Ridgerunner Weekend #4, Bulls Bridge and Ten Mile River

For this weekend I covered the New York border up to the Bull’s Bridge. While not a lot of miles I added a few by doing a loop past the campsites up to the market for a root beer, and then back to the campsite. I did that again the second day, without the stop at the market. I met many nobo and sobo thru hikers, and a mom supporting her 15 year old thru hiker. I helped them with advice on town resources, itineraries, shelter and campsite options and conditions and had some fantastic conversations with them all about trail names and hiking in general.

I really enjoy this part of the job. There are a lot of great people out there on their journies and I love to hear their stories. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was saying “welcome to Connecticut” to a thru hiker just as he was entering our section and I was reaching the end of my shift at the New York border. He said thanks and then I heard him holler gleefully as he reached the Connecticut sign and I smiled as I walked in the opposite direction. I really felt like a trail ambassador and representative of this fine section in that moment.

Another great moment was going down to the river after setting up my camp to see our resident blue Heron we named Jim. He stood on a rock about 30 feet across the river near the opposite bank and posed there for about 30 minutes while I sketched him from the beach. I also came across a raspberry patch which gave me a boost of energy and morale.

The bugs were merciless and the humidity was pretty bad, but I always enjoy and embrace the suck because it is always so special to be out there. It heals me so. I will be headed down to North Carolina in a week to do 2-3 days of hiking there with Fielden Stream. Those glorious balds should bee just the therapy we need to deal with a bunch of difficult things we’re dealing with right now.

I brought my hammock out again after using it in my yard at home a few times and getting more comfortable in it. I also realized its more comfortable for me without a pad. So I will either need to get an underquilt or just use it in the dead middle of summer when its 70+ degrees at night. On this night it dropped to around 59 and being right near the river, it was colder, and I had an hour or so where it was a bit uncomfortable and I really bundled up but this is also because I brought my summer 55 degree bag not my 24 degree down bag.  I will find the right combinations, as its really much gentler on my back! I tried the inflatable pillow and while I like it, it slid around a lot in the hammock, so when hammocking I might stick to my current clothing bag pillow technique. It’s easier to keep in place.

And I finally tried out my Dirty Girl Gaiters my daughter got me and loved them!  So they will be a regular item going forward.  I really got into the zone this time out. I just really wanted and needed to be out there very much this time. I joked with my wife when I returned and was in a bit of a transition fog that I had re-adapted to my wild origins like a runaway animal does when in the wild too long. If only I could stay out much longer. One day.

Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 5.7

— Linus

Welcome to Connecticut!

Welcome to Connecticut!

A beautiful scene

A beautiful scene

Rt 55 trail entrance

Rt 55 trail entrance

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

A tale of two trail snacks

A tale of two trail snacks

LIvin in a bag down by the river

LIvin in a bag down by the river

The Housatonic

The Housatonic

Jim the blue Heron

Jim the blue Heron

My sketchbook and trail journal

My sketchbook and trail journal

Running the ridges

Running the ridges

Looking upriver from the campsite

Looking upriver from the campsite

Winding up that hill

Winding up that hill

My new dirty girl gaiters

My new dirty girl gaiters

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles day 1: 7.5

Miles day 2: 5.9

— Linus

 

My fence to block a fake trail entry

My fence to block a fake trail entry

Almost 1500

Almost 1500

The one and only Rand's view

The one and only Rand’s view

Brian at Giant's Thumb

Brian at Giant’s Thumb

Camping at Limestone Spring

Camping at Limestone Spring

Lilly the hiking dog

Lilly the hiking dog

On top of Prospect Mountain

On top of Prospect Mountain

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

The Great falls, from the side

The Great falls, from the side

Below the Great Falls

Below the Great Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures below.

Miles: 2.6

– Linus

Looking upriver to Schaghticoke Mtn

Looking upriver to Schaghticoke Mtn

Linus, Jiffy Pop and Ray at Bull's Bridge

Linus, Jiffy Pop and Ray at Bull’s Bridge

 

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Ray and Jiffy Pop

Linus and Jiffy Pop

Linus and Jiffy Pop

Jiffy Pop checking the bear box

Jiffy Pop checking the bear box

LInus and Jiffy Pop at the shelter

LInus and Jiffy Pop at the shelter

Schaghticoke River blessing

Schaghticoke River blessing

Appalachian Trail Connecticut: Bulls Bridge to Ten Mile Hill Loop

Last weekend I finally got back out on the A.T., and brought along a good friend of mine, Crista. She and I are in a band together, and we’ve been talking about doing a hike for about a year and we just never were able to coordinate it until now. Several of my friends in our AMC chapter were trying to get together with me to hike over the weekend but it worked out that they all had to go Saturday. When Crista reached out that she was free and looking to hike on Sunday, it was a done deal! We have both had a pretty tumultuous year with family and personal matters. So as usual, the trail provided the necessary therapy.

