Quick jaunt through Steep Rock Preserve

Steep Rock Preserve, in Washington, Connecticut is one that many a friend has recommended. Whether a regular hiker or just the occasional family outing hiker, it offers much. There are watering holes, several places where you can ford the Shepaug River (at least the map shows that), hiking and horse trails and an old railroad tunnel. I had about an hour to visit on the way to another appointment in the area.  The drive in itself is a beautiful trek into the Litchfield hills. There is a viewpoint on the top of Steep Rock, but as I was so limited in time I didn’t make it up there. Still, I really enjoyed my visit, and it was even more scenic with the leaves changing color as fall settles in. I did not get much cell reception on Verizon, so finding my way into the next town involved asking directions, but there were many hikers and walkers out to ask. I’ll be back to check out the rest. You should give the place a visit too.

This weekend Fielden Stream and I will be back on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania to do an 8-mile day hike and enjoy an inn for her annual birthday trip. The tropical temperatures we’ve been having are going to be dropping significantly between now and Saturday and we decided we’d rather celebrate in the inn instead of the tent at 38 degrees. The rocks of northern PA here are a challenge enough.  Stay tuned for that blog. Happy trails. Photos below.

miles: 1.8

— Linus

changing colors

changing colors

old railroad tunnel

old railroad tunnel

ray of light

ray of light

Bend in the Shepaug River

Bend in the Shepaug River

Crayola forest

Crayola forest

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

 

 

 

Cleanups

My last two outings over the previous few weeks have been to do cleanups and survey conditions on the trail. That entailed some fire ring and trash removal from the campsites and shelter at Ten Mile Hill, restoration of some vandalized signage at the now closed and highly problematic Bull’s Bridge area, and post-tornado tree and debris removal from Belter’s Campsites with the sawyer crew. Fielden Stream joined for that one, and that was a treat since we’ve barely been able to hike or backpack together this year due to many factors, including of course the pandemic.

Apologies for the brevity, but I’m packing for a much-needed vacation on the cape with my son and his friend and frankly the situation at Bulls Bridge is so frustrating I really don’t feel ready to talk about it in more detail calmly. Our whole maintaining chapter, and the town feel the same way.

On a positive note, Belter’s campsite is now returned to its fully usable condition after our work party. Happy trails!  Photos below.

— Linus

On Ten Mile Hill

On Ten Mile Hill

View from Ten Mile Hill Summit

View from Ten Mile Hill Summit

Cleaning up at the shelter

Cleaning up at the shelter

The bear box is not a hiker box

The bear box is not a hiker box

Illegal fire ring

Illegal fire ring

fire ring after i cleared it

fire ring after i cleared it

Blowdown I removed

Blowdown I removed

Ned Anderson Bridge and Ten Mile and Housatonic Rivers

Ned Anderson Bridge and Ten Mile and Housatonic Rivers

Vandalized signs. Some people don't like rules

Vandalized signs. Some people don’t like rules

torn down trail closure signs

torn down trail closure signs

torn down trail closure fencing

torn down trail closure fencing

Sawyer crew working on the big blowdowns

Sawyer crew working on the big blowdowns

Fielden Stream cutting a blowdown

Fielden Stream cutting a blowdown

Linus cutting a blowdown

Linus cutting a blowdown

Reunions

The past two Saturdays have been some of my favorites. I got to see and/or hike with my hiking companions from Georgia, Oso and Rockflipper. I haven’t seen these fellas since February when they were starting the trail. Obviously COVID restrictions impacted their hikes so these reunions were a little later than expected but well worth the wait! I met Oso in Kent as he was taking a much-needed zero, so I hit the trail for a few hours after a nice breakfast outside the Fife N’ Drum and ended up making 3 new friends on the trail, one who lives in my town. Caleb’s Peak and St. John’s ledges were the usual treats of scenery and challenge and my friend Lisa from our AMC chapter picked me up to save me the road walk so I could make lunch with Oso in time. It was great catching up with him and It was nice to see her too! I will try and catch Oso farther north.

