Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness

1ST HIKE – Hermit Falls, Basin Trail

It is now over a month since I returned from my New England Mountains trip. During this period, I have found it difficult to make time to think and post about the trip. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, and delay will provide perspective about what’s actually worth recording about the hikes I took. This post is titled “Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness”, a convenient catch-all for three hikes I took between Sunday, August 23rd and Tuesday 25th. Two of them were in the Wilderness for most of their distance; one—the first—was entirely outside, but in the neighborhood.

That first hike was an evening dash from Basin Pond to the ridge above it. It was a dash because, in spite of my meticulous approach to gear-packing, I realized just ahead of the hike that I’d left my headlamp at home. It was in my mind that sunset would occur at 7pm, and now I’d have to be done by not much after that. The hike would involve 2.5 miles and 1,300 feet of up or down each way, so when I set out a little before 4:00, I didn’t hang about; and I set myself a turnaround time of 5:35 latest. In the end, it was comfortable. I reached a ledge just south of Rim Junction in 90 minutes and there was rewarded with the view in the first photo in the set below. Back down near Basin Pond, I remembered that sunset would actually happen at 7:30!

2ND HIKE – SPECKLED MOUNTAIN, MONDAY AUGUST 24TH

Yesterday’s opening climb had been sweaty, and today promised more of the same. Further, afternoon storms were in the forecast. Not wanting to be caught on bare summits in thunder and lightning, I set off for Speckled Mountain right after breakfast. There was no drive to the trailhead; my hike began at Cold River Campground, my base from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday morning. I walked out of the campground, over the state line into Maine, past the Brickett Place (a historic farmstead), and soon entered the Wilderness. As federally-designated wildernesses go, Caribou-Speckled Mountain is small (11,236 acres/17.5 square miles), but it is wrapped in wider wild lands and civilization feels remote. For those unfamiliar, in designated wildernesses, nature is mostly left untrammeled and hiker conveniences are fewer than in, for example, a national park. This wilderness, however, did not feel much different to me than the surrounding National Forest. Good, well-marked trail took me to Speckled Mountain summit and its superb views west to the White Mountains and north deeper into Maine. This could have been the day’s highlight but, on balance, the stunted forest on the ledges of Blueberry Ridge on the return leg was more atmospheric, and its views just as good. There was a post-hike highlight too—a sweat-cleansing dunk in Basin Pond!

START & FINISH: Cold River Campground, Chatham, NH (GPS 44.265615, -71.010624).
ROUTE: Route 113 to the Brickett Place; Bickford Brook Trail to Speckled Mountain summit; Bickford Brook and Blueberry Ridge trails back to Brickett Place and home.
DISTANCE: 9.5 miles.
TIME: 6 hours (7:45am to 1:45pm)
TERRAIN: I recall the ascent (2,300 feet of elevation gain) as sweaty but steady. On the way down, the last half-mile of the Blueberry Ridge Trail was steep and required caution.
GPS TRACK:

3RD HIKE – CARIBOU MOUNTAIN, TUESDAY AUGUST 25TH

I had planned a bigger, higher climb for today, but afternoon storms were again in the forecast, this time more emphatically. The forecast was palpable too, the morning air thick beneath an oppressive overcast, and all the more so in the dense hardwood forest. There was a breeze on top of Caribou Mountain but only barely refreshing, and the views were as grand as the day would allow. Just beyond the summit, I paused on a substantial ledge with a view (eastward, I think) of gray sky and green hills. Down from the mountain, against expectations, the day brightened. It was only when I was back at my campsite that the storms came through, and brought with them the comforting pattering of rain on my tent as I rested. It was a cold front arriving and it meant that Wednesday would be a very different sort of day.