It was a great hike, and I counted almost 50 others enjoying the trail in the 3 hours we were out there. There had been some light snow in the morning but it stopped before we arrived and the temperatures warmed up to around 40. The spikes stayed in the car. We enjoyed a snack on top of Ten Mile Hill, and a break at the shelter. The Ten Mile and Housatonic Rivers were raging from the winter run off, and we saw some kayakers braving the rapids where the trail follows the river. They knew what they were doing!  We look forward to hiking again this season, and maybe her and her kids joining me on an overnight.

I am gearing up for another big year. I managed 239 miles in 2018, my annual personal best to date. This season Fielden Stream and I plan to finish the last 18 miles of New Jersey, and then start Vermont or Pennsylvania. I have also been signed up again as a weekend ridge runner for the season. And last but not least, I am also dreaming up some big solo hike plans, if I can work out the time off in this new year. Photos from the hike below.

Miles: 5

  • Linus
Bandmates on the Anderson Bridge

Bandmates on the Anderson Bridge

Frosty blazes

Frosty blazes

Ten Mile Hill

Ten Mile Hill

On Top of Ten Mile Hill

On Top of Ten Mile Hill

Frosty Lichens

Frosty Lichens

The Raging Housatonic

The Raging Housatonic

A Day in the Life of a Trail Patroller: Mt Algo and Bulls Bridge

Misty trail at Rt 341

Misty trail at Rt 341

Last weekend I was back up in the Kent area for another patrol hike, and for a special meeting of trail minds. Several years ago the AMC, with the support of local town officials, created a group called the Bulls Bridge task force. They monitor the historic Bulls bridge area and keep the parties out, the trails and riverbanks clean, and the people safe. Lately, larger and larger groups are attempting to come in to the area fully loaded with picnic coolers, alcohol, BBQ gear, and more. It’s not a state park and there are no bathrooms, or lifeguards, or janitors to clean up. It is a very beautiful area though so locals from near and far like to visit. This area is just .2 miles off the A.T. and while most of these big crowds aren’t coming to hike the A.T., many A.T. hikers also use the side trail through here as a shortcut to access the amenities on the road across the river. So our AMC chapter helps maintain and protect this spot as well due to its proximity to the A.T.

Algo Shelter

Algo Shelter

They invited me to join the meeting so I could see how the park service works with us, the towns and other maintaining clubs to keep the trail and adjacent properties safe. The special meeting the task force was having on this day was with the NPS ranger in charge of the A.T., and the first selectman from Kent, to address the current issues and come up with additional strategies to keep the increasing numbers of visitors manageable. I stopped by on the way to my hike to confirm the meeting time and say hello, then headed up to the trail crossing on rt 341. I passed many thru hikers walking into town to resupply, as well as several others down by the bridge when I stopped in.

I wanted to check in at Mt. Algo shelter and see what condition the water source was in there, as well as at Thayer Brook.

The Green Tunnel

The Green Tunnel

At last I heard the Algo brook was dry, but we had a lot of rain lately, and so I was hoping it had helped. Its a fairly steep 1,000ft climb up Algo, but I had a New York section to do the following weekend with Fielden Stream with a feature called “Agony Grind,” so it seemed like a little warm-up thigh-burner was in order. The shelter is about .6 up the trail from the road, or about halfway to the summit. The brook is on the side trail from the A.T. to the shelter, and I was happy to see it was running again. There were several hikers in the shelter packing up. There were 2 northbound and 2 southbound hikers. I asked them if they had any questions on town or trail resources ahead, and gladly answered them and enjoyed a brief chat about the weather and trail conditions ahead and behind. There were no fire rings to clear, so I swept the privy and signed the register. I was looking for some of the hikers I was following on YouTube but while I didn’t see them, I did see Vino’s name, who found Ninja Roll’s phone for him in Virginia. So that was kinda cool.

