Family Holiday Hike to Pine Mountain

My nephew at the trailhead

My nephew at the trailhead

In 2016 we finally bought a house. While a stressful process, of course its been worth it and we love our home. It also meant that we were expected to host for the holidays. So for Christmas 2016, we had the whole family here including my younger brother and his boys who stayed with us at the house. We had a great visit and spent a lot of time together in the same space.

My brother and I

My brother and I

So when I suggested we do a family hike the day after Christmas to get some exercise and fresh air, my younger brother and his boys were as excited as I was to get out of the house for a while and have an adventure. They live in Colorado near Boulder/Denver, so mountains are not something they are missing. And I can’t wait to hike with them when we visit them in Colorado. But today I was taking them out in my neck of the woods!

While I wanted to take them to my favorite trail again (you know, the Appalachian Trail), time was limited and so I took them to the nicest lookout and section of trail I knew about in the area; and its about half as far a drive. Incidentally it’s where I did a hike around the same time the previous year! I guess this is my holiday hiking spot. A place to go and perch myself on the edifice and reflect on the year coming to a close.

My brother and his boys on Pine Mtn

My brother and his boys on Pine Mtn

Pine Mountain and its fantastic lookout are now part of the relatively new Ives Trail, named after a famous composer from Danbury who loved the outdoors and built a lean-to near this lookout so he could enjoy the view whenever he wanted and share it with his friends.

I’ve done the entire 20 miles of the Ives Trail from West Redding to Ridgefield, but this view and part of the trail is my favorite so I come back often.

Linus on Pine Mtn

Linus on Pine Mtn

The view is amazing and on a clear day you can see all the way to Long Island Sound. But on most days you can see the Ridgefield lakes below, and Seth Low Pierrepont mountain and state park in the near distance (you can see it in the distance behind me in the picture here). The rocky precipice at the Pine Mountain lookout reminds me a lot of my favorite ones on the Appalachian Trail, with a view nearly as good, especially considering you’re still in the posh suburbs of Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Old fireplace

Old fireplace

The hike was perfect for the amount of time we had and also good for smaller hikers. The distance from the Pine Mountain trailhead is only about half mile up to the lookout and with some fun little scrambles and great ridge walking views along the way. To reach the true summit is about another quarter mile so all said and done it was only about 1.5 miles round trip, though rewardingly scenic and fun. After taking in the view at the lookout we headed up to the fireplace (Ives’ picnic fireplace I believe) and then the true summit where a small cairn demarcates the otherwise wooded peak. On the way back down we stopped again at the overlook for one more view, before hiking back down to the car for a family lunch to follow. There was a small amount of iced over snow on the lower part of the trail near the road, but the rest was clear of any real hazards.

Me and my nephews at the summit

Me and my nephews at the summit

Pine Mountain reserve is its own open space but is tied together to the other trail systems of Hemlock Hills and Bennett’s Pond as well as by the Ives Trail. At around 1,000ft Pine Mountain is also in fact the highest point in Ridgefield. At this time of year we were also able to see the view to the northwest from a western shoulder of the mountain along the trail on the way up, because all the leaves were off the trees. Though it’s not a great view in that direction.

I look forward to my first hike of 2017, in a few days I hope… life has been making me wait a little longer lately.

Miles: 1.5

— Linus

 

Last Hike of 2015 – The Year in Review

Trail along Sugar Hollow Pond

Trail along Sugar Hollow Pond

I can’t believe it’s almost 2016. What a year of hiking! In 2014 I believe I did about 125-130 miles, and about 45 miles of it backpacking with Fielden Stream. This year I can happily say I covered 172 miles of trails, 70 of it on our backpacking trips. A total of 42 hikes which means I got out there almost every weekend!  I got our butts back up to Salisbury to finish the final sections of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut and proceeded to cover another 60 miles of that trail in New York with Fielden Stream. We even got the kids out there a few times including an overnight backpacking trip with my son. And I learned some new things this year.

Stairs from the road

Stairs from the road

I learned that my legs will really feel it if I don’t hike for 2 weeks. I learned I wanted to volunteer to keep our state trails clean and safe, and completed over 12 hours of trail work, training, and patrolling this fall with our local Appalachian Mountain Club chapter.

I definitely learned the first spot I get blisters on my feet. I learned the names of many new mountains, up close and personal. I learned to use microspikes. I learned to use a tarp for an additional shelter. I learned what dehydration is like and to be more careful when its very hot and dry out. I learned to push my limits of comfort so that I can enjoy tougher trails. To that end I went back a few weeks ago and conquered a trail that was once too much for me. And on this last hike of 2015, I also learned that when I see a mountaintop nearby that wasn’t on my original planned hike but has a trail up it, I must summit it!

