More Mattabesett Trail

Since posting Day Hike Notes – Mattabesett Trail Again, Again in March, I have taken more bites at the Mattabesett’s southeastern portion—or, more exactly, two nibbles and one bite. On July 2nd, I picked up the Trail at Aircraft Road, Middletown, and hiked the 1.5 miles to Route 154. I returned to Aircraft Road mostly on the Seven Falls Loop. This was an outing of pleasant woods and impressive boulders. I hope the photo below left gives a flavor. The route also passes Seven Falls. I cannot vouch for the number of cascades or suggest that they are in any way spectacular. But I can provide a picture (below right). Water was low.


The next day, July 3rd, skipping the road section of the Mattabesett that begins at Route 154, I hiked the Trail through a fragment of Cockaponset State Forest in Haddam—Foot Hills Road to Brainard Hill Road and back, 2.5 miles each way. Again, the highlights were woods and rocks, notably the impressive outcrop called Eagle’s Beak. I saw a black bear too, crossing Brainard Hill Road, but quite some distance from me.


On August 27th, again skipping a road section (this time 0.7 miles of Foot Hills Road), I set off on the Mattabesett toward Millers Pond. Back on July 3rd, I had considered continuing on to this section in the afternoon, but the Millers Pond parking lot was crammed and I went elsewhere for a second hike. This time, I made sure to arrive at the lot bright and early, before the picnickers and paddlers. My route took me from Wiese Albert Road (in Haddam) to the Pond (in Durham), then on to Route 79 via Bear Rock—six miles one way, 12 for me.

The early-morning pond was a highlight, and so too was Bear Rock (see photos below for the views). Beyond Bear Rock, there was a surprise. The Mattabesett had been rerouted since my guide was published and, instead of taking me to Coginchaug Cave and Old Blue Hills Road, it led me directly to Route 79. I have no idea if missing the cave was a big loss.


Day Hike Notes – Mount Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail

Caps and Jefferson seen on my descent

DATE: Tuesday, June 7th, the final day of a four-day trip to the White Mountains. Sunday’s and Monday’s hikes are covered in the preceding posts. Saturday’s was a warm-up on Mount Tecumseh.
START & FINISH: Caps Ridge Trailhead (44.296734, -71.353611), Jefferson Notch Road (gravel), 7 miles NE of Bretton Woods, NH.
ROUTE: Out and back on the Caps Ridge Trail, simple as that.
DISTANCE: 5 miles according to the signage (my GPA said less).
TIME: 5¼ hours (8:00am to 1:15pm).
TERRAIN: The summit of Mount Jefferson is at 5,716 feet and the trailhead, at the height of land in Jefferson Notch, is at 3,000’. So, 2,700’ climbed in the course of 2.5 miles. Pretty easy, right? Not really. The trail involves a fair amount of scrambling and is also exposed. I would not try it when the rocks are likely to be wet or the wind fierce.
MAP: Just my Gaia GPS.

WEATHER: Sunny, breezy in places, becoming warm by my descent.
WILDLIFE: Nothing of note on the hike but, around sunset that day, a bear hurried across a forest road in front of my car.

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: I made coffee and ate some kind of breakfast (I don’t remember what) at the trailhead. Lunch happened after the hike.
UPS: Well, the summit of course (my highest yet in the Whites), but really the whole outing was a high.
DOWNS: At breakfast before setting out, the mosquitos were plentiful.
KIT: Most of this hike is out of the trees but I forgot the sunscreen! (I used a shirt as a scarf to protect the back of my neck.)
COMPANY: As I was leaving the summit, I crossed paths with a hiker on the final steps of his way up. He must have been moving fast because he caught up with me soon after, not far into the descent. We exchanged some words, then some more, and ended up descending together for a fair part of the route. Stuart was good company and his hailing originally from Great Britain gave us some additional talking points. He had moved to New Hampshire quite recently after a long sojourn in California. He is also a blogger—Trailspotting (“NH Hikes, NH Railtrails, CA Hikes, More”).


