Volunteer Roundup and Overnight at Silver Hill (with new gear reviews!)

A quick stop at Kent Falls before the day began

A quick stop at Kent Falls before the day began

Last weekend saw a lot of trail activity for me – which was just what I needed! We kicked off our Connecticut AMC Chapter trail season with our annual volunteer roundup. This consists of a morning meeting where we do recognition/awards over coffee and donuts, and discuss trail issues and any other pressing chapter issues and interchapter issues. Then we break up into several groups and head out on to the trail, doing as much trail work as possible on each section and then reconvene for a brief social in the late afternoon.

This year I achieved my 250 hours of volunteer work award, and my son received his 12 hour award. That felt good, and I am glad to be getting my son out there to help as well.

My 250 hour patch and my son's 12 hour pin

My 250 hour patch and my son’s 12 hour pin

I went out on the section from West Cornwall Road south to Caesar Brook campsite with that section’s maintainer, our overseer of trails, and a new volunteer. We used a hazel hoe to clear water bars and drainage ditches of leaves and duff. We met a few hikers out enjoying the beautiful weather and even gave one a ride into town when we returned to the trail head later.

We also cleared a log jam at Caesar brook that was causing the water level to be too high to cross using the stepping stones. We noticed some animal damage to the chum privy at the campsite as well as a few larger blowdowns we couldn’t clear with saws. All of these get reported so that a sawyer or structure specialist can get out there and remedy those problems. Our trails overseer maintains the next section south to Rt 4 so he continued on to check over his section and we headed back.

Creek on Surdan Mountain

Creek on Surdan Mountain

After some paperwork for the maintenance and a few snacks and refreshments, I carried on with the next stage of my plan which was to head up to the Silver Hill campsite for the night to meet my friend Brian, as well as our trails overseer who by coincidence was also planning to camp up there that beautiful night.

The climb from the road is a short .9 miles but its all uphill, and I loaded up on water at the spring in case the pump was out of service, and some refreshments from the social. So it was a bit tough until I got my flow back. Its also always tougher to hike several hours, then stop and then start again. Especially when switching from a light day pack to a fully loaded backpack! It was fine though and before I knew it I was at the campsite.

Clearing the leaves from the waterbars

Clearing the leaves from the waterbars

Brian was already there, and had been a few hours. I was eager to set up a new piece of gear: the REI Flash Air Hammock. This was my first time with a hammock setup, and I watched a video the night before that had convinced me to buy it in the first place, about how to set it up. So when I found the right trees and spot, I was able to set it up without issue. However, the hammock does have full instructions in the packaging.

We also had a troop of 25 boy scouts and leaders show up at the campsite around dusk, just as we were finishing our dinner. I tried out my new GSI soloist cook set, with good results. I have a decent titanium cook pot but its getting a little beat up, and the larger handle and capacity of the pot in this set means its easier to eat out of and prepare food in, as well as being able to boil enough water for multiple meals when we have friends along.

Old foundation by Caesar Brook

Old foundation by Caesar Brook

It also has a large plastic bowl which fits the same lid as the pot. The pot lid has a strainer for liquids and a pour spout area. It comes with a bag to protect your stove, as well as a carry bag for the pot that can hold water, with a rigid wiry structure that keeps it standing when holding liquids. This could come in handy in many ways. The spork isn’t all that great, but it did the job for eating my peanut butter ramen out of the pot. If I was having a mountain house meal out of the bag, I’d want my longer titanium spork. But all in all it was hardly heavier or bulkier than my existing setup, so I will probably stick with this one unless I have a particular reason to go back to my original pot setup.

Arriving at the campsite

Arriving at the campsite

As the scouts fought the sunset while getting dinner cooked and all their tents setup, we enjoyed a conversation on the wooden deck with the mountain view. We answered any questions they had about their upcoming trail itinerary and then checked in on the privy conditions which we had heard might have included a raccoon stuck in the privy hole! Luckily for the raccoon, he was able to dig himself out. But we may need to check the foundation for damage or instability. The note in the trail register from the initial discovery was quite amusing.

It was now approaching hiker midnight and time to hit the hammock for its inaugural use! The most appealing factors of the hammock were its ease of setup for a newbie, and its compact size and weight.

