Day Hike Notes – NY AT: South and North from Dennytown Road

A ledgy stretch of AT

A ledgy stretch of AT

When I returned from Texas on March 1st, coronavirus was only marginally on my mind, and that mainly from catching up on the news on my homeward flights. A couple of weeks later, I took a hike with my eldest and her dog. By then, people were hoarding and things were being cancelled, but it didn’t seem that the virus was affecting the outdoors.

This hike in Fahnestock State Park and adjacent AT land took place soon after Connecticut and New York issued “stay home” orders  that nonetheless permitted non-contact outdoor activities. It was my first true coronavirus trek. Until midday, the only change from my usual routine that this spurred was that, not knowing what I would find open, I brought along my own breakfast. By the afternoon (see notes), it was becoming clear that the virus was now affecting the outdoors. I hope this won’t mean that it too will be closed down.

I have now walked about 41 of the 52 AT miles between the Connecticut line and the Hudson River, many of them twice!

DATE: Sunday, March 22nd.
START & FINISH: Hiker parking on Dennytown Road, Putnam Valley, NY (GPS 41.420565, -73.868961).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) to Canopus Hill Road (south) and back, then to Sunk Mine Road (north) and back.
DISTANCE: 10¼ miles.
TIME: 5¾ hours (8:15am to 2pm).
TERRAIN: Mostly gentle ups and downs on good trail. To my surprise, my GPS says I climbed a cumulative 1,615 feet.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Sunny but cool (20s to about 40).
WILDLIFE: A squirrel, a gliding turkey vulture, that’s about it.

BREAKFAST: At home and in the car—coffee and sesame bagel.
LUNCH: In my car between the south hike and the north hike—swiss cheese baguette, wasabi & soy almonds.
UPS: An enjoyable, socially distanced chat with a party of four walkers about—what else?—the coronavirus, and in particular whether, by being out, we were a risk to ourselves or others.
DOWNS: By afternoon, it was clear that people were flocking into Fahnestock State Park in much greater numbers than normal. Most passing on the trail occurred at a suitable distance, but I can’t say this was always the case.
KIT: I switched from warm skull cap to baseball cap at lunchtime as the day warmed (a bit).
COMPANY: Almost none on the south hike, lots on the north hike.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – NY AT: Mount Egbert

Trees in morning light, NY Appalachian trail

Trees in morning light

My New York Appalachian Trail outing two weekends ago took me to the south end of Canopus Lake, some 32 miles southbound from the Connecticut line and 20 or so to Bear Mountain Bridge on the Hudson River. But, in choosing a suitable section for David and me to trek, I’d skipped the section over Depot Hill and Mount Egbert. This short hike was intended to, partially, close that gap. With a bit more ambition I could have closed the gap entirely, but now I can look forward to revisiting Mount Egbert from the north. Maybe this weekend after the rain.

DATE: Monday, January 20th (MLK Jr. Day).
START & FINISH: Hiker parking on NY 52, Stormville, NY (GPS 41.541165, -73.732849).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) north to Mount Egbert and Morgan Stewart shelter; return by same route.
DISTANCE: 7.0 miles.
TIME: 4½ hours (9:00am to 1:30pm).
TERRAIN: Easy grades, made slightly more strenuous by a few inches of snow cover. A short road-walk to cross Interstate 84.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Clear, a little breezy, cold (low teens Fahrenheit at start).
WILDLIFE:  Abundant tracks in the snow. For some distance, I followed the tracks of one particular critter along the AT, the only creature to have passed that way since Saturday’s snowfall. It had stopped once or twice to grub for prey, dirtying the snow with soil and leaves. I thought it might be a bobcat but, after cursory googling, now suspect coyote.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and bagel bought in my hometown and consumed in the car.
LUNCH: A sandwich quickly eaten sat on a trailside boulder.
UPS: Bright winter woods and unexpectedly fine views.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: Balaclava, traction cleats.
COMPANY: Not a soul.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – NY AT: Route 52 to Canopus Lake

9/11 memorial on Shenandoah Mountain

Improvised 9/11 memorial on Shenandoah Mountain

Last fall, during an outing to the New York Appalachian Trail, I realized that hiking the NY AT from the Connecticut line to the Hudson River had become a goal—not an urgent goal, an “as I feel like it” goal. Soon after, David—a friend and occasional hiking companion—expressed an interest in joining me on a section. We didn’t make it happen last year. When we eventually settled on the first Sunday of 2020, I set about planning a point-to-pointer of decent length for still short days. This route fit the bill, even though it meant I was skipping a 7.2-mile section further north for another time. The scenery proved pleasant enough, if not spectacular, as we hiked over Stormville, Hosner, and Shenandoah mountains, and then down the side of Canopus Lake. All in all, it was an ideal route for catching up with a friend.

DATE: Sunday, January 5th.
START: Hiker parking on NY 52, Stormville, NY (GPS 41.541165, -73.732849).
FINISH: South end of Canopus Lake, Fahnestock State Park (GPS 41.452634, -73.837870).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) south.
DISTANCE: 12.1 miles according to my map, 11.5 according to my GPS. Take your pick.
TIME: 6¾ hours (8:45am to 3:30pm).
TERRAIN: Mostly easy-to-moderate going, excepting a few steep sections. GPS says we ascended 2,182 feet overall.
MAP: I forgot to bring my paper maps, but the AT is well marked and we used the Gaia GPS app to check our progress.

