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

 

 

Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Schaghticoke and Algo – Kent, CT

Over the Father’s Day weekend I made it back out to the trail for my second ridge runner weekend. The weather was perfect. I think at one point there was a drop of rain and a storm cloud off in the distance but it never materialized beyond that, and I also had several friends old and new in the picture. Always a fantastic way to spend trail time.

I decided to cover the wild ups and downs of South Kent, Connecticut known as Schaghticoke Mountain and Mount Algo. It’s a section that’s a rollercoaster of rocky ups and downs, but with views of the level of reward to match the terrain, and long tunnels of mountain laurel. I knew they’d be at or reaching peak at this time of year and it’s one of my favorite times to be on the trail. It’s not too hot yet, but the laurels are out in force and its so beautiful. Also at this time the bubble is starting through Connecticut. The faster ones at least. I saw over 25 thru-hikers that weekend, and spent the night at the campsite with at least 10 of them. I recommended JP Giffords in Kent for lunch what 5 times to thru hikers who asked me on the trail for a recommendation – I really need a referral commission! And our new visitor center in Kent.  And the Cornwall Country market Deli in Cornwall Bridge. I told them about the high water at Guinea Brook and to take the detour.

My friend Brian and I chatted with several thru hikers at Algo shelter. Raven, One Step, Stray Cat and the others I saw earlier on the trail that day. Brian hiked in later in the day to meet me after work. While I was happy to have seen 3 snakes, he saw the timber rattler as he came up the trail around 5pm that day. I saw a milk snake (which I thought was a copperhead at first!) and 2 large black racers. Rattlers do love Schaghticoke Mountain, but I guess they don’t love me. I just want to SEE one.

We saw my friend (and other weekend ridge runner) Jay on top of Schaghticoke as we were getting back to the start on the second day and chatted with him for a while. I was hoping for these two guys to meet!

Brian borrowed my Quarter Dome 1 tent so he could try it, and I think he liked it.  One Step also really liked my tent as she’s looking for a new lighter one and mine would be a huge weight savings for her as she’s carrying a half dome!

My knee has been acting up (especially on the steep downhills), and I think its cause I’ve been lazy with my daily planks, and my knee compression sleeves are worn out. Fielden’s knee has been iffy too the last week so we changed our plans to start Vermont this weekend with a pair of day hikes and a hotel overnight in a flat section of Pennsylvania from Boiling Springs to Carlisle. Boiling sounds about right as it will be 90, but our hotel has a pool. And at least we can still get a lot of trail miles in, and the experience, without having to worry about limping out miles from a campsite at 3,000ft!

The Vermont section will happen in a month or two when everyone’s healed up. This one is better for the current state of things. And, look at that we ARE starting Pennsylvania after all!. It would actually drive me a bit nuts skipping the whole state and doing Maryland first so maybe its good we’re finally starting Pennsylvania. I know there’s lots of nice sections, its just the real rocky bits I’m looking less forward to.

As an added bonus, Fielden Stream and I were out for the day in the Falls Village area the following week and ran into our favorite thru-hikers at the Mountanside Cafe! They were the ones I was hoping to run into on this weekend’s adventures. But I am glad for the new friends I did make on the trail and at the shelter. And looking forward actually to hiking some of Pennsylvania. Heck, half my family comes from there! Photos below.

Miles Day 1: 7

Miles Day 2: 7.3 (with campsite cleanups)

Wildilife: 1 Tanager, 3 snakes (4 if you count the one Brian saw)

Hikers: A LOT – Thrus especially

— Linus

View South from Scaghticoke

View South from Schaghticoke

Our favorite farmer's market from Indian Rocks

Our favorite farmer’s market from Indian Rocks

The first black racer I saw

The first black racer I saw

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

My campsite at Algo shelter

My campsite at Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

The last snake sighting

The last snake sightingThe last snake sighting

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Great Garlic Mustard Pull at Bull’s Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Connecticut

On Saturday our AMC Connecticut Chapter held one of our big annual volunteer work days, “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail.”  Like the volunteer round-up, we start with recognitions of any volunteers who were not at that event. We then went through the different work parties going on that day. One was a shelter roof replacement, one was doing waterbar clearing. There was also a boundary maintenance group and a trail relocation/switchback that was being started.  Our overseer of trails did a demo on how to use and carry the large tools required for some of the jobs, as there were a lot of new volunteers this day.