Link to Gaia GPS page:

Day Hike Notes – North Twin Mountain

Beside the Little River

DATE: Monday, June 6th, the third day of a four-day trip to the White Mountains. On the Saturday, I warmed up on Mount Tecumseh. On the Sunday, I hiked Mount Hale and Zealand Mountain.
START & FINISH: North Twin Trailhead (44.237958, -71.547375), Haystack Road (dirt), 4 miles south of the community of Twin Mountain, NH.
ROUTE: An out-and-back on the North Twin Trail. (Little River Crossings: Nearly half this hike follows the Little River. My AMC White Mountain Guide (2007 edition) says “The three crossings of the Little River on this trail are very difficult or impassable at high water; the third is the least difficult, and the first two can be avoided by staying on the east bank and bushwhacking along the river”. I discovered that (a) the crossing to the west bank is easily missed, (b) the east bank “bushwhack” is in fact a trail, albeit occasionally overgrown and faint, and (c) even without high water the third river crossing will be challenging for some if you are not equipped to paddle/wade. The stones are not conveniently placed or shaped for stepping. I used the east bank route out and back.)
DISTANCE: 8.6 miles.
TIME: 7 hours (8:15am to 3:15pm).
TERRAIN: I remember feeling, and having other hikers confirm, that the North Twin Trail is a workout. Except at the very beginning/end, and on the short summit section, the trail is rough underfoot. It climbs 3,000 feet to the 4,761-foot summit.
MAP: AMC White Mountains Trail Map #2 plus Gaia GPS.

WEATHER: Sunny, mild, calm.
WILDLIFE: Do gnat clouds on the summit trail count?

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: Breakfast was coffee and oatmeal at my campsite at Sugarloaf I (Forest Service). Lunch on North Twin was the same old same old but the accompanying view was superb.
UPS: Breaking out to the summit views after the long, treed-in slog to get there.
DOWNS: Somewhere on the return leg, I entered the state of “let’s just get this done”.
KIT: If I had brought stream-crossing footwear, I might have used it  (see ROUTE).
COMPANY: As I was enjoying alone my last view before descending, a party of four women from Massachusetts (aged 30-something to maybe late 60s) came up the trail. They had a good banter going and I was quickly and willingly sucked in, my accent proving popular.


Link to Gaia GPS page:
(The straight-line section of the GPS track beside the river on my out leg is an error caused by my closing the app for a while by mistake.)

Day Hike Notes – Mount Hale, Zealand Mountain, And More


DATE: Sunday, June 5th, the second day of a four-day trip to the White Mountains. On Saturday, I warmed up on Mount Tecumseh.
START & FINISH: Hale Brook Trailhead (44.236529, -71.486954), Zealand Road (dirt), 5-6 miles SE of the community of Twin Mountain, NH.
ROUTE: A lollipop loop with the (twisty) stick halfway through—Hale Brook Trail to Mount Hale; Lend-a-Hand Trail to the Appalachian Trail (AT) at Zealand Falls, then AT “south” to the 0.1-mile Zealand Mountain side-trail; return by AT “north” to Zealand Falls (taking in a side-trip to Zeacliff Pond), then Zealand Trail/Road back to Start.
DISTANCE: 14.5 miles.
TIME: 9¾ hours (7:30am to 5:15pm).
TERRAIN: Up, down, up, down. The first up was to Mount Hale, a climb of about 2,250’ to the 4,054-foot summit. I remember it as being steady, not overly strenuous. I recall the first down (the Lend-a-Hand Trail) as very pleasant, with good trail underfoot. The 1,000-foot climb to Zeacliff was pure Whites, steep and rough, the remaining 500 feet of ascent to Zealand Mountain, much easier. The final down was Zealand Mountain to Finish—gradual, then tough, and finally easy after Zealand Falls.
MAP: AMC White Mountains Trail Map #2 plus Gaia GPS.