START & FINISH: Caribou and Mud Brook trails-head, Maine Route 113, (GPS 44.335940, -70.976233).
ROUTE: Caribou Trail to Mud Brook Trail; Mud Brook over Caribou Mountain and back to start.
DISTANCE: 6.8 miles.
TIME: 4.5 hours (8:00am to 12:30pm)
TERRAIN: 1,900 feet of ascent/descent, the steepest section being coming off Caribou summit.
GPS TRACK:

PHOTOS:

Day Hike Notes – NY AT: To The Hudson

AT bog bridge near NY Route 9

Almost a year ago, I realized that hiking the New York Appalachian Trail from Connecticut to the Hudson River had become a project. I admitted, though, that the project had “no target completion date; I’ll do what I can, when I can, and when I feel like it”. Well, last Friday, six months after last setting foot on the NY AT, I finally reached the Hudson. I have my friend David to thank that finishing happened even as soon as this. Section-hiking alone (and therefore on out-and-back hikes) is slow. The two NY AT sections I hiked point-to-point with David, including this last section, permitted much more rapid progress. We didn’t actually hike all the way to Bear Mountain Bridge today, an additional half-mile. I had done that section before and David, with a backpacking trip starting the next morning, was keen to conserve his energy and feet. Bear Mountain Bridge would have made for a more climactic ending, as the old photo at the bottom of this post attests.

Anyway, I am done; and being done, I calculate that I have now hiked about 117 contiguous miles of the AT that is nearest my home (from Jug End in Massachusetts to a little beyond Bear Mountain in west-of-the-Hudson New York). That sounds derisory enough to inspire me to further hikes.

DATE: Friday, September 18th.
START: Canopus Hill Road, Putnam Valley, NY (GPS 41.387458, -73.879057).
FINISH: NY Route 9D just north of Bear Mountain Bridge, Cortlandt NY (GPS 41.322625, -73.975863).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) south.
DISTANCE: 10 miles.
TIME: 6 hours (8:30am to 2:30pm).
TERRAIN: Ups and downs on good trail, oscillating between 375’ and 900’ in elevation. The final descent to (almost) the Hudson was a steep 550 feet over about a half-mile.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Great for hiking—dry, gentle breeze, becoming sunny, 60s.
WILDLIFE: On the hike, a circling turkey vulture; on my drive home, a bobcat crossed the road in front of me! 

BREAKFAST: “Energy cold brew” coffee and cheese & bacon bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts, Yorktown Heights, NY. (I am becoming a Dunkin’ expert. My college student youngest works at one of their locations and has taught me what to order.)
LUNCH: Ham & swiss roll on White Rock (view of the Hudson substantially screened by oak forest).
UPS: A day off from computer screens; talking with David.
DOWNS: Not really a down, but this AT section is a walk in pleasant woods but lacks any highlight.
KIT: We brought rain jackets in case the forecast showers (20% chance) materialized. They didn’t.  
COMPANY: David and, until the very end, just a few other backpackers and day-hikers.

GPS TRACK:


JULY 2016 PHOTO: Looking north from Bear Mountain Bridge, Sugarloaf Hill to the right.

New England Mountains

Basin Pond, Evans Notch, White Mountains

SUNDAY – Basin Pond: I took an evening hike to the ridge that wraps around it

On Sunday, I returned from a week in the mountains of northern New England. My plan had been a hike every day that was also a climb, and I made a list of five summits to aim for. In the end, I climbed only one of them. No worries, I scaled five that were not on the list!

For my first three nights I stayed at Cold River Campground (rustic, tranquil) south of Evans Notch on the Maine-New Hampshire line. I set out from Cold River for Speckled Mountain (Monday) and Caribou Mountain (Tuesday). These modest summits are the highest in Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, a federally designated wilds on the Maine side of the line.

On Wednesday, I moved west to Crawford Notch, taking in mounts Eisenhower and Franklin on the way. These are Presidential Range summits and not modest at all, at least not on a New England scale. (Ben Franklin, of course, was never President but who would begrudge him a Presidential peak?)

