Chilly Day Hike on the Mohawk Trail

trail crossing on lake road

trail crossing on lake road

Last weekend my friend Brian and I had planned to do a section hike of the Mohawk Trail (the trail in CT not the road in MA) and camp overnight. We got the permits well in advance to stay at the shelter site near the top of the mountain, and I planned out the mileage and itinerary as per usual. We were going to hike in about 6 miles southbound to where I had left off, the top of the ski trails. Then the plan was to catch the sunset and sweeping mountain views and set up camp. Fires are allowed at the shelters and there are fire rings there, as it is no longer the Appalachian Trail. We knew it would be potentially cold as it was mid-November, so we were looking forward to sitting around a fire talking about our hike that day, and everything else. We were then going to pack up in the morning and head home. So not a lot of mileage but great scenery and I wanted to do this section as I wasn’t sure if camping was an option during the ski resort season.

Old A.T marker on Red mtn

Old A.T marker on Red mtn

As the weekend neared, it was becoming exceedingly obvious that temperatures would be uncomfortably low. While I’ve done a few of those 25-degree nights, they’re not as enjoyable for me. We had some back-and-forth about if we would stick to the overnight part, and eventually I backed out as I saw temperatures dropping even further in the forecast. Those temperatures are also not the temperatures at the top of a mountain 1,600 ft up with high wind exposure. Mind you, if I were thru-hiking or doing a long section hike, I would endure what I had to endure. But that’s exactly what it is… This was meant to be one last fun overnight before winter as I don’t overnight during the winter. Minus the snow, this would be 4-season camping and it really pushes my gear and body to the limit. To each their own. I get plenty of hard miles in year round, and this was supposed to be more low-key, low-mile thing at inception.

Red Mountain Overlook

Red Mountain Overlook

So we altered the plan to just do the day hike, and check out this and the other two shelters along the 6-mile portion of trail. There are two more in the area, on either side of rt 4 at the feet of Red Mountain and Mohawk mountain. We started near cream lake around 1130 after dropping off the other car on top of the mountain. The trail meandered through leafy, wet pathways, often slippery or soggy. It then crested Overlook mountain which had some views to the north as it had been logged quite recently. Only 1 or so miles in we carried on and followed the trail down the remains of an old logging road to the south side of the mountain. There we picked up a road walk for about 3/4 of a mile that ascended halfway up Red Mountain, our high point of the day. We passed bucolic farmhouses with sweeping mountain vistas before re-entering the woods and climbing steadily through more logged areas near the summit.

Red Mtn shelter

Red Mtn shelter

At the summit is an eastern-facing slope of puddingstone rock similar to Echo rock on Coltsfoot mountain further south on the trail. As this was our halfway point and our high point we stopped here for our snack break and took in the views and got some photos. The lookout is at about 1,655 ft. The trail then descended quickly down the south side of Red Mountain, and at times the trail was a bit precarious because it’s not really traveled as often as it used to be and so the piles of leaves down steep narrow trail sections were resulting in some slow-going.

We saw an old A.T. boundary marker in the middle of the trail which was really neat since its no longer the A.T. but was just 30 years ago.

Cool glacial rock feature

Cool glacial rock feature

At the bottom of the hill we came upon Red Mountain shelter. It had a wooden floor at ground level that was not in great shape but also had a nice overhanging porch. It was a glimpse into the past of older shelter design. There was a large fire ring but it was not recently used and would have taken some time to clear if we were staying there.

Just after the shelter area the trail crosses Route 4. People drive fast on that road and its at the crest of the ridge… so look both ways and go for it!

Shelter #3, Mohawk summit

Shelter #3, Mohawk summit

Here the trail then enters the state park boundaries of Mohawk mountain and through a picnic and camping area and the next shelter. This shelter was in better condition, though it had a dirt floor. It’s fire ring was recently used and would be again soon as we saw a troop of about 20 boy scouts and their leaders a little farther up the trail. They were headed up to the view on Red mountain and then back here for the night.  Turns out they were from the next town over from where I live.

Ski area summit, Mohawk Mtn

Ski area summit, Mohawk Mtn

We then passed two backpackers who were out for the weekend doing the whole trail, prepping for a 2018 thru hike of the A.T.  There was a gentle uphill here as we were already most of the way up and It wasn’t long before the trail leveled out and brought us to the shelter we had planned on staying at. It was the largest, and was in very good shape, with a privy, picnic table, and a 1 minute walk to one of the pullovers on the summit road that had sweeping views of the Taconics and the Catskill high peaks.