The REI Flash Air Hammock set up

The REI Flash Air Hammock set up

While not optimal for people over 5’8″, its a great first hammock at 2lbs 14oz and $179! I also knew that if it was not for me, I could return it to REI. I got it for my birthday and was excited to finally be able to try it out. Brian is also a gear geek like me so he watched while I set it up and took note of all its great features, remarking too that they seem to have thought of every detail. I’d say the only one they didn’t do is make the bag for it a tad larger. Squeezing it all back in was tough. But another great thing about the hammock is that every piece of gear is included, so there’s no handicap or learning curve to get all the necessary parts. I toss and turn a lot and am a side sleeper so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

Peanut Butter ramen in my new GSI Soloist

Peanut Butter ramen in my new GSI Soloist

I know larger and wider hammocks allow you to lie more diagonally and flat, which might be more enjoyable for a sleeper like me. Even though my pad was secured by the pad loops, I still had trouble getting used to being in a confined space like this, and not making it rock heavily while I attempted to get into my sleeping clothes and sleeping bag. When I did finally accomplish this, it took 10 minutes for it to stop rocking me like a baby.

Each time I rolled to one side during the night I was worried I would throw off the balance and roll it over, but I never did. New hammocker fear I guess! I did get a bit used to the balance after a few hours and a few position changes, but I didn’t get used to the feeling my body was being squished from the top and bottom like an accordian.

Moonlight at the campsite

Moonlight at the campsite

This may be a better hammock for a smaller person, but I will give it a few more tries before I make a final decision.  If I decide not to continue using it, I may give it to my son. The bug net design is very nice, but I am not used to having it so near to my face. It is held up and away by a crossbar, but compared to a tent, this was definitely foreign to me. I suppose if I had experience sleeping in a small bivy I’d be more used to it.

Ultimately I did like it but my tent is a pound lighter. It had its benefits over a tent but a tent also has its benefits over a hammock. So the jury’s still out. I didn’t sleep very well however, and Sunday night I slept a solid 12 hours in my bed!  It was nice hearing the owls out at night, it’s one of my favorite sounds. And it was fun listening to some of the scouts’ conversations as my son is the same age and was on a camping trip himself in North Carolina that night with his school. So it made me think of him a lot.

Brian heading up Silver Hill

Brian heading up Silver Hill

In the morning, packing it up was easy, except that part about getting everything to fit back in its bag. We were all rising around 630 am, so I headed to the pavilion building and heated up my water for a nice cup(bowl) of coffee. We answered a few more of the scoutleaders’ questions about their planned mileage and campsite for the day, and when the three of us were packed up we headed out of camp and up and over Silver Hill. It’s not a long climb from the campsite till you reach the ridge, but there’s a fun scramble or two on the way. We took photos at the view on the ridge, and then Brian had to race ahead because he was meeting a group for a day hike of another 11 miles north.

Brian and I on Silver Hill

Brian and I on Silver Hill

On the way down, we brushed in some areas of trail around steep parts where hikers would choose to go instead of the trail, causing erosion. We also cleared any fallen branches and reported a larger blowdown up top for the sawyers to address later.

We took an old portion of the A.T. back to the car, and that was very cool for me to see where it used to go. It however was loaded with ticks. Luckily my pants had been treated with permethrin and I only found one on my pants.

CT Trail Overseer Jim and I

CT Trail Overseer Jim and I

I had a BBQ planned in the afternoon so I headed home from my car once I got dropped back at that trailhead. You would never know from the heavy rain that Saturday morning on the way up, that it would be such a beautiful weekend. The rain didn’t return until I was long gone.

I learned a lot of new trail maintenance skills, and I just bought the same saw that our trail overseer Jim has, the Silky Big Boy 2000! My saw that was given to me by the ridge runner coordinator last year has taken a beating, and I had some dividend money left to spend at REI.

Miles total: 6

  • Linus

 

 

 

 

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Birthday Hike with my AMC Trail Friends

Yesterday I finally got back out on the trail, and with a whole crew of my favorite hiking people, less one: Fielden Stream. We had a very bad cold or possibly even the flu last week and as my fever was just breaking Friday (on my BIRTHDAY!), hers was just kicking in. So sadly she couldn’t join us for this one. I had set this up as a birthday celebration hike and while I wasn’t 100% yet I was also suffering some pretty bad cabin fever at this point after 3 days in bed.  I was well enough for a few hours of much needed nature healing with my friends!