Signing trail register

Signing trail register

On this day I was connecting the Ridgefield and Danbury sections of the Ives Trail. I am enjoying this trail recently because It is closer to home than the A.T. and other major trails in the state but also provides enough challenges and views when I don’t have as much time. It’s about 20 miles long and goes through 4 towns. This hike makes it about 1/3 of the trail I’ve covered to date in day-hike sections. Possibly a teeny bit more. The out-and-backs and loops on side trails I do to keep it interesting make finishing a trail a bit longer, but definitely are a more flexible option.

I also tested some new gear and products I got for the holiday on this hike. I got a new mountain hardware baselayer shirt recently when purchasing some gifts, so that was my shirt for the day. I feel it worked really well to keep me warm but ventilated.

GU energy gel

GU energy gel

I tried a GU gel when I was low on energy and had a few climbs left. The jury’s out on that one. I mean, I’m sure it helped but I sure didn’t feel a sudden burst of energy. Maybe its more about endurance than a boost. I didn’t have many more miles to go at that point and most were downhill so I will test another time with a longer stretch ahead.

I also tried a new beef jerky that was in my stocking, which was tasty but a bit drier than some. It was good, but not my favorite. I had a tangerine with me but ate that first and was wishing I had alternated a bit to help wash down the jerky. Best and most exciting of all for me to test was my new Sony RX100 camera.

Sony RX 100 (base model)

Sony RX 100 (base model)

My new friend Rich Wanderman turned me on to the camera on an A.T. hike a month ago, and I asked Santa for one. It comes in 4 models of increasing feature sets, but I went with the basic model which has all I really need. I am sticking with the size and resolution of photos here for now despite the higher capabilities of the camera, so I don’t use up all my storage space. All these shots are from the new camera except for the product shots. Hopefully the higher quality of the camera will come through in the photos going forward. If not I will revisit the size of the images I post here so you can see more detail. Let me know! I have a lot to learn about all the camera’s abilities and just bought a book with extensive tips as the manual it came with is not very detailed! I look forward to exploring it more in depth.

View from the ridgeline

View from the ridgeline

My main goal for this hike was too make it from the base of Moses Mountain to the top of Pine Mountain where the amazing lookout is, and back again. I have been up there from the other direction before, and knew I would come back many times more. And I wanted a good view to test the camera. There was only one other person on the summit when I arrived and when he left I got to enjoy the views alone for a good 15 minutes. It’s just under 3 miles from where I began to the lookout, but as I did it as an out-and-back and also took some of the aforementioned side trails to bag some other summits for fun, I covered 6.4 miles overall.

Chimney on Pine Mountain

Chimney on Pine Mountain

The trail is named after the late local composer Charles Ives, and so the trail symbol is a G clef. As a musician myself, I appreciate the connection!  There used to be a lean-to around 1905 on the summit that Charles and his brother built, and all that remains today is the stone chimney. He would often retreat there and write music. It’s an inspiring view for sure.

Field Trip Beef Jerky

Field Trip Beef Jerky

I noticed lots of burned areas on the trees on the summit. Clearly lightning strikes are common on this summit, so something to be aware of if in a storm pattern and planning to head up there. I explored two side trails on the way back to also summit Wooster Mountain. While on the first trail I realized that I was not in fact on the trail to the summit, but instead it was the one I saw across the pass. So naturally I headed across to bag the true summit.

As I approached the top I saw a hunter outfitted in camo gear with I believe a compound bow. I was no longer wearing my blaze colors as I was overheating in it but he saw me and made eye contact so I knew I was safe to proceed to the summit and then head back. I didn’t think hunting was allowed there but after checking I confirmed it is. There’s also a shooting range at the base of Wooster Mountain.

Spotted Wintergreen

Spotted Wintergreen

Despite a system moving in, it held off and I only felt one raindrop land on me. And I was prepared with a rain layer should it have turned for the worse. This section also crosses the very busy Route 7, where people drive very fast. There is a light and crosswalk at the crossing, but just be warned, when I pressed the crossing button on the way back, at least one car saw the changing light as an opportunity to speed up and through the red light. So don’t assume that red light means you’re safe until the cars stop!

Pine Mountain Lookout

Pine Mountain Lookout

There’s a very short section of road walk before a flat section of trail along Sugar Hollow Pond to the lot at the base of Moses Mountain. Although it is flat it is scenic, as it has impressive high walls of rock on one side and a body of water on the other. And I enjoyed seeing spotted wintergreen along this part of the trail.

Now I just need to cover the rest of the Ridgefield section which is about 5 miles, and the section from Tarywile Park in Danbury to the eastern end in Redding which I’m estimating at 8 1/2 miles. Those are guesses though as its not really laid out in sections with mileage in any maps at this time as it’s a fairly new trail. I am hoping that it eventually becomes a CFPA trail and makes it into the walk book. Happy hiking in 2016! I plan to be out there again the first weekend of January if I can.

— Linus