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

Weekend volunteering and the first overnight of the season!

Trail cleanup last weekend

Trail cleanup last weekend

The last two weekends I got some great hikes in while also joining the rest of the trails committee for some spring trail work.

Last weekend we had our committee kickoff work party where we started the day by reviewing the accomplishments of the previous season and thanked all the volunteers involved in the various projects. I got these great work gloves with the club logo which I happily dirtied up a few hours later. We broke off into work projects for the day, and I headed up Schaghticoke mountain with 3 other volunteers to do some cleanup.

I recall this section being a big climb, especially when fully loaded for an overnight. Fielden Stream and I were forewarned of its difficulty earlier in the season we backpacked it in 2014, and put it off until later in the summer when we were a bit more warmed up. Luckily, the frequent reports of rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the rock outcrops were not an issue on our overnight that summer, but it was certainly on our minds. In fact, this mountain’s campsite was once named “Rattlesnake Campground” until being renamed due to it frightening campers. This is one of the toughest sections of the Connecticut trail, from either direction.

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

This mountain alone has multiple shoulders, peaks in two states, and many sharp ups and downs in between. This first ascent when heading northbound is a good 880ft climb from the road along the river to the first overlook, which is just after you cross into New York for one last short stretch in that state. Originally the trail entered Connecticut up on this summit so this was the true state line crossing. Nowadays it comes into Connecticut farther south, follows the river until this climb, re-enters New York for 2 miles and goes back into Connecticut for good. The ascent southbound of Schaghticoke is no less daunting as you first have a steep 700ft climb up Mt. Algo before another steep 5-600ft climb up the north side of Schaghticoke. In between it dips down to lower ridgelines and climbs again and again from end to end.

Along the Housatonic River

Along the Housatonic River

On the work hike last weekend, I didn’t have as tough a time as I was only carrying day hiking supplies and a light saw. We also brought up loppers and a few hoes (insert chuckle here). We cleaned up leaf buildup around waterbars, filled in areas of trail that had been widened by erosion and lots of hikers, and cleaned off any debris from stone steps where needed. The weather was pretty crappy when I arrived in the morning but fortunately by the time the meeting was over it was clearing and we got a nice view from the overlook and some great conditions for our hike back down. Afterwards, we had a short social gathering and a little more planning conversation before heading home.

Ten Mile Shelter

Ten Mile Shelter

Yesterday I headed back up this beast, and again with a fully loaded pack. I was out for an overnight trail patrol hike, to check out a few campsites and resolve any issues I could in the process. I drove up after work on Friday night and hit the trail at the base of this mountain at around 630 heading south. I arrived around 7 at the beautiful Ten Mile River Campground. It is set 1.8 miles south along the confluence of the Ten Mile and Housatonic rivers at the base of Ten Mile Hill. This is a very popular campground because of its idyllic locale and easy access from town. I was here a few months ago to check things out as well.

Livin' in a tent, down by the river

Livin’ in a tent, down by the river

There is also a shelter here so the first thing I did before setting up my camp was to check out the shelter and sign in to the register there. Again, there was a campfire site and burned logs lying alongside the shelter. I cleared and scattered these and left a nice note in the register asking folks to please not make a fire — it is prohibited here, for good reason.

I then headed to the campground where there was another, bigger, fire ring. As dark was falling, I set up my camp, hung my bear bag, and got dinner started. It was a very chilly night which explains why I was alone for the night.  Luckily I had my new down bag, and brought along my down jacket and both my foam and inflatable sleeping pads. I had my usual long johns baselayers and a fresh pair of socks for sleeping in. I had a ‘nice dinner’ of Mountain House Lasagna and settled in for the night.

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

These days I’m in bed by 9 anyway as work and parenting wear me out quick. I checked in with Fielden Stream who was enjoying a night in NYC with friends, a stark difference to my evening plans. I said goodnight to my kids and soon the rushing river lulled me to sleep. Nothing makes me sleep better and faster than water. Rivers or rain or both. It was so peaceful, and also has the benefit of masking any small critter sounds that may be perceived as much larger when alone in the woods!

