Stewart Hollow shelter register replacement, Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut

I painted this blaze!

I painted this blaze!

On Saturday I was back on the trail to swap out the last year’s shelter register at Stewart Hollow Brook shelter. Since I was in the area with my wife for another visit, I was pleased to have her come along with me. This is the first section we ever backpacked together, about 5 years ago, and a very easy pleasant walk along the Housatonic River. We spotted a lot of wildlife, including a bunch of turkey vultures, and one who flew right over our heads. So I got a very good in-air shot of that big bird!

Since we parked at the south gate on river road, it was only a 1.2 mile hike in to the shelter. I posed for a picture in front of a blaze that was one of many I re-painted along this stretch several years ago.

Stewart Hollow Brook

Stewart Hollow Brook

The water sources here are plentiful, with many brooks crossing the trail as they flowed into the Housatonic. Please note that the water in the Housatonic is not fit for drinking, even with a filter. Many years ago it was unfortunately polluted with PCBs from a GE plant upriver in Massachusetts. It is fine to swim in, but get your water from the brooks, a bit upstream from where they meet. And then always filter it, to be safest.

Signing in the new register

Signing in the new register

Even though it was a short walk today, we met several backpackers and day hikers. Because of the easy terrain and scenic beauty, this is a popular one for day hikers of all ages, and well-appreciated by the thru-hikers as this stretch provides a few miles of flat terrain before the climbs begin again. We met some women who were birding, six section-hiker backpackers, and one who looked like a thru-hiker, though we didn’t get a chance to speak with him.

We chatted with 3 of those section hikers as they arrived at the shelter shortly after us.  But first we had to dismantle a large bushcraft shelter someone made in the woods on the side of the trail. While that’s in impressive skill, these are not your woods to do with whatever you desire.

Fielden Stream at the shelter

Fielden Stream at the shelter

This has become an increasing problem lately, especially since many of these folks have actually been cutting young saplings with an axe for their timber. Luckily that was not the case here. I was glad to have Fielden Stream along to help with the task, and get her some volunteer hours.  I also refilled the duff bucket in the privy, and checked the campsite areas. I had to clear some kindling left in one site, but it doesn’t look like they were successful in ever starting a fire. Which is good, because its not allowed here. Please follow the rules so that we can still have the trail through here to enjoy. We have many campgrounds nearby where you can have a campfire.

Turkey Vulture Overhead

Turkey Vulture Overhead

I enjoyed reading last year’s register entries on the trip home and more when I got home, including my own entries from my overnight and drop-in visits to check on the shelter and campsite conditions. It immediately brought me back to those times and gave me some joy. And I got to be the first entry in the new register which I left for the upcoming year’s use.

Tomorrow we have our annual Give-A-Day to the Appalachian Trail volunteer work day, with many different work parties from shelter repairs, boundary maintenance, and trail improvement.  Details can be found here.

Miles: 3

  • Linus
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Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – 341 Kent to Stewart Hollow Shelter

Last weekend I did my third ridge runner weekend of the season. It was a hot and steamy one! It was also during the thru hiker bubble and I met about 40 thru hikers – both north and southbound. Two of them were under 10 and hiking the whole trail with their dad. They likely did many more miles than me that day! I met several section hikers as well as a few day hikers. I got to do the climbs to St John’s Ledges and Caleb’s Peak TWICE – once up and once down.

I just missed the heavy rains Saturday morning and the only rain I had was overnight. Though to be honest I wouldn’t have minded a little as it was so hot and steamy. However I did NOT want any rain while doing the climb up or down the ledges! I got thanked by several hikers for my work which always feels good! I also found a bunch of thru hikers stealth camping, one even right next to the shelter site which I figured they didn’t know was 10 yards up the trail! Those that I did speak to about it were very apologetic and explained they were pushing miles and didn’t want to go down the ledges in the dark as it was already after 11pm when they set up. We have very specific rules about camping in designated areas, and plenty of campsites on our stretch. This is because of the narrow corridor in our state. If you’re not in a designated site you may just be camping on someone’s private property. And it becomes a bigger issue if you’re used to breaking rules in that you may break others which could lead to damage to or littering on private property. On the upside, it’s also why our section is so beautiful and clean.

I cut two blow-downs, one which was very difficult as it was above me so it took a lot of upper body strength (not my strongest area) to cut.  I hiked with one of the thrus for a while and at his pace covered 2.5 miles in about 40 minutes! I had to eventually take a break as I don’t quite have thru hiker legs. But we leapfrogged a few times and I did see him at the shelter taking a break when I arrived to set up my camp for the night. The water sources were raging from all the recent rain. But with the current heatwave I’m not sure that will last. There was trail magic when I arrived at the trail head Sunday and while I never drink sodas anymore, an ice cold Coke sure hit the spot after 7+ steamy miles including the big climbs followed by several smaller ones to get back to my car. About 1,440ft of vertical over 4 miles, with 1,000 of it in the first 1.2 miles! I did that each day but in reverse on this day.

