Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Schaghticoke and Algo – Kent, CT

Over the Father’s Day weekend I made it back out to the trail for my second ridge runner weekend. The weather was perfect. I think at one point there was a drop of rain and a storm cloud off in the distance but it never materialized beyond that, and I also had several friends old and new in the picture. Always a fantastic way to spend trail time.

I decided to cover the wild ups and downs of South Kent, Connecticut known as Schaghticoke Mountain and Mount Algo. It’s a section that’s a rollercoaster of rocky ups and downs, but with views of the level of reward to match the terrain, and long tunnels of mountain laurel. I knew they’d be at or reaching peak at this time of year and it’s one of my favorite times to be on the trail. It’s not too hot yet, but the laurels are out in force and its so beautiful. Also at this time the bubble is starting through Connecticut. The faster ones at least. I saw over 25 thru-hikers that weekend, and spent the night at the campsite with at least 10 of them. I recommended JP Giffords in Kent for lunch what 5 times to thru hikers who asked me on the trail for a recommendation – I really need a referral commission! And our new visitor center in Kent.  And the Cornwall Country market Deli in Cornwall Bridge. I told them about the high water at Guinea Brook and to take the detour.

My friend Brian and I chatted with several thru hikers at Algo shelter. Raven, One Step, Stray Cat and the others I saw earlier on the trail that day. Brian hiked in later in the day to meet me after work. While I was happy to have seen 3 snakes, he saw the timber rattler as he came up the trail around 5pm that day. I saw a milk snake (which I thought was a copperhead at first!) and 2 large black racers. Rattlers do love Schaghticoke Mountain, but I guess they don’t love me. I just want to SEE one.

We saw my friend (and other weekend ridge runner) Jay on top of Schaghticoke as we were getting back to the start on the second day and chatted with him for a while. I was hoping for these two guys to meet!

Brian borrowed my Quarter Dome 1 tent so he could try it, and I think he liked it.  One Step also really liked my tent as she’s looking for a new lighter one and mine would be a huge weight savings for her as she’s carrying a half dome!

My knee has been acting up (especially on the steep downhills), and I think its cause I’ve been lazy with my daily planks, and my knee compression sleeves are worn out. Fielden’s knee has been iffy too the last week so we changed our plans to start Vermont this weekend with a pair of day hikes and a hotel overnight in a flat section of Pennsylvania from Boiling Springs to Carlisle. Boiling sounds about right as it will be 90, but our hotel has a pool. And at least we can still get a lot of trail miles in, and the experience, without having to worry about limping out miles from a campsite at 3,000ft!

The Vermont section will happen in a month or two when everyone’s healed up. This one is better for the current state of things. And, look at that we ARE starting Pennsylvania after all!. It would actually drive me a bit nuts skipping the whole state and doing Maryland first so maybe its good we’re finally starting Pennsylvania. I know there’s lots of nice sections, its just the real rocky bits I’m looking less forward to.

As an added bonus, Fielden Stream and I were out for the day in the Falls Village area the following week and ran into our favorite thru-hikers at the Mountanside Cafe! They were the ones I was hoping to run into on this weekend’s adventures. But I am glad for the new friends I did make on the trail and at the shelter. And looking forward actually to hiking some of Pennsylvania. Heck, half my family comes from there! Photos below.

Miles Day 1: 7

Miles Day 2: 7.3 (with campsite cleanups)

Wildilife: 1 Tanager, 3 snakes (4 if you count the one Brian saw)

Hikers: A LOT – Thrus especially

— Linus

View South from Scaghticoke

View South from Schaghticoke

Our favorite farmer's market from Indian Rocks

Our favorite farmer’s market from Indian Rocks

The first black racer I saw

The first black racer I saw

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

My campsite at Algo shelter

My campsite at Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

The last snake sighting

The last snake sightingThe last snake sighting

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Appalachian Trail – CT Section 1 – Part 1

Scrambling up Lion's Head

Scrambling up Lion’s Head

After nearly a year of studying and planning this section to death on the map, quide book, and internet and trying to piece together any memories of hiking its peaks as a boy scout, it was time to head there together.

Section 1 currently describes the route from rt 44 in Salisbury to the misplaced state line marker .6 miles in from the actual state line crossing at Sages Ravine, Massachusetts. When I was a scout, this may still have been the section route, but the section start and endpoints were different, and my BSA Appalachian Trail patch in 1984 labeled it as section VII, aka 7, for those who don’t read roman numerals. I also don’t recall if we did the whole section.

