First Day of Spring TV Chat

On Monday, I chatted with HAN Network Arts & Leisure hosts Sally Sanders and Steve Coulter about hiking plans and ideas for the spring. It was a ramble of a conversation, touching on the Smokies and Maine, as well as hikes closer to home. I think we gave the poor guy in charge of syncing the photos to the talk a few problems. Never mind, here’s the link (chat starts at 4:05).

HAN Network Arts & Leisure, Monday March 20th

Sally, who also publishes my Taking a Hike column in Hersam Acorn Newspapers’ e-editions and website, is retiring at the end of the month. Have a happy and active retirement, Sally!

On Gregory Bald, Great Smoky Mountains NP

We discussed Gregory Bald and Great Smoky Mountains NP

Day Hike Notes – Peoples State Forest

West Branch Farmington River

West Branch Farmington River from the Jessie Gerard Trail

I was supposed to go hiking on Friday, but it snowed. The snow did not look from the forecast as if it would pose a problem for hiking, but it might make for a slick drive to the trailhead, so my daughter and I postponed. On Saturday, I felt restless, in need of exercise and a change of scene, so I made plans for a Sunday outing. I leafed through AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut and settled on Number 20, Peoples State Forest (compelling attributes, “strenuous” and “incredible mountain views”). I had never hiked Peoples before. It did turn out to be strenuous, but only for a half-mile, until those incredible mountain views. Thereafter, the only difficulty was a wind that caught me when I stopped to admire – and photograph – a swamp. I would surely have ended up with frostnipped fingers if I had kept my gloves off any longer than I did. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect short hike.

DATE: Sunday, March 12th.
START & FINISH: East River Road, Barkhamsted, CT.
ROUTE: Falls Cut Off, Jessie Gerard, Charles Pack, Agnes Bowen, and Robert Ross trails.
DISTANCE: A little under 5 miles.
TIME: 3¼ hours (9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.)

TERRAIN: A rough, steep climb to start, then mostly easy going. Scenery a mix of big views, attractive forest, and beautiful swamp.
MAP: Available from CT DEEP website and at the trailhead.

WEATHER: Sunny, breezy, with a p.m. high of 25 degrees.
WILDLIFE: A flight, over the swamp, of small birds I could not identify.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Torrington.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese on ciabatta, sat on a rock on the Robert Ross trail.
UPS: A perfect winter’s hiking day; cold and just enough snow – decoration not impediment.
DOWNS: Frosty fingers when the wind caught me with my gloves off.
KIT: Took microspikes, but did not need them. I did without water because it froze in the reservoir tube.
COMPANY: A runner; a friendly couple hiking together (carrying full packs to prepare for longer treks).

Swamp on the Charles Pack Trail

Swamp on the Charles Pack Trail

Day Hike Notes – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Zofnass Family Preserve, Eastern Loop wetland

Wetland, Zofnass Family Preserve, Eastern Loop

If 150 acres formed a square, the sides would be less than a half-mile in length. I think I’ve got that right. Anyway, it is not a big area to hike in. All the more remarkable, then, what Zofnass Family Preserve holds within its 150 irregularly shaped acres – streams, wetlands, high outcrops, distinctive boulders, and some 10 miles of trail! The Preserve sits in a quiet neighborhood too, and I do not recall the sound of traffic from nearby roads. So, maybe not exactly wilderness (the trails are too many and too well-signposted for that), but a fine open space nevertheless.

DATE: Thursday, March 2nd.
START & FINISH: Upper Shad Road, Pound Ridge, NY.
ROUTE: Pretty much the outermost trails of Zofnass Family Preserve hiking counterclockwise, and skipping the Northern Loop.
DISTANCE: 6-7 miles (counting an accidental repeated section and additional loop).
TIME: 3½ hours (1:15 to 4:45 p.m.). An afternoon hike, not a day hike.

TERRAIN: Mostly easy, but not always smooth underfoot.
MAP: From Westchester Land Trust website.

WEATHER: Sunny and breezy. High in the 40s.
WILDLIFE: Whistling and croaking amphibians in some wetlands.

BREAKFAST: At home, hours before departure.
LUNCH: Cheese sandwich in the car, driving to Pound Ridge.
UPS: Finding so much to enjoy in just 150 acres.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I need to learn how to take photographs with my phone without having to key in my passcode every time.
COMPANY: My wife, Charissa, and no one else. Charissa says she saw a woman with a dog near the start, but they escaped my notice.