Last but not least of the work party options was the garlic mustard pull down by Bull’s Bridge. This is an invasive that really can take over fast, and alters the soil composition enough that native species can’t grow well.  This is the group I went with as I had pulled something else – in my back –  the previous week, and heavy labor would not have helped it heal. I need to be uninjured as I have lots of ridgerunning to do as the season is upon us.

We’ve been doing this work party for a few years now, so we had far less to pull this time around because we’ve been steadily warding off lots of new growth. You can cook with garlic mustard apparently, but I haven’t tried it.

We split up to cover different sections of the woods, and I went off with my friend Ray from the Bull’s Bridge task force. We spotted a lot of new Columbines and Jack in the Pulpits along the river and the trail. Also on our loop we met a hiker who Ray met at Trail Days in Damascus last year. He had to get off farther north in Virginia last year so he was out again finishing the trail from Bear’s Den hostel in northern Virginia this year and had already made it to Connecticut after 47 days.  We all chatted for a while. What a small world it is on this very long trail!  I see that phenomenon almost every time I’m out…

We also saw our local blue heron “Jim” flying above the river. I see him often down at the campsite at Ten Mile when camping there.

Tomorrow Fielden Stream and I are completing the New Jersey section including an initial steep climb up the “Stairway to Heaven”. After we’re done with this state (#5) we are thinking we will start southern Vermont. Or if we can somehow find a whole week to take off, we might do all 44 miles of Maryland.

But next week I also start my ridgerunner duties in full, and have a multi-day hike and work party to repair a privy with the new ridgerunner team. And the first weekend in June will be my first official solo ridgerunner weekend of the season. I will be doing that at least once a month through October. So we will see how many other weekends Fielden and I can manage. We do have a tentative plan to hike with our friends from Pennsylvania again, in their home state. Though not one of the really rocky bits! Not when I have a choice anyway!

More to come… photos below.

Miles: 1

– Linus

Housatonic rapids below Bull's Bridge

Housatonic rapids below Bull’s Bridge

Jim our local blue heron

Jim our local blue heron

Jack in the pulpit

Jack in the pulpit

Columbine

Columbine

Our hiker kiosk at Bull's Bridge

Our hiker kiosk at Bull’s Bridge

My favorite carvings

My favorite carvings

Housatonic rapids below Bull's Bridge

Housatonic rapids below Bull’s Bridge

Appalachian Trail: North Carolina: Winding Stair Gap to Panther Gap Out-and-back

Jiffy Pop leaving his old man behind again

Jiffy Pop leaving his old man behind again

Over the weekend I was visiting my son again at his boarding school in the high country of South Carolina. As is becoming tradition, we took advantage of the fact that it is so close to the Appalachian Trail, and made sure to fit in another hike. It was after all, a gorgeous day for a walk in the woods, and he’s expressed to me a few times now that he’d like to thru-hike with me one day. This news of course is a dream come true for me! So I have to feed that passion. His trail name is Jiffy Pop, in case you’re new here.

Jiffy Pop and Fielden Stream

Jiffy Pop and Fielden Stream

We were up in the Asheville, North Carolina for most of the weekend for other reasons, and I thought about finding some local trail hikes there. I know there are also great trails and hikes near his school in northwest South Carolina and northeast Georgia. However the Appalachian Trail was the trail I wanted to get him on to keep him excited about a thru-hike one day. So I thumbed through my WhiteBlaze 2019 white pages guide while at our hotel for options on the Appalachian Trail nearby in North Carolina.

