Tunxis Trio

Over the Labor Day weekend, I not only finally got to go backpacking with my wife “Fielden Stream”, but we brought our friend “Whoops!” along with us! You probably know Whoops! by now, as she’s been backpacking and hiking with me a few times this season, and I’ve been teaching her everything I can, and helping her build her gear collection at an affordable price.

I picked this trail because it less known and less popular than something like the A.T. or New England Trail, whose trailheads were most certainly packed or over capacity on the beautiful holiday weekend. Also it requires a permit to overnight, though most of the people at the campsite didn’t know and didn’t have one. It worked out fine and everyone had plenty of room. If more people knew you could overnight there, it would be packed. When we got back to the car, that lot was indeed full, though I imagine several of the cars were day hikers.

The weather was perfect, and we also got some exciting scrambles in along the way. We only did 3 miles into the campsite and back out, but it was a great time and one of my friends who’s also in the outdoor industry was there with a group he was leading and training.

I made a video, so in the absence of spare time which I seem to have little of these days, I’ll point you there to get the full picture, as it were. Watch the video here. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 2.9

Miles day 2: 2.9

wildlife: beaver and baby

— Linus

 

Whoops!, Fielden Stream and Linus

Whoops!, Fielden Stream and Linus

Through the young forest we tramp

Through the young forest we tramp

Wolf tree

Wolf tree

Sassafras

Sassafras

Treefingers

Treefingers

Fielden Stream and Whoops! on a ledge

Fielden Stream and Whoops! on a ledge

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest

Linus and Fielden Stream on top of the Council Caves

Linus and Fielden Stream on top of the Council Caves

View from top of Council Caves

View from top of Council Caves

Whoops! and FIelden Stream

Whoops! and FIelden Stream

climbing down

climbing down

Coming down the Indian Council caves scramble

Coming down the Indian Council caves scramble

Looking down from top of Council Caves

Looking down from top of Council Caves

More council caves

More council caves

Pond with beaver dam

Pond with beaver dam

Gone camping

Gone camping

Whoops! in her new tent

Whoops! in her new tent

Sawing some dead wood for the fire

Sawing some dead wood for the fire

Campfire vibes

Campfire vibes

Our campsite

Our campsite

View from our tent of the not-so-roaring brook

View from our tent of the not-so-roaring brook

Red eft

Red eft

The girls on the hike out

The girls on the hike out

Ready for the caves on the return

Ready for the caves on the return

Forest ascent

Forest ascent

Sketches of the tree and a woodpecker feather I found

Sketches of the tree and a woodpecker feather I found

This book is finally full of great adventures

This book is finally full of great adventures

 

 

 

Regicides Trail Finale/Loop

Last week I managed to get out and finish the rest of the Regicides Trail in Hamden. CT. It was an overcast but dry day, around 55-60 degrees. After a lot of back and forth I finally figured out my final loop plan and still was off a little on the actual miles. But that’s okay. I only had myself to answer to, and I really didn’t mind it being a little longer than I thought. I got an even 5-miler in!

I parked on the far north end and took the mostly flat red-white trail through some meadow, young forest and pond-front terrain back to the yellow trail I came down last time. That yellow trail was a nice climb on the way up, visually and physically. Not really steep, but keeps your attention! It was about 1.7 miles back up to the Regicides trail on the ridge line. Here the Regicides trail bounced back and forth from the left side to the right side of the ridge, similar to how the Appalachian Trail follows and criss-crosses Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. There were really nice views on both sides, and one real treat – the view of all of New Haven, East Rock and the Long Island Sound. I saw that view several times and it wowed me each time. There is some good hiking at East Rock, and you can find some of my entries for those hikes here – just use the search bar! A lot of these wooded ridgelines with occasional vistas really reminded me of my hike on the Georgia Appalachian Trail.

