Birthday and Anniversary Hike at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (NY)

Just one week later we decided to go for another hike at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation to celebrate Whoops!’s birthday and my and Fielden Stream’s 10 year anniversary. Parks are still open to encourage fresh air, sunshine and healthy distancing, so long as that is able to be maintained. Whoops!’s brother was visiting her and came along as well. We met several years ago at a BBQ and so it was nice to see him again, from a distance! We took separate cars, for starters.

This time we headed for the Leatherman’s cave and the vista above as our adventure, with a detour back to the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp to show Whoops! and her brother, and to see the bits we didn’t catch last week (see the entry below this one). For a little info on the Leatherman, check out the infographic plaque in the photos below.

Most of the trail we did was a wide carriage road except the one up to the cave and over the hill the cave was on, so the miles were easy except for those two climbs. I don’t know of a name for that hill, but the one just southwest is called Joe’s Hill and its about 70ft higher. You get a nice view of it from both vistas on the cave hill, as well as a wide view of the Cross River Reservoir and mountains and valleys to the west and north. I believe I spotted the hills along the Connecticut New York border which the Appalachian Trail straddles in the Kent area. But I did not pull out Peakvisor this time to confirm!

There was a good number of folks out enjoying the park again this time, and the park was free, i imagine to limit human exposure to each other, and to the attendant at the gate. Photos below.

Miles: 4.2

— Linus

A pleasant brook

A pleasant brook

About the Leatherman

About the Leatherman

Climbing up to the cave

Climbing up to the cave

Whoops! and her brother

Whoops! and her brother

Linus and Fielden Stream

Linus and Fielden Stream

Linus in front of the cave

Linus in front of the cave

Looking down the hill from the cave

Looking down the hill from the cave

Linus the Bear Man

Linus the Bear Man

View to Joe's Hill

View to Joe’s Hill

Linus Pointing to a distant peak

Linus Pointing to a distant peak

Linus on the hill

Linus on the hill

View from the vista

View from the vista

Whoops! and brother at Cross River vista

Whoops! and brother at Cross River vista

Linus looking over the expanse

Linus looking over the expanse

Wittling

Wittling

Linus breaking for the view

Linus breaking for the view

Site of old CCC camp mess hall

Site of old CCC camp mess hall

 

 

Family Hike at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (NY)

On Sunday we decided some fresh air and sunshine would be good for us so we took our dog Jojo and my son Jiffy Pop (trail name of course) to New York’s Ward Pound Ridge reservation (park), a mere 30 minutes away and Westchester County’s largest park at almost 5,000 acres.  I had been to this beautiful park in the past for a hike to one of the famed Leatherman’s caves, but it’s been many years.  This park contains many stone shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during FDR’s new deal, and there was a CCC camp here as well for the workers while they built the shelters and other stone works. The park has 35 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails, campsites, fishing, several picnic areas and a trailside nature museum. More info at: https://parks.westchestergov.com/ward-pound-ridge-reservation

In my new role at the Westchester Parks Foundation, this is one of the parks I will be at often to do volunteer park improvement events. So I was eager to get back there and re-aquaint myself with it. Of course, we only hiked 2.5 miles out of the 35 but it did serve the purpose at a basic level. I will get to know it quite well I am sure.  I did identify a few trail features I want to go back and address as a future project.

I was excited to get our dog Jojo back out on another hill, and my son Jiffy Pop as well, on this beautiful day. We did the Fox Hill trail, and a little bit of a walk through the Marsh. There were a lot of people it turns out, but given all the space and fresh air I’m not too worried it was a bad decision in this time of social distancing.  Photos below.

— Linus

Jiffy Pop and Jojo

Jiffy Pop and Jojo

Linus, Fielden Stream and Jojo

Linus, Fielden Stream and Jojo

View of Fox Hill

View of Fox Hill

Linus and Jojo on the Fox Hill trail

Linus and Jojo on the Fox Hill trail

Jiffy Pop stream crossing

Jiffy Pop stream crossing

Skunk Cabbage coming up

Skunk Cabbage coming up

Phenology Trail

Phenology Trail

Fielden Stream and Jiffy Pop and Jojo

Fielden Stream and Jiffy Pop and Jojo

CCC Camp was here

CCC Camp was here

A CCC-built shelter (one of many here)

A CCC-built shelter (one of many here)

 

Jojo’s first real hike, Topstone Park

We’ve been treated to some very spring-like and beautiful days in the last week and change. So we took advantage on Monday and I took Fielden Stream and our dog Jojo for their first hike at Redding, Connecticut’s Topstone Park. This was Jojo’s first real trail hike . She’s gone on some nice walks in the woods with us but those were more like rail trails and are manicured, graded and wheelchair accessible. So this was her first real hiking trail, and with quite a steep grade to start with.

