Day Hike Notes – NY AT: Nuclear Lake “Lollipop”

Nuclear Lake from the Appalachian Trail side

Nuclear Lake from the Appalachian Trail side

For many years, my habit has been to hike on Black Friday, blowing away the cobwebs after Thanksgiving and burning off any excess. This year, family schedules moved the turkey & stuffing to Friday, and my hike moved accordingly.

NYNJTC’s interactive map suggested a 12.7 mile New York AT loop starting from NY Route 22. That was a bit more than I wanted, so I shortened the lollipop stick by starting farther west/south. I parked at The Dover Oak, a thick old tree.

As for Nuclear Lake, I had hoped its name might have nothing to do with nuclear energy, let alone nuclear accidents. Not so, I am afraid. According to an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, a 1972 bang in a research facility beside the lake sent “an unknown amount of radioactive plutonium dust dispersing throughout the structure and surrounding shoreline and woods”. Cleanups followed, and the lake I found on Thanksgiving Day was attractive, and home to waterfowl not nuclear scientists.

DATE: Thursday, November 23rd.
START & FINISH: The Dover Oak on W. Dover Rd, Pawling NY.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail south to Nuclear Lake Loop Trail, then AT north back to start.
DISTANCE: 7.2 miles (5.4 on the lollipop stick, 1.8 around the lake).
TIME: 4¼ hours (8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A steep climb (650 feet) from W. Dover Rd, then level or descending on good trail to the north end of Nuclear Lake. Nuclear Lake Loop Trail (lake’s east side) had a few short rocky bits, but the AT along the lake’s west side was often broad track.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Sunny and cool (just below freezing at start, upper 30s by finish).
WILDLIFE: Squirrels; waterfowl; and I believe I heard a turkey in the woods!
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Danbury.
LUNCH: Cheese baguette, eaten on ledges overlooking Pawling.
UPS: A mostly gentle hike to a pretty lake.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I nearly forgot my gloves, and was glad I did not.
COMPANY: Later in the morning, I ran into several groups of backpackers. I assume they were using their Thanksgiving holiday to hike a section of AT. I can’t think of better weather for it as long as they carried warm bedding.

Boardwalk on the NY Appalachian Trail

Boardwalk, or puncheon, on the NY AT

Day Hike Notes – CT AT (5): Salisbury to Sages Ravine

Lions Head, CT Appalachian Trail, Mount Greylock

Mount Greylock—right of center, far distance—45 miles away in Massachusetts

Last year, Katie—my eldest daughter—and I hiked across Connecticut north-south, down the middle of the state. We covered 111 miles on 11 day-hikes between late February and early December. This year, we stuck to Connecticut’s northwest corner, hiking the 51.6 miles of CT Appalachian Trail—five hikes, early February to this one on November 4th. It has been a busy year for both of us, and even squeezing in five hikes has been none too easy. Back in February, we had notions of completing the CT AT in high summer and hiking on into Massachusetts. If we are lucky, we may still get a Massachusetts hike or two in before winter.

DATE: Saturday, November 4th.
START: CT Route 41 north of Salisbury.
FINISH: Undermountain trailhead, CT Route 41, 3mi north Salisbury.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north, Paradise Lane and Undermountain trails.
DISTANCE: 9.9 miles (6.7 A.T, 3.2 side-trail).
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 51.6 A.T. miles.
TIME: 5.5 hours (9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
TERRAIN: 1,000-foot climb to Lions Head, some easy miles, then 500-foot climb to Bear Mountain summit (2,316’). Steep descent, even scramble, off Bear Mountain’s north side, followed by easy going down to Route 41.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 3.

WEATHER: Sunny or hazy sunshine, cool-to-mild (40s to low 50s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing on the trail, but a stag trotted across Route 7 on our drive up, and another hiker talked about bears invading her Cornwall home and bull moose she had run into nearby.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and bagels, J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese sandwiches on Bear Mountain.
UPS: Great hiking weather, great fall scenes.
DOWNS: I have been feeling under the weather for a few days and, by the end of the hike, was feeling weak and drained.
KIT: Glad, once again, to have trekking poles that collapse down and stow in my pack—useful for the steep descent off Bear.
COMPANY: Katie, of course; and lots of friendly hikers, notably Jim and his dog Dexter. We gave Jim a ride back to his car at the end, and bumped into him again over coffee is Salisbury.

Mount Frissell from flank of Bear Mountain

Mount Frissell from flank of Bear Mountain

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