Taking a Hike – The Gunks


Beside the Blueberry Run Trail, Minnewaska SP Preserve

Most months, after my column is published, I post a link to it on a Facebook group for my town. Usually, I get a handful of likes and that’s it. Having started February’s Taking a Hike saying that the Gunks (= Shawangunks = Shawangunk Ridge or Mountains) were not especially well known, I belied my own contention by generating much more “engagement” than usual – lots of likes, a couple of loves, comments, questions, even a photo. One guy said that his son is Chief Ranger at one of the Gunks preserves! Maybe those Gunks are a bigger name than I thought.

Anyway, February’s Taking a Hike:

Spring in the Gunks – in January! at Hersam Acorn.
Shawangunk Mountains worth getting to know at The Hour.

Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston CT – February 24th

AMC-logoJoin me if you can this Friday afternoon for an Appalachian Mountain Club CT Chapter hike in the Devil’s Den. Details from the AMC announcement below. C2C means <5 miles, fast pace, average terrain. There is no need to be an AMC member. Despite the picture, we should be snow-free.

Fri., Feb. 24. Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston (C2C). Looks as if our snow and ice will melt completely this week. Let’s take an afternoon hike in the Devil’s Den with a chance of enjoying the sinking sun on the ridge traversed by the Hiltebeitel Trail.  We’ll cover 3.5-4.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 1.5 hrs, stopping at vistas along the way. Muddy sections possible. Meet Pent Road parking area (41.237020, -73.396220) 3:45 p.m. for 3:55 sharp departure. Co-Lead welcome. Call Rob if you would like to car-pool from Rte 7 commuter parking lot next to Orem’s Diner, Wilton. Only heavy rain/snow cancels. L Rob McWilliams (203-434-0297,

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil's Den

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail

Day Hike Notes – CT AT: New York Line to Kent


Tenmile River, mile 3.0

Last year, between February and December, my eldest daughter and I hiked the New England Trail in Connecticut in a series of 11 day hikes. Katie and I are hoping that this hike will be the first of a series that will take us up the Connecticut Appalachian Trail to Massachusetts. The CT AT is less than half the length of the CT NET (52 miles versus 111). But it is far more rugged, and we will do well to complete it in five hikes.

There were, I think, two short sections of the CT AT that I had never touched before. One, at St Johns Ledges in Kent, is where I bailed from a north-south CT AT “thru hike” many years ago (more about that (mis)adventure in posts to come). The other was the very first section of this hike – the 0.7 miles from the New York line to CT Route 55. Nice to tick things off!

DATE: Friday, February 3rd.
START: Hoyt Road, Dover NY.
FINISH: Route 341, Kent CT.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north.
DISTANCE: 11.5 miles.
TIME: 7½ hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Varied, but often strenuous, especially where a layer of snow/ice covered steep descents. 1,000 foot elevation gain between Tenmile River and Schaghticoke Mountain, followed by a lot of up and down. A workout.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 4.

WEATHER: Cloudy, then brighter; high about 30 degrees.
WILDLIFE: Lots and lots of tracks in the snow.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, New Milford.
LUNCH: Cheddar on sourdough baguette plus bits and pieces, on Schaghticoke Mountain.
UPS: Starting on a new round of hikes with Katie.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I sometimes wheeze when exercising in cold, dry air. I have found that wearing a clava just for the first miles really helps. No problems thereafter.
COMPANY: Three dog-walkers early on, then nobody.


Unnamed summit, mile 9.5

Taking a Hike – Number 50!


Mohawk State Forest at sunrise

My January Taking a Hike column was, I realized only after its publication, Number 50. I am pleased to have delivered the column every month for over four years (I almost wrote “churned out”, but frankly too much effort goes into each article to make that true). I was never at serious risk of skipping a month either. Even when I spent long days on a work project in New York City, there was time for hikes and to write them up afterward on the commuter train. An unexpected trip to Scotland enabled an unplanned Scottish hike to write about. Even immobilized by an injured knee for two months in 2015, I found subjects to ramble on about. Anyway, here is January’s column – the first of 2017 and Number 50!

Up Mohawk Mountain, but not by ski lift at Hersam Acorn Newspapers
First Mattatuck Trail trek is a success, and a workout at The Hour


Mattatuck trailhead at Flat Rocks Road