Day Hike Notes – CT AT (4): Falls Village to Salisbury

Rand's View, Appalachian Trail, Salisbury CT

Rand’s View, mile 40.9

I have hiked most sections of the Connecticut AT multiple times, but I know for sure that the section Katie and I hiked on Saturday had only felt my boots once before. That was 15 years ago, when I walked it in the opposite, Salisbury-Falls Village direction. I recall a heart-pounding climb up Wetauwanchu Mountain. I recall passing Billy’s View, and I recall a café in Falls Village where I ate a sandwich and drank a great deal of Diet Coke. And I remember the rain, which started at Billy’s View and didn’t give up all day. I do not remember Rand’s View, which is surprising, because Rand’s View is stunning, possibly the best view on the CT AT. I can only assume that the rain in September 2002 had blocked it out entirely. I won’t wait another 15 years before trekking out to Rand’s View again.

DATE: Saturday, July 22nd.
START: Route 7 south of Falls Village.
FINISH: CT Route 41 north of Salisbury.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north.
DISTANCE: 10.2 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 44.9 miles.
TIME: 5.5 hours (8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Easy to moderate. It is a 1,000-foot climb to Prospect Mountain, but it is achieved over 2-3 miles. Grades thereafter are mostly gently downward until a steep descent off Wetauwanchu Mountain.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 3.

WEATHER: Cloudy or hazy sunshine, warm and humid (high about 80).
WILDLIFE: Wild turkeys, a scarlet tanager.
PHOTOS: Here.

Appalachian Trail at CT Route 41

CT Route 41, mile 44.9

BREAKFAST: Sweet William’s Bakery, Salisbury.
LUNCH: Manchego and jamón sandwiches at Billy’s View.
UPS: Lots of friendly encounters with thru-hikers and others, notably a young guy from Lyons, France, dashing to Maine before his US visa expires.
DOWNS: We met a couple of thru-hikers playing music for all to hear. What are earbuds for?
KIT: Nothing to comment on.
COMPANY: Katie McWilliams, plus more casual encounters on this section than on any other.

Day Hike Notes – CT AT (3): Sharon to Falls Village

Appalachian Trail on Route 7 Falls Village Connecticut

The end, not the beginning, mile 34.7

Now don’t get me wrong, I liked our third section of Connecticut AT plenty. But compared to sections one and two it lacked variety. Section One, which Katie and I hiked in February, included a walk beside the Housatonic River. Section Two, which we hiked in April, gave us summits, cliffs, fields, and another river walk. Much of this hike, in contrast, was true “Green Tunnel”, hours of ridge walking broken with only occasional views. Admittedly, the vistas from Pine Knob and – five and a half hours later! – Hang Glider View were fine ones. Also, while this trek might have lacked feature, it had a more isolated feel than outings one and two. Everything changed at the very end; where we came down to Route 7 near Falls Village, we found feature and civilization again. And a blackening sky.

DATE: Saturday, July 8th.
START: Route 4, Sharon CT.
FINISH: Route 7 south of Falls Village CT.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north.
DISTANCE: 12.1 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 34.7 miles.
TIME: 8 hours (8:40 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.)
TERRAIN: The ups were tough in the high humidity, and there were plenty of them, particularly on the first half of the hike. After Pine Swamp Brook shelter, the ascents were less demanding.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 3.

WEATHER: Sunny, warm (high close to 80), very humid.
WILDLIFE: An owl, we think, cruising the branches.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, New Milford, once again.
LUNCH: Cheddar and chorizo sandwiches, plus snacks, at Pine Swamp Brook shelter.
UPS: Nothing in particular, everything in general.
DOWNS: None really.
KIT: 2.5 liters of water, and I was still thirsty at the finish.
COMPANY: A few day-hikers like us, and assorted AT thru- and section-hikers. We had thought we might meet thru-hikers, high summer being when Georgia-to-Mainers usually pass through CT. Did they inspire us? Not entirely!

