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

 

 

CT NET: Section 04 (Mattabesett Trail)

A week or so before Thanksgiving I made another dent in the Mattabessett Trail, now part of the New England National Scenic Trail. This part was on the eastern spur, away from the mile-long cliff walks of the western section of the trail. It isn’t always completed by those thru-hiking the N.E.T., as it isn’t required and doesn’t really benefit any thru hiker as its about 30 miles of side trail. However, for me who wants to complete the entire Mattabessett trail, it is necessary. With this day’s mileage, I have just 15.5 miles left, or 16.5, depending which map you trust and how much was rerouted since my last edition of the walk book or the N.E.T. and CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Parks Association) websites. This section recently had a large re-route to remove a 2-mile road walk, so the section was about 1.5 miles longer. It also removed a big attraction in the process, the Coginchaug Cave.

When the re-route was done, the cave access was now on a side trail. This side trail does connect to the new current route, and the cave was only half mile out of the way. However, given the longer trail distance needing to be still covered in a certain amount of time, we had to pass up the extra mile round trip to the cave this time.  My original mileage estimate was about 7.8 miles or just under, but it ended up being 9.3 just to the side trail back to the lot where one of our cars was left at the start. All in all it was about 9.6 miles of hiking. I was not complaining though because the trail was mostly easy, had some very nice rock features like Bear Rock, and a waterfall. And also because I was hiking with a new hiking friend. We met through several A.T. and other hiking groups on social media and have some other friends in common in the hiking community. Brandon and I talked about setting up a hike for a while. When we found a day we were both free, he was happy to help me knock off another section of the trail and get closer to my completion goal. As we live at opposite ends of the state, this was conveniently located almost halfway between our homes.

I’ve been enjoying discovering a lot of towns and state parks along the way that I have never known about or explored before now. Connecticut is my home state. It’s such a small state but this part of it I have been to very few times. The trail runs through many of these small state parks, and the roads past charming and quaint old New England towns. Miller’s Pond State Park was lovely and I’m sure popular in the warmer months. Lots of places to jump in the pond and swim, both from the parking lots and the trails.

Mount Pisgah at the start has some very nice views, but they were all socked in! Oh yeah, did I mention the forecast for no rain ended up being rain for almost the whole hike? Bear rock near the end was a challenging scramble with the wet rocks and leaves everywhere.  There is a bypass trail, but we didn’t take it. We got a few views here, and a nice one above Miller’s Pond as the rainclouds began to clear, of course near the end of the hike!

Well we still made good time and had a great hike. We both have a lot of hiking experience and miles under our belts so there was no handicap to slow us down. . We will be back for the cave. Luckily, that’s only 1/2 mile from a parking area, so it would be a fun family hike sometime too. I am hoping to get another 8 miles or so complete this week, and the last 8 or so before the end of the month. I don’t think they got too much snow up there, and besides, its hardly high elevation. The temperatures will be about 40 the next few days which will be fine. Photos below.

Trail miles: 9.3

Total miles 9.6

— Linus

Linus heading up Mt. Pisgah

Linus heading up Mt. Pisgah

Linus on Mt Pisgah

Linus on Mt Pisgah

Linus on the trail

Linus on the trail

Waterfall

Waterfall

The side of Bear Rock

The side of Bear Rock

Brandon and Bear Rock

Brandon and Bear Rock

Definitely a lot of Bear-friendly crevices

Definitely a lot of Bear-friendly crevices

Brandon starting the ascent up Bear Rock

Brandon starting the ascent up Bear Rock

Brandon ascending Bear Rock

Brandon ascending Bear Rock

Linus coming up Bear Rock

Linus coming up Bear Rock

Linus and Brandon on Bear Rock summit

Linus and Brandon on Bear Rock summit

View from Bear Rock

View from Bear Rock

Approaching Miller's Pond

Approaching Miller’s Pond

Miller's Pond

Miller’s Pond

New England/Mattabessett Trail: CT Section 10

Today I was supposed to take my friend out to finish her last section of the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. Well, weather turned really nasty, and while I’ve done my share of very wet hiking, this was supposed to be a special day, and we wanted to wait for the right weather, to get all the views. So we postponed it. And the heavy rain will be here all day. So I’m happy sitting here writing about the great hike I did yesterday instead!