The Presidential Range trails were not crowded exactly, but they were trafficked, and the following day I headed to a little visited part of the White Mountains, following deserted trails to a ledge named Owls Cliff.

On the final day of a hiking trip, I would not normally leave the White Mountains to drive 100 miles west to a mountain in Vermont. But since my plan for the weekend was to see my youngest in Burlington, Mount Hunger was conveniently located and involved a conveniently short—if quite steep—trek to its summit. So Mount Hunger is where my hiking week ended. I couldn’t really have chosen a better place—the Green Mountains all around, the Adirondacks visible off to the west, the Whites far away in the east.

Over the coming weeks, I will post about these New England mountain hikes in greater detail. For now, this post contains a photograph for each day, Sunday (top) to Friday.

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MONDAY – On Speckled Mountain: Mt Washington faintly visible (far distance, just left of center)

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TUESDAY – Entering the Wilderness

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WEDNESDAY – Presidential Range from Mt Eisenhower (right to left in/touching cloud, Washington, Adams, Jefferson)

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THURSDAY – Swift River, start and finish of the hike to Owls Cliff

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FRIDAY – Mount Mansfield (right of picture, with ski runs) from Mount Hunger

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Mountain Loop

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Swampy brook beneath Mohawk Mountain

Sunday was forecast to be the hottest day of the summer so far, temperatures heading into the 90s by afternoon. Humid too. So this was a hike I wanted to finish by noon at the latest. Even heading into Cathedral Pines at 7:30am, the air was anything but fresh. I had wondered how to do this route so that it got easier and shadier as the heat grew. Should I walk the roads first? Should I hike clockwise or counterclockwise, go up or down the steepest section? When, from the car, I saw that Great Hollow Road seemed reasonably well shaded, I opted to climb first and finish on the country lanes.

I’m sure I was getting sticky even in Cathedral Pines; and, by the time I made it to the Mattatuck Trail and the high ground 45 minutes later, I was sweating like it was mid-afternoon. Mobbing bugs were an occasional nuisance on this stretch. Mohawk Mountain’s open summit brought a slight breeze—not a cooling breeze exactly, but welcome all the same. The descent from Mohawk, and then the relatively level ground to College Street, was in shady woods and I do not recall suffering much, hot and humid as it was. The 3.5-mile road-walk back to my car was not a torture either, but even this thin strip of asphalt radiated heat and, as the sun climbed, its shade retreated. Getting outdoors is great; air-conditioned cars can feel pretty good too.

DATE: Sunday, July 19th.
START & FINISH: Tiny parking area for Cathedral Pines, Essex Hill Road, Cornwall, CT (GPS 41.835546, -73.325444).
ROUTE: Clockwise loop: Mohawk Trail, Mattatuck Trail, College Street, Great Hollow Road, Essex Hill Road.
DISTANCE: 10.1 miles.
TIME: 4½ hours (7:30am to midday).
TERRAIN: In terms of what was underfoot, everything from asphalt to rough trail by way of woodland tracks. A generally steep start (750 feet over 1.6 miles to the junction of the Mohawk and Mattatuck trails at the top of the ski runs) yielded to easier grades over Mohawk Mountain (1,683’) and down to Mohawk Pond. The road-walk on College Street and Great Hollow Road was more down than up.
MAP: That in the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book (final Mattatuck Trail map page).

WEATHER: Sunny and hot (the 90s by afternoon), a light breeze now and again.
WILDLIFE: A doe and her fawn crossed College Street ahead of me without showing much fear.

BREAKFAST: Bagel with cheese and iced coffee, both from home, on the drive to Cornwall.
LUNCH: After the hike, I bought a sandwich in Kent and took it to Macedonia Brook to eat in the shade.
UPS: Feeling energetic on the hot, 900-foot climb to Mohawk Mountain.
DOWNS: The road-walk, although almost free of traffic, was still a road-walk—hot and harder on the ankles.
KIT: I took three liters of water and consumed two of them.
COMPANY: Sporadic, but I did have a chat with a woman as her dog bathed in Mohawk Pond.