Thayer Brook

Thayer Brook

It was steamy and sweltering hot this morning – the air was not moving at all. I was soaked with sweat by the time I got to the summit, so I cruised quickly down the other side to the gap where Thayer Brook sits between Mt. Algo and Schaghticoke Mountain. I took off my pack and cooled off and had a snack. Thayer brook was running strongly, as I suspected. I dipped my hat in the cold water of the brook before I started up again, which helped cool me down. As I left the brook to return towards my car I heard a very loud branch snap down the brook, and went into paranoia mode. All these stories of big predators in the woods by the trail lately, and my mind got the best of me. I made double time back up to the summit, and then even faster on the way down. I heard more branches snapping on the way down and imagined I was being stalked by a bear or panther!

Love on the Rocks

Love on the Rocks

I need to stop reading so much trail gossip on the forums… soon I had a nobo thru hiker right behind me, who was very possibly responsible for the noises behind me I let freak me out.  He made me laugh because not only did I realize he was probably the bear or panther, but he also said the southbounders who passed him earlier said the shelter was much closer, and I said hey well you’re here now, and there’s water! I said goodbye as he went down the shelter path and got to my car soon after. I was relieved to be back in the car and cooling off in the air conditioning. I drove down the dirt road that parallels Schaghticoke mountain back to the Bulls bridge. I passed a few more thru-hikers making their way up the section of trail that is on the road.

Yours Truly with the Bulls Bridge crew and Ranger

Yours Truly with the Bulls Bridge crew and Ranger

It was great to meet the ranger and hear his vast knowledge of all things trail and his ideas and suggestions to help the group manage the surging number of visitors to the area.  I felt privileged to be part of a meeting with such dedicated volunteers and our counterparts in the park service.  The next few weekends, Fielden Stream and I will be back in New York to work on finally finishing the state. We will do it in 2 or 3 more hikes, including some day hikes, especially on the treacherous rebar ladder up the cliff on what I think is Bellvale Mountain. I want to be going UP that, and with a daypack if I can have the choice!

Miles: 3.5

– Linus

Three Great Weekends of Volunteer Work

The greening tunnel

The greening tunnel

Now that the season is in full swing, I have been very active with the club! Not only does volunteering feel good, but I always have fun with this great group of people. I am going to start calling my volunteer weekend writeups “A Day in the Life of a Trail Patroller” to lend some consistency to those entries during the season.

About a month ago I attended the wilderness first aid weekend course at White Memorial Foundation in beautiful Litchfield, CT. We spent two full days learning skills for emergency situations in the backcountry as well as a CPR class. They were taught by the reputable SOLO schools based out of New Hampshire. Those of us who wanted to stayed over in the bunk rooms over the classrooms. Meals were provided, and we all did some cleanup chores throughout the weekend as any good volunteers would! I learned a lot, made some new friends, gained some confidence and a greater sense of security for when I’m out hiking, and as an added bonus I got to visit with a Barred Owl! It was being cared for by the conservation center because it was no longer able to survive on its own in the wild. This is by far my favorite kind of owl and I’m sure it thought I was quite strange talking to it!

Where we first filtered water!

Where we first filtered water!

Then the day before mother’s day we had our annual “Give a day to the A.T.” On this day, we all get together to do various trail projects. Whereas our “A.T. Day” in October includes some of these projects, it’s mostly a bunch of hikes of various length and difficulty to enjoy the trail we work so hard on. Like on our volunteer roundup day, we started with a gathering over breakfast to do introductions, service awards, and then break off into groups for the various projects. There were a lot of first-time volunteers which was great, and a few ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) staff visiting from their office in Massachusetts. I will actually be heading up there in a few days to meet their ridgerunners who I will be running into often this season I imagine, so it’s good to be on the same page and know each other! I’m also excited to see the regional HQ and be at the foot of Mt Everett, which my friends from Miami will be hiking over with Fielden Stream and I in just over a month for our first section into Massachusetts!

As we all divided up into our various project teams, I joined my trail patrol group which I would co-lead on this day and we went over the different paperwork, scenarios and Q&A before heading to the trail for our hike.

Trillium

Trillium

We headed to the river walk section in Kent, which is where I too did my training. From end to end its about 4.5 miles. This time we started at the northern end of the section, just below Silver Hill. We headed south and within the first mile already I had spotted a stealth campsite. Despite having 2 campsites with privies, and a shelter with a reliable water source less than a mile away, this hiker set up right off the trail, and left not only the remains of a fire, but some empty beer cans.