When I reached the end of the scenic ridge line walks the trail entered a gap. This is where three trails merge. The northern feeder trail (the Sanford Feeder), my road walk out, or a quick descent on the Regicides then back up a steep rocky scramble known as High Rock, where it meets the Quinnipiac Trail.  I knew from the profile it was a nice little climb. I saw it even before I got to the gap where the trail junction was. One giant rock pile about 300ft up? There were switchbacks but there were a lot of rocks to climb over too; similar to the Pennsylvania (or New York) sections of the A.T. And in one section, Barrack Mountain on the Mohawk trail which kicked my butt hard in January.  The view was worth it, though not much to get excited about in terms of celebratory signage! Well at least I can now call the Regicides trail complete. I walked back down and up the steep final portion of the Regicides trail and down the road, past an abandoned old homestead and back to the road I parked on.  A beautiful trail, easier done in one end to end, or maybe two because the access trails aren’t always the shortest loop options. Photos are below but I also made another video which you can watch here.

Miles: 5

— Linus

Time for the final section

Time for the final section

Young forest

Young forest

Through the meadow

Through the meadow

Back on the ridge

Back on the ridge

Walking the ridges

Walking the ridges

From side to side

From side to side-reminded me of Georgia!

New Haven, East Rock, and Long Island sound

New Haven, East Rock, and Long Island sound

Lush ridge walks

Lush spring ridge walks

Approaching the end of the ridge

Approaching the end of the ridge, high rock in view

High rock climb coming into focus

High rock climb coming into focus

Climbing up High Rock

Climbing up High Rock

Looking down the climb up

Looking down the climb up

View from high rock

View from high rock

On high rock

On high rock

 

 

 

 

Mohawk Trail: Northern Terminus to Lake Road (Southbound)

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks (Click to englarge)

Last weekend, the weather gods were very kind. It was in the 60’s both days, and just shy of that overnight. My first instinct? Go backpacking! I got Brian on board quickly and before we knew it we were meeting in Falls Village to tackle this last 9.6 miles I had to complete. Only there was a reason I hadn’t done it yet. (Mostly, it’s just the northernmost 1.2 miles that struck fear into my and many hearts, but at that distance it was going to be part of a longer hike). This was the portion over Barrack Mountain. A bald Eagle flew just over me as I drove to the trailhead that morning, and I was hoping it was a sign of strength and that this time I’ve got this.

Once part of the Appalachian Trail, the Mohawk was created in the late 1980s (’88 I believe) when the A.T. was rerouted across to the west of the Housatonic.

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn (Click to englarge)

This meant features like Mohawk Mountain, Cathedral Pines, Dean Ravine and Lookout Point would be no longer part of the national scenic trail’s beautiful surroundings. Tornadoes in 1988 did a lot of damage to the cathedral pines and the trail in the area in general, which was also part of the reason it was relocated. Some of my trail and AMC chapter friends joke that they are glad this is no longer the A.T., because it is a beast. This made me feel a little better that I found it so strenuous and steep. A friend who thru-hiked back in the day reminded me that most of the A.T. in the old days was like Barrack Mountain, that is straight up and straight back down both steeply, with long road walks in between.

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain (Click to englarge)

I had attempted ascending Barrack via the southbound route a few Novembers ago as well, in similarly leafy and damp conditions. I turned around half way up. It is extremely steep, and with wet slippery leaves everywhere, it was downright dangerous. There are scant few if any actual switchbacks here folks. Same on the way down. And there are a lot of precipitous ledges that you were climbing up and along. Even with Brian there who had done this section and was spotting me, it felt just as sketchy as last time. Though I was glad he was along because as I felt last time, if I fell there, no one would hear me or find me for days. My arms are still sore; I did a lot of hand over hand work on the way up. The view up there is pretty amazing, and I noticed there’s an easier trail coming up the gentler side from a Jewish retreat center, I’ll have to see if it has public access, I imagine it does.  We’re friendly people!

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance (Click to englarge)

Heavy wind gusts barreled across the mountaintop as we took in views of Lime Rock Park raceway and Sharon Mountain beyond. We knew we would have rain and wind overnight and were worried it moved in early, at the worst time. Going down was very steep rock faces topped with millions of slippery pine needles. Wet that would have just been life threatening. It felt close as it was. The rain did not come thankfully, and I did some butt-scooting down where necessary. No shame at all. I like living thanks very much. I’m here to hike not scale cliffs. Sometimes they throw that at you though and you gotta manage. A cool highlight along the way was an old A.T. geological marker like we found on Red Mountain a few years ago.