I will be back out again mid-September. In the meantime, Fielden Stream and I are planning to finish the last 13.5 miles of Massachusetts over the highest peaks in the state. We look forward to a lunch mid-hike at the Bascom lodge, and are going to take our time as these will be the highest climbs and elevations for us yet to date together.

Miles day 1: 7.4

Miles day 2: 7.4

  • Linus
Wet rocky start

Wet rocky start

First blowdown I cleared

First blowdown I cleared

View to Kent from Fuller Mtn

View to Kent from Fuller Mtn

View to Kent from Caleb's Peak

View to Kent from Caleb’s Peak

View from St. John's Ledges

View from St. John’s Ledges

Hikers descending St. John's Ledges

Hikers descending St. John’s Ledges

St. John's Ledges

St. John’s Ledges

More of St. John's Ledges

More of St. John’s Ledges

Even more of St. John's Ledges

Even more of St. John’s Ledges

This frog jumped on my hand during the climb!

This frog jumped on my hand during the climb!

Rock climbers on the cliffs at St. John's Ledges

Rock climbers on the cliffs at St. John’s Ledges

2nd blowdown I cleared

2nd blowdown I cleared

The always lovely Stanley Tract

The always lovely Stanley Tract

Morning along the Housatonic

Morning along the Housatonic

Morning moon over the A.T.

Morning moon over the A.T.

Crossing Macedonia Brook

Crossing Macedonia Brook

Trail magic just beyond the trail head

Trail magic just beyond the trail head

 

Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – Schaghticoke and Algo

This past weekend was another glorious one out on the trail. The weather was perfect for one thing. Never got too hot or humid, it was about 60 and dry and breezy at night, about 79-81 during the day. I hiked with my new ridgerunner friend again on Saturday and two of my friends from the AMC also joined me to hike on Sunday (one overnighted at Algo too) and we met lots and lots of great hikers. We found one thru hiker’s tent that dropped from his pack and reunited him with it, cut a blowdown, saw a few lizards, a scarlet tanager and a garter snake. I didn’t see but smelled (I’m sure of it!) rattlers in two spots on a mountain famous for rattlesnakes and almost convinced my friends to re-name me snake-smeller. I sadly saw the extent of the recent fire damage on the mountain, and got to push myself through one of the toughest sections of the whole state, twice. My friend from the Bull’s Bridge task force treated me to some BBQ when we got off trail, and I got to dip my sore feet in the Housatonic at the end of the hike.  I’m off for the next few weeks for a few family-scheduled events but will be back on trail in the beginning of August. I hope you’re not minding the new short format too much; I will try and write longer entries from time to time when such luxuries are available! This section was shorter than last weekend but much more strenuous as a whole.

Meanwhile, enjoy the photos!

Lizard life

Lizard life

Ridgerunning Pals

Ridgerunning Pals

Sunrise at Algo

Sunrise at Algo

Red Eft sighting finally

Red Eft sighting finally

Blowdown work

Blowdown work

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View from Indian Rocks

View from Indian Rocks

Coral fungus

Coral fungus

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

Weekend miles total: 14

– Linus

Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Kent to Cornwall

Last weekend was my second weekend out as a staff ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail with the AMC. I covered a ten-and-change-mile stretch out and back from Kent to Cornwall including the never boring St. John’s Ledges (more fun up than down for me), the scenic Caleb’s Peak, the bucolic river walk and one of my favorite campsites, Silver Hill.  I don’t bother to show pictures of the ledges anymore because cameras never capture how crazy they are, you’ll just have to hike them yourself and find out!

I met many great thru, section, and day hikers along the trail on my 21 mile weekend, got to hike and camp with one of our other ridgerunners, and discovered I really liked a new brand of dehydrated meals I picked up in Harper’s Ferry a few days before at an outfitter. All the hikers I met heading northbound Saturday and who I had recommended push on to Silver Hill were very pleased when a large thunderstorm passed through just minutes after we all congregated in the covered pavilion there.