While I don’t know the circumstances that might have led this person to camp here vs. the resources just ahead, it’s something that’s becoming more and more of a problem. I want to give the benefit of the doubt that this person had some weather-related or physical condition that forced them to stop here. But, its hard to believe that when there is trash in the form of alcoholic beverages left at the site. I’m hoping that by talking about these things bluntly I’m helping to educate and advocate leave no trace practices and about the hard work volunteers do when people don’t follow the rules. I hope it doesn’t sound like a lecture.

A no-no in Connecticut!

A no-no in Connecticut!

We do our best to patrol the trail and educate hikers as frequently as we can, but unfortunately we can’t be there every day, and so people with less consideration or understanding of the impact of their behavior are doing these things more and more. I want to believe they don’t know any better. But there is also a growing level of arrogance and irresponsibility with some of the hiking community, as well as locals who disregard the rules. I know they all can read the signs we have posted in either direction from here. You can usually tell pretty quickly which things are newbie mistakes and which are flagrant disregard for the environment and the maintaining clubs.

Stony Brook

Stony Brook

We cleared that site and headed for the next campgrounds at Stony Brook. I headed up to the group campsite while the others headed to the individual campsites. This is a beautiful area with a large flowing brook of the same name flowing down the mountain between these sites. At the group campsite I found and cleared evidence of a small fire, as well as several bathroom wipes someone had left where they had used them. Maybe they buried them, but animals will find these and they will dig them up. If you’re camping up there you probably know you’re going to be miles away from a trash bin, and should bring a bag to pack it out. These wipes are not especially biodegradable.

Jiffy Pop

Jiffy Pop

Along the access trail there was a large site where a fire had been made and many of the logs were left leaning up against another, almost with the intention of returning here to save them for later use. Hopefully my clearing of the area will get the hint across. Another constant: where there’s a fire, there’s trash. And sure enough I had to clean aluminum foil, styrofoam and other trash from the site. This at least gave me the clue that this was likely a local and not a thru hiker. Most thru hikers would not bring a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup out on the trail with them. Also, most thru hikers don’t make fires because they’re too tired and had too long a day to do anything but setup camp, cook their dinner, and go to bed. On the upside, I found a lovely bunch of Trillium blooming here.

At the individual sites we had to clean up two fire rings, one of which included some massive rocks. Had I not been with a group I’d be pretty peeved having to do that alone. They were very heavy and it took at least fifteen minutes for the five of us to clear and cover it.

Linus and Jiffy Pop on the Housatonic

Linus and Jiffy Pop on the Housatonic

We moved on to Stewart Hollow brook where we took a lunch break, signed the register and then got to the work of clearing trash from the shelter and privy,  and one fire ring we found behind the shelter. Again, its just baffling to me how we can post a sign saying no fires at every one of these sites and people will just do it. At this point our work for the day was over and we headed back to the picnic area a few miles north for our social and wrap-up.

Jack-in-the-pulpit

Jack-in-the-pulpit

This past Sunday I did another patroller hike in the Ten Mile/Bull’s Bridge area. This was a special day for many reasons. I was thrilled to have my son “Jiffy Pop” along for his first day of volunteering with the AMC, and I also had been wanting to spend some time with my new friends on the Bulls Bridge task force and learn about what they do. My friend Ray is one of the members of the task force and he invited us up to join him Sunday and to do exactly that. I was planning on taking Jiffy Pop down from the bridge to Ten Mile River campground and shelter to learn about what I do and assist me, and Ray and his team also patrol this section regularly. So we planned to do that walk together today with my son.

Up until just a few years ago, people would come from all over, near and far, to party down by the river. They’d bring BBQ grills, coolers, chairs… a large spread. Then they’d have their party or their picnic or both, and promptly leave most of it there, or at the trailhead and go on their merry way. While they were at it, they would fish without a license, swim where you’re not allowed to swim, and get themselves into all sorts of situations, despite the posted signs stating these things were forbidden.

Jiffy Pop cleaning up a campsite

Jiffy Pop cleaning up a campsite

So the AMC and the other local land managers came up with a plan to have a group of volunteers man the trailhead and educate people as they came in about what’s allowed, and keep out what was not. And its a good thing. I remember our first section hike on the A.T. in Connecticut in 2013. When we passed by here there were piles and piles of garbage. It was revolting. And really sad to see. That was all trash that was left behind that someone had to clean up, and it wasn’t the people who left it. Its a shame people can’t be more responsible but I’m sure you’re seeing the pattern here. So for the last few years the task force has been a fantastic solution. Like me, these guys volunteer their time all season for free. So if you see them, thank them for their hard work to keep the area beautiful and safe.