WEATHER: Mostly sunny and mostly t-shirt temperatures. It was probably only in the high 50s even later in the day, but with little wind and lots of exercise an extra layer was needed only occasionally.
WILDLIFE: A fellow hiker said I might see a moose at Zeacliff Pond. It looked a likely spot but nothing showed.

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: Breakfast was coffee, oatmeal, and a little peanut butter at my campsite at Sugarloaf I (Forest Service campground). I suppose I lunched on Zealand Mountain, but it was really just the most substantial of many snacks (whole wheat tortillas smeared in peanut butter).
UPS: So many, but the views from Zeacliff were simply spectacular.
DOWNS: The bugs were a nuisance here and there, notably around Zealand Falls.
KIT: My PeakFinder app proved popular on Zeacliff outlook.
COMPANY: The AT was popular but not overcrowded, the other sections more solitary.


Link to Gaia GPS page:
Start is at the top of the map/track.

Day Hike Notes – Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee: Carvers Gap to Route 19E  

Frosty branches on Little Hump Mountain

After three moderately strenuous hikes on successive days, ending with Mount Cammerer, on the Wednesday I took a rest day and spent it very contentedly putzing around (reading, eating, dozing) at Elkmont Campground in the Smokies. As I was so engaged, park rangers kept me updated on a developing weather situation. It was a sunny, breezy day, but the wind was forecast to become fierce overnight. I resolved to make a bed in my car in case of falling timber. It was not to be. Early evening, the rangers announced a voluntary evacuation of the campground (the National Park was already closed to new arrivals) not for fear of high winds alone, but because of wildfires in the area that they were fanning. I packed up and drove to a motel across the mountains in Asheville.

On Thursday morning, I drove to Mount Mitchell and motored to its summit in rain and fog. There is nothing much special about Mitchell except that, at 6,684 feet, it is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. It was quite atmospheric though, on a murky morning with no other visitors, and I lingered long enough to hike along a ridge to a summit called Big Tom. Then, back in my car, I headed for the North Carolina-Tennessee line just west of the NC town of Elk Park.

The hike I hoped to take the next day would, as a point-to-pointer, require being shuttled to or from a trailhead, and I’d read that there were services in the area that do this. Then, soon after crossing into Tennessee, I saw Mountain Harbour Bed & Breakfast beside the road and thought it might fit the bill. It did, more than. Within a few minutes of presenting myself at their store/office I had not only booked a shuttle to Carvers Gap, but also found a place to camp, for supper and breakfast in the morning, and a spot to leave my car while I hiked.

So here we go finally, a magnificent stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee and the last of the four hikes I took in the Southern Appalachians between March 27 and April 1.

DATE: Friday, April 1st.
START: Carvers Gap (GPS 36.106480, -82.110325) on the NC/TN line 12 road-miles south of the town of Roan Mountain, TN.
FINISH: Route 19E at Mountain Harbour B&B (GPS 36.179422, -82.016569) 3.5 miles east of Roan Mountain.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) north plus a very short road-walk at the end to reach my car parked at the B&B.
DISTANCE: 15 miles.
TIME: 7¼ hours (9:30am to 4:45pm).
TERRAIN: Carvers Gap is at 5,512 feet and the finish at about 2,900 so overall this is a downhill hike. However, it is up and down, going over a number of summits, and only the final five miles are steady descent (from Hump Mountain—5,538’). The AT was everywhere good underfoot.
MAP: Just my Gaia GPS.

WEATHER: An overcast, or rather, in-the-clouds start, but becoming sunny. Breezy and icy near Carvers Gap too. Temperatures rising with time and descent, but only into the 40s.
WILDLIFE: Nothing charismatic. (I should be more attuned to the littler, less flashy creatures.)