Beautiful falls at Winding Stair Gap

Beautiful falls at Winding Stair Gap

We did get to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, by chance, on the way to one of our activities. What a treat! It is very much like Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, but starts just across the road from Skyline’s southern end in Waynesboro, Virginia and travels a few hundred miles south. It was a bit overcast and cloudy that day (Sunday) but was as a result also a perfect example of why these are called the Great Smoky Mountains. We stopped at an overlook and took some photos of course.

While in the Asheville area I also got to meet in person a thru-hiker from the class of 2018 that we enjoyed following on YouTube – IBTAT. While he’s quite a character, speaking often with regular profanity, he’s a really nice guy who found sobriety through hiking the trail and fully appreciates the beauty of the A.T.

Oh how I wished I could have camped by the creek

Oh how I wished I could have camped by the creek

Unlike a large percentage of thru-hikers who are often moving very fast to do the trail as quickly as possible (or treating it like a giant party), he often stopped to observe and point out amazing views and how lucky he was to be able to experience a thru-hike. He’s gearing up for a PCT hike soon. I knew he lived in Asheville and cooked at a restaurant there, and so I reached out to see if he would be working that day we were arriving in town. When he confirmed he was, we went for an amazing breakfast and a quick hello. Because he had thru-hiked last year I was hoping to have him meet my son too but the schedules did not line up.

Jiffy Pop taking pack duty

Jiffy Pop taking pack duty

For the hike we opted to go back to Franklin, an area I knew a bit now from our last visit and hike to Siler Bald in September. I considered a hike up to Wesser Bald from Tellico Gap, or Wayah gap to Wayah Fire Tower, or from Winding Stair Gap all the way to Siler Bald,  but all were too long and too much elevation gain for the number of hours we had to spare. We opted for the last hike, but only halfway to Siler Bald, stopping at an overlook two miles up at Panther Gap. While not a 360 degree view, it too had great views south from east to west and as I mentioned we’ve already been up to Siler Bald. We will cover the two miles between Panther Gap and Siler Bald when we thru hike – or at the very least do a long-a** section hike (LASH) in a few years. My son’s not sure he can do it, but he wants to try and we will give it our best shot. Even a week together on the trail will be an amazing bonding experience we would cherish for life.

Father and son at Swinging LICK Gap

Father and son at Swinging LICK Gap

The climb out of Winding Stair Gap featured an exciting rushing brook crossing, some good twisting, climbing trail with lots of log steps (hence the name) and a beautiful cascade with a bridge across it. Up to Panther Gap the elevation gain was only about 850 ft, but we felt it. There were two steady climbs with a merciful half-mile of flat to gradual uphill in the middle. There was a gorgeous campsite about a mile up at Moore Creek, and oh how I wished we had overnight gear and were spending the night. We stopped a short ways after at the sign for Swinging Lick Gap, which someone had tried to change into a more vulgar name by carving the L into a D. My son got a kick out of this of course. Me being a trail maintainer, not so much. I hear they have to replace this sign often. While it’s a funny name, vandalism isn’t funny.

A nice view at Panther Gap, at least in Winter

A nice view at Panther Gap, at least in Winter

There was also a camping spot at Panther Gap, which we saw when we finally caught up to Jiffy Pop who was waiting patiently for us at the view. For someone worried about being able to do it, he certainly left us way behind on the climb up!  There was a fire pit which had some orange peels in it. Being a ridge runner and an all around leave no trace guy, I cleaned those up. It’s a reflex, and the right thing to do anyway.

Jiffy Pop waiting patiently at Panther Gap

Jiffy Pop waiting patiently at Panther Gap

I imagine in summer in full canopy this view would be much more obscured but it was great this day.  The wind was howling over the ridgeline at the gap. The wind always finds the path of least resistance and a gap sure qualifies. We were at about 4500ft in elevation at this point and I tried to identify the other peaks in the distance as some I knew were along the trail south of here. We had a snack and took in the long views and took some photos and then headed back down as we had to be back at the car in 45 minutes. The rhododendron and mountain laurel were plentiful, and I pictured the glory of this section in full bloom. It was beautiful even in winter.