Columbine

Columbine

Ray, Jiffy Pop and I headed down the trail, which at this point from the kiosk is a blue-blazed trail which soon intersects with and forms a loop with the A.T. It is going to be called the Homestead trail soon, as there used to be an old homestead along it just past where it intersects with the Appalachian Trail. You can still see the two chimneys from the home – the original stone and later brick chimneys. And during the winter when its not leafed out you can see the foundation of the old barn. I had not been on this trail before though I had passed it many times thinking it was just a dead end since it said it was not maintained. Just before we headed off towards the homestead, we went down to a spot along the river and Ray told us about some of the situations they’ve had to deal with there. We saw lots of beautiful Columbines in bloom and I snapped away with my camera. We then headed down past the homestead and to the old Ten Mile River group campsite which is no longer in use and now along this homestead trail. However someone had set up and camped here recently and so we had Jiffy Pop help clear and brush over a fire ring and camp site for the first time. He loved helping. I was so proud!

Oxeye Daisy

Oxeye Daisy

We then crossed the Ned Anderson memorial bridge which was lined with cobwebs and a fun conversation piece for Jiffy Pop. At the campground we met two backpackers that were out for an overnight section hike and were camped in my favorite spot by the river that I set up in last month. We chatted a while and they said they had also seen the blue heron I saw on that trip. We cleaned up the trash in the privy and another small fire site at the shelter. On the way back we met a northbound flip-flop hiker headed to Maine who had started in Shenandoah, as well as another couple out for an overnight.

I also wanted to just say that the buckets in the privy are not for trash, they are for composting material like leaves or woodchips for the privy. Please don’t leave your trash in here. We just end up having to pack it out.

Name it

Name it

We headed back over the bridge and picked up the A.T. northbound back to the blue trail and the trailhead where Ray gave Jiffy Pop an Appalachian Trail junior park ranger pin and we had some birthday cake one of the other Bulls Bridge guy’s wife had made him and that he had left for us. As I was writing up my notes, a few more of the guys showed up and we spent a little time with them before we left. We met a lot of nice day hikers and families out that day too, and my son had a great time and is looking forward to doing it again. Hopefully he can talk his friends into it now that he had such a good time.

And as you can see above I enjoyed spotting all the wildflowers like Columbine, Chicory, Oxeye Daisy, Violets, Buttercups, Spotted Wintergreen and some I was unable to name as I packed up my wildflowers book for my upcoming move. Feel free to chime in if you know the others.

– Linus

Weekend volunteering and the first overnight of the season!

Trail cleanup last weekend

Trail cleanup last weekend

The last two weekends I got some great hikes in while also joining the rest of the trails committee for some spring trail work.

Last weekend we had our committee kickoff work party where we started the day by reviewing the accomplishments of the previous season and thanked all the volunteers involved in the various projects. I got these great work gloves with the club logo which I happily dirtied up a few hours later. We broke off into work projects for the day, and I headed up Schaghticoke mountain with 3 other volunteers to do some cleanup.

I recall this section being a big climb, especially when fully loaded for an overnight. Fielden Stream and I were forewarned of its difficulty earlier in the season we backpacked it in 2014, and put it off until later in the summer when we were a bit more warmed up. Luckily, the frequent reports of rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the rock outcrops were not an issue on our overnight that summer, but it was certainly on our minds. In fact, this mountain’s campsite was once named “Rattlesnake Campground” until being renamed due to it frightening campers. This is one of the toughest sections of the Connecticut trail, from either direction.

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

This mountain alone has multiple shoulders, peaks in two states, and many sharp ups and downs in between. This first ascent when heading northbound is a good 880ft climb from the road along the river to the first overlook, which is just after you cross into New York for one last short stretch in that state. Originally the trail entered Connecticut up on this summit so this was the true state line crossing. Nowadays it comes into Connecticut farther south, follows the river until this climb, re-enters New York for 2 miles and goes back into Connecticut for good. The ascent southbound of Schaghticoke is no less daunting as you first have a steep 700ft climb up Mt. Algo before another steep 5-600ft climb up the north side of Schaghticoke. In between it dips down to lower ridgelines and climbs again and again from end to end.

Along the Housatonic River

Along the Housatonic River

On the work hike last weekend, I didn’t have as tough a time as I was only carrying day hiking supplies and a light saw. We also brought up loppers and a few hoes (insert chuckle here). We cleaned up leaf buildup around waterbars, filled in areas of trail that had been widened by erosion and lots of hikers, and cleaned off any debris from stone steps where needed. The weather was pretty crappy when I arrived in the morning but fortunately by the time the meeting was over it was clearing and we got a nice view from the overlook and some great conditions for our hike back down. Afterwards, we had a short social gathering and a little more planning conversation before heading home.