It was originally planned as a short 3-miler, up to the south overlook on the New York side of Schaghticoke Mountain, and back down. While short, it’s a 1,000ft climb in 1.5 miles so its no walk in the park either!  Brian, Ray and Lisa joined me Sunday morning at the trailhead. Lisa brought along a new friend Emma, who is new to the area as of two years ago. She is originally from Iowa, with some years in Arizona as well. She made a nice addition to our little group, and is interested in future outings with us and getting involved in the club activities. So I guess we made a good impression!

The temperature hovered in the high 30’s but lower up top. We had a few small flurries as well during the day where the temperature was lower due to elevation or wind chill. There wasn’t much of any snow on the ground, but many parts of the trailway were runways of ice because the rain collects there, then freezes.

We had a nice break at the overlook and enjoyed some snacks and took some photos while exploring the winter scenery before heading back down.

When we got back down the mountain, a few of us wanted to keep going, and go down to the shelter and Ten Mile area. I had waited a month to hike, so even though I was not not planning on doing more than the first 3 miles, this portion is low elevation and not challenging, and the views are amazing.  So I was easily pursuaded and Lisa, Brian and I continued along for a few more hours/miles. I also really wanted to hit my 1,000 mile milestone. I’ve tracked every hike since I started hiking again in late 2013, and at the beginning of the hike I had only 7 miles to go on the counter to hit 1,000. Technically, I did have a few hikes over the years where the tracker dropped the signal and some miles so I may have hit it already, but not on paper! I only needed 3.7 more miles from the bottom of the mountain, and that was easy with this loop down to the shelter and campsites. More fun, AND a big milestone? Double bonus!

The river was flowing even more intensely than my last hike here at the very beginning of the month with Crista.  Many areas of the river beaches were sheets of ice, but our microspikes solved that problem! We had a great hike, and it was a very special way to celebrate my birthday with friends. I just wish my wife could have joined.

I got a hammock system for my birthday on Friday, and am excited to try hanging for the first time this season. Sadly, it will be a bit of a wait until I can do that, but I will write all about it when I finally get to try it! The 2019 WhiteBlaze guide I ordered also arrived on my birthday which was happy timing!

I am also picking some other gear I have been wanting for the new season – a rain kilt (pants are way too sweaty and soak you from the inside as well) and leukotape (better than moleskin!). I might invest in a wider Ti pot as well for my cook kit. Stay tuned. Photos below.

Miles: 7

  • Linus
Making Plans for 2019!

Making Plans for 2019!

Housatonic under Bulls Bridge

Housatonic under Bulls Bridge

Icy glacial erratics on Schaghticoke mtn

Icy glacial erratics on Schaghticoke mtn

Me and My AMC trail friends on top of Schaghticoke mtn

Me and My AMC trail friends on top of Schaghticoke mtn

CT AMC at Ten Mile River shelter

CT AMC at Ten Mile River shelter

Finally hit this milestone!

Finally hit this milestone!

Ridgerunner weekend #4

The northern view from Lions Head

The northern view from Lions Head

My latest ridgerunner weekend was over the weekend of Sept 22nd. I went back to cover a favorite section, the Riga Plateau. It was an amazing weekend but turned out a bit differently than planned.

I invited my brother along as he was free and we wanted to do another hike together. I told him all about the amazing views up here, so he was willing to do the almost two-hour drive, like mine, to Salisbury.

Pointing out some views on Lions Head east view

Pointing out some views on Lions Head east view

The weather couldn’t have been better for it. I originally planned to leave my car at the Undermountain trail and then drive up to the Lion’s head trail lot in his car, so I could take him up to Lion’s head and Riga shelter and back to his car easily. And then I’d also have my car setup closer to where I was camping for the night. Well actually it was about the same distance, but this would allow me to go farther north and still make it back to my car when I needed to and not cover the same ground over and over.  When we got to Salisbury things changed a bit.

