Day Hike Notes – Aspetuck Valley Trail

Aspetuck Valley Trail, Connecticut

Shade, rocks, roots, twisted trunks

The most memorable part of this local hike was my logistics. I “spotted” a bike near the end of the route and rode it back to my car when the hike was done. This was a first for me. I suspect my bike would have been safe anyway, but I locked it to a tree and felt sure no one would be interested in my old, dirty helmet left hanging from its handlebars. As mentioned below, I made a couple of changes to my usual hiking gear to make bike-riding more comfortable afterward. The logistics worked well and I’ll certainly use them again. As for the bike ride, it was a breeze, especially the long downhill on Route 58! The Aspetuck Valley Trail itself is a pretty outing that fits a lot of variety into its 6.9 miles.

DATE: Sunday, August 11th.
START: Southern trailhead, Route 58, Easton CT (GPS 41.282006, -73.341421). There is a pull-off to park just south.
FINISH: Northern trailhead, Collis P Huntington State Park, Newtown/Redding CT (GPS 41.346706, -73.345383).
ROUTE: Aspetuck Valley Trail (AVT) north.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles (the AVT is 6.9 miles; I repeated the final 0.9 to get back to my bike).
TIME: 3½ hours excluding bike ride (7:30am to 11:00am).
TERRAIN: Gentle woodland trails with modest ups and downs; a mile of broad, flat track; a very short road-walk; a residential lane.
MAP: Not necessary, but the trailhead kiosks provide maps.

WEATHER: Cloudless. A cool start (50s), warming to 70s.
WILDLIFE: A bird of prey of some sort cruising the canopy.

BREAKFAST: Half a bagel in the car, half sat on a rock with the hike half-done.
LUNCH: Back at home.
UPS: Cool, sunshiny woods early on.
DOWNS: Meeting a group of fat-tire cyclists hurtling down a trail they shouldn’t have been on.
KIT: I walked in lighter boots than usual to make pedaling easier after the hike. I wore convertible pants so I could hike in longs but pedal in shorts. Surprisingly for mid-August, I wore a second layer (for the first 1½ miles).
COMPANY: None apart from DOWNS.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – Ashokan High Point

Slide Mountain from Ashokan High Point

Slide Mountain from Ashokan High Point

This was my first visit to the Catskills in a year and a half. The Catskills are just that bit too far from home to encourage frequent trips. The trailhead for this hike is a 110-mile drive each way and I had to be on the road soon after 5am to hit the trail decently early. But the Catskills are my nearest big mountain range, both in terms of elevation (up to 4,190 feet) and extent (half a Rhode Island of mountainous forest), and when my Friday opened up, I decided to make the trek. Ashokan High Point was a new hike for me. I enjoyed it, but would not rate it as highly as some of my other Catskill treks.

DATE: Friday, July 26th.
START & FINISH: Kanape Brook parking area on CR 42, West Shokan, NY (GPS 41.934993, -74.328989).
ROUTE: Ashokan High Point Trail, which is a lollipop loop. I went around the loop counterclockwise.
DISTANCE: Just under 9 miles.
TIME: 5 hours (7:45am to 12:45pm).
TERRAIN: It is a 2,000-foot, 3.6-mile climb to High Point. The first 2.6 miles are a very steady 1,000-foot ascent on a broad track; the next mile, obviously, is steeper, but still on good trail. Coming off the summit, the longer part of the loop is rough and overgrown in places, and occasionally hard to follow. I don’t think it is much used.
MAP: AMC Catskill Mountains.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm (60s early, rising to low 80s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing much.

BREAKFAST: Bagel on the road.
LUNCH: Cheese & ham baguette sat on a log near the end of the hike.
UPS: Undoubtedly the blueberry bald just beyond High Point with fine views of Slide Mountain and other peaks to the NW.
DOWNS: Pushing through brush, cobwebs, and bugs on some sections of the loop on the return leg.
KIT: A few months ago, I started recording my hikes with Gaia GPS. Gaia lets you see your route on a topographical map, which I enjoy (the track of this hike is shown below). But I have also discovered that you can import a Gaia track into Google Earth and see your route across the landscape in 3D. Very cool!
COMPANY: On my way up I met a young woman with a full-size backpack. She’d spent the night out, she said, and had felt scared. I was much older than her when I spent my first night alone on a mountainside and I had felt anxious too.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

GPS TRACK:

Ashokan High Point -- GPS

Day Hike Notes – Verkeerder Kill Falls from Awosting Reserve

Shawangunk Ridge, Sam's Point

On the Shawangunk Ridge, Sam’s Point to the right.

I arrived at Sam’s Point just before 8am, anxious to get walking! But the entrance to its ample parking lot was barred and a sign said the gate would not open until 9:00. “No parking” signs lined the approach road. I could have foreseen this issue, but I hadn’t, and now I was a little angry. Why on earth wait 3½ hours after sunrise to open a state park! Other cars were arriving too. At 9:00, the gate would be like the front door of Macy’s on sale day. This was not what I had come for at all.