Overall it’s only about 300ft but most of it is in the first quarter mile of the Chase Long View Trail. It rises steeply with little in the way of switchbacks, for about .2 miles and then levels out and is otherwise easy everywhere else we walked. The two views up there are great reward, though even in winter foliage and a bluebird day, I couldn’t see Long Island sound like they say you should.

We did see 3 juvenile bald eagles enjoying riding the wind updrafts.  I also really enjoy the base trail which follows the bottoms of the large rock outcrops the summit trails traverse. So we took that trail back, and visited the beach shortly on our walk back to the parking lot. This time of year the gate is closed so it’s about a third of a mile up the road to the pond and beach and start of the trail up the mountain. There is one long trail from outside the gate around to the end of the pond which I did last time. Not knowing how Jojo would do, I didn’t want to make her do too many hills.  She did great though and loved it. It did make her quite tired though!

I prefer to go here off season as I’m not a town resident and with the beach and swimming hole I imagine it’s quite a different experience in the summer. I am wanting to take Jojo out on longer hikes down the road so this is just the first outing testing the water with her. We went for lunch at a nice cafe on the way home and Jojo got a nice big bowl of water and some of my peanut butter cookie!  Photos below.

Miles: 2.2

— Linus

Linus and Jojo on the Chase Long Point Trail

Linus and Jojo on the Chase Long View Trail

Linus and Jojo at Chase Long View

Linus and Jojo at Chase Long View

Fielden Stream and Jojo at the pond overlook

Fielden Stream and Jojo at the pond overlook

Topstone Trail

Topstone Trail

Nice treechair

Nice treechair

The cliffs along the Base Trail

The cliffs along the Base Trail

Walking the base trail at the base of the cliffs

Walking the base trail at the base of the cliffs

FIelden Stream and Jojo

FIelden Stream and Jojo

 

Trail Maintenance Hike, Schaghticoke Mountain, NY/CT Appalachian Trail

I was really missing the trail since I got back from Georgia so I thought I’d go up last Saturday on a favorite section of ours and check out trail conditions. Turns out, trail was in great shape, so there really wasn’t much to do except enjoy the hike!  My friend from our AMC chapter joined me. The weather was perfect for February hiking. Clear, sunny, warmish, and as a result there were a lot of hikers out! I made a video you can watch here, and there are photos below.

Miles: 5.8 (2.9 out and back)

— Linus

The climb up Schaghticoke Mtn

The climb up Schaghticoke Mtn

Stream crossing

Stream crossing

Glacial erratics

Glacial erratics

More Glacial erratics

More Glacial erratics

The southern view

The southern view

Linus at The southern view

Linus at The southern view

Where the trail goes back into CT for good

Where the trail goes back into CT for good

Linus on Schaghticoke mtn near dusk

Linus on Schaghticoke mtn near dusk

Georgia Appalachian Trail Section Hike Days 1-3

Last week I had the privilege of backpacking the Georgia Appalachian Trail. While I planned for up to 2 weeks, the weather was quite erratic and the cold temperatures bested my sleeping bag and all the warm gear I threw at it. I made the call after day 6 to end early as I couldn’t drop $600-800 on a zero degree bag (and wouldn’t for a section hike) and will come back to finish Georgia and make it up to Deep Gap, NC as planned when it’s warmer and the crowds have gone through. I was at the very front end of the bubble so I still found shelter space and had the honor of accompanying some new thru hikers for their first 53 miles north.

My format for this will be to copy verbatim from my trail journal that I wrote when arriving at camp or a hostel or town each day. I have already completed the video, and you can find that here, if you prefer that format. Everything in italics is an afterthought or comment I made that wasn’t in the journal itself. Photos are below the journal entries.

Miles Day 1-3:  25.7 (including the mile southbound up Springer Mountain before heading back north.

Day 1: Springer Lot to Springer Summit to Hawk Mountain shelter. 9.1 miles

Heavy rain at start, until back at the Springer lot, met Jarhead and his dog, I think they were heading into town because his dog popped his inflatable pad. Mostly downhill and flat until long climb up Hawk Mountain from Three Forks. Missed the turnoff to Long Creek Falls. Started to downpour about 2 miles before the shelter. Here with a crew of 5 and local day hiker Jamie Hiikes. We tried (or rather Paul did) to make a fire but its all wet and windy and is starting to rain again. Going to have dinner soon then sleep — was up early at Donald and Mary’s (Further Appalachian Shuttle) so I should sleep ok.