Linus and Fielden Stream at Panther Gap

Linus and Fielden Stream at Panther Gap

And, my son did get to meet two thru-hikers on the hike, so that was great. I really wanted him to meet some thru-hikers so he could be inspired by them as well.  They were a gentlemen from Ohio now living in Franklin who did the trail in 2015. And a current thru-hiker “Engineer” now “Full Monty”. He said had to take a break in Franklin due to IT band issues for many days but was back out and at it, and optimistic for a great hike. I too have some knee issues and wear compression sleeves for downhills, so I can relate. 

Miles: 4.2

  • Linus

 

Appalachian Trail Massachusetts: Section 1

Over the weekend we did get back up to the trail in Massachusetts, but opted for the shorter section to the VT border from North Adams instead of south from there over the Greylock range. We did it as an out-and-back and did not venture further into Vermont as the Green mountain club requested people not hike the muddy trail until after Memorial day. Doing this section turned out to be a wise decision on many fronts. But most of all, the all-day heavy rain combined with cold temperatures predicted for Saturday did come, just minutes after we got off trail in the morning. We lucked out with nice weather Friday so the climb up the Pine Cobble wasn’t too sketchy and the view from the top was grand.  This was the longest and highest uphill we’ve done together, gaining about 1800’ from North Adams to the Vermont and Long Trail border.  We felt it the rest of the weekend in our legs.

We had a bit of excitement on the hike! One of the hikers at the campground called in for a midnight rescue as he was having abdominal pains, and so we met some EMT’s and firefighters who had to hike the 1.8 miles uphill to the campsite in the middle of the night and direct them to the bear box to get the hiker’s food. I was treated to a view of the bright starry night as I was out there chatting with them…  and many Barred owl calls… Also my fellow weekend ridgerunner from CT AMC came up to the campsite at 7am to meet us for coffee before his daughter’s lacrosse tournament in nearby Williamstown that day, so that was cool.  And I got 2 nasty black fly bites. Those little bastards got me at the end of the day when I was tired and filling up water and rolled up my sleeves where I had no bug juice on…. Duh!  They still itch and hurt so much I’m putting on cortisone regularly. I was warned about May in Massachusetts!

We saw only about 3 other hikers on the trip, including two girls staying at our campsite. It’s a really pretty walk along Sherman brook for the first few miles up out of North Adams. On a really hot day that would be paradise. I trekked it the extra mile south from Rt 2 on the way out Saturday morning to Pattison road. This way we could start there next time and not have to park in town and have a steamy concrete road walk before the long climb up the Greylock range.  After we got off the trail we spent the rest of the weekend exploring North Adams and Williamstown. We will come back to do the last 13 miles of the A.T. in Massachusetts in a month or two. It will still be there. Besides, then we get to enjoy the Bascom lodge….

I start ridgerunning in Connecticut this weekend over Memorial day, and then Fielden Stream and I are doing another New Jersey section in about 3 weeks with our Pennsylvania friends.

Trail miles: 5.1

Total miles hiked: About 11 (out and back, side trails)

  • Linus
Fielden Stream at the VT border

Fielden Stream at the VT border

The Massachusetts side

The Massachusetts side

Pine Cobble bad weather trail

Pine Cobble bad weather trail

View from Pine Cobble

View from Pine Cobble

CT AMC Ridge runners

CT AMC Ridge runners

Walking back into North Adams

Walking back into North Adams

Sunset over Bald mtn

Sunset over Bald mtn

The great view from the bad weather trail

The great view from the bad weather trail

Cairns on Pine Cobble

Cairns on Pine Cobble

Pine Cobble trail jct

Pine Cobble trail jct

My chipmunk friend and I had a nice chat

My chipmunk friend and I had a nice chat

Linus at the Long Trail

Linus at the Long Trail

First VT sign

First VT sign

Appalachian Trail: MA Sections 4 & 5

Last weekend Fielden Stream and I did another overnighter in Massachusetts. We did all of section 5 and about 1/3 of section 4, as we traversed the eastern flank of October Mountain State forest. Once again the cookie lady shuttled us, up from Lee to near the Dalton line on Blotz rd. The first day we did 5.4 to October Mountain shelter. We stayed with a great group of thru and section hikers and the rain held off until bed time. There was lots of mud so I dubbed the area “Mud-se-chusetts”. The next day we did 7.2 back to our car in Lee. There weren’t many views but it was nice and cooler in the morning and in the shade of the dense forest here. Red efts (salamanders) were out in force as were the indian pipe plants.