Ten Mile Shelter

Ten Mile Shelter

Yesterday I headed back up this beast, and again with a fully loaded pack. I was out for an overnight trail patrol hike, to check out a few campsites and resolve any issues I could in the process. I drove up after work on Friday night and hit the trail at the base of this mountain at around 630 heading south. I arrived around 7 at the beautiful Ten Mile River Campground. It is set 1.8 miles south along the confluence of the Ten Mile and Housatonic rivers at the base of Ten Mile Hill. This is a very popular campground because of its idyllic locale and easy access from town. I was here a few months ago to check things out as well.

Livin' in a tent, down by the river

Livin’ in a tent, down by the river

There is also a shelter here so the first thing I did before setting up my camp was to check out the shelter and sign in to the register there. Again, there was a campfire site and burned logs lying alongside the shelter. I cleared and scattered these and left a nice note in the register asking folks to please not make a fire — it is prohibited here, for good reason.

I then headed to the campground where there was another, bigger, fire ring. As dark was falling, I set up my camp, hung my bear bag, and got dinner started. It was a very chilly night which explains why I was alone for the night.  Luckily I had my new down bag, and brought along my down jacket and both my foam and inflatable sleeping pads. I had my usual long johns baselayers and a fresh pair of socks for sleeping in. I had a ‘nice dinner’ of Mountain House Lasagna and settled in for the night.

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

These days I’m in bed by 9 anyway as work and parenting wear me out quick. I checked in with Fielden Stream who was enjoying a night in NYC with friends, a stark difference to my evening plans. I said goodnight to my kids and soon the rushing river lulled me to sleep. Nothing makes me sleep better and faster than water. Rivers or rain or both. It was so peaceful, and also has the benefit of masking any small critter sounds that may be perceived as much larger when alone in the woods!

My favorite 'blazes'

My favorite ‘blazes’

It got down to about 25 but I was pretty cozy and happy I was properly prepared for it. I woke around 6 to the sounds of my favorite owls — the barred owl! I have missed their songs for the last year so it was a fantastic wake up call. While I made my breakfast I cleaned some trash left in the privy compost bucket and cleared the fire ring as I was too short on time the night before and no one else had come in that would be tempted by it.  I am a fan of most of the Mountain House meals but the scrambled eggs and bacon one…. eh. I had to drain the excess water and it just reminded me of cheap reconstituted eggs at a motel buffet. Maybe a couple days out I’d be ok with that, but I wasn’t that desperate for eggs and bacon. The mini-moos from my office kitchen were a nice addition to my Starbucks Via, and helped wash down what I could eat of that meal. I cleaned everything out at the wash pit, packed up the tent and sleeping gear and hit the trail around 715. I knew I had a big day ahead of me. About 9-10 miles, depending on the side trail distances into the next two campgrounds. And at least 2,000ft of vertical over challenging terrain. I ended up being pretty accurate on those numbers.

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

The hike back north to where I had parked was a good warm up with great views of the peaks I would soon ascend. There’s not much vertical rise here as it follows the river, only a small hill or two. I made note of a blowdown overhanging the trail which wasn’t supported by a very strong tree and could be a hazard. Farther north just before the road, a vulture peered down at me from the tree tops but I told him I wasn’t dead yet and to check on me about 8 or 9 miles up the trail as I might be by then! I also got video of a woodpecker at work, who luckily didn’t think I posed a threat and went on about his business.

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

I dropped the bag of trash from the campsite in the car and headed up the beast. I admired our trail work from the weekend before as I huffed and puffed my way up to the overlook. I took a break there to re-secure my sloppily attached foam pad and have a snack while I took in the view. I met a day hiker out for an out-and-back hike, and who I would meet again several miles up trail on his way back. I headed north along the western ridge on the New York side and was treated to a northerly view to Macedonia and Cobble mountain that I did not have when we passed through here that summer due to the leaf cover. As stated earlier in my blog, I’m really enjoying getting these extended views for the first time by doing these sections in the winter, late fall and early spring.

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

The trail crossed back into Connecticut, introduced by a nice climb up to the eastern ridgeline of the mountain and the only section of the entire trail that goes through an Indian reservation. That is the Schaghticoke Indian reservation, where the mountain got its name. Their home is along the tidal plain of the river at the base of the mountain below. Here the trail crosses a rocky steep ledge known as Indian Rocks with sweeping views south and north of the Housatonic river and valley.