A FEW PICTURES:

GPS TRACK:

GPS Track

A Mountain Again

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Cabin atop Red Hill, Catskills

I mentioned in a previous post that, in April, I felt unwell for a few weeks. I didn’t say it was COVID because I didn’t know. I still don’t know for certain but I’ve come to assume that it was. Either way, by May I was feeling generally fine and began thinking about a mountain hike in the near future. My ambitions, however, were set back when uncomfortable symptoms showed up on a test hike at the mini-mountain of Sleeping Giant.

In my last post, about a trek at Breakneck Pond on June 7th, I reported that my body seemed to be taking the right direction. But Breakneck Pond is not a mountain hike.

A week after Breakneck, hiking with a friend at Great Hollow Nature Preserve, I accomplished a steep, 550-foot climb without difficulty or discomfort, and this while expending much breath on talk! Still, I didn’t think that progressing directly from there to a strenuous Catskills 3,500-footer would be a good idea. But it was to the Catskills that I went next to see how I’d do on a lesser summit. I chose Red Hill, an 800-foot ascent to a fire tower at 2,990 feet. I accomplished this mission fine. The only surprise was cramps in my thigh muscles which I had never experienced before.

My youngest has her birthday on July 3rd. She is living in Vermont and we had a longstanding family plan to gather up there to celebrate both 3rd and 4th. The out-of-towners stayed at Underhill State Park. Now, the hill that the park is under is Mount Mansfield, the Green Mountain State’s highest peak (4,393 feet). I’d climbed it once before, with my youngest in fact, back when she was still a kid living at home with mom and dad.

This time, I set off up Mansfield with my eldest, soon after 6 a.m. on the Fourth of July. I won’t say it was easy (a supper the previous evening that consisted solely of Ben & Jerry’s probably didn’t help). But is wasn’t any harder than it would have been before my April illness. I climbed a mountain again; and for that, in this time of suffering, I am grateful.

GREAT HOLLOW, JUNE 13TH:

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The Hills of Great Hollow, New Fairfield CT

CATSKILLS, JUNE 20TH:

MOUNT MANSFIELD, 4TH OF JULY:

Day Hike Notes – Breakneck Pond

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Breakneck Pond

I took this hike with Katie—my eldest—and her pup, Munro. Breakneck Pond was Katie’s suggestion and a new destination for us both. On a fine Saturday in the time of COVID, I wanted to get an early start. Breakneck Pond is not much more than 30 minutes from Hartford, where Katie lives, but a longer trek from southwest Connecticut, where I live. So an early start at the trailhead meant a 4:45 rise for me—no hardship in the long light of near-midsummer.

After my health concerns at Sleeping Giant a few weeks before, I was keen to discover how comfortable this hike would be for me. Much better, it turned out. Even on the steep climb to Cat Rocks, I felt my lungs working well. If things keep going in that direction, I’ll be happy.

DATE: Sunday, June 7th.
START & FINISH: Parking area at north end of Bigelow Pond, Bigelow Hollow State Park, Union, CT (GPS 41.998711, -72.126300).
ROUTE: Counterclockwise loop of Breakneck Pond using the East Ridge, Nipmuck, Breakneck Pond View, Ridge, and unnamed trails.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles.
TIME: 4½ hours (7:30am to midday).
TERRAIN: Even following the pondside, the trails are often up-and-down, rocky and rooty. The East Ridge Trail climbs steeply, gaining a couple of hundred feet as it winds between Connecticut and Massachusetts. And easy-to-moderate hike overall.
MAP: That in the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book.

WEATHER: Beautiful early, more clouds later. Cool to begin with, rising to 60s.
WILDLIFE: A snake’s molted skin.