Connecticut Appalachian Trail's Hang Glider View

Hang Glider View, mile 31.7

Day Hike Notes – CT AT (2): Kent to Sharon

On Caleb's Peak, Connecticut AT

On Caleb’s Peak, mile 15.0

Hike One of our trek up the Connecticut A.T. took place in early February. Katie and I did not expect then to wait ten weeks for Hike Two. It was, mainly, March snow that got in the way. On Friday, there was not a trace of that snow, not even a smidgen in a deep, dark crevice on a north-facing slope. This was a true spring hike – an early sunrise, signs of blossom, full brooks, and a day that felt much warmer than advertised. It also covered a pleasantly varied section of the CT AT – ridge, of course, but also cliff and riverbank. Hopefully, Hike Three will happen within a month.

DATE: Friday, April 14th.
START: Route 341, Kent CT.
FINISH: Route 4, Sharon CT.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north.
DISTANCE: 11.1 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 22.6 miles.
TIME: Just under 7 hours (8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A 600-foot climb to warm up, then relatively level until Caleb’s Peak and the scramble down St John’s Ledges. Next, a flat, five-mile river walk, followed by a slog over Silver Hill.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 4.

WEATHER: Perfect – partly sunny, then wholly sunny, high in the low 60s.
WILDLIFE: Sight and sound of woodpeckers.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Cornwall Country Market.
LUNCH: Manchego and chorizo on olive oil ciabatta at Stewart Hollow Brook lean-to.
UPS: Pretty much everything.
DOWNS: Very minor, realizing too late that the back of my neck was getting sunburned.
KIT: It was great to have, at last, poles I can collapse and stow in my pack – very useful for the scramble at St John’s Ledges.
COMPANY: Surprisingly little given the glorious weather.

Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to

Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to, mile 18.5

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

tenmile-river-sherman-kent-ct

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.
PHOTOS: Here.

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.

ct-at-schaghticoke-mountain-section

Unnamed summit, mile 9.5

Day Hike Notes – Three Lakes Trail

unfinished-beaver-work-three-lakes-trail-fahnestock

Unfinished beaver work on the Three Lakes Trail

I don’t fully understand what the beavers of Fahnestock State Park are up to. On this hike, Katie and I saw evidence of their gnashing away at some fairly substantial trunks, trees a foot and more in diameter (see photo). The trees were not right at the water’s edge either, and they were chewed only halfway through. My only guess is that the beaver will return and topple the trees so that their thinner, topmost branches end up in the pond, and there become beaver food and beaver construction materials. Clever critters if this is so. And we felt like clever critters for taking this Black Friday hike – not the brightest weather, not the widest views, but a good trek among lakes, swamps, brooks, and beaver ponds.

DATE: Friday, November 25th.
START & FINISH: Parking area beside Canopus Lake on NY Route 301, 1 mi SW of intersection with Taconic State Parkway.
ROUTE: Three Lakes Trail (blue-blazed) to Dennytown Road; return via Three Lakes again, Sunken Mine Road, and Appalachian Trail.
DISTANCE: 7-8 miles
TIME: 4.75 hours (9:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Mostly easy going, with a few short, steep-ish ups and downs
MAP: NYNJTC East Hudson Trails (Trail Map 103)

WEATHER: Cloudy, high in the upper 40s.
WILDLIFE: Evidence of beavers – gnawed trunks, dams – but no sightings.
PHOTOS: Here

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Cortlandt.
LUNCH: Pastrami sandwiches, sat on a ledge near the old Denny iron mine.
UPS: Getting a post-Thanksgiving workout.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: We took waterproofs in case, but did not need them.
COMPANY: Katie, plus a few other hikers and dog-walkers.

hidden-lake-fahnestock-state-park

Hidden Lake

Wildcat Mountain Backpack

Presidential Range from Wildcat Ridge

From left, Huntington Ravine, mounts Adams and Madison.

Yesterday, the Falling Waters Trail to Franconia Ridge had been busy, well past the tipping point for “too much company” – Columbus Day, decent weather (off the ridge), leaves to peep at down below. After we finished our hike, Katie and I decided we wanted more solitude, and we wanted to backpack. We chose, after a cursory glance at the map, the Wildcat Ridge Trail to Carter Notch Hut. Two years ago, I spent a memorable night at the hut (In and Out of the Wild River Wilderness). Now as then, the hut was in self-service season, meaning we would get a bunk, use of the stove, and none of the hullaballoo of an AMC hut in full-service mode.

It is 5.1 miles to Carter Notch Hut along the Wildcat Ridge Trail. The map showed several steep bits. Even so, after we had stepped across the stones in the Ellis River to get started at about 10:30 a.m., we thought we would reach the hut hours before sunset at 6 p.m. We climbed and scrambled steeply for an hour, enjoying magnificent views of Mount Washington to the west. The day was cloudless, and every crease in the mountain was visible in sharp focus. We reached a ledge with huge views and thought we had broken the back of the 1.9-mile climb to the first of Wildcat Mountain’s summits (romantically called E Peak). In truth, we were barely half way there.

The next section was tough for being unanticipated – short ups and downs, followed by the slow, steep slog to E Peak and, just beyond it, the top of Wildcat Mountain’s ski runs. It had taken us four hours to cover 1.9 miles. Even allowing for a long break, some shorter ones, and a water-pumping stop, it was slow progress. We met a hiker near E Peak who said that the descent to Carter Notch was steeper than the climb we had just completed. He had not attempted it himself.

After a leisurely lunch, we set off along the forested ridge, a walk of significant ups and downs over Wildcat’s rough D, C, and B summits. We reached A Peak – Wildcat Mountain proper, 4,422’ – about 4:50. Notwithstanding the intimidating prospect of the descent to come, we were elated to finally see Carter Notch and the hut nestled in it 1,100 feet directly below.

In the end, getting down to Carter Notch proved the easiest part of the day. The trail descended 1,000 feet in little over half a mile, but the footing was mostly firm and straightforward. We pushed open the door of the hut a little before sunset. Then we ate, slept, rose for sunrise, and did the whole thing again.

DATE: Tuesday/Wednesday, October 11-12.
START & FINISH: Glen Ellis Falls parking area.
ROUTE: Wildcat Ridge Trail to Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail to Carter Notch Hut and back.
DISTANCE: 10.2 mi roundtrip.
TIME: About 7.5 hours each way with long breaks.
MORE PHOTOS: Here

west-view-of-the-carter-range-from-wildcat-mountain

West view of the Carter Range from Wildcat Mountain.

Taking a Hike, Not Taking a Hike

August is three weeks old and I haven’t hit the trail yet. Katie – the eldest of my three daughters – and I had penciled in a Friday for Day Eight of our hike to Long Island Sound on the New England Trail, but I postponed at the last minute. I had to have a tooth pulled; I was (am) busy with a work project; and the weather looked lousy too (very hot, humid, thundery). If we are lucky, the dog days will be over by the time we resume our trek. Mounts Higby and Beseck await.

I also have a plan to backpack in the Adirondacks, but that also will have to wait until the work project is done. It could end up squeezed against a plan to hit New Hampshire’s Whites in October. It’s great to have all these outings in the offing (to which I should add an embryonic plan to join Dave Byrnes for a section of the Pacific Crest Trail next year).

For now, while not exactly deskbound (I have my bike, and maybe a short hike this weekend), I am limited to contemplating hikes and writing about hikes past. My August “Taking a Hike” column (a sweaty day in Bear Mountain State Park) was published by The Hour and Hersam Acorn. Click Beauty, history mark a sweaty summer ramble for a PDF of the print version, or Bear Mountain State Park to read online. The picture below is the “sunlit woods of small, well-spaced oak” on Dunderberg Mountain.

Woods atop Dunderberg Mtn.