Nobody left me any fire rings or huge piles of trash to clean up and all were respectful and thanked me for what I do out there. One even said “you’re not so bad for a ridgerunner!” A lot of great conversations were had and a few new friends were made.   There was a bright full moon after the rainstorm and things were thankfully cooled off for a bit on Sunday morning thanks to the rain. I enjoyed some nearly-ripe blackberries, met some trail dogs, frogs, a snake, heard some more barred owls as I slept, and got my first almost-blister. Below are some photos from the adventure. This weekend I am out again in Kent, maybe our paths will cross!

Rocks from the start!

Rocks from the start!

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

On Caleb's Peak

On Caleb’s Peak

Berry nice

Berry nice

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Lean on Me ... after that climb!

Lean on Me … after that climb!

Goin up Caleb's Peak after the ledges climb

Goin up Caleb’s Peak after the ledges climb

Good camo on this frog

Good camo on this frog

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Miles Day 1: 10.5

Miles Day 2: 10.5

  • Linus

 

Easter Trail Work on the Appalachian Trail

Streams are flowing!

Streams are flowing!

On Easter I was very happy to have an opportunity to again be out on the trail doing my thing. Usually we’re celebrating the holiday in some capacity with family but it fell right during my kids’ spring break this year so we were in Florida and returned late the night before. Since my parents went out of town for the family visit and weren’t around Easter morning, Fielden Stream and I did a quick exchange of baskets with the kids and then I headed up north for the woods.

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

It was a very mild weekend and had I returned one night earlier I would have done an overnight. Quite a few hikers had, especially those who had Good Friday off as it made a great 3 day weekend. My friend on the trail crew let me know that there were already several camping at Ten Mile so I planned to visit the campground as part of my hike in case there was any cleanup to do. Just two weeks before when we were out on a volunteer work day, we had to clear two very large fire rings (and a few blowdowns) and I was glad to have the extra manpower. This is one of the most popular camping areas around so we visit and patrol it and have to clean it up very often.  I wanted to also visit the southern overlook on Schaghticoke Mountain, so the plan was to go up there and then back down to the campsite and in the meantime check out some of the side access trails along the route for any issues.

New water system

New water system

I parked and started the .4 mile road walk where the A.T follows Schaghticoke road north before cutting into the woods for the nearly 1,000ft ascent. While there are several switchbacks,  its still a tough climb, but worth the view at the top. I noticed the map box was empty so I made a note to myself to put any spares I had in the box on the way down if no hikers I met on the trail needed one.  As I started up the trail a young hiker in his late 20s passed me and we chatted for a bit about his hike and the work I do. He was doing a 3 day section of CT, having done another a few weeks ago with his brother in the northern end of the state.  He works the night shift and was up all night before starting his hike.

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

The trail heals all though, and I admire his tenacity to hike 12 miles in the heat after working all night. Ah to be in my 20’s again… I’d probably have climbed a few 4000s had I the passion I have now for hiking and backpacking. At that age I was deeply entrenched in the NYC music scene trying to make a name for myself. It was fun but in vain.  I still play music with my friends but I find more relaxation and purpose hiking and preserving the trail.

Anyway just a bit farther on at the first stream crossing (which was raging by the way) , I met an older hiker who was doing a NOBO thru. He was hydrating and enjoying some shade. While it was raining that morning the sun came out and the temperature quickly approached the 70s. Without much leaf cover to shade, you could feel every bit of the heat that day. I wished him well and moved on.

Schaghticoke from the road below

Schaghticoke from the road below

I met the younger hiker again, enjoying a snack high on a glacial erratic – a great spot if I say so myself! We said hellos again and I carried on up and up and up. When I reached the south overlook I was immediately treated to a Bald Eagle AND a Red Tailed Hawk flying over the edge of the ridge. I had been trying for months to spot one of the eagles as many hikers had reported seeing them in the area. Finally one greeted me in its glorious flight.  I was so captivated by the view and the birds of prey that it took me a few minutes to notice the fire area on the rock face. There was no ring at that point, perhaps they scattered it with the ashes after. I checked that it was cool and went about cleaning it.  Much of the residue was tossed down into a depression in the hillside and as I headed down to clean that up the young hiker reached the viewpoint. He thanked me for my work and as we were chatting we spotted a large black racer snake about a foot from where I was working. He did not bother me and just watched, perhaps a good omen or spirit animal visiting me to thank me for taking care of what was once native land? I’m such a history nerd.

Forsythia gone wild!

Forsythia gone wild!

The hiker moved on after this break and I too headed off, back down the mountain towards Ten Mile. I passed the older Nobo thru hiker I had met at the stream below and gave him some advice on nearest water and campsites ahead as he was wanting more water and a break from the heat.