BREAKFAST: Katie had a bagel for me when I arrived in Hartford.
LUNCH: Skipped on the drive home (OK, and replaced with an ice cream).
UPS: Being out with Katie and Munro; beautiful Breakneck Pond.
DOWNS: Very minor, but when the wind dropped, the first mozzies of the season.
KIT: I carried bug repellant but did not use it.
COMPANY: We were mostly alone on the outward leg, and even the return leg was hardly crowded.

MORE PICTURES OF BREAKNECK POND:

GPS TRACK:

GPS Route

Day Hike Notes – Sleeping Giant Circuit

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The Giant’s Head—new tornado-improved view

Last month, on Good Friday, I started to feel unwell; not seriously unwell, but chills, aches, fatigue. I wasn’t laid low by any means, and after a few weeks I started to feel pretty good again. I resumed (masked and distanced) bike rides and began to look forward to resuming strenuous hikes too.

But I also noticed that I didn’t feel as robust as before Good Friday. Sometimes, randomly it seemed, I’d feel wiped out, or it would feel as if my lungs weren’t quite giving me enough oxygen. On the positive side, this didn’t happen when I was bike riding, even when pedaling uphill. Even so, rather than realize on some isolated peak that I wasn’t actually up to a tough hike, I decided on a test walk in a place where it would be easy to abort if necessary.

I completed my hike at the Sleeping Giant as planned and at about my normal pace. So, all good? Not really. For significant parts of my circuit of the Giant, I had that not-quite-enough breath feeling and the anxiety this caused me detracted from what would otherwise have been a perfect spring morning’s outing. I’m going to have to be patient about resuming strenuous hikes.

All Sleeping Giant posts

DATE: Wednesday, May 20th.
START & FINISH: Main parking lot at Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, CT (GPS 41.421422, -72.898580).
ROUTE: Orange trail to White trail near Hezekiah’s Knob; White to reach Blue on the Knob; Blue east to rejoin Orange; Orange to Chestnut Lane trailheads; Violet back to Start.
DISTANCE: 6.3 miles (including one navigational error).
TIME: 3¼ hours (8:15am to 11:30am).
TERRAIN: A bit of everything from smooth trail to rocks & roots. 900 feet of ascent/descent overall. The Giant is a basalt ridge and surprisingly rugged for its suburban location. The head and chin, which I did not climb today, are particularly craggy.
MAP: Color map from SG Park Association

WEATHER: Sunny and comfortable (around 60 F).
WILDLIFE: Watersnake in the Mill River.

BREAKFAST: Sesame bagel, toasted, butter and swiss (eaten in the car and just before setting out).
LUNCH: Afterwards, in New Haven, with my ICU nurse daughter—Shake Shack take-out on the Green.
UPS: Sunny woods.
DOWNS: Health issues—see above.
KIT: It was nice to set out in only two thin layers.
COMPANY: Except nearer the parking area, very little.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

GPS TRACK: Star marks Start; I walked counterclockwise.

GPS Track

Big Bend National Park—Mountains

Chisos Mountains trailhead advice

Chisos Mountains trailhead advice

More than two months after my return from Big Bend, a final post:

The Chisos Mountains are at the center of Big Bend National Park, physically and in terms of visitor popularity. They are, incidentally, the only US mountain range contained entirely within a national park, or so I was told. Throughout my stay in Big Bend, I based myself in the mountains, near the amenities of Chisos Basin. When I hiked in the desert and beside the Rio Grande, I drove down from the mountains to do so.

Of course, I also hiked in the Chisos. On the afternoon of the day of my arrival in Big Bend, tired and unsettled from my journey, I sought to restore body and mind on the Lost Mine Trail. It proved a good introduction to the Chisos. The physical trail was excellent, popular, and led to one spectacular view after another. My few hours on Lost Mine (2.3 miles each way, a thousand feet up then down) did not entirely “defrazzle” me, but they set me on the right path.