Rocky scramble up to Lion's Head

Rocky scramble up to Lion’s Head

Because it was family hiking day, and this being the most popular hiking trail in the state, that lot was a madhouse and there was only road parking available. While I have the necessary signage to probably not get towed If I parked overnight there, I don’t like to take advantage and so I left my car at the main A.T. lot 3 miles south in town on Rt 41 which was also beginning to fill up quickly. No problem, done the hike this way many times.

We headed up to the Lion’s Head lot on Bunker Hill road and got the last spot there. This trail passes a few homes before a brisk climb up to where it joins the A.T. From here it gets a bit more rugged in typical A.T. fashion, and then it’s a steep scramble up a rock face to the first viewpoint.

Me and my brother on Lion's Head

Me and my brother on Lion’s Head

There is a bad weather trail, and this was much appreciated when I recommended it to a group of older ladies from our own AMC chapter who were doing a hike up there this morning. My brother and I took in the views while I also pointed out a few landmarks to a section hiker we met there.  We then took in the glorious northern view which on this day included Mt Greylock, 50-plus miles north in Massachusetts near the Vermont border!

My brother enjoying Riga shelter view

My brother enjoying Riga shelter view

We proceeded to Riga shelter and had a snack while also taking in the fabulous view there.  Luckily the shelter and campsite were clean, and the brook was raging from recent rain. This was all good because I planned to stay here for the night.  Perhaps even in a shelter for the first time! I know, I know. I’m just not a fan of bugs and mice, and my tent protects me from both. From there as promised I took him back to the junction of the A.T. and Lion’s head trail.

The bog trail

The bog trail

As I hadn’t taken the bad weather trail before we went down that way, and I knew I’d be doing the scramble on the way back anyway. We got back to the junction quickly and said goodbyes. I took a quick snack break before heading on my way back to Riga to set up camp. On the way I met a few section hikers and a flip-flop thru hiker on Lion’s head. The thru asked about the next camping or town options and then told me the caretakers tent at Sages Ravine was blown far off the platform and almost off the hill entirely. We’ve had some recent large storms in this area lately. I called my supervisors and asked if they were going to be there for the night or if I should stay there instead. As phone coverage in some trail areas is spotty I knew it could take a while so I went to Riga to wait for a response. I took out my notebook to update my notes and have another snack. When word finally came in to head to Sages, I took off in a hurry, leaving my notebook behind!

One of the bog trail signs

One of the bog trail signs

By the time I realized I was 2 miles north and had 2 to go. I opted to take the Bear Mountain road and Bog trail past the Northwest cabin so I could get there in time to assess and repair the damage if possible. The Bear mountain road was completely flooded in several areas and I had to do some tricky negotiating around long deep puddles of trail. But it was nice to finally see the bog trail with its nature-center style signage identifying trees and plants and natural features, as well as the cabin up close. That’s a reservation-only property, and I have never seen it so up close and personal. There was at least one family tenting there so I got on my way quickly past it. The northwest road was also quite flooded but I made it quickly down to the campsite, covering the 4 miles from Riga in 1.5 hours! To be fair, this was mostly level trail and I went this way for a reason.

The caretaker tent in disarray!

The caretaker tent in disarray!

When I got there, the tent condition was quite accurate. It was off on the side of the hill, scrunched up, with the contents tossed about inside. It had a few tears, and was full of water.  Unfortunately this also meant the caretaker journal and many of the books were soaked through. I managed to get the tent and its contents back on the platform and stake it down until it could be packed up by the supervisors the following week.  I set out the contents to dry, especially the books and journal, and used a tarp that was dry to set up my sleeping bag on on the drier side of the tent. I had gotten most of the water out but it was still pooling on one side due to a very slight downhill slant of the platform.

After I restored the tent

After I restored the tent

At this point many people were coming in, some that I knew would be from meeting them earlier in the day.  One scout troop was already there when I arrived. When all was said and done we had almost 30 at the campsite. It’s a very popular one due to its beauty. So it’s a good thing I ended up here as only 4 ended up spending the night at Riga (I found out the next day).

It was a beautiful night at the campsite and I had nice conversations with several of the hiking groups and helped late arrivals find their party’s campsites as dark was setting in.  I fell asleep to the sound of the rushing brook. It got down to the mid 40s so it was a little cool but otherwise no complaints.

