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.