Trail map at Mohawk Mtn Summit

Trail map at Mohawk Mtn Summit

I was for a moment feeling like we should have toughed it out but as soon as we stopped moving we had noticed it had gotten much much colder, the afternoon sun having had long ago peaked.  We did the last 1/2 mile to the car, passing the ski lifts at the top of the ski area and getting some great photos there.  We had a refreshment at the roadside lookout on the way to pickup the other car, and headed home. While the actual summit of Mohawk mountain is higher than Red mountain, the Mohawk trail doesn’t reach that elevation. The ski resort summit is only about 1475 ft. If you want to summit Mohawk and pass the two towers with great views of their own, take the Mattituck trail at the lot by the ski lifts and continue up over the summit.

The Catskills from Mohawk Mtn

The Catskills from Mohawk Mtn

We will be back in the spring to complete the last ten miles of the trail. There is a shelter just about halfway and it will be a good warmup hike for my ridge runner season. Brian has already done the whole Mohawk trail. And while I’m quite sure I did a lot of it as a boy scout myself in the 80s when it was still the A.T., I wanted to make sure I completed the whole thing. And reconnected with those memories along the way. That final northernmost section is the most challenging of the whole trail and also one of the most scenic sections.

As an A.T. volunteer and ridge runner, hiking the older routes of the trail I love is a fun walk back through time.

The Taconics from Mohawk Mtn

The Taconics from Mohawk Mtn

For me overnight season is likely over until then, though desperation for a night in the woods got me out once this January. But that bitter cold night was an exercise in patience, not as much enjoyment, hence the decision made for this hike. I will be doing some winter day hikes to get my fix and stay in shape (as well as some skiing and snowboarding), so look for reports on those hikes in the coming months.

Miles day 1: 6

— Linus

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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

Appalachian Trail: MA Section 4

Heading Nobo again

Heading Nobo again

Today we finished the rest of section 4 and started the first mile of section 3 in Massachusetts. This was mostly for logistical reasons in both cases. Distances to and from overnight campsites or long term parking lots usually dictate where we start and end. Sometimes those are a little different than where the sections actually begin and end. We did the last few sections southbound for logistical reasons but finally are heading north again.

We did this one as a day hike so we could have a luxury day in nearby Lenox for Fielden’s birthday Saturday. We enjoyed visiting the local outfitter so she could try on some new packs, and they were great and also referred us to their friends’ tapas place in town for dinner. Which was also amazing. A great town.

Heading up Warner Hill

Heading up Warner Hill

I tried to get us a nice B&B for the night but as it was a holiday weekend, in the Berkshires, during prime leaf season (normally), all we could manage was a motor lodge. It was nice and clean though and it just allowed us more money to spend on dinner.

It was unseasonably warm and in hindsight we could have tented and done an overnight. Though it was pouring when we woke up and we had a really great day previous so we were not complaining!

Marilyn ‘the cookie lady’ shuttled us again from the lot just west of Dalton up to where we left off on Blotz road, just north of October Mountain State Forest.

Near whiteout on Warner Hill

Near whiteout on Warner Hill

The rain continued for about the first hour and a half of our hike, and sadly the view of Greylock from Warner Hill was fogged out. But it did keep things cooler and when we reached the powerline halfway through our hike, we had a good view of Pittsfield to the west as the skies cleared. We met lots of day hikers, and one hiker in Dalton as we neared the end who had only 10 miles to go until he finished his entire Appalachian Trail hike through many years of sectioning. We seem to have met a lot of those this season.

Pittsfield to the west

Pittsfield to the west

We passed Tom Levardi the trail angel’s house as we entered town from the woods but didn’t stop to see if he was home as menacing storm clouds loomed ahead. We had also planned to stop at Sweet Pea’s for ice cream but they were closed.

All in all it was a great, mostly easy section and good for us because it had been a few weeks since we hiked last and we could knock out more miles with the easier terrain.

Fielden Stream on Day Mtn

Fielden Stream on Day Mtn

Unless it’s unseasonably warm in mid-November, we won’t be back up here until spring 2018. We have 26 miles left of Massachusetts, and in order to complete it, really a 30 mile trek as the first road crossing in Vermont is 3.5 miles in. We will likely do Dalton to Cheshire as a short overnight warmup in the spring and then come back to tackle Greylock and walk into Vermont sometime during the summer when the days are long.

This weekend is out CT AMC chapter’s Appalachian Trail day and BBQ, so I will be doing that and bringing a friend along for her first hike on the trail.