We did pass one pond which was tempting to dip in but a big lunch and a beer in town was more tempting, so we pushed on. We summitted 3 peaks on day 2: Bald Top, Walling Mountain and Beckett Mountain. With the exception of Walling Mountain, both were much easier summits from the north. Bald top was the only one with a semi-view but it was no longer bald and mostly grown in. As we reached the end in Lee, we ran into two hikers I met when ridgerunning in Connecticut last weekend which was cool! This is the last section we will do southbound in Massachusetts.

I have one more ridgerunner weekend in Connecticut over Labor day, then we start New Jersey with friends the following weekend. Then Fielden and I will do a day hike in Massachusetts with some other friends who have a house up there, and complete section 4 into Dalton with them. (We saved the section 4 view for that hike).

In October we will do the next section north in Cheshire to the bottom of Mt. Greylock. After that, it’s back to Jersey unless we have a very unseasonably warm weekend in early November. But even if so we will probably save the last 17 miles of Massachusetts for a 2 nighter in late spring early summer 2018 and do more of Jersey as it will be about 10-15 degrees warmer.

Photos below.

Miles day 1: 5.4

Miles day 2: 7.2

– Linus

Waiting for our ride

Waiting for our ride

Fielden Stream coming through a mini ravine

Fielden Stream coming through a mini ravine

Hobble bush

Hobble bush

Trail sign at Washington Rd

Trail sign at Washington Rd

Some hikers had made a nice fire

Some hikers had made a nice fire

Post rain AM tent dry out

Post rain AM tent dry out

October Mtn Shelter

October Mtn Shelter

The Red Efts were everywhere!

The Red Efts were everywhere!

Looking up the not-so-bald Bald Top mtn

Looking up the not-so-bald Bald Top mtn

The more rare PINK Indian Pipe

The more rare PINK Indian Pipe

Linus on Becket Mtn 2200'

Linus on Becket Mtn 2200′

Don't see that everyday

Don’t see that everyday

Trail sign just north of Rt 20

Trail sign just north of Rt 20

Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – Schaghticoke and Algo

This past weekend was another glorious one out on the trail. The weather was perfect for one thing. Never got too hot or humid, it was about 60 and dry and breezy at night, about 79-81 during the day. I hiked with my new ridgerunner friend again on Saturday and two of my friends from the AMC also joined me to hike on Sunday (one overnighted at Algo too) and we met lots and lots of great hikers. We found one thru hiker’s tent that dropped from his pack and reunited him with it, cut a blowdown, saw a few lizards, a scarlet tanager and a garter snake. I didn’t see but smelled (I’m sure of it!) rattlers in two spots on a mountain famous for rattlesnakes and almost convinced my friends to re-name me snake-smeller. I sadly saw the extent of the recent fire damage on the mountain, and got to push myself through one of the toughest sections of the whole state, twice. My friend from the Bull’s Bridge task force treated me to some BBQ when we got off trail, and I got to dip my sore feet in the Housatonic at the end of the hike.  I’m off for the next few weeks for a few family-scheduled events but will be back on trail in the beginning of August. I hope you’re not minding the new short format too much; I will try and write longer entries from time to time when such luxuries are available! This section was shorter than last weekend but much more strenuous as a whole.

Meanwhile, enjoy the photos!

Lizard life

Lizard life

Ridgerunning Pals

Ridgerunning Pals

Sunrise at Algo

Sunrise at Algo

Red Eft sighting finally

Red Eft sighting finally

Blowdown work

Blowdown work

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View from Indian Rocks

View from Indian Rocks

Coral fungus

Coral fungus

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

Weekend miles total: 14

– Linus