Also luckily Brian made the best suggestion ever — bring spikes, even if just for the wet leaves. SO we did. Let me tell you, I’m not sure how I would have done Barrack with a full pack and not just slid off the mountain. It was a game changer. Also when we had to cross large wet slippery blowdowns of which there were many. And stream crossings. We stayed off rocks as much as possible so as not to wear them down, but it’s worth keeping an old pair around when you replace or upgrade them because it really made us feel much more confident and sure-footed.

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn (Click to englarge)

Dean Ravine was everything I expected — stunning. This whole section was. I have around 25 pictures this time because it was even impossible to get it down to that few. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. There is nearby parking access and a short hike down to the bottom of the falls and I recommend it. Breathtaking.

We started around 1:30 and it was a tough hike into the shelter (see the GPS grab though just the red lines because the bit above is not the topo for this bit, i moved it by accident when taking the screenshot). We got in just before dark and hung our bear bags. We knew heavy wind and rain were coming in overnight so we decided to sleep in the shelter… my FIRST time!  Good call. Besides, its hardly used because this trail is hardly hiked so not much food around to attract mice or worse. It was very clean, and the shelter log was nearly empty. Someone had a geocache in there but it looks pretty neglected too. This shelter was built in 1988, the same year they moved the A.T off here, just months later I assume. We had the place to ourselves. Some people do the Mohawk as a loop with it’s replacement A.T. portion so I’m sure some people stay here once in a while.  It was great. We had dinner and then talked in the shelter till around 9pm.

A view looking up the north side of Barrack Mtn.

A view looking up the steep north side of Barrack Mtn. (Click to englarge)

Overnight heavy winds and rain rolled in. It was heaviest and worst just before dawn, and was still going when we were getting up. But within 30 minutes as we made breakfast and packed up, it began to clear into another beautiful day. I felt safe and warm (if not too warm) in my sleeping bag in the shelter. I may be doing that more, at least when out solo with friends. As a ridgerunner I won’t take the shelter. And my wife isn’t interested in them, unless we are alone. I kind of feel the same way, though I am excited to have more shelter stays now. I got to try the loaded mashed potatoes for a dinner and it was the best! I will be redoing that one, it hit the spot. and you can throw some shredded jerky or meat or cheese you have in there to snazz it up. I brought a little olive oil. Good calories and fat and light.

Old A.T. geological marker

Old A.T. geological marker (Click to englarge)

As we hiked out on day 2, it was much more gentle terrain I dubbed the mercy miles. My arms and legs were shot from day one’s climbs and descents. We did have a few climbs this morning too but it was about 58 degrees, clear and breezy and beautiful hiking weather. We were treated to a large pond full of beaver lodges and dams and handiwork you can see in the photos below.

Driving around this area is also absolutely beautiful. The bucolic views of farms, country houses, pastures, rivers, mountains and covered bridges to postcard-worthy old towns are a treat of their own. We spotted many a home in the mountains that we’d live in ourselves!

A shot of the steepness on the south side

A shot of the steepness on the south side (Click to englarge)

We stopped at the Cornwall Country Market in Cornwall Bridge on the way home for what thru-hiker Underdog and his friends call a “hiker smash”. I had a bacon-egg-and-cheese, tater tots, a gatorade, banana and a coffee. You can fill up to 20oz of coffee for $1 at the market if you have a container. As if I wasn’t already a huge fan of their amazing food. Last time Brian and I had breakfast on the porch was after one of my ridgerunner weekends last July or August. I love having so many great hiking friends. And it was an absolute dream to be able to backpack in the middle of January. Sadly it’s pretty much guaranteed a result of climate change.

I am now done with the Mohawk, and I just received my Mattabessett completion patch! I think next I will focus on the New England Trail again and finish the bits of the Menunkatuck and as much of the Metacomet as possible before my A.T. season starts again. I am also just 1.5 miles off from finishing the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s CT Blue-Blazed 200 Mile challenge!  I am continuing my role as a weekend ridgerunner in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts again this year so from late April to Mid-October I will be mostly on the A.T. working or doing section hikes with my wife. I should be able to finish the Connecticut portions of the N.E.T. in the next season or two if I stick to it!

Miles day 1: 4.8 (.5 road-walk from parking)

Miles day 2: 5.3

— Linus

Many more photos from this hike below.

