Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – 341 Kent to Stewart Hollow Shelter

Last weekend I did my third ridge runner weekend of the season. It was a hot and steamy one! It was also during the thru hiker bubble and I met about 40 thru hikers – both north and southbound. Two of them were under 10 and hiking the whole trail with their dad. They likely did many more miles than me that day! I met several section hikers as well as a few day hikers. I got to do the climbs to St John’s Ledges and Caleb’s Peak TWICE – once up and once down.

I just missed the heavy rains Saturday morning and the only rain I had was overnight. Though to be honest I wouldn’t have minded a little as it was so hot and steamy. However I did NOT want any rain while doing the climb up or down the ledges! I got thanked by several hikers for my work which always feels good! I also found a bunch of thru hikers stealth camping, one even right next to the shelter site which I figured they didn’t know was 10 yards up the trail! Those that I did speak to about it were very apologetic and explained they were pushing miles and didn’t want to go down the ledges in the dark as it was already after 11pm when they set up. We have very specific rules about camping in designated areas, and plenty of campsites on our stretch. This is because of the narrow corridor in our state. If you’re not in a designated site you may just be camping on someone’s private property. And it becomes a bigger issue if you’re used to breaking rules in that you may break others which could lead to damage to or littering on private property. On the upside, it’s also why our section is so beautiful and clean.

I cut two blow-downs, one which was very difficult as it was above me so it took a lot of upper body strength (not my strongest area) to cut.  I hiked with one of the thrus for a while and at his pace covered 2.5 miles in about 40 minutes! I had to eventually take a break as I don’t quite have thru hiker legs. But we leapfrogged a few times and I did see him at the shelter taking a break when I arrived to set up my camp for the night. The water sources were raging from all the recent rain. But with the current heatwave I’m not sure that will last. There was trail magic when I arrived at the trail head Sunday and while I never drink sodas anymore, an ice cold Coke sure hit the spot after 7+ steamy miles including the big climbs followed by several smaller ones to get back to my car. About 1,440ft of vertical over 4 miles, with 1,000 of it in the first 1.2 miles! I did that each day but in reverse on this day.

I will be back out again mid-September. In the meantime, Fielden Stream and I are planning to finish the last 13.5 miles of Massachusetts over the highest peaks in the state. We look forward to a lunch mid-hike at the Bascom lodge, and are going to take our time as these will be the highest climbs and elevations for us yet to date together.

Miles day 1: 7.4

Miles day 2: 7.4

  • Linus
Wet rocky start

Wet rocky start

First blowdown I cleared

First blowdown I cleared

View to Kent from Fuller Mtn

View to Kent from Fuller Mtn

View to Kent from Caleb's Peak

View to Kent from Caleb’s Peak

View from St. John's Ledges

View from St. John’s Ledges

Hikers descending St. John's Ledges

Hikers descending St. John’s Ledges

St. John's Ledges

St. John’s Ledges

More of St. John's Ledges

More of St. John’s Ledges

Even more of St. John's Ledges

Even more of St. John’s Ledges

This frog jumped on my hand during the climb!

This frog jumped on my hand during the climb!

Rock climbers on the cliffs at St. John's Ledges

Rock climbers on the cliffs at St. John’s Ledges

2nd blowdown I cleared

2nd blowdown I cleared

The always lovely Stanley Tract

The always lovely Stanley Tract

Morning along the Housatonic

Morning along the Housatonic

Morning moon over the A.T.

Morning moon over the A.T.

Crossing Macedonia Brook

Crossing Macedonia Brook

Trail magic just beyond the trail head

Trail magic just beyond the trail head

 

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

 

Connecticut AMC’s Appalachian Trail Day – 10/15/16

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day

Yesterday we got to do another section of the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful section with peak fall foliage, and that report is to come. But first I wanted to take an opportunity to talk about our wonderful Appalachian Trail Day last month.

This October was the 10th anniversary of this occasion. The foliage was just starting to hit peak in Kent a few weeks ago.

In the morning I stopped at the grocery in Kent and met a trail angel who one of my friends in the trails committee had met earlier in the week and posted a photo of. She had forgotten to invite him to our BBQ this afternoon, so I went over and introduced myself and chatted with him and a hiker he was with and then invited them both before picking up my groceries and heading to the trail head.

Trail Angel

Trail Angel

He travels up and down the trail in his awesome RV which he has adorned with the A.T. logo and some bear and human tracks. He does hiker feeds, shuttles and lets people stay in his R.V. when the weather is particularly bad or they just need some creature comforts to raise morale. I could not remember his complicated trail name; it was something very Lord of the Rings-like. But he did tell me his real name too. It was great to meet him and thank him for his taking such good care of the hikers. He had completely lost track of what day of the week it was. God I envy that.

