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

 

 

 

 

 

Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 1

The last two days we spent backpacking another section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Err.. ROCKsylvania, as its known. And it’s for real. Really real. Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of rocks. Big ones, little ones, medium ones, pointy ones, slippery ones, foot squishing ones, sideways ones… you get the picture. We knew in advance, we’ve been warned for years! ALL A.T. hikers pretty much know this, in fact.

We did the flat section in Boiling Springs in July when we were nursing wounds and it was 95 degrees as day hikes but I wanted to get a good, challenging overnight in in case this was the last overnight for us together of the season. Mission accomplished! (still sore).

I also had to make it to my son’s soccer game in Kent yesterday at 330 so I didn’t want to be a 4-hours-plus drive away. Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap was 15.5 miles, with a shelter 9.1 miles in. The forecast was for 40’s-50’s temps at night and rain most of Monday. We have done our share in rain and that’s fine, but at those temps it becomes a risky combo that we had the luxury to avoid. Plus it was FIelden Stream’s birthday so we usually do a backpacking trip with one night in an inn and one on trail. So we did this again. And since Monday was actually her birthday we had an even better excuse to stay at the inn that night and wait out the rain.

We got a room at the old Deer Head Inn, right on the trail. It looked really cool last time we were in town. We loved it. The only downside was the live jazz and the restaurant weren’t open on Mondays. We will be back for that experience. We can still stay there after another nearby section. The family that run it were very friendly and we got a great rate. We had a really nice room (no TV at least in our room, but who cares!). I sat on the porch with my sketchbook, drawing the beautiful scenes from the porch while it rained, and listened to jazz on my iphone and had a glass of wine.

We got some great dinner suggestions all around the area but we were supposed to meet with a southbound thru hiker for dinner so we picked a place right on the main strip where the hostel and our inn were. As it turns out he was unable to make dinner, so we could have gone somewhere new. But we went to the Sycamore grill last time we were here when we finished New Jersey and liked it a lot. So we were just fine being there again for dinner.

We had a nice dinner and got to bed early after watching some videos on our phone. See, who needs a TV in the room these days!  We were up early to get coffee and donuts at the village farmer, and had fun taking our pictures in the pie slice and hot dog portrait sign. We also got a fresh loaf of raisin bread and cider donuts to have for breakfasts before and during the hike, and got an Uber to Wind Gap right on schedule! We had a nice talk with the driver who was also super friendly and helpful and then it was a quick climb up out of Wind Gap.

While it was a brisk ascent it was gentle on the feet here still, and it wasn’t long because we were already at 1,000ft coming up this way to the ridge. The other end is a much longer climb, and we even felt that going down it at the end!

Soon after we reached the ridge, the fields of rocks began. And kept going, and going… Elevation-wise this day was almost entirely flat once we reached the ridge. Wolf Rocks was a fun scramble, with much, much, larger rocks that formed the spine of a rocky ledge, with drops about 30 feet down on the mountain side. The views north were very nice, and we met a few day hikers here (and one backpacker) who were also taking the tricky scramble slowly. We got a few photos here and then finished the challenging technical walk as we re-entered the forest. I’m glad we waited for it to be dry, this would have been tricky and I did not want to miss it and take the bypass!

We had two more miles to go after Wolf rocks to the shelter and thankfully 1.5 miles of it was along a jeep road. We passed Fox Gap at the top of the ridge line and then it was only .5 to the shelter. We were told by lots of folks to camp at Nelson’s Overlook just beyond, and clearly many do as we found many fire ring sites. But I’m a Leave No Trace educator, and not about to break rules I teach, as lovely a spot as it was. We also met 3 southbound thru hikers at the shelter, when we thought we might be alone. And we really enjoy talking to the thru hikers, having a picnic table and shelter roof and privy when possible. So we set up on the hill behind the shelter and the water source was very close. It’s a spigot on the grounds of a religious retreat right on the same mountaintop. Wow what a view they have! Anyway the spigot is on seasonally and I called and asked on forums in advance to make sure it was still on, as that’s the ONLY water source on this entire 15.5 mile stretch except Eureka Creek at 1.2 miles south of the start. So I recommend checking that its on before you go, and if not pack in a bunch of extra water.

We had a nice night at the shelter. We spoke to the thru hikers a bit at dinner, did our best to catch the sunset over the retreat, and then retired very fatigued to our tent. It was cold, but we were close together and warm and all bundled up and tucked in so we stayed mostly comfrotably warm. We needed the rest so getting to bed at hiker midnight was no problem. We slept almost a full 12 hours.

We were up early the next morning and spoke briefly to a man who was staying at the retreat and came out to check out the view at Nelson’s Overlook. We then made our way out of camp before 8 am, as we had 6.4 miles to do before noon so we could make it to Kent in time.  The thru hikers had said it was easy and had a long flat road section and the ascent wasn’t bad at all (so our descent shouldn’t be).