The brook below Dean Ravine

The brook below Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Breakfast at the shelter

Breakfast at the shelter

Packed up and ready for day 2

Packed up and ready for day 2

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

The pond with all the beaver activity

The pond with all the beaver activity

Beaver handiwork

Beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork – the water on the left kinda looks like the left half of Connecticut!

Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Brian Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Mossy moonscape

Mossy moonscape

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

CT NET: Section 1 (Mattabesett Trail)

All done! That’s a wrap! After about 6 years of section hikes (and only because I didn’t really focus on finishing the trail much until a year and a half ago) I have finished all of the Mattabessett trail! Some guides say 60 miles, some say 66.7, and with all the reroutes who really knows, or cares? More miles, more smiles!

Once again, even this short section of this trail had plenty of challenges and surprises. What it lacks in elevation and distance, it had in adventures.  Three friends joined me on this hike. The first was my arborist friend Brian. He does a lot of hiking and camping with me which you know if you follow me. The second was Norm, an AMC group hike leader and friend of Brian’s and now friend of mine! And lastly was my former coworker and still-friend, Karen!

We have been trying to do a hike together for years. I used to tease her about not being ready, even when she did a tough section of the Camino in Spain. Truth be told I knew she could do it, and this section sure put her (and all of us) to the test in some spots. Norm liked the variety and challenges on this section so much he is going to do it with one of his hiking groups.

We dropped a car at the ample parking on River Road in Middletown and took one of their cars back to where I left off last time, the Asylum Reservoir #2. The scene looked a bit different than last time after several days in the high 40’s and low 50’s. I made an appropriate fuss with Karen that she couldn’t go unless she had spikes, based on last time. My wife’s spikes fit on her cross trainers so we were good to go. However when we got there there was no ice. No problem. Better safe than sorry! But this section had plenty of challenges.

They started pretty much right away, along with the views. Steep scramble after steep scramble, complete with slippery mud and wet leaves. I and the guys made sure Karen had backup on these steeps but she really did it all herself save for one steep ledge we all gave each other a hand to traverse. There were lots more ledge walks in the woods, tracing the contours of streams and brooks below.  The views on the hilltops stretched across the many reservoirs here, west all the way to the peaks of the western end of the Mattabessett including Fowler, TriiMountain, Higby and Beseck, which is also known as Powder Ridge ski resort. We could see the snow-covered slopes from these ledges.

Then came the marvelous rock pile caves. As we don’t have many real caves here in Connecticut, most of them are large rock formations overhanging, though some have a few smaller spaces connected. Since I didn’t get to see the cave two sections back, this would suffice. We had fun exploring and taking pictures. Someone had made a little wall of rocks along the edge, and built a fire ring. This spot would definitely protect you from bad weather in a pinch and I said to the group that I was sure that native Americans met or lived here like the nearby caves. Or at least sought shelter. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t one of the legendary leatherman’s spots on his route. I’ll have to look that up.

After the cave, it was much more gentle and winding through more tunnels of mountain laurel. There were several small streams to cross but they were deep and fast and so even the little ones presented a challenge so we all had to think and find the best route across. There was also a deep bog that a log crossed at a declining angle, and that one gave us all some pause not to mention an attempted work-around. Thickets of wild rose and fearsome thorns all around made the log the only way to go. It was touch and go doing the balance beam for the first few steps but we all got through dry!

After that was a power line section which has been slightly rerouted for construction so the Hartford views were not to be had. But we still got some great views and one or two more steep climbs. Karen was finally introduced to cairns and we enjoyed the play on words with her name’s similar phonetics. We also saw some old cellar holes and a large abandoned campsite which I reported to the CFPA.

The last mile was mostly downhill to the river, swtichbacking the whole way. We were tired. This is a much shorter hike than we usually do but it felt like twice as long with all the challenge. We were hoping for an opportunity to give Karen her trail name, and when she fell on a flat spot of wet leaves near the end and shouted “whoops!”, we knew we had it.

We all definitely got our money’s worth in views and challenge. I feel like I did 50 crunches. Next up I am going to work on the Menunkatuck portion of the N.E.T. It’s 16.7 miles and I’ve done about 7.7. This is the section that connects the Mattabessett portion to the Long Island Sound and is fairly new, thought it may be made up of older trails in the area. Much of it right by the coast is roadwalk. But it sounds like its a nice road walk, through a seaside town.

