Taking a Hike – Shepaug Trails

"Taking a Hike" in The Hour print edition.

“Taking a Hike” in The Hour print edition.

July’s “Taking a Hike” was published last week.

I wrote about three gentle hikes above and beside Connecticut’s sleepy Shepaug River. You can find the column at The Hour (Three nice Shepaug Valley hikes) and Hersam Acorn (Easy trails near the Shepaug), or even click here for a PDF of The Hour’s printed version.

April’s column – an early spring Appalachian Trail survey – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2015: “Apr – A.T. Sharon CT” – or by clicking here).

Day Hike Notes – Regicides Trail / Quinnipiac Trail

Our Objective - Sleeping Giant from West Rock Ridge South Overlook

Our Objective – Sleeping Giant from West Rock Ridge South Overlook

This is a two-car hike, which the good fortune of David’s company allowed me to undertake (David and I last hiked together two years ago on the Herrick Trail and A.T.). We left David’s car at the Sleeping Giant, drove mine to New Haven, and set off back toward the Giant on the Regicides Trail.

A regicide is a king-killer, in this case two gentlemen who signed the death warrant of King Charles I of England, and fled to the Connecticut Colony when his son – Charles II – came to the throne. In 1661, they hid from officers of the Crown on West Rock Ridge for some weeks, and lived to die in their beds.

A Stretch of the Regicides Trail

A Stretch of the Regicides Trail

DATE: Friday, July 17th.
START: West Rock Ridge State Park, South Overlook.
FINISH: Sleeping Giant State Park, Mt Carmel Ave entrance.
ROUTE: Regicides Trail north, then Quinnipiac Trail east.
DISTANCE: 11 miles.
TIME: 6 hours (9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.)
TERRAIN: In places, rougher underfoot than we expected; a few short, steep climbs (notably York Mountain where the Regicides and Quinnipiac trails meet); the Quinnipiac Trail uses short stretches of residential streets in Hamden.
MAP: West Rock Ridge SP map for Regicides Trail; hard-copy CFPA Walk Book West maps for Quinnipiac Trail.

Our Eastern Box Turtle

Our Eastern Box Turtle

WEATHER: Sunny and warm, not too humid.
WILDLIFE: An Eastern Box Turtle (pictured).

PHOTOS: The best are built into this post.

BREAKFAST: A rushed bagel in Hamden.
LUNCH: In a stand of pines above (invisible) Lake Watrous.

Lake Watrous

Lake Watrous

UPS: Hiking over a tunnel I had so often driven through (Rte. 15 at Woodbridge).
DOWNS: Goods views from the ridge that would have been better without transmission lines (but I was glad of electricity when I got home).
KIT: Fully 3 quarts of water easily downed.
COMPANY: David, but nobody else until we hit Nolan Rd in Hamden after 8-9 miles.

Day Hike Notes – Steep Rock Preserve

The Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve

The Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve

Friday was a three-hike day, the walks united by the Shepaug River. These notes are for the first, longest outing. I’ve added a few lines about the other two walks at the end of the post.

The Shepaug River flows – dammed twice in its upper reaches – through a beautiful part of Connecticut, its course largely untouched by major routes. In the towns of Washington and Roxbury where I hiked, the river occupies a steep, wooded valley, often accessible only by dirt road. This is a pleasant contrast with the valleys of the Housatonic and the Naugatuck to the west and east, utilized by routes 7 and 8 respectively.

The hikes were all in small preserves (Steep Rock, the largest, is just under 1,000 acres). The trails were always excellent, and once even a flat dirt road. Nevertheless, the hikes combined to make about 11 miles of hill and stream, enough to clear my conscience for 4th of July barbecue.

DATE: Friday, July 3rd.
START & FINISH: Parking area at north end of Tunnel Road, Washington, CT.
ROUTE: Steep Rock Loop anticlockwise as far as footbridge / Pinney Loop; then “Orange Square” trail anticlockwise back to Steep Rock Loop; Steep Rock Loop on Tunnel Road back to start.
DISTANCE: 6.5 miles approx.
TIME: 2.75 hours (7:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.)
TERRAIN: Excellent trails, only occasionally steep (e.g. climb to Steep Rock Summit, 776 feet). Long, flat riverside stretches.
MAP: Available from Steep Rock Association website. Print in color for easier navigation!