A royal throne with a view

A royal throne with a view

Its a quick little scramble which I was worried would be a bit icy like my tent poles that morning and some of the other rocks along the hike so far. One rock is a bit of a perilous slide if wet or icy so my main goal was getting past it before the possible (though slight) prediction of rain or snow flurries. Luckily it was dry and I snapped some photos of the bucolic scene below before venturing on. The rocks are at about 1,330 ft and are visible from the road below. I also like to point them out when driving by. From here the trail rises and drops along the eastern face, with equally steep climbs and descents and views from many ledges.

Many water sources along the mountain were rushing heavily with water, so I was not worried about finding a spot to fill my water should I run out. There were two large brooks I knew of on the route and they were no less active. I reached the mountain campground side trail around 11am and made the steep climb up along the rushing and cascading brook to look things over.

Is this New Hampshire?

Is this New Hampshire?

There were a few blowdowns that needed noting, and I also checked out the privy, one of only 2 or 3 exposed ‘throne’ style privies along the trail in our state. Another 12 or 13 have already been updated to the enclosed moldering privies we all love. While not having any cover, this one did have a view!

I remember around this time on our hike through here together a few summers ago, that Fielden and I were both feeling pretty tired by this point from all the ups and downs we didn’t seem to notice in the guide. We seemed to think we would only have one last small climb over Algo before we made it to the shelter for the night. I too, was feeling it here, but this time I knew better. There was one more huge climb up the higher peak this mountain holds in Connecticut. But the trail drops down along the ridge to about 850 feet just before its climb back up to 1400 ft. Its a hell of a climb with many false summits, though there were some more sweeping views including one of the Taconic plateau in the distance far beyond Kent. When I reached the top, I had a long break to have some fruit and energy gels and share my equally hellish climb story with Fielden Stream.

Thayer Brook

Thayer Brook

I had to be in Kent at 2 to see the amazing lady who trained me do a presentation on her 2004 thru hike. She’s now retired and planning a 2017 PCT thru hike! So I knew time was ticking and hauled butt down the steep north face across Thayer Brook to ascend Algo and make my final campsite check before reaching the end of the hike. The rocks coming down here reminded me of the white mountains, as the trail was just rocks. I considered filtering some water at the brook but I had a bit left and other than one last easy climb up Algo from this side, I decided that was unnecessary. There’s also a brook at that shelter a half mile north should I have been wrong. Unfortunately it was around here, just before the end, that I was hitting a wall. This was my first fully loaded hike of the year and despite having 60 miles of day hikes behind me since the new year, I was feeling it by this point and my leg muscles decided to start growling at me. I took another break before making it over the top of Algo and down through the amazing mountain laurel tunnels to the Algo shelter and brook. I met a backpacker there who was waiting out the cold a bit longer and we chatted briefly while I signed in at the register. I looked around the rest of the campsite for any other issues and then called my friend from the trails committee who was picking me up at the road on the way to the presentation. He saved me a mile-plus walk into town. After over 9 miles on the dirt, paved roads can be pretty brutal on the feet.

I'm lichen this tree

I’m lichen this tree

We had a nice lunch in town and then made it to the library for the sold out crowd. It was great to see such enthusiasm for her story, and we even got to be part of the presentation and talk about our roles in caring for the trail in Connecticut. We invited everyone to our volunteer event next month called “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail” where you can volunteer alongside us to give back to the local section of the A.T. There were a few past thru-hikers in the audience, including one couple who were active members of the ALDHA, the Applachian Long-Distance Hikers Association, another great group who help care for the trail. They also provide all the information for the Connecticut section in the official Appalachian Trail guides.

I got home feeling fulfilled, satisfied, exhausted, and ready for the next adventure. I can’t do any hiking next weekend due to other commitments, but this hike was enough to hold me over and I am looking forward to my Wilderness First Aid training the following weekend, and then my and Fielden Stream’s first overnight together in New York.

I’d love to see you at Give-a-Day. Its free of course and snacks and refreshments will be provided at a social afterwards. Here’s the link.

Day 1 Miles: 1.8

Day 2 Miles: 9.2

— Linus

Appalachian Trail — CT Section 5

Doorway to Connecticut

Doorway to Connecticut

I did my first solo hike as an AMC volunteer trail patroller for the Connecticut chapter on Saturday.

In our state the AMC and its volunteers manage the entire section of trail, about 52 miles. We also have caretakers, boundary monitors, sawyers, maintainers and other important roles to help preserve and enhance the trail.