Morning at Sages Ravine

Morning at Sages Ravine

Morning in the ravine was a beautiful fairy tale forest as always, with the sun shining through the trees onto the shimmering brook. I packed up and after a quick meal of a protein bar (skipped the coffee) I went for the big strenuous climb up the rocky north side of Bear mtn. While I was quite cold at camp, by the time I reached the summit a mile later I was sweating and removing layers. I met several hikers at the top and took in the view from the summit tower.

The always exciting climb up Bear

The always exciting climb up Bear

I was above the clouds at this time, so the summits of Mts Race, Everett and Greylock in Massachusetts to the north, as well as Mts Prospect and Canaan Mt to the southeast in Connecticut, were all peaking above the clouds. It was magical. As I headed south, the peak of Lion’s head was doing the same. I ran into the section hikers from yesterday and said a quick hello. I pointed out to them where we met the day before on Lion’s Head and then made a dash for Riga, hoping to recover my notebook. As I passed Brassie Brook shelter, I stopped into sign the register and packed out some trash left behind by hikers. As I approached Riga I passed a group of 2 kids and 2 moms who mentioned they had stayed there when we stopped to chat.

Above the clouds on Bear summit

Above the clouds on Bear summit

I asked them about the notebook and they had found it and left it in the shelter for me! They thanked me for my work and I headed back to Riga to pick it up. They also reported that the shelter and campsite were clean and campfire-free which I appreciated and confirmed. I had one more snack with the famous view and headed back south towards Salisbury. I met a few more hikers along the way, both section and day hikers, enjoying another gorgeous day on the first weekend of fall. The leaves weren’t really changing yet but will be any day.

Looking south, Lion's Head summit above the clouds

Looking south, Lion’s Head summit above the clouds

The last few miles down to Rt 41 via the A.T. pass through some beautiful forest areas, with as many ups as downs. This bit I’ve decided is as much effort in either direction! I passed a few more backpackers struggling up the long climb from the road to Lion’s Head, and when I arrived at the parking lot I ran into one of the groups that were at Sages Ravine with me the night previous. We had a nice conversation and then I headed home, stopping at the hot dog stand in Kent for some nourishment!  It’s always a pleasure to hike the wild corner of Connecticut.

Miles day 1: 8.2

Miles day 2: 7

– Linus

 

 

Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail: Connecticut Chapter

Ready to lop!

Ready to lop!

A cold, rainy day for trail work, but still better than the office! Saturday was our annual “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail” for our Connecticut chapter.  While we have many annual work parties, this is the big one, where we have several different projects happening at once. We start with a volunteer recognition. I got a carabiner cup for 200+ hours so far, which I gave to Fielden stream as I have one already. This year we also recognized a volunteer who recently passed. He had been involved for decades all around the region. Maine, VT, CT and on his passing has been memorialized by more than a few organizations he was part of as well as publications in the places he lived. His widow was there today to join the work party.

waterbar clearing

waterbar clearing

One of the projects was a stone staircase in her husband’s honor and which was her specialty. However given the cold, wet conditions that was substituted with some waterbar upgrades. She was very nice and I enjoyed spending time with her on our project and learning more about her husband’s many accomplishments. After the recognitions we split up to the various project locations. This year included lopping, kiosk replacement, and the ‘great garlic mustard pull’ in addition to the waterbar project.

My friend Brian and I chose to do the “Loppa-palooza” and waterbar project on Bear Mountain, our state’s highest peak. This was led by our Chapter Chair Dave. Several other of my friends in the chapter came along, as well as a 2011 thru hiker from the area who was volunteering with us for the first time.

the trail winding up bear

the trail winding up bear

Luckily a road took us up to just below the summit and we only had about 300 ft to climb vs the 1600 or so feet should we have started in town.  It was raining the whole time but luckily it was light for the work part of the day. I didn’t have rain pants or boots on so I was grateful for that.  At 40 degrees, rain can get dangerous quickly.  I just find rain pants too clammy and your sweat just gets them wet from the inside. And on slabs of rock my trail runners are much better traction-wise. Its supposed to rain on much of our hike this weekend, so I will make a judgement call on boots vs trail runners before we head up there. If there’s lots of mud too, the boots will win.

among the summit pitch pines

among the summit pitch pines

We enjoyed hiking up to the summit despite the lack of views. I am up there often and it is one of my favorite views but I’ve seen it plenty of times. Its still a beautiful summit with all the exposed rock and pitch pine and the old stone tower up top. We made quick work of it as spring came late and most of the bushes hadn’t grown in much yet. I’m sure we will need to revisit in June when everything is leafed out. Then we will have a better sense of what needs cutting back.