I have done the northern half except for a mile or less section where it meets the Mattabessett and I can do that as an out and back from Route 77 or the road crossing just befiore where we turned around on that hike. A small detail that annoyed me much that day!  The portion between what I did and the town portion is more woods at least. This area is also much closer to the highway so I can get to it easy and get it done quickly. I’ll plan to do that before spring barring any issues. At that time I will get back to finishing the Mohawk and our A.T. section hikes.

My new trail runners just showed up, and I am eager to put them to the test! I also got some REI Minimalist GTX mitts with a holiday gift card, on my friend Mat’s recommendation. Just the gloves wasn’t cutting it in the real cold, and I like having the layering options for hands, for when I need my fingers to do technical terrain, and the mitts over them when I just want to keep the wind, rain, or snow off my hands a little more. Those I can definitely try soon as it’s winter. The runners I will use on the next hike that’s not a snow or ice hike. Photos of the hike below.

Miles: 4.7

— Linus

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

On the reservoir ledge

Brian and Norm On the reservoir ledge

Lots of gorge-ous streams

Lots of gorge-ous streams

First tough scramble

First tough scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Scrambling over a rock pile

Scrambling over a rock pile

Karen with a view

Karen with a view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Karen on a wooded ledge

Karen on a wooded ledge

Climbing up to the second crazy schedule

Climbing up the second crazy schedule

 

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble’

Another scramble after that view

Another scramble after that view

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Karen and the cairn

Karen and the cairn

An old cellar hole with front steps

An old cellar hole with front steps

Huffin it up another hill

Huffin it up another hill

Young forest with CT river beyond

Young forest with CT river beyond

Victory pose!

Victory pose!

 

 

 

New England/Mattabessett Trail: CT Section 10

Today I was supposed to take my friend out to finish her last section of the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. Well, weather turned really nasty, and while I’ve done my share of very wet hiking, this was supposed to be a special day, and we wanted to wait for the right weather, to get all the views. So we postponed it. And the heavy rain will be here all day. So I’m happy sitting here writing about the great hike I did yesterday instead!

While the Appalachian Trail takes up most of my time and attention, I do enjoy checking out other trails. And I’ve been working a bit on the New England Trail again the last few years. Last year I did the Hike50Net challenge, and so I did knock off a good amount more of the Mattabessett, and some of the Metacomet section, with my brother. I hadn’t been back since the end of last year as my trail duties and A.T. section hiking pursuits take priority. But now I’ve got somewhere between 24 and 27 miles left of the Mattabessett. It’s hard to know exactly because of re-routes. My Walk Book from a few years ago is already outdated in areas on this trail. Luckily they have a website with everything up to date. I saw a Forest and Parks association trail crew out doing a re-route on this hike, so it may change again in the near future.

I plan to finish this trail over the winter in 3 or 4 more sections. As the trail moves east away from the traprock ledges, there will me more varied terrain as well as some historic landmarks.  I also hope to finish off the Saugatuck trail, as they added a new section right after we finished it. And perhaps the last ten miles of the Mohawk trail, if I can get a day without ice or lots of loose leaves as the bit over Barrack mountain is very steep.

Speaking of very steep, there were several very steep ascents and descents on this section. The trail crew was actually working on a switchback to save you from one of these steep ascents or descents depending on your direction. And the trail here is all red volcanic basalt. So it’s a bit like Pennsylvania here as there’s rocks along most of the entire trail and now you can’t see them because they’re under millions of leaves. I definitely had to pay attention to my footing to protect my ankles. But wow, the views. I was treated again and again to cliff side views of Pistpaug Pond, Ulbrich reservoir, and views south all the way to Long Island Sound and all the way north to the hanging hills of Meriden. The outlooks here didn’t look east enough to see Hartford. I also was treated to a red-tailed hawk doing a fly over the ridge directly in front of me.

There is a shelter about .2 from the road that local homeowners built behind their house for hikers. As this is a relatively newly designated National Scenic Trail, and you don’t have a lot of people thru-hiking it, there’s not a lot of shelters. And since much of this trail is still on private land, that won’t change for a while. I believe you are allowed to camp on trail if you’re thru-hiking but I don’t really see anything encouraging or mentioning it on their site. I’d say that’s at your own risk.  I signed the register and enjoyed checking out this great shelter. They even had 2 jugs of water for hikers. While there’s a few ponds in the gaps, these water sources are all at least a short walk off trail to get water. I saw one stream running on this whole 6.2 mile hike. I have not seen a lot of natural water sources on this trail except ponds and resevoirs near the mountain gaps. I though about doing a thru-hike of the New England Trail. And it’s always still possible. But for now I’m enjoying doing it in sections when I have a few hours here and there and need some forest walking.