My favorite 'blazes'

My favorite ‘blazes’

It got down to about 25 but I was pretty cozy and happy I was properly prepared for it. I woke around 6 to the sounds of my favorite owls — the barred owl! I have missed their songs for the last year so it was a fantastic wake up call. While I made my breakfast I cleaned some trash left in the privy compost bucket and cleared the fire ring as I was too short on time the night before and no one else had come in that would be tempted by it.  I am a fan of most of the Mountain House meals but the scrambled eggs and bacon one…. eh. I had to drain the excess water and it just reminded me of cheap reconstituted eggs at a motel buffet. Maybe a couple days out I’d be ok with that, but I wasn’t that desperate for eggs and bacon. The mini-moos from my office kitchen were a nice addition to my Starbucks Via, and helped wash down what I could eat of that meal. I cleaned everything out at the wash pit, packed up the tent and sleeping gear and hit the trail around 715. I knew I had a big day ahead of me. About 9-10 miles, depending on the side trail distances into the next two campgrounds. And at least 2,000ft of vertical over challenging terrain. I ended up being pretty accurate on those numbers.

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

The hike back north to where I had parked was a good warm up with great views of the peaks I would soon ascend. There’s not much vertical rise here as it follows the river, only a small hill or two. I made note of a blowdown overhanging the trail which wasn’t supported by a very strong tree and could be a hazard. Farther north just before the road, a vulture peered down at me from the tree tops but I told him I wasn’t dead yet and to check on me about 8 or 9 miles up the trail as I might be by then! I also got video of a woodpecker at work, who luckily didn’t think I posed a threat and went on about his business.

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

I dropped the bag of trash from the campsite in the car and headed up the beast. I admired our trail work from the weekend before as I huffed and puffed my way up to the overlook. I took a break there to re-secure my sloppily attached foam pad and have a snack while I took in the view. I met a day hiker out for an out-and-back hike, and who I would meet again several miles up trail on his way back. I headed north along the western ridge on the New York side and was treated to a northerly view to Macedonia and Cobble mountain that I did not have when we passed through here that summer due to the leaf cover. As stated earlier in my blog, I’m really enjoying getting these extended views for the first time by doing these sections in the winter, late fall and early spring.

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

The trail crossed back into Connecticut, introduced by a nice climb up to the eastern ridgeline of the mountain and the only section of the entire trail that goes through an Indian reservation. That is the Schaghticoke Indian reservation, where the mountain got its name. Their home is along the tidal plain of the river at the base of the mountain below. Here the trail crosses a rocky steep ledge known as Indian Rocks with sweeping views south and north of the Housatonic river and valley.

A royal throne with a view

A royal throne with a view

Its a quick little scramble which I was worried would be a bit icy like my tent poles that morning and some of the other rocks along the hike so far. One rock is a bit of a perilous slide if wet or icy so my main goal was getting past it before the possible (though slight) prediction of rain or snow flurries. Luckily it was dry and I snapped some photos of the bucolic scene below before venturing on. The rocks are at about 1,330 ft and are visible from the road below. I also like to point them out when driving by. From here the trail rises and drops along the eastern face, with equally steep climbs and descents and views from many ledges.

Many water sources along the mountain were rushing heavily with water, so I was not worried about finding a spot to fill my water should I run out. There were two large brooks I knew of on the route and they were no less active. I reached the mountain campground side trail around 11am and made the steep climb up along the rushing and cascading brook to look things over.

Is this New Hampshire?

Is this New Hampshire?

There were a few blowdowns that needed noting, and I also checked out the privy, one of only 2 or 3 exposed ‘throne’ style privies along the trail in our state. Another 12 or 13 have already been updated to the enclosed moldering privies we all love. While not having any cover, this one did have a view!

I remember around this time on our hike through here together a few summers ago, that Fielden and I were both feeling pretty tired by this point from all the ups and downs we didn’t seem to notice in the guide. We seemed to think we would only have one last small climb over Algo before we made it to the shelter for the night. I too, was feeling it here, but this time I knew better. There was one more huge climb up the higher peak this mountain holds in Connecticut. But the trail drops down along the ridge to about 850 feet just before its climb back up to 1400 ft. Its a hell of a climb with many false summits, though there were some more sweeping views including one of the Taconic plateau in the distance far beyond Kent. When I reached the top, I had a long break to have some fruit and energy gels and share my equally hellish climb story with Fielden Stream.