A FEW PICTURES FROM LOST MINE TRAIL:

Three days later, Wednesday dawned rather cold. Camped in Chisos Basin at 5,000 feet, I was snug enough in my sleeping bags (yes, two, one inside the other). Making coffee outside was another matter, a stiff wind adding to the chill of temperatures in the low 20s. And this was the morning I planned to climb Emory Peak, at 7,825 feet as high as you can go in the Chisos! 

Normally, I’d probably scramble to make an early start, to get ahead of any crowds. This morning, I was happy to let the sun climb and heat the air a little. I set out, well bundled, about 9:30. The day never got warm but the climb and the bright sun warmed me up and kept me that way. The climb to Emory Peak (2,500 feet over five miles) was about as steady as you can get, and unfailingly pleasing on the eye. Every twist in the trail brought a new scene, whether a vast panorama or the close-up beauty of oak, pine, and juniper forest. 

The very top of Emory Peak is about the size of a parking space—a bouldery, fissured parking space. The final feet to reach it had been a scramble too, one that would be harder going down. So I felt uneasy on Emory Peak, a little wobbly and nervous for the clamber down.  I hurriedly snapped a few pictures and made my way back to terra firma.

PICTURES FROM EMORY PEAK HIKE (PINNACLES AND EMORY PEAK TRAILS):

The South Rim of the Chisos Mountains is Big Bend’s iconic place. On Friday, my plan was to pitch my tent at a backcountry campsite (reservation required) just back from the Rim and hike to the edge close to sunset. For many miles, I followed my route to Emory Peak, but then swung down into Boot Canyon instead of up to the Peak. My campsite, labeled ER1, lay off the East Rim Trail. It was a long way from ER2 and I saw or heard not a soul throughout my stay. I was delighted with ER1, a patch of dirt close to the sky in scrubby forest, its only amenity a bear box. 

About four o’clock, I set off for the Rim, expecting to find company there. But the day-hikers had gone, making for Chisos Basin before dark. I had the iconic place to myself. I’ll let the photographs below do the talking about the views. Part of me wanted to stay at the Rim until the moment of sunset. Another part thought about the 1.5-mile walk back to ER1 at dusk, just when cougars and bears become active. As it was, I was back at camp with just enough time to make supper before sundown, singing now and again to let those beasties know I was there.

PICTURES FROM SOUTH RIM BACKPACK:

Big Bend National Park—River

Rio Grande with Mexican village of Boquillas (left, middle distance)

The Rio Grande with village of Boquillas, Mexico (middle distance, left)

Before my trip, I didn’t have any expectations for the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park; no image of it. I certainly did not anticipate its beauty. The country the Grande flows through is, of course, huge and rugged; but the river itself, modest though it is, has fine qualities too. I liked its slow, olive-green waters; its barren gravelbars; and the varied greenery that prospers here and there along its banks.

The Rio Grande, of course, is a border, but there is little evidence of this in Big Bend. The emotion and the hardship are elsewhere. I was told there are hidden cameras and sensors along the river trails, but all I saw were painted walking sticks and trinkets left on the Texas bank to be purchased on the honor system, the villagers of Boquillas in Coahuila crossing the river at a quiet moment to collect the proceeds. (Crossing would not be difficult; the Grande is no bigger in Big Bend than the Saugatuck River at Westport, Connecticut.)

What follows is a description of a hike at Hot Springs Canyon and notes on short walks at two other canyons, both justifiably popular.

Hot Springs Canyon Rim
(February 25th; 6 miles roundtrip in about 3 hours, excluding stops; sunny, low 60s but feeling much warmer)

I started at the eastern end of the Hot Springs Canyon Rim Trail and marched west to the “Hot Springs Historic District” before retracing my steps. You could equally do the reverse. Going east-west, the trail first climbs away from the Rio Grande, loops back to a superb overlook, and then swings deeper into the desert. At two miles, it returns to the river and descends to the hot springs and, close by, the ruined buildings of the historic district. The trail is throughout good and the elevation changes modest. The only “nuisance” of my hike was a fierce sun, and this on a cool February day; I cannot imagine what this walk would be like in July.