I’d say the only thing that detracted from the hike was the section along a private road lined with barbed wire and the sounds of the nearby firing range the entire hike. I definitely got a lovely fall day and a good workout and the therapy the trail always provides me with. Photos below.  You can see the map of this section here.

Miles: 6.2

— Linus

Ouch!

Ouch!

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

Peaceful woods

Peaceful woods

View from Pistpaug Mtn

View from Pistpaug Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of ups up this

Lots of ups up this

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Fall colors

Fall colors

Mattabessett trail sign

Mattabessett trail sign

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

I want this sign

I want this sign

 

 

 

 

 

Lillinonah Trail

Pond Brook

Pond Brook

Saturday I got back out on the trails for a much needed hike. Two weeks in my insanely hectic life is more than enough time to leave me dying for some nature therapy! I also had to work over the weekend and attend a late night party in NYC for my friend’s birthday – all the more reason for me to make sure I got out there to keep balanced.  My wife was wonderful to give me so much time to myself last weekend as she too is feeling the stress of crazy schedules, so I’m sending her to hang out with her sister this weekend for some fun of her own. And I am glad we got to do the last hike together as it had been awhile.

I am really missing our backpacking trips already and spring is too far away.  Although thanks to El Nino, the east coast has been experiencing late spring conditions and last Saturday and Sunday both had highs in the 60s and lows in the upper 40s. For this reason I had briefly considered an overnight backpacking trip but ultimately decided against it. That would mean skipping my friend’s birthday, and anyway hiker midnight at 430pm would make for a very long dark night… However had my wife been able to join things might have been different.

Pond Brook view

Pond Brook view

But this one I had to do as a day hike. This time I opted for something other than the A.T. and skimmed through the weekend hike offerings from my AMC club. I had originally settled on a group hike on the challenging northern end of the Mohawk trail (once the A.T.’s route). But distance from home and a late start to the hike meant I’d have barely enough time to change my clothes, kiss my wife and kids and rush to the train station if I wanted to make the party in time.  Another of their group hike options was with Tom, who I’ve done several hikes with including the trail work at West Rock a few weeks ago. It was a circuit hike on the Lillinonah trail and was only 45 minutes away. The trail is in the Upper Paugussett State Forest, in Newtown, CT. and is about 6 miles long. This choice also meant I got to check a full trail off my completed list!

Rocky ledges along the Lake

Rocky ledges along the Lake

I pulled the map for the trail out of my Connecticut Walk Book from the CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Parks Association) and gave it a quick study. It’s always good to have your own copy and be somewhat familiar with the layout should you get separated from the leader. These books cover all of the trails in our state, now adding up to over 800 miles and filling two volumes. The original blue-blazed trails added up to about 400 miles and one book. There is another hiking group I do outings with who are actually called the Connecticut 400, and coincidentally, they were out doing the same hike that day and starting just a few minutes earlier.

The trail begins by skirting Pond Brook from the boat launch and then makes a good climb over the first high point to the edge of Lake Lillinonah, which it then follows along a ‘scenic area’ for just over 3 miles before going back into the woods for one more big climb and descent. The scenic area is closed from December 15 to April 15 to let local families of Bald eagles nest, so that may explain why there were a few groups out on this December day.

Lake Lillinonah is actually part of the Housatonic River that was created in 1955 by the Shepaug dam, which we saw from our lunch spot along the lakeside. It’s the second largest lake in the state after Candlewood lake. There were many boaters out on this day, and a few of the hikers in our group also enjoy kayaking and fishing there. Swimming here is discouraged due to heavy boat traffic.

Blue blazed blowdown

Blue blazed blowdown

There are a lot of ups and downs on the trail, even if the elevations aren’t that high. All in all there was about 1,100 feet of elevation gain, so it was enough of a work out. While I enjoy a flat trail over an office any day, I like challenging myself, and staying in shape especially for those longer hikes I want to have the stamina for. I definitely felt like I got a good workout, and we added about another half mile to the distance by taking a side excursion to a nice lunch spot overlooking the dam.