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Anyway, originally this day was called the A.T. ‘marathon day’. This is because members and maintainers would do a series of hikes to cover the whole Connecticut section in one day to find any issues. They even did it relay style at one time. At the end of the day they would gather to report all their findings and have dinner or a social hour. We still cover the whole trail each year as part of the day’s events and then celebrate after with a BBQ in Macedonia Brook State Park, where the A.T. once passed through. Learn lots more about this event’s long history on page 3 of our latest newsletter!

In addition to the A.T. hikes there are hikes in other parts of the state. There are also trail work parties, paddling trips and rock climbing lessons at St. Johns Ledges here in Kent.

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

In the past on A.T. day I have joined in work parties to re-paint the white blazes, and also assisted in trail patrol training. This time I joined members of our trails committee on an ‘A.T. history hike’ through another previous part of the trail through Pond Mountain natural area just east of Macedonia State Park.

We parked in the lot on Fuller Mountain road, having done a great deal of the climb on our drive up. From the lot the route we took dropped quickly back down to where the trail originally traveled, and then shortly but steeply along another road which the A.T. now crosses farther up and which we would cross once more from that direction on our way back. When we re-entered the woods, we were headed up the back side of Caleb’s Peak which has a favorite view in this area, with the Housatonic river valley stretched out below and the town of Kent in the center.

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Years ago when we first finished Connecticut, we saw the purple blazes for this section and did not know what they were. In fact nobody knew who actually blazed them. But as of late, the AMC will be taking it over, maintaining it and making it an official blue-blaze trail.

On Caleb’s Peak we gathered for a snack to take in the views. Someone had made a very large fire ring and we saw a couple using a small wood stove in the fire ring. I asked them if they were responsible for the larger ring and fire and they said they were not but asked if it was ok to use their wood stove in there to contain any embers. Technically these are allowed. I reminded them that on their travels through the state that no campfires or fire rings allowed. We then went about the business of clearing the ring. It took several of us to lift the large rocks and some of the embers were still burning. Since I didn’t have my gloves I got a small burn on my finger. We decided it was best to leave them to cool as scattering them with everything so dry would have been dangerous.

The gorgeous view from Caleb's Peak

The gorgeous view from Caleb’s Peak

It seems people really like to challenge our rules here. This was a very large ring in a very visible spot, and they didn’t even make sure it was out before leaving. Just 1/4 mile south of here is the remains of a brush fire started by this exact type of behavior. You can see the scorched tree trunks and downed trees. How can you see that and then go and make a fire in an illegal spot right up the trail? People just don’t think about the consequences, even when they’ve just seen them.

Black racer snake

Black racer snake

After our snack we headed back down the A.T. towards Skiff Mountain road where we would then re-enter the Pond Mountain area. On the way down we spotted a very large black racer snake and all enjoyed watching him as he crossed the trail and headed back into the woods. He was at least 4 feet long!

We also passed that brush fire site which surprised many of the people on our hike. Seeing what happens from irresponsible behavior first hand is a very good way to learn why we have these rules in place. Luckily the forest seems to be recovering well.

We also went down the new stairs that our trails crews built over the last season and admired all their work. We talked about how they fly in and lower the rocks on cables to transport them. The stairs look great, thanks guys!

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

Once back in the Pond Mountain area, we followed an old carriage road trail until we re-connected with the trail up to the lot. It was steep, though wide and flat and a good last workout! Though our hike didn’t take us to the summit, there is a mountain trail which I will check out on another day.

We got to the barbecue and got the grills fired up. I ordered my usual ‘hockey puck’ burger and enjoyed a cold beverage. Our trail angel friend was there parked in the lot so I talked to him a bit more. We enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and lots of other snacks including these wonderful A.T. cupcakes made by one of our members. I caught up with some other friends from the club who were on different hikes that day and then eventually had to get going back to real life.

A.T. cupcakes!

A.T. cupcakes!

But this event is always a fun one. Whether you’re a member or not you are welcome to join and we all pay just $6 for the food and drinks. Its a great way to introduce people to our organization and share our love for the outdoors and for protecting it.

I hope to see you next year at A.T. day! There are also many other work parties throughout the year where you can take part and give back to the trail. Visit our website here. Click on the ‘trails’ link in the navbar up top to find a list of all of our upcoming work parties and see how you can get involved.

Miles: 4.5

— 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