While the Appalachian Trail takes up most of my time and attention, I do enjoy checking out other trails. And I’ve been working a bit on the New England Trail again the last few years. Last year I did the Hike50Net challenge, and so I did knock off a good amount more of the Mattabessett, and some of the Metacomet section, with my brother. I hadn’t been back since the end of last year as my trail duties and A.T. section hiking pursuits take priority. But now I’ve got somewhere between 24 and 27 miles left of the Mattabessett. It’s hard to know exactly because of re-routes. My Walk Book from a few years ago is already outdated in areas on this trail. Luckily they have a website with everything up to date. I saw a Forest and Parks association trail crew out doing a re-route on this hike, so it may change again in the near future.

I plan to finish this trail over the winter in 3 or 4 more sections. As the trail moves east away from the traprock ledges, there will me more varied terrain as well as some historic landmarks.  I also hope to finish off the Saugatuck trail, as they added a new section right after we finished it. And perhaps the last ten miles of the Mohawk trail, if I can get a day without ice or lots of loose leaves as the bit over Barrack mountain is very steep.

Speaking of very steep, there were several very steep ascents and descents on this section. The trail crew was actually working on a switchback to save you from one of these steep ascents or descents depending on your direction. And the trail here is all red volcanic basalt. So it’s a bit like Pennsylvania here as there’s rocks along most of the entire trail and now you can’t see them because they’re under millions of leaves. I definitely had to pay attention to my footing to protect my ankles. But wow, the views. I was treated again and again to cliff side views of Pistpaug Pond, Ulbrich reservoir, and views south all the way to Long Island Sound and all the way north to the hanging hills of Meriden. The outlooks here didn’t look east enough to see Hartford. I also was treated to a red-tailed hawk doing a fly over the ridge directly in front of me.

There is a shelter about .2 from the road that local homeowners built behind their house for hikers. As this is a relatively newly designated National Scenic Trail, and you don’t have a lot of people thru-hiking it, there’s not a lot of shelters. And since much of this trail is still on private land, that won’t change for a while. I believe you are allowed to camp on trail if you’re thru-hiking but I don’t really see anything encouraging or mentioning it on their site. I’d say that’s at your own risk.  I signed the register and enjoyed checking out this great shelter. They even had 2 jugs of water for hikers. While there’s a few ponds in the gaps, these water sources are all at least a short walk off trail to get water. I saw one stream running on this whole 6.2 mile hike. I have not seen a lot of natural water sources on this trail except ponds and resevoirs near the mountain gaps. I though about doing a thru-hike of the New England Trail. And it’s always still possible. But for now I’m enjoying doing it in sections when I have a few hours here and there and need some forest walking.

I’d say the only thing that detracted from the hike was the section along a private road lined with barbed wire and the sounds of the nearby firing range the entire hike. I definitely got a lovely fall day and a good workout and the therapy the trail always provides me with. Photos below.  You can see the map of this section here.

Miles: 6.2

— Linus

Ouch!

Ouch!

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

The New England Trail is made up of 3 shorter trails

Peaceful woods

Peaceful woods

View from Pistpaug Mtn

View from Pistpaug Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

Pistpaug Mtn from Fowler Mtn

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

CFPA and REI volunteer crew

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of rolling red volcanic rocks under the leaves

Lots of ups up this

Lots of ups up this

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Great view from Trimountain

Fall colors

Fall colors

Mattabessett trail sign

Mattabessett trail sign

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

Cattails shelter

I want this sign

I want this sign

 

 

 

 

 