Speaking of water, I also made a short video on the mountaintop discussing my new water system. I am again revisiting because I still want an easier solution than filling up my reservoir in my pack and using that as the water for camp and sleeping as well. I tried the new Katadyn BeFree with .6L bag and a Smart Water bottle with an Aquaclip, one of many solutions I researched to hang the water bottle in front of me since my pack pouch doesn’t have stitched in side pockets.

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

While my day pack does, it still requires practically dislocating your shoulder to reach back for access. With the BeFree I can just fill up at a source, camel up, then refill quick and easily to filter into my smart water bottle, and a Nalgene if I need extra. This thing filters super fast and doesn’t require backflushing as far as I can tell. I always bring emergency purifying tablets just in case, for myself or hikers I encounter who have no filter or water left.

I tend to carry too much water at any one time and this system and solution that was in the product reviews seemed a good one to try next. The water sources have all been great lately with all the epic rainfalls and snowmelt since winter died and so for the time being at least I wont carry more than the beFree and the 1L Smart Water bottle (with sports cap). Though I do still hate how those bottles crinkle. I may go the shock cord and Gatorade bottle next if the Smart Water bottles start to bother me that much. I will post the video on the blog  (Please note that I was rushing on the video and said I’d chug it right after filling it at the stream but I meant only AFTER the filter cap was back on.. very important!

Name that spider

Name that spider

I dropped off the maps in the map box on the way down, and some litter that I picked up on the trail when I passed my car and headed back into the woods towards Ten Mile Shelter and Campsites. There are some beautiful new signs in this area both for the side trails and the shelter – great work team! The Forsythia is also blooming like mad. When I reached the campsite no one was still camped there and luckily for me this time, no fires to clean up. Though there was a massive spider in the shelter that I noticed when I went to sign the register. I just saw his long legs peeking out behind a piece of the lumber frame, but could easily tell he was 1.5 inches or more around and brown and black. I’m not the hugest fan of spiders but all the time on the trail has helped that a bit. Many a day I found one of these in a privy or even on my pack in the morning. They’re pretty terrifying to look at but also fascinating and I’m quite sure not harmful. I believe this was either a wolf spider or a fisher spider. Anyone wanna have a go at identifying it from the photo?

An unspoiled view from the top

An unspoiled view from the top

I made my way back along the A.T. as it followed the Housatonic River, which was also at very high levels complete with raging rapids. I passed about 25 day hikers out here in the recreational area at Bulls Bridge which the A.T. passes by. I checked that side trail and left my friends on the Bull’s Bridge task force a message in their kiosk register, then headed back to my car.  As the season is starting up around here, and water is good, I should have a busy summer. On that note I am also very excited as I have some new roles in the AMC that allow me to further my love for the trail and protecting it and our natural resources. More to come on that but you will see me out there over the weekends this season often anywhere between the NY line and southern Massachusetts! Maybe I’ll even be on duty at your campsite for the night and you can share stories of your hike.

Miles: 6.3

Snakes: 1

Birds of Prey:2

— Linus

 

Warm Winter Check on the Appalachian Trail Connecticut River Walk

Watch the video

Watch the video

February 8 was the first of what would be a string of unusually moderate midwinter temperatures. While this raises its own concerns, I’m not one to let a good weather day pass me by! I planned on a patrol hike of the river walk section from Kent to Sharon, CT. It’s almost entirely flat (and hence a favorite of tired thrus) until the end, and very scenic. There are three different camping areas on the flat section, as well as one at the top of Silver Hill on the northern end. So it’s a great way for me to check on a lot of campsites and do whatever cleanup necessary, and have a nice walk full of relaxation and some workout too. I discovered some wild things out there, and some not so cool things. Click here (or the image) to watch the adventure, in my latest video. I did the music with a dulcimer my father-in-law gave me.

Ironically, the next day delivered at least a foot of new snow.

Miles: 6.25

— Linus

Connecticut AMC’s Appalachian Trail Day – 10/15/16

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day

Yesterday we got to do another section of the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful section with peak fall foliage, and that report is to come. But first I wanted to take an opportunity to talk about our wonderful Appalachian Trail Day last month.

This October was the 10th anniversary of this occasion. The foliage was just starting to hit peak in Kent a few weeks ago.

In the morning I stopped at the grocery in Kent and met a trail angel who one of my friends in the trails committee had met earlier in the week and posted a photo of. She had forgotten to invite him to our BBQ this afternoon, so I went over and introduced myself and chatted with him and a hiker he was with and then invited them both before picking up my groceries and heading to the trail head.