Day 2: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain shelter. 7.6 miles

Got out around 9, with Rockflipper – and I got ahead of him on Sassafras, which normally would kick one’s ass-afras but I felt strong and crushed it. Too bad the view of Atlanta and the Marietta owl towers was a whiteout. Got a few views before the rain. Justus was mercifully re-routed but I still had some climb up it, plus a few more, and 2 exciting creek crossings including Justus creek. I took my boots off for both, and that’s actually good as clean feet also means less blisters. The water was warmish and felt good but I did tear a sock so I’ll get another pair at Neels Gap. Beautiful hike and I saw Mary who was shuttling out the hikers I shared a bunk with the night before, as one of them got sick. People left water at Horse Gap and Cooper Gap

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal)  … and I found out later it was two hikers that joined us at the shelter this night: Lefty and another gentleman who didn’t have a trail name yet. They had a lot of extra so they dropped it there before hitting the trail themselves.

I just got to the shelter and had lunch and rockflipper is here now. Time to hang and have fun. And roll my muscles out.

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal) : I picked that up from Early Riser, and with that and eating banana chips daily I didn’t have a single charlie horse! I also learned later from Whittle that I could use my trekking poles to do that too — just gotta do it before I set up my tent if using my tent as they hold it up!

Day 3: Gooch Mountain Shelter to Henry Gap. 9 miles

It was torrential rain all night and thunder and lightning in the early AM. It all got wet, some rain blowing in sideways.  Lefty and his friend had came in to camp later last night as did Oso who is one of my friends now. He hikes with Sleeves and knows him well. We made a video in the AM before McGyver and Snuggles (Paul) and everyone left.  The two late arrivals headed for Neels Gap then Blairsville and Snuggles and McGyver are taking a few days in Dahlonega to switch out some gear. Rain stopped shortly after leaving camp and rockflipper and I headed up Ramrock and Big Cedar — both big climbs but we did get the views on Ramrock before it socked in at Preacher’s rock, where we met some nice local hikers. We checked out Woody Gap and took pics there too. Some pretty cascades on the trail south of Henry Gap where we got off. Mary came out to get us on the trail and we went back to get a room at the Seasons Inn in Blairsville and hang at the Grateful hiker. Then the AYCE (all you can eat) pizza buffet smash! Now we just finished organizing all our stuff for the day/slackpack to Neels Gap tomorrow and tomorrow’s resupply and stay at Mountain Crossings. Enjoying the warm room, hot shower and toilet and town food. Did laundry too and dried out our stuff in a yard sale all over the room. We leave at 10 tomorrow and hope to hit Mountain Crossings by 330. It’s 7 miles, much of it uphill. Bringing my spikes in case it’s icy but starting late so that can melt off a bit.

— Linus

The weather wasn't promising

The weather wasn’t promising

At the Atlanta airport - it's like they knew!

At the Atlanta airport – it’s like they knew!

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

At the Springer Mountain lot

At the Springer Mountain lot

On top of Springer

On top of Springer

A shoutout from my shuttle

A shoutout from my shuttle

Refilling my water

Refilling my water

Three forks - all the creeks were super high

Three forks – all the creeks were super high

Hawk Mountain shelter

Hawk Mountain shelter

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Rhodendron tunnels

Rhodendron tunnels

Justus creek crossing

Justus creek crossing

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher's rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher’s rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus at Henry Gap

Linus at Henry Gap

 

 

 

CT NET: Section 1 (Mattabesett Trail)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles: 4.7

— Linus

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

On the reservoir ledge

Brian and Norm On the reservoir ledge

Lots of gorge-ous streams

Lots of gorge-ous streams

First tough scramble

First tough scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Karen making her way up the first scramble

Scrambling over a rock pile

Scrambling over a rock pile

Karen with a view

Karen with a view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Norm and Brian at the first view

Karen on a wooded ledge

Karen on a wooded ledge

Climbing up to the second crazy schedule

Climbing up the second crazy schedule

 

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble

The payoff view for the second crazy scramble’

Another scramble after that view

Another scramble after that view

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Going through the Rock Pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Karen at the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Linus in the rock pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Rock Pile caves

Karen and the cairn

Karen and the cairn

An old cellar hole with front steps

An old cellar hole with front steps

Huffin it up another hill

Huffin it up another hill

Young forest with CT river beyond

Young forest with CT river beyond

Victory pose!

Victory pose!

 

 

 

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