The summit tower

The summit tower

We got back to the meeting spot around 130 pm and spent some time enjoying snacks and refreshments before heading home. It’s always great to be out on the trail, and it feels even better when I’m volunteering to help preserve it. The bonus is I get to do it with friends old and new in the chapter. And today, one of them was the woman who got me involved with volunteering with the club several years ago. It was a treat catching up with her and doing some trail work again together.

This weekend Fielden Stream and I are headed back to Massachusetts to knock off another section as we close in on completion of the state. We will do either section one or section two depending on how miserable the weather wants to be… either way I can’t wait.

Miles: 3.2

– Linus

Ridgerunner Weekend #6

Well it turns out they needed me for one more weekend and I was more than happy to go, with the great October weather. Well, I’m ALWAYS happy to go. The weather was in the 60s-70s all weekend, even if a little overcast. Lows were predicted in the mid-50s which is balmy for October, and I was thrilled to have my friend Brian along for the overnight to share hiking and camping stories until hiker midnight. The scouts were out in force, and we also had our annual CT AMC chapter Appalachian Trail day and picnic, so I got to spend a few hours with all of my favorite trail people, and make some new friends. Miles were low but morale and hiker numbers were high so I spent a lot of time interacting with hikers, scout troops and our great volunteers out doing their work parties on waterbars, invasive removal, and general cleanup. The foliage was really turning, so while I had to be a little more careful on the leaf-covered trail, the scenery was gorgeous.

I hope to get out one more time in November for an overnight with friends if the weather holds up.  The plan is the Mohawk trail. I just have to remember to fill out their backcountry camping permits!

Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.6

Miles day 2: 5.1

  • Linus
    Frog hunting flies on Schaghticoke mtn

    Frog hunting flies on Schaghticoke mtn

    Autumn Sassafrass

    Autumn Sassafrass

    Linus and Brian on Scaghticoke Mtn

    Linus and Brian on Scaghticoke Mtn

    New blowdown art

    New blowdown art

    A fine cup of morning Joe

    A fine cup of morning Joe

    Home for the night

    Home for the night

    Selfie with the new hiker sculpture in Kent, CT

    Selfie with the new hiker sculpture in Kent, CT

    Ned Anderson Bridge, Ten Mile and Housatonic Rivers confluence

    Ned Anderson Bridge, Ten Mile and Housatonic Rivers confluence

    Nice new waterbar

    Nice new waterbar

    Wingdale, NY from Ten Mile Hill

    Wingdale, NY from Ten Mile Hill

    Ned Anderson Bridge and the Housatonic River

    Ned Anderson Bridge and the Housatonic River

    Foliage on display

    Foliage on display

Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Kent to Cornwall

Last weekend was my second weekend out as a staff ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail with the AMC. I covered a ten-and-change-mile stretch out and back from Kent to Cornwall including the never boring St. John’s Ledges (more fun up than down for me), the scenic Caleb’s Peak, the bucolic river walk and one of my favorite campsites, Silver Hill.  I don’t bother to show pictures of the ledges anymore because cameras never capture how crazy they are, you’ll just have to hike them yourself and find out!

I met many great thru, section, and day hikers along the trail on my 21 mile weekend, got to hike and camp with one of our other ridgerunners, and discovered I really liked a new brand of dehydrated meals I picked up in Harper’s Ferry a few days before at an outfitter. All the hikers I met heading northbound Saturday and who I had recommended push on to Silver Hill were very pleased when a large thunderstorm passed through just minutes after we all congregated in the covered pavilion there.