Mattabessett/New England Trail, Net50 Challenge Completion

On Saturday I hit the New England Trail once again with my brother. While I never managed to get out there over the Thanksgiving holiday, this past Saturday was a beautiful day for a hike. Temps hovered around 45 and felt warmer on the exposed rocks. It was clear, dry and visibility was grand. We could see all the way north to Hartford and south to Hamden and Sleeping Giant, West to the Hanging Hills of Meriden and East to The Connecticut River Valley. This was also the last hike I needed to complete the New England Trail 50 challenge. You can achieve it in a variety of ways, including hikes, volunteering, overnights on the trail, advocacy, donations to trail organizations, and social media sharing to raise awareness on the trail. It has been a lot of fun and I am glad to have helped in any way I could to raise awareness of the trail, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act.

After a slightly sketchy crossing of the outlet of the Hubbard Reservoir at the start (did manage to sink a foot into the cold water a bit), the ascent up Chauncey Peak was quick, and easier thanks to a series of new switchbacks. These are also to benefit the hillside as the very steep original route contributes to erosion. The top of the ridgeline criss-crosses from the western to the eastern edge, where a large quarry operation exists. While that view wasn’t as scenic due to the mining site, there were still nice views beyond. And the western facing ridgeline walks were the real treat, with more of the dramatic basalt (trap rock) ledges to explore and trace as you make your way north , with Lamentation mountain just to the west and the Hubbard Reservoir directly below between the two mountains.

After descending the mountain, the trail winds through some rolling hills in the northern end of Giuffrida park, and then a lovely Hemlock forest before a short road walk (with great views of Chauncey Peak) over to the Highland Pond Preserve which makes up the last of the wooded portion of this section. The last 1.4 miles of this hike was along the paved Country Club road, but this is already an improvement as it used to be almost twice as much of a road walk before they got the portion through the forest and the preserve added in the last few years. Its great to see the hard work of trail organizations, continuing to work on improving trail conditions and acquiring new land for the trail. This is another reason why it’s a pleasure doing volunteer work myself with the AMC, because I experience the joy first-hand.

Now that I’ve completed the challenge, I want to get back to more of my favorite trail – the Appalachian Trail! But I also plan to finish the last 11 miles of the Mohawk trail In the coming months, as well as doing more hikes on the New England trail. I’d like to finish off the Mattabessett section next. I hope to have my brother along on those hikes as the location is central for both of us, and we have a lot of fun hiking together. Photos below.

Miles : 5.7

– Linus

Ascending Chauncey Peak

Ascending Chauncey Peak

My brother near the peak

My brother near the peak

Linus on the summit looking southwest to Sleeping Giant

Linus on the summit looking southwest to Sleeping Giant

My brother and I goofing around on Chauncey Peak

My brother and I goofing around on Chauncey Peak

View of Hubbard Resevoir and Lamentation Mountain beyond

View of Hubbard Resevoir and Lamentation Mountain beyond

Beautiful Hemlock forest

Beautiful Hemlock forest

Entering Highland Pond Preserve

Entering Highland Pond Preserve

Highland Pond Preserve

Highland Pond Preserve

 

Mattabessett Trail and Lamentation Mountain, Connecticut

Climbing up to the ridge

Climbing up to the ridge

Today I visited the Mattabessett (and by extension the New England National Scenic Trail) for the first time in many years. I’ve been obviously very focused on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. But I am privileged to have not only part of the A.T. so close by but also, over 800 more miles of hiking trails in my state including the Mattabessett and Metacomet trails, now part of the NET. The New England National Scenic Trail was officially established in 2009 and runs from Long Island Sound on the Connecticut coast all the way to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border where it ends on Mount Monadnock. Since the trail is relatively new there’s still a good number of road walks and not many shelters or campsites. So while doing a proper thru is a little tricky right now, it’s in its early stages and more sections are being routed off roads as often as the land can be acquired.

