlfriend, my little brother and his son and partner from Colorado and my uncle from Virginia who were all here for the occasion too came along on the hike. I was elated everyone was in the mood to spend a few hours of this bluebird day to hit the woods, and I didn’t have to do much convincing.

Broccoli tree?

Broccoli tree?

The hike was at Case Mountain Park in Manchester, Connecticut. It has an extensive (10 miles) system of trails up and around the peaks of Case Mountain, Lookout Mountain and Birch Mountain. We managed a loop including the first two, at about 2.3 miles. The blue-blazed Shenipsit trail traverses the park for a few miles, and we connected a bit of that with several other trails including the carraige trail, the pink trail, and the blue/yellow trail.

We only had about an hour and a half so I had picked this route and led the hike. It was a great way to spend time together, and while it was short and not very challenging, it had a very nice view from Lookout Mountain.

Trail break

Trail break

This view makes it a popular hike for locals, and one I’m glad I finally got to do. At around 750ft, these peaks are not very high, but they are high enough over the valley below that you get long views to Hartford and beyond to the west as well as the hanging hills to the south.

Our backpacking season is starting very soon and I’m excited because this weekend is not only our trail work season official kickoff day, but I am joining my friend Brian and a buddy of his for an overnight on the trail afterwards.

View from Lookout Mountain summit

View from Lookout Mountain summit

While I’m only hiking a short ways in to the campsite to meet them because of the trail work day beforehand, I get to try my new hammock for the first time and get a much needed night on the trail with friends. It’s also all uphill to the campsite, of course! And at the trail work party I will be receiving my recognition for 250 hours of volunteer trail service to date, and my son will be receiving his 12-award! We do it because we love it, but of course a little recognition is always nice.

Our route

Our route

With any luck, Fielden Stream and I will be heading out to do another overnight backpacking trip on a section in New Jersey near the end of this month. Our first together for the season. If not for all the occasions lately, we probably would have gotten out already.

Miles: 2.3

Family members: 8

Smiles: countless

  • Linus

Humpback Rocks and Appalachian Trail, Virginia

Humpback rocks from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Humpback rocks from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last weekend we were in South Carolina suddenly for a funeral of someone near and dear.

That was a particularly hard time for me and my friends, and while seeing them helped in the way of support, there is one other prime way I get my therapy… the woods!

I do a lot of processing and thinking out on the trail, and at the very least, a good hike just clears your head and makes you focus on the challenge and the experience in front of you right at that moment.

This was much needed as well, because distractions from the loss were much welcome. With a 700-mile drive, I was also happy to split it up on the way back and stay in a trail town and get a nice hike in in one of my favorite areas. That would be central Virginia, near Shenandoah.

Humpback rocks from the blue trail

Humpback rocks from the blue trail

Much of the Skyline drive was still closed for post-storm blowdown cleanup, so we aimed just south of the park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the trailhead for Humpback rocks. I had researched a few hike options of course and this one looked perfect for time and distance, with a big payoff view.  This of course also means crowds on a weekend. We arrived on a late Saturday afternoon. Late enough to find parking, but not late enough to miss all the crowds.

I was hopeful as we started up from the picnic lot that all these people leaving would mean we would have it mostly to ourselves. Well, that’s not how it turned out. There were large groups of students from nearby James Madison University coming to hike. I am sure this is partly because Skyline was half closed.

Linus atop Humpback rocks

Linus atop Humpback rocks

But I think its great when anyone hikes and loves it as much as I do so I try and grin and bear it with the crowds. I knew it would likely be the case.  Glad to see kids in their 20s take in nature in place of an afternoon kegger!

We took the blue trail from the lot which climbs quickly and somewhat steeply to the ridge line. Rocks were plentiful, as were views of Humpback rocks above. We paused many times to catch our breath and wait for hikers to pass on their way down.

The Blue Ridge Parkway below Humpback rocks

The Blue Ridge Parkway below Humpback rocks

Luckily it was only .8 to the rocks so we preferred to get it over with first and do a gentle longer descent. I explored the rocks as much as I could with the crowd, and got some pictures both from Fielden Stream and a student. The views were glorious and I tried to walk a bit farther out than I was first comfortable with, and this approach seems to be working. I get a little sketched out on some of the bigger straight drop offs, and since there’s a lot of those on the trail, I’ve worked on addressing that by pushing my limits and picking hikes with a lot of that so I can get over it 100%.  A work in progress, but I enjoy them a lot more now.