I looked at my map and saw another entrance to the park about 30 minutes’ drive away. It looked very much like a back door, with “unmaintained trails” leading from it to the Shawangunk Ridge, which was my destination. I set off immediately and discovered an empty, informal, and OPEN parking area at the foot of the ridge. By 8:45, I was climbing the slope toward Lake Awosting.

DATE: Sunday, June 30th.
START & FINISH: Aumick Road, Gardiner, NY (GPS 41.675857, -74.263490).
ROUTE: Awosting Reserve trails to the Scenic Trail just south of Lake Awosting; Scenic Trail to Verkeerder Kill Falls Trail via Mud Pond; Verkeerder Kill Falls Trail 0.3 miles to the Falls. Return more or less by same route.
DISTANCE: 13.5 miles.
TIME: 6¾ hours (8:45am to 3:30pm).
TERRAIN: Long, steady climb from Start to ridge (1,300 feet over 3 miles). Although the ridge-walk is all between 1,800 and 2,000 feet in elevation, the trails are not flat and easy. There is a lot of stepping up and down and the occasional scramble.
MAPNYNJTC Shawangunk Trails, Map 104.

WEATHER: Mostly sunny; breezy; warm (heading toward 80).
WILDLIFE: Two timber rattlesnakes (see photos for one of them).

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Fishkill.
LUNCH: Sat on a ledge just after starting the return leg.
UPS: The sights on the ridge come thick and fast, from close-up flora to the distant Catskills.
DOWNS: See intro.
KIT: I should have slathered by neck in sunscreen, though no serious damage was done.
COMPANY: None until the Falls; plenty at the falls; a few conversations on the return leg.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – Macedonia Brook Loop

Macedonia Brook, blue-blazed loop

East side—a portion of the Blue trail

The last time I walked the blue-blazed loop in Macedonia Brook State Park was just after a Thanksgiving snowfall. The fallen snow made for tough walking and I took a long diversion to avoid an icy clamber. The loop was easier this time and no diversions were needed. Even so, this hike is no stroll in the state park. There are, perhaps, five significant ups and an equal number of downs. The west side has the best views and the ledges to enjoy them from.

DATE: Saturday, June 22nd.
START & FINISH: Macedonia Brook Road, Kent CT at GPS 41.760804, -73.493636.
ROUTE: Counterclockwise around the Blue trail.
DISTANCE: 6.6 miles.
TIME: 3¼ hours (11:00am to 2:15pm).
TERRAIN: The amount of up-and-down makes this a moderately strenuous hike. The NW side of Cobble Mountain involves a notorious act of gymnastics to surmount a creviced rock. However, the loop also includes some long stretches of easy walking. Gaia GPS says I ascended 1,438 feet over the course of the hike.
MAP: Available from CT Deep here.

WEATHER: Sunny and pleasantly warm (70s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing that caught my attention.

BREAKFAST: At home.
LUNCH: Cheese baguette on a ledge.
UPS: I love Macedonia Brook State Park—the brook, the tight valley, the wooded hills.
DOWNS: For some reason, an ankle was chafing uncomfortably against its sock by the final leg of the hike, maybe because, unusually, I hadn’t put on liner socks.
KIT: I got to play with a friend’s (see COMPANY below) PeakFinder App on Cobble Mountain. The app identified and named all the Catskill summits in the distance.
COMPANY: I ran into backpacking buddy Jim Liptack, plus Angela and (canine) Mindy on top of Cobble Mountain. Otherwise, Macedonia Brook was far from crowded.

GPS TRACK: Arrow marks Start.

Macedonia Brook Loop

Day Hike Notes – Mount Everett and Mount Race

Everett and Race

My Route Tracked by GPS

I enjoyed my Mount Race via Sages Ravine hike on Saturday so much that I decided to drive north again on Memorial Day to climb Race from the other direction, branching off to take in Mount Everett on the way. The last time I climbed Mount Everett was on a winter’s day five years ago. Then, the views had mostly been hidden by falling snow. Not so today!

DATE: Monday, May 27th—Memorial Day.
START & FINISH: Race Brook Falls trailhead, Route 41, Sheffield MA (42.089770, -73.411021).
ROUTE: Race Brook Falls Trail and Appalachian Trail (north) to Mount Everett; AT (south) to Mount Race; AT (north) and Race Brook Falls Trail back to Start.
DISTANCE: About 7.5 miles.
TIME: 5¼ hours (8:15am to 1:30pm).
TERRAIN: Steep ascent until above Race Brook Falls; gentler climb to AT in saddle between mounts Everett and Race at around 2,000 feet; steep again to Everett’s summit (2,602’). Climb to Race (2,365’) from saddle is gentler than that to Everett.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1509.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm (about 70 by lunchtime).
WILDLIFE: Attractive blue birds flying low in the forest. Bluebirds? I don’t know.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and bagel at J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: A sandwich on Mount Race.
UPS: Beautiful Race Brook Falls; more big views—Taconics, Berkshires, Catskills …
DOWNS: I learned on the drive up to the hike that a cousin had died suddenly in Scotland. Derek was a keen walker too and, as I hiked, I thought about him, his family, and the transience of our lives.
KIT: I sprayed the back of my shirt with Off before setting out.
COMPANY: There were plenty of hikers out.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – Mount Race via Sages Ravine