I managed to catch Rockflipper in Cornwall Bridge, who had skipped this 12-mile section to visit a doctor and had planned to come back on this day to do it. I was luckily off from work this day and met him at 9am at the trailhead. His wife was slack-packing him for a few days so she gave us a ride up to the trailhead.  My tracker wasn’t getting a signal so I gave up on it for the time being as Overboard and Blueberry who he had been hiking with were at the same spot and ready to go. With everything being so dry lately, Guinea Brook was low and easily crossable. It wasn’t until the top of Breadloaf Mountain that I got a signal on my tracker. We met another hiker he knew, Dirtyjobz, as well as some trail magic on the way up. I didn’t take any trail magic as I was just day hiking and wanted to save it for the thrus. We all hiked together for a while until Dirtyjobz went ahead. Rockflipper and I stopped about halfway at Pine Swamp shelter for a snack and as the rain was kicking in. I surveyed the campsite and we headed out into the rain which did not stop and only got heavier. It rained on us the whole way and most of our views were obscured and my phone (and camera) hidden away in my pack. This is fine though because it gave us more time to focus on conversation and the moment and I have probably 10,000 photos of the CT A.T! We did get a lot of good ones before the rain.

The race track at Lime Rock was alive with the sounds of a car test driving for about an hour. For some reason, I haven’t ever been on Sharon Mountain when it wasn’t a torrential downpour all day long (or in one case, 2-foot snowdrifts I had to post-hole!). Maybe its the location of the mountain in relation to the weather systems. Don’t know, but I embrace the rain these days, especially when it’s 75 degrees, I am going back to my car later and not to camp, I don’t have much or any slick steep technical terrain, and its been hot and humid as heck the last two weeks! I didn’t bother with any protection other than the pack cover to protect my electronics.

My longest day was 11.8 in Georgia (with Oso and Rockflipper) and today was 12.1! Though my tracker didn’t get that first .3, I know I did it and it felt great. I am still getting used to my zero drop trail runners and definitely feeling it today but I love those shoes and I know they are better for you in the long run once used to them. It was awesome to hit a new milestone with one of the guys I hit the last one with 4 months ago.

I also got to meet several other hikers and do my trail patrol survey which includes checking out campsites and cleaning trash from bearboxes, noting water source levels, giving hikers important information on resources and answering their questions, explaining our section policies and leave no trace reasons behind them, picking up trail litter, clearing waterbars, and addressing or reporting any blowdowns. The work was light this day luckily so I could focus on hiking with Rockflipper.  I hope to join him up trail again too, or back down the trail when he flips back from Maine to finish where he skipped ahead after getting off trail for COVID for several months. Photos below.

miles day 1: 5.2

miles day 2: 12.1

wildlife: many frogs splashing about in the trail puddles, a salamander and a few garter snakes

— Linus

Linus and Oso

Linus and Oso

Hitting the trail

Hitting the trail

Rocky scenes

Rocky scenes

View from Caleb's Peak

View from Caleb’s Peak

Linus at overlook at St. John's Ledges

Linus at overlook at St. John’s Ledges

My new friends on St. John's Ledges

My new friends on St. John’s Ledges

Garter snake on St. John's Ledges

Salamander on St. John’s Ledges

Garter snake at St. John's Ledges

Garter snake at St. John’s Ledges

Linus and Rock Flipper

Linus and Rock Flipper

At Guinea Brook

At Guinea Brook

Hatch Brook

Hatch Brook

Linus and Rock Flipper at Pine Knob

Linus and Rock Flipper at Pine Knob

Linus in Rodger's Ramp

Linus in Rodger’s Ramp

Rock Flipper at Rodger's Ramp

Rock Flipper at Rodger’s Ramp

Rainy view

Rainy view

Carse Brook crossing

Carse Brook crossing

 

 

Trout Brook Valley Preserve

Last weekend my wife and I got a hike in together at a new spot for us. Trout Brook Valley Preserve is located just next to several parks including Devil’s Glen, Devil’s Den and Huntington State Park, with which it shares some common trail. Rugged and steep in places, and mixed with wide carriage roads perfect for biking and running, we were wonderfully surprised. It just reopened from the pandemic closure, though there is no parking on weekends and it is a very small lot to begin with. It seems the neighbors are not all that happy about it and there are signs at the entrance that police will be called on anyone picking anything in the forest from flowers to wild edibles like mushrooms. There was also a bear warning sign and we could see several spots on our hike that were bear-friendly.