Trail angel Tom Levardi's house

Trail angel Tom Levardi’s house

This hike I did last year is led by our trails chair and follows the old route from Macedonia Brook State Park to Caleb’s Peak where the current trail goes through. Then my friend Brian and I are planning to do an overnight on the Mohawk Trail (also the old A.T.) and I’ll knock out another 8 or so miles of that trail so I can finish it too soon.

The leaves are just starting to really change in the Berkshires as weather has been odd, but I’m hoping it will be more dramatic this weekend in Connecticut now that it’s cooling off and raining a lot again.

Miles: 7.9

— Linus

Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 6: Delaware Water Gap

And we're off!

And we’re off!

Last weekend we brought our friends out on their first backpacking trip, and first trek on the Appalachian Trail. As they live in Central Pennsylvania and we live in Connecticut, we decided to choose a section right in between.  We were preparing to start New Jersey either this season or next, as we are closing in on the end of Massachusetts. So it seemed a no-brainer to start New Jersey, but from the south, at Delaware Water Gap.

A great idea

A great idea

The area is incredibly scenic, and has 100 miles of trails including the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. section provides some of the best views in the park as it follows the ridgelines of the New Jersey highlands. You are treated to views of the Delaware river and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains to the west, and New Jersey to the East. It turned out to be even more beautiful than expected, and a great first outing for our friends.

We started in the Dunnfield Creek natural area, less than 1 mile east of the Pennsylvania border in the DWG National Recreational Area. The Appalachian Trail passes through here after it crosses the I-80 bridge over the river.

Placing stones

Placing stones

The state line is painted on the bridge and many a hiker have a photo there. We contemplated starting on the PA side for this very reason, but ultimately decided that starting right into the woods would be more the experience we were looking for after 2 hrs driving the interstates and just plain needing a nature fix. Shortly after we headed into the woods the red dot trail branches off the A.T. and ascends mount Tammany, the dramatic mountaintop on the east side of the gap. We will come back for that hike on another occasion when an A.T. section isn’t the goal. They had these great carry out bags for trash, which I think we need to employ on our section  and will be recommending to my committee in Connecticut.

Hawk posing at sunset

Hawk posing at sunset

We ascended gently up an old carriage road, passing the creek and then many side trails as we headed to Backpacker’s Campsite. There used to also be a campsite on the junction of the Holly Springs trail, as there is a spring there. Not sure if it was for reasons other than the view that that campsite is no longer and the current one is a mile farther up on the mountaintop with epic views. But either way, Backpacker’s campsite 2 has great views as it rests right along the mountaintop’s western ridge.  Just bring water up for the night. I researched it in advance per usual so we hiked up with lots of water. I knew there would be a bunch of cairns at Sunfish pond but was surprised to find a bunch in the woods just off the Holly springs trail. We had fun adding a rock or two here and taking photos.

Cairns at Sunfish pond

Cairns at Sunfish pond

Sunset was dramatic to say the least, and we also saw a hawk land on top of an old leafless treetop at dusk, which made for a great photo. The caretaker told us that all the bare trees here is because there was a fire from an illegal campsite and it burned much of the north side of the ridge. I’ll just leave that there. It made me felt better about why I enforce the rules I do in our part of the trail. There are actually many legal dispersed campsites for thru hikers along the trail here, so I don’t feel it’s out of utter necessity that these problematic stealth sites pop up in most cases. A lot of times, folks see a nice view and decide that they will break all the rules and make camp there, and a fire, and its always been in these instances that devastating results happen.

The Delaware from above

The Delaware from above

We had a nice chat with the caretaker and a thru hiker staying there, and then set up our camp. I helped my friends with their tent and using the stove and the bear box. We took in the sunset view over dinner and had fun talking until bed time. Entertainment included chasing away a black snake slithering around our tents. I believe we must have set up near his home…

In the morning, we were in the clouds we saw hanging over the next ridge the previous night. Any raindrops seemed to fall just on our tent, as they always seem to find it. We had some coffee and packed up and hit the trail, headed for the AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center.

Summit of Kittattiny

Summit of Kittattiny

This day’s hike provided view after view from the ridgelines as mentioned above. They really didn’t stop until we headed down into the gap to Mohican camp road. On top of one ridgeline you got a 270 degree view and a large cairn marked it’s summit. A hawk watching group was stationed there with various telescopes and cameras and a fake owl on a branch to bait the hawks who apparently like to swoop down and taunt their bird of prey rivals. We took some great photos up there and headed down to the road and to the MOC.