On the ridge with view north to Hartford in distance

On the ridge with view north to Hartford in distance

Land management and acquistion and re-routing is a lot of work and I’m sure over time it will become more like the other national scenic trails in those ways. I was considering doing some backpacking yesterday and staying at one of them but it was .1 from a road and there was no water source that I could tell besides possibly the use of a spigot on the nearby house (who built the shelter and campsite on their land).  I’m also not sure if there was a privy not that that’s a game changer but is a little awkward when the latrine is someone’s property. I have to research it more maybe there is a porto-potty. I was also honestly still sore from the epic Massachusetts finale last weekend.

With Meriden's hanging hills in the distance

With Meriden’s hanging hills in the distance

I had planned to do this hike with my brother today either way so I decided it would be best to listen to my body yesterday and I did. I got all my log sheets out for these trails and for their Hike 50 Challenge. As it’s the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act, there are many challenges this year on many long distance scenic trails to celebrate it.

I already completed the Connecticut AMC’s hike 50 challenge, which of course with my being a Connecticut AMC volunteer and summer ridgerunner, wasn’t really hard.

Victory pose looking west

Victory pose looking west

So I decided it would be fun to do the New England Trail challenge. I also have been meaning to hike with my brother again who lives outside Hartford. I knew he would like the amazing views and ridge walking, and it’s even closer to his house than mine! If possible we are going to try and complete the challenge together but either way we had a great time. You can earn points in many different ways, from by the mile, to trail work, trail events, social media shares, writing a hike-u, and more!

My Hike-U

My Hike-U

These all help to get the word out and draw attention to the trail.  It was a gorgeous day and the humidity was mitigated by the breezes along the ridge. We saw many others out enjoying it today, including one very large group who apparently each brought their own car and filled up almost the entire lot. Bad form, people. Car pool or limit your group size. No one should have to park illegally so you can do your group hike. But I held my tongue because after all a bunch of folks were out enjoying nature and excercise in my favorite way, and my only issue is with the leader.

My classic shot

My classic shot

Starting off we did about a mile road walk from Berlin Turnpike where the Mattabessett portion ends and then the trail turned and headed southbound into the woods for another half mile along the bottom of Lamentation Mountain. This is the mountain whose western ridge we’d be climbing and following all the way back to Guiffrida State park where we left our other car. The first 1/4 mile was littered with rusted out cars and a tire or two. It was a bit muddy and slightly overgrown as well but as it was an old road these things weren’t particularly an issue or totally out of character. The blazing could use a little bit of work here because there’s a few turns this way and that and not all were easy to decipher without walking down one way a bit. Anyway, I’m grateful to have the trail here. This whole northern end of Lamentation Mountain was closed for a few years by a property owner so the CFPA who manages this trail had to reroute it to get it back to completion.  I appreciate this effort and this new route, and I’m sure it will soon be much nicer.

Ledge Notch

Ledge Notch

There was a brisk little climb up to the ridgeline then the views began to open up one after the other. We could see the hanging hills of Meriden and Castle Craig, farther west to Southington and the Tunxis trail region and north to Hartford. I taught my brother about the basalt trap rock ledges and their unique geology and even almost rolled an ankle coming down from the ledge on one of the little pebble size ones! Up there we also saw hawks soaring overhead, and the new CT Rail train across the lake making its way north to Hartford and Springfield. (We later ate lunch at a brand new train station along the new line in Berlin). I love trains, so it was a treat watching a brand new train line chug along its brand new route, especially from a mountaintop!

At Guiffrida Park

At Guiffrida Park

The final portion of the hike was a walk along the Hubbard reservoir in the state park, which had a small entrance for wading in and views of Chauncey peak hovering above to the east. We will be back to do that one and the remainder of the section south to where I left off north of Mt. Higby. Then we will head south to Durham for the TriMountain section and then move on to complete the eastern spur, though I’ve done about 5 miles of that. I’m also working on completing the whole Mattabessett so these are the parts I’ve yet to do.

I’m looking forward to more hikes with my brother and this fun little challenge to help keep us at it. Stay tuned for more adventures on the New England National Scenic Trail.

Now to plan the next Appalachian Trail overnight. Hmmm, more Jersey?

Miles: 5.1

— Linus