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: An abundant, varied, and beautifully presented breakfast buffet at Mountain Harbor. Lunch on a boulder near Little Hump Mountain was, from a culinary perspective, a real comedown.
UPS: I remember feeling very lucky to be setting off in solitude from Carvers Gap toward icy balds. That high stayed pretty much intact all day.
DOWNS: Before the hike, I worried that 15 miles might set my knee aching again or worse. It did not, so I guess this is really another up!
KIT: I must have worn, or carried, the right clothing as I do not remember being either too cold or too warm at any point, despite the changing weather and elevations.
COMPANY: Just a handful of AT thru-hikers.


GPS TRACK (Click to view on Gaia)

Five New Hampshire 4,000 Footers

Last year, I admitted (Day Hike Notes – North and South Kinsman) that, after years of being a peak-list skeptic, I did now intend to climb eventually all the New Hampshire 4,000 Footers (the 48 NH mountains that have “an elevation of at least 4,000 feet and a minimum of 200 feet prominence”). Starting on Saturday June 4th, I spent four days hiking to five more summits, taking me to 26/48. For now, here is a captioned photograph for each of those summits.

I will post in more detail about two or three of these outings but only after I have posted about “the magnificent stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee” that I first said was “coming next” or “coming soon” two months ago!

Day Hike Notes – Mount Cammerer, Great Smoky Mountains

Rocks beneath the Mount Cammerer summit lookout tower

Mount Cammerer was the third of four hikes I took in the Southern Appalachians between March 27 and April 1. After the unspringlike conditions on my Virginia hikes (Old Rag Mountain, Mount Rogers), I craved a little warmth and weather that did not discourage sleeping in a tent. So, I came off the Mount Rogers trails and drove straight to the Smokies. Although, as the crow flies, the northeast Smokies are little more than 100 miles SW of Mount Rogers, when I stepped out of my car at Elkmont Campground it did indeed feel as if I had advanced a season in a matter of hours. And I slept far more soundly in my tent than I ever do in a hotel, which set me up nicely for this climb.

I have one more Southern Appalachians hike to post about, a magnificent stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. Coming soon, if not imminently.

DATE: Tuesday, March 29th.
START & FINISH: Cosby Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee (GPS 35.756168, -83.207820).
ROUTE: Low Gap Trail to Appalachian Trail (AT) at Low Gap. AT north to Mount Cammerer Trail and summit. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: 11-12 miles.
TIME: 7¼ hours (10:00am to 5:15pm).
TERRAIN: The hike starts around 2,250 feet and climbs 2,000 feet—pretty steadily, over 2.9 miles—to Low Gap. The AT then ascends to Cammerer Ridge. Mount Cammerer summit (4,928 feet) is actually a little lower than the high point of the Ridge (around 5,000’). Trail quality is everywhere very good. No scrambles.
MAP: Gaia GPS and Trails Illustrated #229

WEATHER: Overcast, becoming brighter. Mild, even warm later (a big difference from my Virginia hikes on the preceding days).
WILDLIFE: Near the finish, a rabbit (see PICTURES) darted across the trail in front of me, then lingered as I passed. It crossed my mind that it felt I might offer protection against something frightening in the forest.

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: Oatmeal at my Elkmont Campground and lunch of the usual stuff on top of the mountain.
UPS: The AT along Cammerer Ridge was idyllic—not too strenuous, smooth underfoot, occasional big views of leafing-up Smokies slopes.
DOWNS: By the summit, my right knee was definitely bothering me again. The bother was not the aching itself, which was not all that troublesome. The problem was my fear that the aching indicated bigger problems to come. I experienced some severe knee pain (other knee) 6-7 years ago and had no wish to repeat it.
KIT: By the end, just one layer, a t-shirt 😊
COMPANY: Most of the traffic, and it was not heavy, was on the AT and Mount Cammerer Trail. Low Gap Trail was very peaceful.