Nobody left me any fire rings or huge piles of trash to clean up and all were respectful and thanked me for what I do out there. One even said “you’re not so bad for a ridgerunner!” A lot of great conversations were had and a few new friends were made.   There was a bright full moon after the rainstorm and things were thankfully cooled off for a bit on Sunday morning thanks to the rain. I enjoyed some nearly-ripe blackberries, met some trail dogs, frogs, a snake, heard some more barred owls as I slept, and got my first almost-blister. Below are some photos from the adventure. This weekend I am out again in Kent, maybe our paths will cross!

Rocks from the start!

Rocks from the start!

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

On Caleb's Peak

On Caleb’s Peak

Berry nice

Berry nice

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Lean on Me ... after that climb!

Lean on Me … after that climb!

Goin up Caleb's Peak after the ledges climb

Goin up Caleb’s Peak after the ledges climb

Good camo on this frog

Good camo on this frog

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Miles Day 1: 10.5

Miles Day 2: 10.5

  • Linus

 

A Day In the Life of a Trail Patroller: National Trails Day 2016

Trail map box trail magic

Trail map box trail magic

Last weekend was National Trails Weekend, and Saturday was National Trails Day. For the occasion, our Connecticut AMC chapter as well as the CFPA (Connecticut Forest & Parks Association) led many different hikes all over the state. There were a few work parties too, which comes into my story a little later on. In the case of our group, these activities were of course on the Appalachian Trail.

Meadow Rue?

Meadow Rue?

As this is a day and weekend really targeted to bring out new/casual/family day hikers, I thought it would be wise to be out there to offer assistance at least on Saturday. Also, Sunday’s forecast was bucketloads of rain, and for once the forecast was accurate. I thought the section including Caleb’s Peak and the infamous St. John’s Ledges would be popular on a day like this. And when I ran that suggestion by my team it was reinforced by the fact that the nature & outdoors writer at the local paper had just done a column for trails day featuring our state’s most challenging hikes, and this section of course was on the list. So it was cinched. I would be ascending and descending them both. A formidable piece of trail in either direction.

A view up St. John's Ledges

A view up St. John’s Ledges

I got on the trail earlier this time, by a few hours at least. It wasn’t nearly as hot as the previous holiday weekend was, but it did eventually warm up quite a bit and I did start to notice it as I finished the hike in mid-afternoon. I found some trail magic in the map box, and I had a feeling it would be gone by the time I got back. That hunch was proven to be correct.

As I headed to the bottom of the challenging jumble of boulders and steps, I was very glad that it was not going to be in the midst of the next day’s deluge! Because of the steep terrain here, the AMC brought in the New Hampshire white mountain crews to build the custom steps as its more like their turf!

Linus at St. John's Ledges view

Linus at St. John’s Ledges view

The rocks were still the slightest bit damp from the previous evening’s rain, but manageable with slow, purposeful steps. I had brought my folding trekking poles and left them in my pack for this climb as I knew if I had them out I’d just be tossing them up ahead of me like on Cobble Mountain. This was the first time I’d gone up the ledges, as Fielden Stream and I came down them on our section hike through here 2 years ago. I prefer the up route, to be honest.

Yellow chicory

Yellow chicory

After a quick and sweaty ascent, I crested the ridge and headed to the lookout. The trails crew have done a fantastic job building a graded pathway and overlook where two years ago there was just a dirt path to a precipitous drop off. I made sure to commend them on this work when I saw them later in the day. I met a northbound thru-hiker there, “Portage” who started on Springer in early March. We took in the view and he snapped a photo for me before heading off in opposite directions. I was headed south as far as the road where the work party was, a few miles away. As I walked the ridgeline over to the climb up Caleb’s peak, I cleared some downed tree branches, and met a few more hikers. I remember when we came through here that July and the swarms of bugs were literally everywhere, getting in our eyes, mouths, just about everywhere. I had to wear sunglasses just to keep them out of my eyes.

View from Caleb's Peak

View from Caleb’s Peak

The climb up or down this side of Caleb’s peak is steep in its own right, with some stairs and a good deal of quick elevation gain. But it’s nothing like the ledges. It’s mostly just steep trail, and a much shorter climb. I arrived at the top and took my pack off and took in the view. There was a flower there I was trying to get a photo of but it kept swaying, and blurring the shot. I have one or two but it wasn’t really anything worth posting. It will do for my identification purposes I believe.