We talked to a family who had a Beagle (or mix) with them as we have a Beagle, and then there was still another .25 miles to climb to where the Appalachian Trail intersected.  The summit was not much farther but I figure I will hit that when I come through this section anyway.

Linus on Humpback rocks

Linus on Humpback rocks

It was a nice, long, gentle descent of switchbacks down the A.T. on the back of the mountain.  We chatted and even got to hold hands in some wider spots! It was just as we were getting down to the final trail junction that we heard a crashing in the trees down the hill. We started banging our poles together and singing songs out loud and just then I spotted a black animal in the tree branches where we heard the sound. We had continued to move and just slow down and remain alert. It scurried off and so did we. As it’s likely it was a cub, momma was probably not far off.

At the trail junction I found a child’s backpack, forgotten on a rock. It was full of food and a water bottle so I picked it up and packed it out the last half mile up the carriage road to the lot.

Humpback rocks

Humpback rocks

I emptied the food into the bear proof trash container and left the bag at the kiosk, hoping it would be reunited with its owner. I’m not holding my breath though because if it was a tourist they are likely long gone and not going back to see if someone carried it out for them. A student or local, maybe… always in ridge runner mode out there!

We reached the lot within under 2 hours. It’s been a while but not bad at all for our first outing together in months! That’s for 4.2 miles including a big steep uphill and time playing around on the rocks.

View of Shenandoah National Park from Humpback rocks

View of Shenandoah National Park from Humpback rocks

The sun was beginning to set and we enjoyed views of Waynesboro from the Blue Ridge Parkway and then went to our hotel and favorite Chinese place across the street. We passed the Devil’s Backbone Brewery on the way to the hike and really wanted to go there but it was in the opposite direction quite a bit from our hotel. But we were excited to spot it and will definitely go there when we hike this section for real.

 

A great hike, and a night in a trail town, is good medicine indeed.

FIelden Stream

FIelden Stream

Miles: 4.2

Bears: 1 (and probably more we didn’t see)

— Linus

Ten Mile River Campsites Clean-up with Ray and Jiffy Pop

March 23rd weekend I had my son “Jiffy Pop” home from school and in preparation for some trail volunteer work he will be doing there, I wanted to get him back out for some more volunteer trail work up here in Connecticut. A few seasons back he helped me for half a day, and he was eager to go out and hike and do some work. I am more than happy to encourage that! With this volunteer time under his belt he has now also earned his first volunteer award with the club!

We met up with Ray, our friend from the Connecticut chapter, and member of the Bull’s Bridge task force. They are there to keep Bull’s Bridge from being the trash pile it once was years ago, and manage crowds at this busy area.

We did a loop down to the Ten Mile River Campsites and Shelter, to pick up trash, clean up fire rings, and anything else that awaited us.

There was a good amount of trash and evidence of rogue fires at the shelter, and so we cleared all of that and checked the bear boxes and privies, filling up duff buckets and checking the water pump.

Unfortunately folks (suspecting locals) are still up to a bunch of bushcraft nonsense at this campsite. While that’s a neat skill, cutting down young saplings to do it, is not only illegal on National Park Service land, but just wrong. We will be addressing this with the town and the ATC so we can get some signage in place to that effect, and hopefully it will make a difference.

Curious about some colorful ribbons along the Ten Mile River, Ray told me the princess from the nearby Schaghticoke tribe placed these at many of the river confluences in the area to bless them in a ceremony. Fascinating! Please if you see them do not disturb.

Pictures below.

Miles: 2.6

– Linus

Looking upriver to Schaghticoke Mtn

Looking upriver to Schaghticoke Mtn

Linus, Jiffy Pop and Ray at Bull's Bridge

Linus, Jiffy Pop and Ray at Bull’s Bridge

 

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Linus and Jiffy Pop

Linus and Jiffy Pop

Jiffy Pop checking the bear box

Jiffy Pop checking the bear box

LInus and Jiffy Pop at the shelter

LInus and Jiffy Pop at the shelter

Schaghticoke River blessing

Schaghticoke River blessing