Day Hike Notes – Mount Rogers, Virginia

Mount Rogers is the highest summit in Virginia. Before I visited, I knew only that it was down in the southwest of the state somewhere. I let my phone navigate me to Grayson Highlands State Park from Damascus, which it did by many twists and turns, and some deep hollows and stretches of dirt road. I was impressed by the Park as I drove in. It felt high and remote, and was almost empty in bright sunshine, assailed by a frigid wind. The Massie Gap parking area held just one other vehicle.

Climbing Mount Rogers made me think of the other state high points I had visited. Rogers was my 9th and probably as enjoyable as any. For a start, it was a hike. I cannot say that I hiked, in any real sense, Clingmans Dome (Tennessee), Spruce Knob (West Virginia), or High Point (New Jersey). It was more a stroll from the parking lot. I did hike Mount Greylock (Massachusetts) but most of the people I met at the top had not. The high points of Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York were all scenic, reasonably strenuous hikes, and now Virginia definitely so.

This was the second of four hikes I took in the Southern Appalachians between March 27 and April 1. Previously: Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park. Coming next: Mount Cammerer, Tennessee, and a magnificent stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee.

DATE: Monday, March 28th.
START & FINISH: Massie Gap, Grayson Highlands State Park, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (GPS 36.633252, -81.508792).
ROUTE: Rhododendron Trail and Horse Trail North to Appalachian Trail (AT). AT “south” (in reality, here more north then west) to Mount Rogers side-trail to summit. Return by same route. On the out leg, I strayed off the AT for a short while but easily got back on track.
DISTANCE: Close to 9 miles.
TIME: 5½ hours (9:00am to 2:30pm).
TERRAIN: The hike starts around 4,650 feet, so elevation gain to Mount Rogers (5,729 feet) is modest and gradual. The trails are pretty good underfoot too, with only a few scrambles or near-scrambles. Today, there was a treacherous section at Wilburn Ridge where ice lingered abundantly where the sun hadn’t reached.
MAP: I only used my Gaia GPS.

WEATHER: Sunny, very windy at times, cold.
WILDLIFE: Not fully wild, but Grayson Highlands’ famous free-ranging ponies. According to Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, they “were introduced to the park in 1974 to prevent reforestation of the highland balds”.

BREAKFAST & LUNCH: I thought I might make a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee at the trailhead, but it was far too cold and windy for that. So breakfast was a granola bar and a few spoons of peanut butter. I ate lunch (assorted trail food) outside Thomas Knob shelter on the return leg.
UPS: The whole hike, really. It was a fine mix of balds and outcrops, rhododendrons and pines.
DOWNS: As hard as I try, I can recall none.
KIT: Despite its being spring on the same latitude as southern Spain, I wore much the same kit as I did on my winter hikes in New Hampshire, with the exception of a face-covering and microspikes (and the latter would have come in useful on a few stretches if I had put them in my pack).
COMPANY: Most notably three women from Kentucky who asked me to take their picture on the AT at Pine Mountain. They reciprocated (picture below). I met them again as they were approaching Mount Rogers and I was coming down.



Day Hike Notes – Old Rag from Skyline Drive

Old Rag Fire Road

I had hiked Shenandoah National Park’s Old Rag Mountain once before, back in 2015. It was a memorable hike, not least because it occurred in the company of a school friend I had not seen in 37 years. Mike, Lou (Mike’s partner), and I went up Old Rag from the east side of Shenandoah NP. This time, I approached from the west, from the central ridge of the Park which Skyline Drive runs along.