Nelson’s Overlook was a wonderful view for sure. Apparently it’s popular with the hang gliders too. We moved on a bit further to a place called Lunch Rocks, where we had breakfast! It too had a great view, including our day’s hike laid out in front of us to the east. The ridgeline ahead stretched south and then east to Mt Minsi, on the Pennsylvania side of the gap. You could see Mount Tammany in New Jersey just behind. We also passed the 900-mile mark to Katahdin, which the thrus make out of little rocks. Always neat to see. From here, it was much less rocky but several uphills caught us off guard because I didn’t have a look at the profile in much depth. They weren’t bad or long but we were tired from the tough first day. But we did eventually reach that long flat stretch of road along the spine of the ridge, and it took us all the way to the summit of Mount Minsi. There was an incredible view south of the Delaware River, and we met two other SOBOs who were friends with the ones we were at the shelter with, and they were planning to meet up. That’s why the thrus were up late and still sleeping the night we were there – they were waiting to catch up with each other as they hadn’t seen each other since New Hampshire.

Just past there was the eastern view directly of the Mount Tammany summit and the gap below. We did that hike last fall. It was so fun to be on the other side of that view. It’s very dramatic from either side.  We began the descent that would take hours. While only 2.4 miles, it felt like double that. Now it had MANY incredible views of the gap all along the rocky rhododendron-lined descent. At several points it was very close to the ledge, and the leaves and acorns made it a little sketchy at times. Again I’m so glad it wasn’t wet. It really felt more like northern New England here. There were several scrambles, and it pushed some of our limits as we were getting low in energy. But the views…

Eureka Creek was flowing, and very pretty. I saw a juvenile bald eagle flying above me on the final lookout but didn’t succeed in getting him on camera. Once we reached the road to Lake Lenape and the parking lot, we were happy to have flat ground. The towering rock ledges on the side of the trail featured a big overhang cave with a steep path up to it. I got as close as I was comfortable climbing up while filming and then headed back down where Lake Lenape was and from there it was about a half mile out to the lot and the road and back down to the Inn. We did it in 4 hours which was my long estimate, but we didn’t anticipate how slow the descent would go. We fueled up at Taco Bell on the way back to Connecticut. Hiker hunger is also very real.

Another great hike in the books. We are at 400 miles now. With luck, we will get one more in this season if we get a warm weekend before Thanksgiving. Its always so hard waiting from October until April to go backpacking again! Photos below.  Watch the video here.

Miles Day 1: 9.1

Miles Day 2: 6.4

Bald Eagles: 1

Spiderwebs in the face: too many to count, a lot!

Rocks: WAY too many to count, a whole lot!

Views: Plenty of great ones!

SOBOs we met: 5

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn Pre-hike

The A.T. goes right up that road

The A.T. goes right up that road

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

Fun at the Village Farmer

Fun at the Village Farmer

Starting at Wind Gap

Starting at Wind Gap

Rock town!

Rock town!

Rocksylvania

Rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

Aaaand more rocks

Aaaand more rocks

Even MORE rocks!

Even MORE rocks!

Frog Friend

Frog Friend ( a break from rock pics)

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

Nelson's Overlook

Nelson’s Overlook

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Lake Lenape

Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Hiker hunger is real

Hiker hunger is real

 

Pyramid Mountain, New Jersey

Last weekend we finally made good on a promise to our Jersey City friends to take them on a hike and see their new place. What can I say, we’ve been super busy as have they but I’m glad we finally made it happen.

I was tasked the job of finding a suitable hike within 45 minutes of Jersey City. By suitable, I mean that we didn’t know what kinda shape they were in so they requested something not too strenuous.  I found the Pyramid mountain natural area, which many great trails and views, as well as a visitor center and nature museum. The ranger there was able to walk us through the different hike options before our friends met us, so we had a hike ready based on the criteria I gave.

While it wasn’t strenuous, our route had a steady rocky ascent at the beginning as well as at the end. They handled the rocks and trail like champs. We were treated to a great view of the New York City skyline from the trail, and would be treated to a much closer view of it from their apartment in Jersey City that evening.

There was another view at “Lucy’s overlook” but it wasn’t as nice as the first. We completely forgot to go a bit farther to the glacial erratic known as Tripod Rock! We got distracted, but we will be back to do more hiking with them and will see it next time. It was a beautiful fall day with friends on the trail. Photos below

Miles: 2.5

— Linus

Some good rock scrambles

Some good rock scrambles

Linus and Patrick on Pyramid Mountain

Linus and Patrick on Pyramid Mountain

Linus and Fielden Stream

Linus and Fielden Stream

Patrick in the ravine

Patrick in the ravine

Fielden Stream and Jenny

Fielden Stream and Jenny

The NYC skyline from Jersey City

The NYC skyline from Jersey City

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: N.C. Section 25

We had a fantastic 2.5-day backpacking trip in North Carolina last week while down there for a graduation. Here’s the notes right from my trail journal. Photos and a link to our video of that hike are below.