Thayer Brook

Thayer Brook

I had to be in Kent at 2 to see the amazing lady who trained me do a presentation on her 2004 thru hike. She’s now retired and planning a 2017 PCT thru hike! So I knew time was ticking and hauled butt down the steep north face across Thayer Brook to ascend Algo and make my final campsite check before reaching the end of the hike. The rocks coming down here reminded me of the white mountains, as the trail was just rocks. I considered filtering some water at the brook but I had a bit left and other than one last easy climb up Algo from this side, I decided that was unnecessary. There’s also a brook at that shelter a half mile north should I have been wrong. Unfortunately it was around here, just before the end, that I was hitting a wall. This was my first fully loaded hike of the year and despite having 60 miles of day hikes behind me since the new year, I was feeling it by this point and my leg muscles decided to start growling at me. I took another break before making it over the top of Algo and down through the amazing mountain laurel tunnels to the Algo shelter and brook. I met a backpacker there who was waiting out the cold a bit longer and we chatted briefly while I signed in at the register. I looked around the rest of the campsite for any other issues and then called my friend from the trails committee who was picking me up at the road on the way to the presentation. He saved me a mile-plus walk into town. After over 9 miles on the dirt, paved roads can be pretty brutal on the feet.

I'm lichen this tree

I’m lichen this tree

We had a nice lunch in town and then made it to the library for the sold out crowd. It was great to see such enthusiasm for her story, and we even got to be part of the presentation and talk about our roles in caring for the trail in Connecticut. We invited everyone to our volunteer event next month called “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail” where you can volunteer alongside us to give back to the local section of the A.T. There were a few past thru-hikers in the audience, including one couple who were active members of the ALDHA, the Applachian Long-Distance Hikers Association, another great group who help care for the trail. They also provide all the information for the Connecticut section in the official Appalachian Trail guides.

I got home feeling fulfilled, satisfied, exhausted, and ready for the next adventure. I can’t do any hiking next weekend due to other commitments, but this hike was enough to hold me over and I am looking forward to my Wilderness First Aid training the following weekend, and then my and Fielden Stream’s first overnight together in New York.

I’d love to see you at Give-a-Day. Its free of course and snacks and refreshments will be provided at a social afterwards. Here’s the link.

Day 1 Miles: 1.8

Day 2 Miles: 9.2

— Linus

Macedonia Ridge Trail

Park Entrance

Park Entrance

Last weekend, despite the mega blizzard (and only blizzard so far) of the year, I got to finally complete a trail I’ve been wanting to since reaching its prize summit on a few previous shorter hikes. Despite the record snowfall Winter Storm Jonas created in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the 16″ of snow it left in my town, it did not make it much farther north in our state. So for once I was able to drive north and have better conditions. I like hiking in the winter, but this was not one for doing in the snow and ice.

The summit views are worth the climb up from any direction, yet this time the effort was substantially higher. And hence the remaining portion of this trail is one I’ve been putting off for just the right moment because of its quite steep scrambles in the Northwestern corner of the park. I wanted to do the remainder at once, as its not high mileage and is convenient to complete with 1 vehicle doing a loop. It was just a matter of when. The reverse weather being what it was, this day was perfect for it.

Cobble Mtn Trailhead

Cobble Mtn Trailhead

As it was the off-season, I had the woods almost entirely to myself since the campground was empty and the temperatures were too low for most day hikers and families. It also meant I wouldn’t have a bunch of people lining up behind me if I was taking my sweet time on the tough ascent. I attribute part of my original hesitation on my first attempt over Squaw Peak to crowds of people behind me on the hike that added just too much pressure and did not allow me to assess the challenge properly to where I felt it was safe to proceed. I also wanted to do this one solo for this reason so it wasn’t my own family adding that pressure.

Watch your step!

Watch your step!

But I was excited for the challenge as I enjoy pushing my comfort zone and I definitely needed some me time. All the research I had done suggested I tackle the climb upwards vs down, and the experience reinforced that. We came down the northern face of Bear Mountain on the A.T. in Connecticut last summer and it was as steep and long as this. While looking back up at that ascent from the bottom was daunting, gravity treats me better going up. In that case I didn’t have a choice really as NOBO and down was our route.

