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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles: 6.5

— Linus

Winter skies

Winter skies

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Laurel tunnels with deer prints

Approaching the Eagle's beak

Approaching the Eagle’s beak

Following more deer

Following more deer

Linus on Eagle's Beak

Linus on Eagle’s Beak

Bible Rock Brook

Bible Rock Brook

Rolling hilltops

Rolling hilltops

The first part of the first scramble

The first part of the first scramble

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

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

Part 2 of the first scramble

Part 2 of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

From the top of the first scramble

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Looking down the first scramble I came up

Trail signs

Trail signs

First cairns I've seen on this trail

First cairns I’ve seen on this trail

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

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

"The Pavement" by the powerlines

“The Pavement” by the powerlines

Or is THIS "The Pavement"

Or is THIS “The Pavement”

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Someone made a primitive campsite here

Beneath the ledges

Beneath the ledges

Seven Falls Roadside Park

Seven Falls Roadside Park