WEATHER: Perfect.
WILDLIFE: Nothing charismatic.

PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s in New Milford (once again).
LUNCH: Not until after hike number two – a tailgate sandwich on a dirt road near Judds Bridge.
UPS: Cool morning air; carpets of pine needles; the sound of the river …
DOWNS: Vehicle use on dirt Tunnel Road (although, honestly, there were only a few, and they were respectfully driven – get over it, Rob!)
KIT: Best part was how little was involved – no raingear, no layers.
COMPANY: Almost none until the last half-mile, then plenty.

Clearing in Hidden Valley Preserve

Clearing in Hidden Valley Preserve

HIKE TWO: Hidden Valley Preserve, Van Sinderen Loop, 3.5 miles. Highlight – a riverside walk through magnificent tall, straight pines.

HIKE THREE: Battle Swamp Brook Preserve; only trail covers 1.35 miles out and back. Highlight – the little waterfalls of the brook as it flows to the Shepaug.

Heading Back to Baxter

Sunset on Katahdin Range from Sandy Stream Pond

Sunset on Katahdin Range from Sandy Stream Pond

I don’t like packing for hiking trips. I don’t care much for putting my gear away afterward either. What I do enjoy is the planning – the reading up on trails and landscape; the thinking ahead about weather, amount of daylight, challenges and risks. I am happily in that phase now.

Last weekend I completed camping reservations for Maine’s Baxter State Park, so, barring force majeure, I will be heading there in late September for a full week of day-hiking.

For anyone unfamiliar with Baxter, it sits bang in the middle of the hump of Maine, the bulge that sticks up into Canada. At 327 square miles, it is larger than Singapore, and one third the size of Rhode Island. It has no paved roads, and no permanent human inhabitants (just, to quote the park’s website, “moose, deer, bear, otter, mink, marten, fisher, weasel, coyote, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, woodchucks, snowshoe hare, squirrels, chipmunks, flying squirrels, mice, and voles”).

Stream crossing on the Wassataquoik Stream Trail

Stream crossing on the Wassataquoik Stream Trail

I have been to Baxter twice before, once with two of my daughters long enough ago that they were then seven and five years old. Even the second time – quite fresh in my memory – is now nine years back. Both times I did not stray from the southern half of the park, around the base of Katahdin, the park’s emblematic mountain that is also the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The photos in this post are from that second trip (the first predated my digital camera).

This time, I will spend three days in the north of Baxter, based at South Branch Pond. The idea is to explore the Traveler Range and the “splendid U-shaped valley running north to south from the Travelers to South Turner” (park website’s words again). The Google Earth image below shows that topography rather nicely – the foreground mountains are Center Ridge and The Traveler, the ponds are South Branch (upper and lower).

Midweek, I will drive south on the Park Tote Road to Katahdin Stream campground, and likely meet A.T. thru-hikers facing the last, steep leg of their hike. I hope to climb Katahdin again too, as well find other trails to explore in the southern half.

More Baxter posts to follow for sure.

The Traveler Range -- Google Earth

The Traveler Range — Google Earth

Taking a Hike – The Ives Trail

Ives Trail in Tarrywile Park

Ives Trail in Tarrywile Park

My “Taking a Hike” column for June describes an adventure on the Ives Trail. I think the word “adventure” applies; most of the trail was new to me, it was physically demanding, and much of the hike was figuratively – sometimes literally – off the beaten track.

The Ives Trail is not a scenic extravaganza, at least not from beginning to end. There were suburban intrusions here and there – a couple of junked cars, wire fences running through the woods, the drone of chippers. But the trail led to some surprising places. I liked in particular the deep, cool, boulder-strewn canyon between Thomas and Moses mountains. The sections over Wooster and Pine mountains are beautiful, as are some stretches in Tarrywile Park. Bennett’s Pond is a fine finale.

You can find the column at The Hour (The ups and downs of Ives Trail) and Hersam Acorn (The Ives Trail: No stroll in the park!). Enjoy.

March’s column – a snowbound Sleeping Giant – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2015: “Mar – Sleeping Giant” – or by clicking here).

Radio Arts & Leisure, June 5th

HAN RadioI took part in Radio Arts & Leisure on HAN Radio for the second time on Friday (the first time was a month ago). Thanks to Sally and Rob for having me on the show again.

Click here to access the podcast. (If HAN Radio is broadcasting, better to pause the broadcast before starting the podcast unless you are good at listening to two soundtracks at once.) I start at minute 29:30.

Topics covered included:

Hope you are enjoying a trail right now!

Spring view from the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail -- trailhead in Woodland Valley

Spring view from the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail — trailhead in Woodland Valley

Day Hike Notes – Ives Trail

The view from Pine Mountain Lookout

The view from Pine Mountain Lookout

The Ives Trail meanders 20 miles through Redding, Bethel, Danbury, and Ridgefield CT. Emphasis on meanders. Start and finish are less than three direct miles apart. Most of the meandering takes place in Danbury, where the trail loops north to take in Tarrywile Park. In Ridgefield, the trail runs through Pine Mountain open space and Bennett’s Pond State Park. The sections in Redding and Bethel are both short.

Crossing the Danbury Line, Redding

Crossing the Danbury Line, Redding

I have known about the Ives Trail for two years, but only got around to hiking it yesterday. Given the pain today in my increasingly troublesome left knee, my decision to hike the trail in one go may not have been the wisest. There are a few easy sections, but most of the Ives Trail consists of short, steep ups and downs, and some are not so short. The trail is overgrown and rocky here and there. Needless to say, it is nearly all wooded. I thought the woods themselves were best west of Route 7, on Wooster and Pine mountains, but there were rewarding breaks in the trees all along the trail. Anyway, a few notes:

Parks Pond, Tarrywile Park, Danbury

Parks Pond, Tarrywile Park, Danbury

DATE: Sunday, May 31st.
START: Opposite West Redding Post Office, Redding CT. (This is the nearest parking. The trail itself begins inconspicuously a short walk along Sidecut Rd.)
FINISH: Bennett’s Pond State Park entrance, Bennetts Farm Rd, Ridgefield CT.
ROUTE: Ives Trail, minus the Parks Pond-Ives House section in Danbury.
DISTANCE: 18-19 miles.
TIME: 9 hours (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Mostly rugged, wooded hills; trails varied from excellent to rough. Two short road walks (under one mile in total).
MAP: I carried a laminated copy of the Ives Trail Overview Map, plus maps for the Ridgefield section. It would have been useful to have had the Tarrywile Park trail map too.

Between Wooster and Pine mountains, Danbury or Ridgefield

Between Wooster and Pine mountains, Danbury or Ridgefield

WEATHER: Calm, cloudy, sticky; one heavy shower about lunchtime.
WILDLIFE: A deer, a toad, squirrels …

PHOTOS: Not a good day for photographs. The best are here in the post.

BREAKFAST: Half a cold toasted bagel on the drive to Redding, the other half in the Bethel or Danbury woods.
LUNCH: Cheddar cheese sandwich on olive and red pepper ciabatta, eaten on Moses Mountain. Why rough it just because you’re in the woods?

Bennett's Pond, Ridgefield

Bennett’s Pond, Ridgefield

UPS: Hiking a local trail that was mostly new to me. Intermittent beauty – shallow, lily-choked ponds; wildflowers in a clearing; the bouldery chasm beneath Moses Mountain; Pine Mountain lookout …
DOWNS: Having to use bug spray; bug bites anyway; humidity; a couple of trailside junked cars.
KIT: Water filter to refill my 32 oz bottle twice from brooks.
COMPANY: None for long stretches; mostly confined to Tarrywile Park.

Thunder clouds, five minutes from the end

Thunder clouds, five minutes from the end