Sages Ravine

Entering Sages Ravine

I have hiked Paradise Lane Trail many times. On reaching its junction with the Appalachian Trail, I have invariably turned left—up Bear Mountain or to follow the CT-MA line west to Mount Frissell and beyond. On Saturday, for the first time, I swung right, descending into Sages Ravine and Massachusetts. I am surprised that it took me 20 years to get around to this, especially given the beauty of the ravine that unfolded—shady stands of pine, a tumbling brook, waterfalls, rock walls. Then the Appalachian Trail climbed out of Sages and, over several miles, ascended Mount Race. The views from Race were as wide and open as the scene in Sages had been tight and sheltering.

DATE: Saturday, May 25th.
START & FINISH: Undermountain trailhead, CT Route 41, Salisbury (42.028738, -73.428815).
ROUTE: Undermountain, Paradise Lane, and Appalachian trails to Mount Race. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: About 13 miles.
TIME: 7 hours (7:45am to 2:45pm).
TERRAIN: Good trails, though rocky and rooty here and there (notably in Sages Ravine). 1,600-foot net elevation gain, more considering the descent into Sages that has to be made up.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1509, rarely consulted.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm (high about 70).
WILDLIFE: Nothing that I recall.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and cappuccino muffin at J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: A sandwich, sat on a log on the return leg just north of Bear Rock Stream.
UPS: Sages Ravine; big views from Mount Race; fine weather.
DOWNS: Bugs were a minor irritant when stationary and I did apply Off mid-morning.
KIT: I am enjoying having Gaia GPS on my phone, though the novelty will surely fade.
COMPANY: Sunny Memorial Day weekend = plenty of company. It was all friendly and considerate.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Mohawk Trail-Appalachian Trail Loop

IMG_2595

Mohawk State Forest Lean-to #3

Last year, I section-hiked Connecticut’s Mohawk Trail. In my final “Day Hike Notes” post, I wrote:

One day, preferably in the fall, I would like to join Mohawk with a section of the Appalachian Trail for a 3-day backpacking trip.

Somebody picked up on that and e-mailed me: “If you are looking for company let me know. It is on my list to do some day as well.”

The somebody was Jim Liptack. I knew Jim from helping him a few times to put in rock steps on steep sections of the Connecticut AT. Jim is generous toward the AT with his time and trail maintenance expertise. Although we’d never hiked together, it struck me that Jim would be an excellent hiking companion—knowledgeable, organized, and not overly talkative. Over the winter, we gradually fixed on an April outing; not the fall, but the next best backpacking season.

I am not going to post at length about our trip; this blog already covers the Mohawk Trail and the relevant AT section. I will confine myself to some details, special memories, and a few photos.

DETAILS

DATES: Sunday, April 14th to Tuesday, April 16th.
START & FINISH: Route 7 just NW of Route 4, Cornwall Bridge CT (GPS  41.821489, -73.375709).
ROUTE: Mohawk Trail counterclockwise to AT near Falls Village, AT south back to Start.
SECTIONS:
SUNDAY: Cornwall Bridge to Mohawk Mountain (lean-to #3)—8.7 miles.
MONDAY: Mohawk Mountain to Belter’s campsite (AT)—17.3 miles.
TUESDAY: Belter’s campsite to Finish—11.6 miles.
NOTE: The lean-tos and campsites in Mohawk and Housatonic state forests require a permit, easily obtained from CT DEEP.

SPECIAL MEMORIES

  1. Jim and I hung out at lean-to #3 from 3 p.m. Sunday to after breakfast Monday. The lean-to is at about 1,400 feet and a very short walk from a grand westerly view. It was fun watching the weather change the scenes, near and far. Not long after we arrived, light rain filled the westerly view. We took a misty evening stroll into Black Spruce Bog. The night was wild—thunder and lighting, wind and rain. In the morning, the grand view was restored and refreshed (see photos).
  2. (Special for the wrong reasons.) On Monday afternoon, instead of camp in Deans Ravine, we decided to push on to Belter’s campsite on the AT. We were tired, but stopping in the ravine would make Tuesday a long day. The problem was that the additional miles to Belter’s pass over Lookout Point, strenuous enough in good weather, treacherous—up and down—on rain-slicked rocks. Except for a minute or two at the lookout itself, I did not enjoy this hill.
  3. I did enjoy Belter’s campsite. The rain had passed; we had enough daylight to set up our tents and eat dinner; and then came a long sleep as a chill wind blew through the trees outside.

PHOTOS