AMC Mohican Center

AMC Mohican Center

It’s about a half mile road walk from the trail crossing up to the main lodge. We checked in with the super friendly staff and got the keys to our private cabin, which it turns out is another half mile up the camp road. It was a great cabin with a dividing door but also the option to open it up to a suite until bedtime and for privacy. We had electricity, a fridge, a heater and fan, and a microwave. The rec center next door had full bathrooms with showers and a large room which was formerly a dining hall when this was a Boy Scout camp, filled with AMC pamphlets and miscellaneous educational collections of flora and fauna. The AMC has year round outings and camp type experiences for people of all ages and I imagine this space and these collections are part of that.

Our cabin at MOC

Our cabin at MOC

They had skywatching programs and astronomy lectures on this particular weekend, though we did not end up participating because we were sitting around the large fire ring between the cabin and the lodge with a bunch of the other hikers and families we met at dinner. Dinner was a homemade family style affair, which was quite filling and tasty. Afterwards we got a ride into town to pick up a few groceries and beverages. We got to bed late but it was worth sitting around the fire with new friends and the milky way above. Next time we go back we will take out a canoe or kayak. Catfish pond was very inviting.  With the 3 walks to and from the cabin I’m sure we clocked another 3 miles that day!

Ready for day 3

Ready for day 3

The next morning we had a breakfast of eggs, bacon, french toast, home fries and various breads. And of course, lots of coffee! We picked up some nice items at their shop and hit the trail a bit earlier on day 3 as we had to be back at our cars by lunchtime.  Again we woke in the fog, but today it didn’t break until we were off trail. We climbed back out of the gap and along the ridges; some quite close to the edge and with a significant drop. With the clouds all around it was almost a bit spooky, but eased any real vertigo because you couldn’t see how far the drop was.

Was probably a great view!

Was probably a great view!

We did throw a rock off one though to see how long it took until we heard it land! Far enough… In a few short miles we reached the Catfish fire tower, but it was closed. Still we enjoyed a snack at the picnic table before our final walk out to the road where we parked on the first day. They occasionally have someone there who will bring you up for the views, but as it was a whiteout still, I imagine they waited until later in the day so there was an actual view.

Autumn Sassafras

Autumn Sassafras

Still, we had lots of views the previous days so it was no big disappointment. I look forward to going back to Mohican as well as exploring some of the other AMC lodges in New York, New Hampshire and Maine for family trips. The only downside was there was no signal at all at the cabin so we had to walk the half mile to get wifi. They also had a phone in the main lodge for emergencies.

Our friends also got their trail names: Skippy (for his skipping stones at Sunfish Pond) and Bird Bitch (because she’s really into birds and birdwatching).

It should be added that before and after the hike, we enjoyed spending time in nearby Blairstown, NJ — both on its quaint historic main street and a modern brewery after the hike.

Catfish fire tower

Catfish fire tower

It was a huge success and we are excited to continue the march north through New Jersey together staring in the spring. Now that we know they’re naturals at it, we will do longer miles next time. They were on the short side for this first trip. But not lacking in fun and adventure one bit.

Miles day 1: 3.5

Miles day 2: 5.8 (+3 miles in camp)

Miles day 3: 3.7

– Linus

 

 

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 #4 – Kent to West Cornwall

Another great weekend out! The heavy rain predicted for Saturday was all but gone by the time I arrived at the trail head. It was quite humid still that day so it slowed me down a bit but I managed to get 10 miles in which included an extra 1.5 miles to check out 3 campsites. It got down to a brisk 50 at camp that night and it pushed the limits of my summer bag. Was not expecting it that cold on an early August night! My bear bag rope went missing so 2 lovely hikers let me share their line and their tacos! I met the other weekend ridgerunner as well who’s very cool and we became quick friends.

I enjoyed my stay at Stony Brook group site and hiked the 8.6 back to my car on Sunday, treated to cool mountaintop breezes and then I treated myself to a Reuben at Cornwall Country market! Met lots of wonderful thru hikers heading north at the end of the bubble and a few sobos now heading through as well as lots of day hikers and families.  Lots of great wildflowers as well. Pics below!

Miles day 1: 9.9

Miles day 2: 8.6

— Linus

Fried egg mushroom?

Fried egg mushroom?

Mohawk Mountain from Pine Knob

Mohawk Mountain from Pine Knob

Which way to the pool?

Which way to the pool?

The "trail" up Silver Hill

The “trail” up Silver Hill

Along the Housatonic

Along the Housatonic

Wildflowers along the trail

Wildflowers along the trail

Guinea Brook

Guinea Brook

Hatch Brook

Hatch Brook

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