This hike was the first of four outings in the Southern Appalachians between March 27th and April 1st. Coming next: Mount Rogers, Virginia; Mount Cammerer, Tennessee; and a magnificent stretch of the Appalachian Trail along the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

DATE: Sunday, March 27th.
START & FINISH: Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead, Skyline Drive, Luray, Virginia (GPS 38.585811, -78.383016).
ROUTE: Whiteoak Canyon and Limberlost trails to Old Rag Fire Road. Fire Road to valley bottom, then Saddle Trail to Old Rag summit. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: 14.5 miles according to Gaia GPS.
TIME: 6¾ hours (8:00am to 2:45pm).
TERRAIN: Down, up; down, up. The out leg starts at 3,500 feet, descends to 1,900, then climbs Old Rag (3,274). The return leg is, of course, the reverse. Old Rag Fire Road—more than half the trek—is a dirt track, very easy underfoot. Old Rag is a notorious scramble approached from the NE; the westerly ascent taken on this hike is much less complicated.
MAP: Trails Illustrated, Shenandoah National Park.

WEATHER: Mostly sunny, windy, cold (low 20s at start, a few flakes on Old Rag).
WILDLIFE: Deer beside Skyline Drive on the drive up/down.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Luray. (I spent Saturday night at a Luray motel. I had planned to camp at Big Meadows in the National Park, but the blustery, frigid forecast dissuaded me.)
LUNCH: Hunkered out of the wind on Old Rag summit—tortilla with peanut butter, an apple, other trail snacks.
UPS: For seven weeks, I had been suffering from an aching knee during and after hiking. It gave me no trouble on this trek.
DOWNS: The National Park Service is now operating a ticket system for Old Rag. I knew nothing about it until I reached the foot of the mountain. There, a Park employee enquired of my ticket. I did not have one of course and immediately offered the full $1 in cash. She said everything had to be done online and I might get a signal further up the mountain. She was not officious at all and I got the impression they were really just getting out the message still. I did try halfheartedly on the mountain, but I am not good at fiddly stuff on a phone, let alone with cold hands and a very weak signal.
KIT: I took off my long johns and down jacket on the return leg in the comparative warmth of the hollow. The jacket was soon restored as I climbed.
COMPANY: Only going up and down Old Rag and, even then, not the mountain’s famous crowds. I met no one west of the valley bottom except a ranger in his truck an hour from my finish.



Day Hike Notes – Mattabesett Trail Again, Again

Aircraft Road—my turnaround point

Last spring, returning to the Mattabesett Trail after a five-year absence, I thought I might complete that summer the part of the Trail that runs from the Connecticut River to the Guilford woods. In the end, I took just the one outing on the Mattabesett last year. Last weekend, I finally went again—again. I am very glad I did. And I still have 18.4 miles to enjoy through Haddam, Durham, and Madison before reaching those Guilford Woods.

DATE: Saturday, February 27th.
START & FINISH: Brooks Road, Middletown CT (GPS 41.534664, -72.599706).
ROUTE: Out—Mattabesett Trail to Aircraft Road; back—Mattabesett Trail and blue/yellow-blazed loops. (The Mattabesett and the blue/yellow loops crisscross for much of the route, with the loops paradoxically taking the straighter line overall.)
DISTANCE: 7.9 miles according to Gaia GPS.
TIME: 4½ hours (8:30am to 1:00pm).
TERRAIN: Moderate ups and downs, posing difficulty only occasionally. A layer of ice-covered snow actually made for easy progress, with spikes of course. My GPS calculated about 850 feet of ascent/descent.
MAP: A screenshot from the CFPA Interactive Map stored on my phone.

WEATHER: Sunny, calm, cool (below freezing at start, maybe low 40s by finish).
WILDLIFE: Some sort of bird of prey rose from the ground on trail ahead of me. It was a ledgy section so I may have intruded on its hunting perch.

BREAKFAST: A gas station bear claw (sugary, but I would work it off).
LUNCH: At home afterwards, a little late.
UPS: Crunching through the snow under a sun gaining height and strength.
DOWNS: Aching behind my right knee and in some adjacent areas. Muscle strain, I think.
KIT: I shed gloves and layers as the morning warmed. I did not shed my microspikes, though.
COMPANY: A group of dirt-bikers and, later, a guy with a barky pup was the sum total. The guys on the bikes tore up a (small) patch of trail but greeted me pleasantly as I negotiated their ruts.