The only other uphill climb I’ve done that was this steep was the Major Welch trail on another Bear Mountain, that being the one in N.Y. We did it in 2013, just before we started hiking the A.T. together. The Major Welch trail was originally one of the earliest sections of the Appalachian Trail and was very similar to this one I was about to do. Also just as steep, just as long, and just as exhausting. The only difference on the Major Welch being I didn’t have to first climb up into a crevice with a 50+ foot drop on one side and then hand over hand out and up the first steep portion of the 650-foot rock face.

CCC road

CCC road

The whole Macedonia Ridge trail is a 6.7-mile loop over about six peaks that flank the steep eastern and western shores of Macedonia Brook, with Cobble Mountain being the highest and having the grandest views. When I mean grand, I mean grand. You can see 40 miles easy in any direction, including the high peaks of the Catskills to the west, the Taconic Range to the north, and more of the Appalachians to the east and south. At this point you are just shy of 1,400 ft up on the side of a ridge just a few hundred yards east of the New York border. I can’t help but think this and the mountain ridges north and south of here had something to do with where the state line was drawn — Natural features often dictate boundaries.

View south from Pine Hill

View south from Pine Hill

On our first overnight outing in 2013 to test our new backpacking tent we stayed here and climbed up an unmarked side trail to the western side of the trail and to the summit of Cobble Mountain along this ridge. To be fair we thought we were still on the white trail but were not. We were so enamored of the view from the summit, we took my son “Jiffy Pop” back on A.T. day a year later with our local AMC club but did take that steeper white-blazed trail to the summit. It’s much shorter but is definitely steeper. It was a dramatic hike as a thick fog blanketed the valley that October afternoon, so the mountainside seemed to disappear into the mist and a light rain began to fall. It was a family hike and there were lots of fearless and adventurous little ones along for the fun, practically running up the trail, my son included. He loved this hike and it was great to see he shared the enthusiasm with me. We completed the southwestern section of the Macedonia Ridge trail that day on our descent from the summit, crossing South Cobble as well, with its sweeping views south and east and some beautiful ridge walking.

Coming down Pine Hill

Coming down Pine Hill

If you are familiar with the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut you will recognize Macedonia brook as the one you cross just north of Mt Algo in Kent, CT. In fact, in earlier times, the western and northern parts of this loop were also part of the Appalachian Trail. It was later rerouted east to its current location.

As I mentioned above, there is also a campground here with many sites both wooded and on open fields as well as along the brook. There are many modern pit toilets with solar panels on the roofs – but there are no flushing toilets inside or shower facilities like at nearby Housatonic Meadows state park. So while it’s not a completely primitive campground, its not one for those that demand modern comforts when camping. Along those lines, there’s also next to zero cell phone coverage unless you are up on the ridges, as the peaks really box the park in. There’s a large open-to-the-elements stone pavilion with a fireplace you can rent out, and our local AMC club does exactly that for its annual A.T. Day events. There are RV sites too, if that’s your preferred method of camping.

Climbing up Cobble Mtn

Climbing up Cobble Mtn-looking down – steep!

Camping is allowed mid-April through October, and rangers are on duty that whole time. Trail maps and firewood are available at the Ranger station. Alcohol is not allowed. If you really need modern comforts and fine dining and drinking, downtown Kent is 10 minutes or less by car and can provide all of those amenities. There are many other side trails throughout the park that connect up with the loop trail and facilitate hikes of all levels and lengths. Check it out!

The Taconics to the North (on the right in distance)

The Taconics to the North (on the right in distance)

The area was once a hotbed of local iron activity for the area, and Kent Iron Company’s furnaces, forges and charcoal pits dotted the landscape, fueled by local trees. Remnants of the forges, pits and stone walls are visible in the southern end of the park.

There was also a CCC (Civil Conservation Corps) project here in the early 30’s which built roadways and buildings for park management. An old Dover, NY to Kent, CT. stagecoach road passes through the northern end as well. The brook and several other streams and ponds traverse and surround the park.