We also saw a bunch of wild turkeys, and I was startled by a duck at the beginning of the hike, as he flew out of the brush alongside the causeway as I walked by. A lot of beautiful wildflowers could be seen in the same meadow, and there is a bench and birdhouse for bird watching. I also thought the fish causeway was really interesting.

Our short hike was full of interesting terrain and some nice views, and we will be back. Mid-week is the time to go… Photos below.

Miles: 3.5

— Linus

Trout Brook Valley Preserve Entrance

Trout Brook Valley Preserve Entrance

A rope for help when wet

A rope for help when wet

Fielden Stream at the top of a rope climb

Fielden Stream at the top of a rope climb

Linus at the top of the ridge

Linus at the top of the ridge

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

CT NET: Section 2 (Mattabesett Trail)

Last week I made it back out to complete section 2 (and a tiny little bit of section 1) of the Mattabesett trail in Middletown, CT. It was a warm day for December, but the nights are still cold, so everything wet on the ground gets melty, freezes overnight, and then begins to thaw the following day, and repeat. So there was a LOT of ice sheets. There is NO way I could have done this hike without my spikes. I didn’t put them on until after the first mile and am I glad I did. I was warned about the trail conditions, and after last time, they’re never being left home again in winter.  There were several sheets of ice, including along the two foot wide ledge atop the Chinese Wall!

I made a nice video, so I thought I’d point you there to hear the story. On New Years Day my friends will join me to complete the final 4 miles and change. I can’t wait! I’ve been working on this trail in bits and pieces since 2013. It wasn’t until the last 2 years that I really started working on completing it, thanks to the NET Hike 50 Challenge.

Once I complete the Mattabesett I will probably keep working on the Metacomet trail (also part of the New England Trail) until spring. At that time, I am usually back to work on my A.T. jobs and section hikes. I only have 10 miles of the Mohawk left too so I will try and finish that before backpacking season, or as a warmup overnight for backpacking season.

Here’s the video. Photos below (these are also in the video at the end)

Miles: 4.2

— Linus

Starting out

Starting out

Heading up the first hill

Heading up the first hill

Icy falls

Icy falls

Another waterfall

Another waterfall

A steep up!

A steep up!

And another

And another

Spike time

Spike time

Steep icy descent, thank god for spikes

Steep icy descent, thankful for spikes

And another...

And another…

Blue blazin

And up the ice

Ice sheets everywhere!

Ice sheets everywhere!

Views north to Hartford

Views north to Hartford

Pegmatite rock face

Pegmatite rock face

More pegmatite rock

More pegmatite rock

The start of the Chinese Wall

The start of the Chinese Wall

Walking along the top of the Chinese Wall

Walking along the top of the Chinese Wall

Looking back at my hike along the top of the Chinese Wall

Looking back at my hike along the top of the Chinese Wall

USGS Marker for Bear Hill

USGS Marker for Bear Hill

Laurel tunnels

Laurel tunnels

Wintery creek

Wintery creek

Cresting the next hill

Cresting the next hill

Laurel Preserve indeed!

Laurel Preserve indeed!

Map at the end by the resevoir

Map at the end by the resevoir

Asylum Resevoir #2

Asylum Resevoir #2

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Ridgerunner Weekend #5, Bear Mountain and the Riga Plateau

One of my favorite sections (and everyone else’s) of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut is Bear Mountain in Salisbury, our highest peak. Most of the day hikers take the 2-mile Undermountain trail to the Appalachian Trail at Riga Junction. From there, the summit of Bear Mountain is just .9 miles higher.  On this trip, as others, I encountered many hikers heading up for a quick out-and-back.