Day 1: August 11. Rock Gap to Long Branch Shelter

Spent the previous night at our friend’s family cabin in Otto, NC. Then he helped us on this morning to drop our car at Deep Gap and drive us up to our start at Rock Gap. As it’s a big loop here, it wasn’t far between trail heads. We met shuttle driver Jim there who gave us lucky stones and his card, just in case we needed a bailout as our friend was headed home to Charleston after dropping us off.  A beautiful short 3.8 mile hike up to Long Branch shelter – it was at 4,500 feet and had a great water source and brand new shelter. It’s on a steep slope but the shelter and tent pads were placed in flatter areas.  We made a fire in the legal fire ring to ward off bugs and since we had a lot of time there, and chatted a bit with Rusty Jane, who was hiking half the trail and only had 100 miles to go. Coincidentally, Jim had shuttled her this afternoon to her starting point at Winding stair gap so we knew about her before we met!

Day 2: August 12. Long Branch Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter

Some big climbs and bigger views. The descent off Albert Mountain was steep but we were glad to go down it. Our new knee sleeves really helped on these steep downhills. No view at the fire tower but got great views from a ledge on Big Butt and even better (including  Pickens Nose) from Little Ridgepole mountain. Sad to see all the trash in all the fire rings but its usually locals and not thru hikers.  Met a father and son out for a section hike at the shelter. Enjoyed their company and campfire.  Had an unexpected heavy downpour overnight but no biggie as its our last night out.

Day 3: August 13. Carter Gap Shelter to Deep Gap

Dried things out for a bit and then opted to hike to the next water source a few miles down trail rather than the one at the shelter as it was a trickle and down a steep hill.  When we got to the creek south of Beech Gap I also changed my socks and put on some band aids as the 2 days in the same socks was giving me hot spots despite my best efforts to clean my feet.  We also had another snack and filled up both our water supplies. The band aids and new socks worked but the trail up Standing Indian was completely overgrown and wet and swarming with bees, and the trail was eroded in many spots and I almost slipped off the trail. My left leg saved my right one which wanted to go off the edge of the eroded trail. And I didn’t see it because of the soaked, overgrown, shoulder-high plants. Going to email the trail club there.  So my shoes and eventually my socks and bandaids soaked too but they managed to hold on until we got to the car. At the  top of the long climb up Standing Indian we met a man named Erik who had taken the lower ridge trail up from Standing Indian Campground and he and I hiked to the view at the summit which was incredible. Sad to see the camping area up there also littered with trash. PLEASE, Leave it better than you found it! Then it was a steep descent of many switchbacks to Deep Gap and our car.

Watch the video here.

Miles day 1: 3.8

Miles day 2: 9.4

Miles day 3: 9.2

— Linus

About to hit the trail at Rock Gap

About to hit the trail at Rock Gap

At the Rock Gap trailhead

At the Rock Gap trailhead

Water at Long Branch

Water at Long Branch

Into the Gap

Into the Gap

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Long Branch Shelter

Long Branch Shelter

Our tentsite at Long Branch Shelter

Our tentsite at Long Branch Shelter

What a bunch of fungis

What a bunch of fungis

No view today

No view today

Or from the tower

Or from the tower

The descent off Albert

The descent off Albert

Snails enjoying Carter Gap campsite mushrooms

Snails enjoying Carter Gap campsite mushrooms

Overgrown as can be

Overgrown as can be

Another Gap

Another Gap

The southerly summit view from Standing Indian

The southerly summit view from Standing Indian

Scarlet Beebalm

Scarlet Beebalm

Humans can be very disappointing

Humans can be very disappointing

Enough Said

Enough Said

Carter Gap Shelter

Carter Gap Shelter

Pickens Nose from Little Ridgepole Mountain

Pickens Nose from Little Ridgepole Mountain

Stunning view from the ledge

Stunning view from the ledge

Classic North Carolina Rhododendron Tunnel

Classic North Carolina Rhododendron Tunnel

Blue Swallowtail on Standing Indian summit

Blue Swallowtail on Standing Indian summit

FIelden just north of Deep Gap

FIelden just north of Deep Gap

The last mile

The last mile

End of hike feet!

End of hike feet!

A.T. Beer!

A.T. Beer!

Beer blazing at the Lazy Hiker in Franklin!

Beer blazing at the Lazy Hiker in Franklin!

A.T. Thru-Class banners at Lazy Hiker

A.T. Thru-Class banners at Lazy Hiker

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