Trail Angel

Trail Angel

He travels up and down the trail in his awesome RV which he has adorned with the A.T. logo and some bear and human tracks. He does hiker feeds, shuttles and lets people stay in his R.V. when the weather is particularly bad or they just need some creature comforts to raise morale. I could not remember his complicated trail name; it was something very Lord of the Rings-like. But he did tell me his real name too. It was great to meet him and thank him for his taking such good care of the hikers. He had completely lost track of what day of the week it was. God I envy that.

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Anyway, originally this day was called the A.T. ‘marathon day’. This is because members and maintainers would do a series of hikes to cover the whole Connecticut section in one day to find any issues. They even did it relay style at one time. At the end of the day they would gather to report all their findings and have dinner or a social hour. We still cover the whole trail each year as part of the day’s events and then celebrate after with a BBQ in Macedonia Brook State Park, where the A.T. once passed through. Learn lots more about this event’s long history on page 3 of our latest newsletter!

In addition to the A.T. hikes there are hikes in other parts of the state. There are also trail work parties, paddling trips and rock climbing lessons at St. Johns Ledges here in Kent.

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

In the past on A.T. day I have joined in work parties to re-paint the white blazes, and also assisted in trail patrol training. This time I joined members of our trails committee on an ‘A.T. history hike’ through another previous part of the trail through Pond Mountain natural area just east of Macedonia State Park.

We parked in the lot on Fuller Mountain road, having done a great deal of the climb on our drive up. From the lot the route we took dropped quickly back down to where the trail originally traveled, and then shortly but steeply along another road which the A.T. now crosses farther up and which we would cross once more from that direction on our way back. When we re-entered the woods, we were headed up the back side of Caleb’s Peak which has a favorite view in this area, with the Housatonic river valley stretched out below and the town of Kent in the center.

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Years ago when we first finished Connecticut, we saw the purple blazes for this section and did not know what they were. In fact nobody knew who actually blazed them. But as of late, the AMC will be taking it over, maintaining it and making it an official blue-blaze trail.

On Caleb’s Peak we gathered for a snack to take in the views. Someone had made a very large fire ring and we saw a couple using a small wood stove in the fire ring. I asked them if they were responsible for the larger ring and fire and they said they were not but asked if it was ok to use their wood stove in there to contain any embers. Technically these are allowed. I reminded them that on their travels through the state that no campfires or fire rings allowed. We then went about the business of clearing the ring. It took several of us to lift the large rocks and some of the embers were still burning. Since I didn’t have my gloves I got a small burn on my finger. We decided it was best to leave them to cool as scattering them with everything so dry would have been dangerous.

The gorgeous view from Caleb's Peak

The gorgeous view from Caleb’s Peak

It seems people really like to challenge our rules here. This was a very large ring in a very visible spot, and they didn’t even make sure it was out before leaving. Just 1/4 mile south of here is the remains of a brush fire started by this exact type of behavior. You can see the scorched tree trunks and downed trees. How can you see that and then go and make a fire in an illegal spot right up the trail? People just don’t think about the consequences, even when they’ve just seen them.

Black racer snake

Black racer snake

After our snack we headed back down the A.T. towards Skiff Mountain road where we would then re-enter the Pond Mountain area. On the way down we spotted a very large black racer snake and all enjoyed watching him as he crossed the trail and headed back into the woods. He was at least 4 feet long!

We also passed that brush fire site which surprised many of the people on our hike. Seeing what happens from irresponsible behavior first hand is a very good way to learn why we have these rules in place. Luckily the forest seems to be recovering well.

We also went down the new stairs that our trails crews built over the last season and admired all their work. We talked about how they fly in and lower the rocks on cables to transport them. The stairs look great, thanks guys!

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

Once back in the Pond Mountain area, we followed an old carriage road trail until we re-connected with the trail up to the lot. It was steep, though wide and flat and a good last workout! Though our hike didn’t take us to the summit, there is a mountain trail which I will check out on another day.

We got to the barbecue and got the grills fired up. I ordered my usual ‘hockey puck’ burger and enjoyed a cold beverage. Our trail angel friend was there parked in the lot so I talked to him a bit more. We enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and lots of other snacks including these wonderful A.T. cupcakes made by one of our members. I caught up with some other friends from the club who were on different hikes that day and then eventually had to get going back to real life.

A.T. cupcakes!

A.T. cupcakes!

But this event is always a fun one. Whether you’re a member or not you are welcome to join and we all pay just $6 for the food and drinks. Its a great way to introduce people to our organization and share our love for the outdoors and for protecting it.

I hope to see you next year at A.T. day! There are also many other work parties throughout the year where you can take part and give back to the trail. Visit our website here. Click on the ‘trails’ link in the navbar up top to find a list of all of our upcoming work parties and see how you can get involved.

Miles: 4.5

— Linus