I was pleasantly surprised at the views on Pine Hill, the peak just north of Cobble. The southern side of the peak provided a beautiful vista south into the Housatonic River Valley, with Mt. Schaghticoke and Mt. Algo towering beyond. And the route down this face had some nice rock scrambles of its own, though not as tough as Cobble. A great lunch spot!

Catskills to the West (in distance)

Catskills to the West (in distance)

I headed counter clockwise from the beginning of the loop on the south side of the park and because there was no leaf cover, the first peak also provided some nice views south and also east to Pond Mountain (natural area) and Caleb’s Peak on the A.T. I really enjoy fall and late winter hikes when you can get views, sometimes 360 degrees from a ridge, that normally would be invisible in summer. Really gives you the sense you’re ridge walking and not just in the woods. A bit more payoff for all those climbs to get to that spot.

The green trail traverses the park from the notch between Cobble and Pine Hill on the western side to this eastern peak and then onwards to the Pond Mountain Area. I believe this is the original A.T. route, or part of the original route east to the river from Cobble’s summit. I’ve bought a book on the Connecticut section online from 1968 so I’m eager to find the original route.

Macedonia Brook

Macedonia Brook

I had hoped to try out my new MSR micro rocket and Toaks titanium cook pot set as it was definitely cold enough for some coffee, but the route did not bring me as close to any of the campsites with picnic tables as I had hoped and I didn’t really find any good spots on the trail where I felt it would be safe to do this. With some time restrictions and a good deal of anxiety about that scramble ahead as well, I did not make the extra detour to a picnic table. Also, it was cold enough that the water was freezing in my hydration tube, so I figured it best to keep moving for that reason as well. On the upside it also kept me drinking more often which was good! I tend to not drink as often as I should when I have the hydration bladder in the pack, and learned a hard lesson at Harriman last summer.

White trail on Cobble Mtn

White trail on Cobble Mtn

I needed my gloves for most of the hike, with the exception of that climb, where I took them off so I could really dig my fingers into the rock’s nooks and crannies for a good grip. I also had to repeatedly toss my collapsed trekking poles up the rock face ahead as they were useless on that climb and I didn’t have my new Exped folding poles that I got later that night for my birthday! Those would have fit in my pack. Not knowing how steep this truly was, I didn’t push the issue. In hindsight I wish I had. I’m looking forward to using them on the next hike – they are SO light and we got them at an absolute steal. The only downside to them is they have a set length, which makes them more compact, but not as adaptable when using to prop up a tarp or tent. I need to test them in both uses to see if its a problem at 115cm but I know that when we did the A-frame tarp setup I maxed out all our poles to 140cm. We shall see. Maybe just pitching the tarp differently is the solution. I really hope I didn’t freeze my sawyer filter again. I did wrap it in a shirt so it should be ok but I hope I don’t find out the hard way on an overnight in the spring.

Trail snack!

Trail snack!

I did however get to try a trail snack I’ve read a million stories about on the various hiking forums which is to wrap just about anything in a tortilla! I had one left over from our ‘Mexican night’ dinner at home and instantly the idea popped into my head to make a wrap. Thru-hikers love them and will stuff just about anything in one for a quick and easy meal – cheese, sausage, other cold cuts, peanut butter, honey, granola, banana; you name it. They don’t squish like bread or get stale as easily. And, no crumbs!

One thing that concerns me is my back is still wetting out in my down coat when using this pack. Perhaps my day pack is too snug to my back. It certainly feels that way sometimes. I will try to loosen it and see if it helps. It wasn’t as severe this time as it was much colder out. But I wonder if I wouldn’t be better off with a synthetic, if I sweat too much and render the down’s insulation unusable. At 11oz, I can get a synthetic at the same weight or close.

I love this coat and its great around town but I want to insure I’m getting the most out of every piece of gear. I haven’t tried it with my bigger pack yet but until I do more cold weather overnights, I can’t imagine I will use it much backpacking. Maybe just on cold shoulder-season nights where I can’t make a fire. Experienced anything similar? Any suggestions are welcome.

I could have stayed on the ridge after summiting Cobble but decided to take the white trail down and give my legs a wind-down with a road walk on the beautiful old CCC road. Mileage-wise, it came out pretty much the same however. I definitely recommend checking out this hike and this park. It’s so beautiful. Where to next?

Total Miles: 6.5

– Linus