For those that are not familiar with the patroller role it is basically the same as a ridge runner but not on a seasonal, paid basis. In my particular role the advantage is I can hike or backpack whichever sections I choose when I am able vs. being assigned to one area at a certain time. Though occasionally at a very busy time, we will be called up to help support the ridge runners in certain high traffic areas. At the end of the day we all have the same goal. Both are great because many volunteers with different schedules and desires all contribute how they can.

Ten Mile Shelter

Ten Mile Shelter

We greet hikers, help provide them with information they might be seeking like maps, distances to shelters, campsites or road crossings, educate about leave no trace ethics, clear stealth campsites that in our state are likely on private property if they’re off trail, and fire rings which are illegal here. While we don’t have any authority to fine anyone, big issues will be conveyed to the proper people to protect others’ responsible future enjoyment of the trail. I was inspired to take the position by those I met backpacking this summer. The ridge runners and caretakers were extremely passionate about what they did, and the trail. If you see these folks out there, give them some props! They do a lot to make your experience what it is, and likely cover as much mileage while traversing their turf.

Once upon a time as a newbie hiker and backpacker maybe I too thought all this was overkill. But having seen the results of large amounts of trash left behind, the aftermath of errant fires at popular campsites and still-hot embers left in many a fire ring, I concur that sadly stricter rules have to be enforced if you want to have a trail at all. A good percentage of hikers are newbies, and while they are out for an exciting and challenging adventure that has many admirable qualities, some seem to care little about what they leave behind, because they are just passing through or are too young to think about the effects their actions have.

Ned Anderson bridge

Ned Anderson bridge

While there’s as large a contingent of considerate hikers who follow leave no trace ethics and truly care for the environment they are traveling in, there are always those who will not. I witnessed this on this very hike when I saw some trail magic left from one hiker to another as I headed out for my hike. I smiled when I saw this thoughtful gesture. But when I came back on my return several hours later, I noticed the second hiker had picked up their trail magic and then left the unneeded note and bag it was left in in the trail map box rather than pack it out. A ziploc bag and a piece of paper weight about an ounce or less. There was a town a few miles up the trail that is a popular resupply spot where it could have been disposed of. Surely that extra ounce wasn’t going to weigh them down.

Housatonic Rapids

Housatonic Rapids

There’s also a spot in New York that was famous for letting hikers stay overnight on their lawn and that we enjoyed visiting on a summer backpacking trip this year. But because of a very badly behaved hiker later that summer, they’ve stopped doing so after many many years. People have to realize that their actions directly affect the experience and enjoyment of many others at some point. The few CAN ruin it for the many. And while I admire those who can hike 2,000+ miles in a few months and hope to do myself one day, your accomplishment doesn’t excuse littering or bad behavior.

While I have already done all of the trail in Connecticut and will be doing it over and over and over as part of my volunteering, I am excited to get to know our section of trail even more intimately and in more depth while also protecting it. And so I explored this section of trail in much more detail, which was fun. I ended up skipping the first .2 miles from Hoyt road to the route 55 parking lot due to time constraints and honestly there really is no area there that one would want to stealth camp. Its a lovely but boggy little area that I enjoyed walking through though when I did it the first time.

At Ten Mile Hill summit

At Ten Mile Hill summit

It was a beautiful day for a hike and I also enjoyed seeing more of the views than last time because there were no leaves on the trees. I enjoyed crossing the Ned Anderson memorial bridge again (seen above), named after a local resident who was responsible for blazing and maintaining the original section of trail in Connecticut. I am currently reading a book about him that I bought at the ATC headquarters in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

The rivers were as scenic as ever and the view from Ten Mile Hill even more impressive without the leaf cover. While only 1,000 feet high, the trail on either side of the summit drops 700 or more feet with a fairly steep grade – a formidable introduction to our ‘flat’ state. It always amuses me how many have the impression the trail in Connecticut is a joyride. While it is lower in elevation than many other states, and has a flat section or two, there’s a LOT of good climbs and descents to challenge any seasoned hiker.

I met another maintainer and a friend of his on my way nobo (northbound) and caught up with them on the way back and we all hiked out together, exchanging stories and making plans for more hikes when possible. Its great to see all the enthusiasm our volunteers have, and the respect we have for each other. It’s a great organization, and I hope my story today helps inspire others to take care of the trail they love, and maybe even volunteer.

Happy trails! I hope to see you out there.

— Linus