That superb overlook: It looks out over Hot Springs Canyon, through which flows the Rio Grande. Half the view is Mexico, half the United States. On neither side is there much sign of civilization, just cliffs, plateaus, scrub, and of course that beautiful river. (See pictures for views.)

I didn’t choose this hike because of the hot springs and didn’t even know if you could dip in them. Even if you could, I had no swimming shorts. When I reached the springs, they were a riverside pool in what looked like the flooded foundations of a ruined hut. But they were busy and I hiked on to lunch in the shade of a huge tree opposite the old Langford post office. Starting on my return leg, I found the springs had emptied out and noticed too the informality of the bathing attire of the few users who remained. It ranged from near fully dressed to underwear. So I stripped down to my shorts and found myself a corner of the pool; floating in warm water, sun on back, Mexico just across the modest river—not bad at all.

Boquillas Canyon: I loved this place. I arrived early to avoid the crowds I feared, and met only a silent couple and a mounted Mexican from the village of Boquillas who was looking for his burros that had strayed across the border. (Yes, I know this sounds like a cliché, but it happened and we had a nice chat. I discovered later, by the way, that he is quite within his rights to cross the border for this purpose.)

Santa Elena Canyon: This canyon lies 66½ road miles from Boquillas Canyon. I visited Santa Elena in the afternoon of a different day. Even with the greater company of the hour, I found solitude enough to soak in the cool and the calm. Santa Elena is every bit as beautiful as Boquillas, and both must change their light and mood by the hour. It would be wonderful to be able to experience that.

Day Hike Notes – NY AT: South and North from Dennytown Road

A ledgy stretch of AT

A ledgy stretch of AT

When I returned from Texas on March 1st, coronavirus was only marginally on my mind, and that mainly from catching up on the news on my homeward flights. A couple of weeks later, I took a hike with my eldest and her dog. By then, people were hoarding and things were being cancelled, but it didn’t seem that the virus was affecting the outdoors.

This hike in Fahnestock State Park and adjacent AT land took place soon after Connecticut and New York issued “stay home” orders  that nonetheless permitted non-contact outdoor activities. It was my first true coronavirus trek. Until midday, the only change from my usual routine that this spurred was that, not knowing what I would find open, I brought along my own breakfast. By the afternoon (see notes), it was becoming clear that the virus was now affecting the outdoors. I hope this won’t mean that it too will be closed down.

I have now walked about 41 of the 52 AT miles between the Connecticut line and the Hudson River, many of them twice!

DATE: Sunday, March 22nd.
START & FINISH: Hiker parking on Dennytown Road, Putnam Valley, NY (GPS 41.420565, -73.868961).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) to Canopus Hill Road (south) and back, then to Sunk Mine Road (north) and back.
DISTANCE: 10¼ miles.
TIME: 5¾ hours (8:15am to 2pm).
TERRAIN: Mostly gentle ups and downs on good trail. To my surprise, my GPS says I climbed a cumulative 1,615 feet.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Sunny but cool (20s to about 40).
WILDLIFE: A squirrel, a gliding turkey vulture, that’s about it.

BREAKFAST: At home and in the car—coffee and sesame bagel.
LUNCH: In my car between the south hike and the north hike—swiss cheese baguette, wasabi & soy almonds.
UPS: An enjoyable, socially distanced chat with a party of four walkers about—what else?—the coronavirus, and in particular whether, by being out, we were a risk to ourselves or others.
DOWNS: By afternoon, it was clear that people were flocking into Fahnestock State Park in much greater numbers than normal. Most passing on the trail occurred at a suitable distance, but I can’t say this was always the case.
KIT: I switched from warm skull cap to baseball cap at lunchtime as the day warmed (a bit).
COMPANY: Almost none on the south hike, lots on the north hike.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES: