CT NET: Section 3 (Mattabesett Trail) and Part of Section 2

There are those times when you think a hike is going to be easy. Nothing you’ve read about on the trail description to indicate otherwise. You’re prepared, but maybe didn’t overprepare as much as you should have because some items seemed unnecessary.  This was one of those hikes.

I always have my ten essentials, but I’m adding my microspikes to the winter list. Mind you I usually do bring them on a winter hike. But this one just seemed like a gentle walk in the woods. In fact, 3 miles of it was road walks. Most of it was just a walk in the woods. Until the two unexpected rock scrambles by a powerline… even more unexpected!

Eagle’s Beak is a long pointy rock ledge, and was the highlight of the hike for me. Easy to reach and you need go only as far out as you like. Covered with several inches of snow and possibly ice I stayed closer to the trail side.

I enjoyed the rock scramble below the powerline despite the cut I got on my finger from the surrounding pricker bushes while climbing up it. The second scramble seems like a new route judging by the blazes, and it was right up a 6-foot ledge, which was dripping wet and covered in snow. There was an outcropping of rock beneath, which provided a 2-foot deep crack up which to climb closer to the ledge you need to then traverse. However this was covered with 8 inches of snow.  And if one did not get a good dry grip by stepping on the top of this, and fell, well it would be about a 10-foot fall down that rock outcropping, and another 15 down the hillside into more rocks below.

I climbed halfway up into that crack and assessed every possible way to get up onto the ledge safely. After about 10 minutes of talking myself through any safe route, I deemed there wasn’t a 100% safe route and climbed back down. I have a wife and kids. I also don’t need to prove anything. I can always come back and do it when its dry. I went around, because I correctly assumed the trail would follow the ledge once on top and I was able to walk those 30 or so feet of trail below the ledge without the pointless dangerous climb. I am alright with this decision. It was the right one. Better than pride before the fall, literally! Unfortunately where as my old Connecticut Walk Book mentioned these climbs in the description, the newer single-volume Connecticut Walk Book does not still have descriptions of trail sections. The website does not either.

The spikes could have helped here for sure, and been the difference between safe and unsafe on this section. But I still likely would have made the same decision. It looks like the old route went around this and maybe this is now a bypass trail but I didn’t see the side route if there was one so that needs a sign.

I enjoyed the rest of the ledges section here though I definitely missed my spikes as there was a good deal of sliding around rock surfaces!  Mercifully, after the ledges it was a gentle descent. To be honest, besides that ledge, I think Aircraft Road where I parked was the most dangerous section! People take that name a little too literally, like they were trying to get up enough speed to take off. Be careful parking and crossing that road folks. There’s only one little oval trail sign and by the time anyone that is speeding sees it and figures out there might be a trail crossing, they’d be on top of you.

Also keep in mind snow will always slow you down. It’s more effort on the feet and makes any smooth surface slippery. Even the mostly flat sections along the Seven Falls Roadside park were very slippery with the roots wet and covered in snow and wet leaves. Crossing Bible Rock book was quite the adventure as it was a rushing brook, with large rocks for the crossing and a few feet of water in between each. This is enough of a balancing act when dry, but the snow piled on top of each made it impossible to tell where the surfaces were flat or not. It was very tricky negotiating this crossing because of the snow. Spikes would have helped here too, though it would still be impossible to see the flat surfaces on the rock.

Well I wanted an adventure and got one. The road walk was pretty, and there were really some very pretty parts of this trail including mountain laurel tunnels. It says there was a cave but while I saw a lot of overhanging boulder ‘caves’ on the rock walls, I must have missed it if there was a real cave. It was right near the scrambles so I was likely distracted.

I have only 9 miles left of the Mattabesett trail, but based on this experience and that I want to finish it sooner rather than later, its possible I will split it up into two sections so any more surprises (re-routes and unknown technical portions) and the addition of the current winter conditions don’t put me at risk of unnecessary injury. In this case the toughest parts were all in the last mile, so never assume the home stretch means easy trail. Plan extra time! Make sure you have a headlamp always because sometimes these conditions can slow you down enough to to mean you’re hiking at night, especially in the winter months. I hope to finish this trail by the end of the year. I might do another section tomorrow since the temperatures are in the 50s today and raining all day which should take care of the snow. As long as all the rain isn’t ice tomorrow after the temps drop again tonight! This means I will either do half of the last 9 miles or the whole 9 miles tomorrow. Look for that write-up soon.

I enjoyed following deer tracks for most of the route. Seems they enjoy the trail as much as people! Photos below.

Miles: 6.5

— Linus

Winter skies

Winter skies

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Approaching the Eagle's beak

Approaching the Eagle’s beak

Following more deer

Following more deer

Linus on Eagle's Beak

Linus on Eagle’s Beak

Bible Rock Brook

Bible Rock Brook

Rolling hilltops

Rolling hilltops

The first part of the first scramble

The first part of the first scramble

The non scramble route was to the left and also a scramble

The non scramble route was to the left and also a scramble

Part 2 of the first scramble

Part 2 of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Trail signs

Trail signs

First cairns I've seen on this trail

First cairns I’ve seen on this trail

The wall I didn't climb in the ice and snow

The wall I didn’t climb in the ice and snow

"The Pavement" by the powerlines

“The Pavement” by the powerlines

Or is THIS "The Pavement"

Or is THIS “The Pavement”

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Beneath the ledges

Beneath the ledges

Seven Falls Roadside Park

Seven Falls Roadside Park

 

 

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