Geocache

Geocache

I also found the purple blazed trail which crosses Pond mountain to the west and was the original route of the A.T. from Macedonia Brook State Park. They are going to reopen this trail soon. I checked the summit for stealth campsites and fire rings (it’s nice and flat) and while I didn’t find those, I found a geocache box, and a plaque on a tree engraved with someone’s initials and dates they lived. It was very poignant. As I headed down the gentler south side of the peak, several trail racers were heading up the A.T. and I could see others through the woods on the purple trail. Not really sure what the official route was, and I thought some were taking a short cut! Who knows…

Brush fire damage

Brush fire damage

I thought for some reason the site of the recent brush fire in the area was south of the road, and just then came upon it. It really broke my heart to see the damage. There are those out there who believe these are beneficial in other ways. And that may be ultimately true. But that is up to the park service and forest service to decide, and control burns. It made me angry to see this because this was caused by an irresponsible hiker stealth camping and making a fire where they weren’t allowed. Many animals may have died, and the fire could have spread much farther under the right conditions. This was the second one in the area in a month. Luckily, they were able to get it under control relatively quickly. It was not a life-threatening or even very cold day it happened. This was just ignorance, and arrogance.

Sunbathing snake

Sunbathing snake

As I made my way through the damaged area I found the second garter snake of the day (the first I startled off the trail a bit north of here). This one was enjoying sunbathing on a rock under a burned out tree root. He let me get close enough to get a shot from a safe distance as he flicked his tongue at me. I met another flip-flop hiker named “Whiskers” and told him to look for the snake on the rock.

Anyone know this flower?

Meadow rue also?

As I headed down the hill by the road I met the work crew there who were building some new steps. Many of my friends from the AMC were on the project, and a few from the ATC I had met in Massachusetts. They were on lunch break so I joined them for lunch and we chatted for a while about the project, the fire, other sections of the trail, and talked with other hikers who thanked us all for our work. They were a flip-flop hiker couple known as “Bubbles” and “Sprout”. Bubbles was very enthusiastic and grateful for the work us volunteers do to keep the trail beautiful and safe. She would reiterate that to me two more times before the end of my hike. Our overseer of trails was there leading the work party and he asked me to tend to a few spots on my way back. I took some photos of the group and got out my poles. It was going to be some good uphill to get back to Caleb’s peak. I cleaned up a few spots of braided trail edging and then made good work of the hike back to the peak and met Whiskers, Bubbles and Sprout on the summit.

Rock Stairs Work Party

Rock Stairs Work Party

We talked more about volunteer work, their hikes, the Connecticut trail, and the upcoming ledges they would encounter. Whiskers also confirmed he saw the snake on the rock. I hiked a bit with Bubbles and Sprout and as we reached the outlook we exchanged blogs and she took a picture of herself with me to send her family. It was a day of meeting volunteers for her apparently because as we decended the ledges and I was re-edging the trail on a steep spot up top, one my new ATC ridgerunner friends, Kellie, was on her way up. She helped me brush over this spot and we chatted a bit and she said hello to the three hikers as they headed down slowly. I promised them it wasn’t that bad (though some earlier hikers I met at the beginning of the day said it felt like Pennsylvania all over again!) and chatted a bit more with Kellie while we worked before she headed south. I covered up one more bit of unofficial trail on the way down and made it back to the car in good time. I met a few other day hikers, who thanked me for my volunteer work and chatted with me about my SOLO Wilderness First Aid training as they saw my sticker on my car. Turns out this hiker knows the school well as she was up there often in Conway, NH. However they do training all over hence I had mine in Connecticut.

View down St. John's ledges

View down St. John’s ledges

I hope it was some of my new hiker friends who enjoyed the trail magic on their way through. I smiled and got in my car. While I just bought a home and wasn’t planning on being out at all this coming weekend so I could work on the house, my friend Ray on the Bull’s Bridge task force let me know he’d be out at Ten Mile tomorrow night, and so I am joining him. It’s a quick walk in and out and a very popular campsite which could use the attention on a beautiful weekend night. I’m glad I can fit this in and still tend to my house the rest of the weekend!

Miles: 4.2

Snakes: 2

— Linus