While I don’t know if its legally permitted, there were some great camping spots along the lake edge by the trail, and signs that said ‘no fires’, so I’m assuming hunters and fishermen frequently camp there. We did see a hunter out that day, and one of the campsites had a fire ring or two with actual abandoned cooking grills and what looked like an old platform of some sort. There is an official camping area with charcoal grills by the boat launch.

Tree sap network

Tree sap network

One really interesting sight was a network of what must amount to miles and miles of blue tubes that were hooked up to and around many trees in the area. Apparently this is a new system for collecting tree sap; I’m assuming for a maple syrup operation down the road that I passed on the way home. I was surprised about how extensive the system was, and somewhat impressed and intrigued by this new method of transporting the sap. But I have to say it was very visually unattractive. Considering there is a popular hiking trail adjacent to the property that the tube jungle traverses, it’s too bad that it marred the natural landscape. But for all I know this business owns some of the land the trail is on and allows its use as a trail.

— Linus

More volunteering (and hiking!)

Trail Patrol register entry

Trail Patrol register entry

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my trail patrol training with the AMC coordinator. We went back along the river walk section of the A.T. in Kent, CT and spoke about the many leave no trace practices and how to convey them in a friendly and inspirational manner to hikers. While we have no legal authority to write any sort of citations, that’s not the point. It’s the hope that in teaching other hikers about these concepts and educating them in a friendly way, they will adopt these practices on their own, and maybe even teach others.

Pruning back some briars

Pruning back some briars

I am currently reading a great article on the subject, about using the authority of the resource rather than the authority of the position to convey these ideas in a way that won’t upset those you are talking to about it. While it’s written more for actual park rangers who do have the authority to cite and prosecute offenders, its concepts are applicable here as well. Explaining how certain practices affect the vegetation, and the local fauna in a negative way is often more effective than telling someone they shouldn’t be doing something or they will get in trouble.

Lake Wintergreen

Lake Wintergreen

We also cleared stealth campsites and fire rings (some in very dangerous places) and picked up trash and cleared deadfall and bittersweet root that encroached on the trail. We spoke to a few day and overnight hikers as well. I had fun signing the register as a trail volunteer for the first time, and learning how to protect and educate others to protect our trail. The corridor is very narrow in many places in Connecticut, often just a sliver of land allowed by the local landowner, so it’s essential to stay on the trail and not build fires and campsites outside of designated areas because you could be on someone’s private property!

Regicides Trail on West Rock

Regicides Trail on West Rock

I will receiving my identification materials in the mail shortly but as it didn’t arrive by today I thought it better to wait to do my first solo patrol. Don’t want someone thinking ‘who’s this guy who thinks he owns the trail and is telling me how to take care of it!’ But I did want to hike and I did want to do some volunteer work. Luckily one of the club leaders was hosting a morning pruning work party followed by a hike on some local trails he himself cut and blazed and maintains in West Rock State Park in Hamden, CT. So I spent the morning with loppers and a saw cutting back lots of invasives, including some pretty nasty briars which did a number on many of our arms! We also cleared a large blowdown crossing the path.

A steep dropoff with a view

A steep dropoff with a view

Afterwards we met with a large group of hikers who were meeting for the hike segment up West Rock and along the ridge. The blue-blazed Regicides Trail traverses the entire ridge for 7 miles and crosses a highway tunnel below. It is part of the CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Park Association)’s 800-mile network of trails in the state. It’s also the site of the “Judges Cave,” though we did not visit it on this hike as it was farther south. The cave and the trail are named after the Parliamentary judges who sentenced King Charles I to death in England in the 1600’s. When the monarchy was restored some years later King Charles II had many of those responsible hanged, drawn and quartered.

View to Konolds Pond

View to Konolds Pond

Three fled to the colonies and settlers there that were sympathetic to their cause and were still very anti-monarchy helped hide them in a cave on this ridge above New Haven. The local roadways in the area are named in their memory. I’m looking forward to seeing the cave on another hike.

The hike did provide some nice ridge walking along the trap rock ledges and some good drop offs which made me a little nervous with all the leaves on the trail that would be quite easy to slip on, and off, the edge.