I was still getting over a bad cold, so I chose to take the undermountain trail to Lion’s Head and then back to Riga shelter, so my daily mileage would not exceed 6. I didn’t want to push myself too hard. Usually I do a much longer loop up here.

I was planning to meet my friend Brian again at Riga and he would be starting after work. I had about 6 1/2 hrs to cover the 5.7 miles I did, so I took several breaks, including a long one at Brassie Brook shelter, and at Lion’s Head. Lion’s head is about .6 farther in this direction than the shelter but its easy miles and its views are not to be missed. There are actually two great lookouts; a northern one AND a southern one.  I love them both.

I knew from the register at Brassie Brook (and our chapter water reports) that the water source at Riga was dry, as were most of the others along my route, except for at Brassie Brook. So I loaded up there with another 3 liters so I was covered for the night. While this made my load heavier. these miles after the initial climb from the undermountain trail head were primarily flat with one small climb up to Lion’s Head itself.

I had a lovely break there, laughing as turkey vultures circled overhead, cawwing loudly (or whatever you call their sound) and discussing how tasty I might be. I met a northbound thru hiker along the way and a few southbounders.

When I arrived at Riga there was also a southbounder there with her dog. I also encountered yet ANOTHER fire ring against the rock under the NO FIRES sign. People can really be stinkers sometimes. Its disappointing that people can be so purposefully disrespectful. So I got to work cleaning that up and then I got a reward when looking through the register. The thru hikers we were following online and that we met in June in Falls Village had left us a note here thanking us for recommending they stay here, and how great the view was indeed. (It turns out later that we realized they also gave us shoutouts in their videos of both those days!)

This hike was an overnight on Friday the 13th, and the first Firday the 13th with a harvest full moon in over 20 years. We were thrilled when it materialized in all its glory that night. And because we never did get the famous sunrise the next morning as a storm was moving in. The wind howled all night, as well as a chorus of livestock sounds from the farms below. In the morning, the weather was moving in quicker and rain was now scheduled to come at 11. We had a quick breakfast and headed up to the top of Bear, cutting and clearing a few blowdowns on the way.  ( I had also cleared a large one the day before on Lion’s Head.)

There was still a little bit of a view and we got some photos and then hussled back down to Riga junction and the undermountain trail, passing 24 hikers and several dogs. My cold was also starting to come back a bit, so I was glad to have had another easier than usual day.

We stopped at the Cornwall Country market for some breakfast and just as we sat down it started to pour. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, but when I’m sick, and its cold and wet, that’s a bad combo. The timing worked out perfectly.

It was another great season as a weekend summer ridgerunner, and I hope to be back again for a 4th next year. Until then I will knock out a few more sections elsewhere with my wife, and do some volunteer work on our section. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 5.7

Miles day 2: 5.5

— LInus

Stickbug!

Stickbug!

Brassie Brook

Brassie Brook

Large blowdown I cut

Large blowdown I cut

Some kind of seedpod

Some kind of seedpod

Heading up Lions head southbound

Heading up Lions head southbound

Lions Head

Lions Head

Lions Head south view

Lions Head south view

Me on LIon's Head Northern view

Me on LIon’s Head Northern view

Turkey vultures overhead

Turkey vultures overhead

The great view at Riga shelter

The great view at Riga shelter

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Some cool mushrooms

Some cool mushrooms

Beautiful oak - a blowdown we had to cut

Beautiful oak – a blowdown we had to cut

Autumn hobblebush

Autumn hobblebush

Pointing back to Lion's Head from Bear Mtn

Pointing back to Lion’s Head from Bear Mtn

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Mts Race and Everett (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

Mts Race and Everett in the clouds (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The remains of the stone tower on Bear's summit

The remains of the stone tower on Bear’s summit

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