Looking north at Bear

Looking north at Bear from Lion’s Head

While there was a re-route a few years later west of river and the old route becoming the Mohawk trail, it crossed back over in Falls Village to continue its original route so I’m going to assume this was still the path back then. I remember climbing either Bear or Lion’s Head, or both with the scouts, but that’s as clear as the memory gets.

View from Riga Shelter

View from Riga Shelter

Working on NY sections 2 and 3 earlier this spring gave us a nice warmup for this bigger hike, while allowing us to not repeat any sections.  As a couple, we had not been above 1,600 ft on any hike, overnight or otherwise. So in our heads it was quite a challenge ahead of us. But it turns out we underestimated ourselves. Now without a doubt, going from the road (700 ft) and up over Lion’s head (1,750 ft) and  Bear Mtn (2,316 ft) and back down to Sages Ravine (1,600 ft) in one day would have been hard work. And we broke this up by going over Lion’s Head and spent the first night at the Riga shelter and campsites (1650 ft) with its stunning views. For this we have no regrets. But really, the next day we expected to be far more difficult than it was. Day 1 we were a bit slower-going but day 2 we already had our hiker legs kickin’ into gear.

At the top of Bear

At the top of Bear

For fear of rain on the day we were to summit and descend Bear Mtn (enhanced by a few hikers we passed and spoke to – gee, thanks!), we got a move on early. The north face of the mountain IS steep – no lie. In the rain, it would be a veritable waterfall.  But despite the challenges, we summited, snacked, and descended like the best of mountain goats to Sages Ravine in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Surely, we could have gone on to tackle Race Mountain and stay at the Race Brook Falls campground. But we left our second car at Undermountain trail – so this would mean either thumbing it back, or making our 3.5 mile hike out to a greasy satisfying brunch into an 8-miler, and one that also potentially skirted a wet and slick downhill re-trace of the exposed rock ledges on Mt. Race. And the rain eventually DID come, and in droves, Friday night. So we were better off with a long, more relaxing stay at Sages Ravine.

My "Rudy" shot atop Bear

My “Rudy” shot atop Bear

Still, we felt like champions for our speedy climb over Bear (see my “Rudy” shot), and are planning to tackle Race and Everett to Jug End in longer days next time — maybe more along 7-8 mile days than  these 3-5, since we’re obviously getting the hang of this thing. While we’ve done a ten-miler, it wasn’t over two 2,000+ peaks with a 900 ft descent in between and on either side.

Steep north face of Bear

Steep north face of Bear

We had covered the first part of the section from rt 44 to 41 in Salisbury when we completed our last overnight section hike of CT. And I took an extra mile out-and-back loop from the campsite at Sages Ravine to the misplaced state line marker to officially bag the end of the section and satisfy my OCD, even though we will come through here again on the next one. I’m glad I did, as I got to see over 10 beautiful waterfalls and plenty of watering holes along the gorgeous ravine.

Cascade in Sages Ravine

Cascade in Sages Ravine

We finished the hike with a gluttonous meal at Toymakers cafe in Falls Village, a reputably very hiker-friendly establishment. This was proven so by the cook/owner giving us a ride back to our car after a very cold rainy hike into there last fall because the bartender at the Falls Village Inn made it quite obvious he didn’t want us staying there for the night. Clearly to this individual, hikers are all unemployed, dirty and rowdy. In contrast, Toymakers also lets hikers camp in their backyard – please patronize them.

When we stopped by the Inn yesterday for the second time on a hike to get our A.T. passport stamped, the door was locked tight, there was no doorbell, and no one responded to my knocking even though I saw several people walking around in back. I don’t know why the Inn is a location for an A.T. passport stamp and not Toymakers.

The End

The ‘Official’ end of CT

Its is not a very friendly place at all in my opinion, unless you’re dressed up nicely when you arrive and have reserved your two-hundred-and-fifty-a-night room well in advance and got your own key already when you checked in. Luckily the post office in town was more than happy to stamp my A.T. passport.

But anyway, this hike had it all – there were views for days, thru-hikers, a powerful thunderstorm to lull us to sleep, some great wildlife, and tunnels of mountain laurel. But I’ll let Fielden Stream tell you about that in part two.

— Linus