WEATHER: Overcast, breezy, cool (30s).
WILDLIFE: A glimpse of a bird of prey flapping in the woods.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Fishkill.
LUNCH: Sandwiches somewhere where the trail offered rocks to sit on and shelter from the wind.
UPS: Catching up with David; the view from the ledge high above the north end of Canopus Lake (my photo below does not do it justice).
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I think I brought six layers (!) but two remained unused.
COMPANY: We met very few other walkers, and those only in Fahnestock State Park (final third or so of hike).

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – On Guilder Pond

Looking into Massachusetts from Jug End

Looking N and NE into Massachusetts from Jug End—9:20am

I had been at Guilder Pond once before, a few years before I began this blog. That time, I came from the south, over Mount Everett. I don’t recall lingering at the pond, and I certainly didn’t circumnavigate it. Today, I made the pond my objective and focus. I reached it from the north, hiking in the process a few miles of Massachusetts Appalachian Trail (AT) which I hadn’t trodden before. This section begins at Jug End, the abrupt end of a ridge running north from Everett. I’m intrigued by the name. I’ve seen it said that it comes from German jugend (youth), but I’m highly skeptical of this.

DATE: Saturday, December 28th.
START & FINISH: Where the AT crosses Jug End Road, Egremont, MA (GPS 42.144443, -73.431467).
ROUTE: AT south to Guilder Pond, loop around pond, retrace steps.
DISTANCE: 8.4 miles.
TIME: 6 hours from 8:45am.
TERRAIN: A steep climb to Jug End to get the heart pumping. The ridge then ascends (via ups and downs) to reach Guilder Pond at about 2,000 feet. Today, stretches of the trail required caution on account of wet leaves, slick rock, and ice patches. The trail around the pond was tricky here and there also, particularly on the west side. Guilder Pond lies 1,200 feet above Start.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1509.

WEATHER: The forecast was for some sunshine, but hardly any materialized until the end of the hike. Temperatures were in the upper 30s, but it felt colder in the overcast and when exposed to the stiff breeze.
WILDLIFE: I saw what seemed to be an aerial dogfight between two species of bird—two larger birds, one smaller. It wasn’t clear which species was the aggressor.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and half a bagel at JP Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: I really just snacked when I felt like it, but the second half of the bagel was consumed at Guilder Pond.
UPS: The views from Jug End were good and Guilder Pond was atmospheric.
DOWNS: Spending a lot of mental energy on boot placement and still ending up on my butt on one awkward descent.
KIT: I brought traction cleats and used them on the mile or two where the ice was most abundant.
COMPANY: Two solo hikers and a pair on the return leg. The first single, a lady, said “You’re the first person I’ve seen in four miles”. “You’re the first person I’ve seen all morning,” I replied. She planned to summit Everett and descend to Route 41 on the Race Brook Falls Trail.

A FEW PICTURES:

GPS TRACK:

GPS Track

Day Hike Notes – NY AT: Dover Oak to Pawling Nature Reserve

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Near the start, looking back to West Mountain/Cat Rocks

Over the years, I’ve taken little bites at the New York Appalachian Trail—a nibble at Bear Mountain, a morsel in Fahnestock State Park. Two Thanksgivings ago, I hiked a stretch to Nuclear Lake and back. Last month, setting off from the Connecticut line, I walked to Quaker Lake. This latest hike, last Sunday, was a tidying up exercise, filling in the gap between the Nuclear and Quaker hikes. And when, after Sunday’s tidying up hike was done, I drove to Route 55 in West Pawling and tidied up some more by hiking the mile or so from there north to Nuclear Lake, I had to admit to myself that this all added up to a project.

The project is to hike the NY AT south to the Hudson River. It’s 52 trail miles from Connecticut to Bear Mountain Bridge on the Hudson. I’ve already hiked at least 16 of them. My project has no target completion date; I’ll do what I can, when I can, and when I feel like it. Section-hiking long trails alone (and therefore out-and-back) is slow, but I think a friend is interested in the next section, which might, in 12 miles, get me almost to Fahnestock.

DATE: Sunday, September 29th.
START & FINISH: The Dover Oak on W. Dover Rd, Pawling, NY (GPS 41.602817, -73.611541).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) north to its junction with Pawling Nature Reserve’s Red trail; return by same route (AT south).
DISTANCE: 9 miles, including overshooting my destination by a quarter-mile or so.
TIME: 4¼ hours (8:20am to 12:35pm).
TERRAIN: A gradual climb of a few hundred feet, followed by a bigger, steeper descent to the Swamp River and Route 22; then a 600-foot ascent to Hammersly Ridge in the Reserve. AT excellent throughout, including a boardwalk section across the Swamp River wetlands.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Perfect—sunny with a mild breeze; temperatures between 60 and 70.
WILDLIFE: An abundance of grasshoppers.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and (very good) bagel from Empire Bagels, Brewster, NY.
LUNCH: On the return leg, sat on a boardwalk bench over the swamp.
UPS: The diversity of scene—fields, woods, and swamp; a mild wind in my face.
DOWNS: Very minor—early on, taking small, careful steps on dew-slick bog bridges.
KIT: I didn’t use it today but, given how often I lie out on rocks, I packed an inflatable pillow!
COMPANY: On the out leg, I only met an elderly lady waiting at Appalachian Trail railroad station to dispense maps and information to passengers on the 9:22 arrival from Grand Central. On the return leg, more hikers were about.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

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

Big mouth and eyes, flat nose

Big mouth and eyes, flat nose

This was one of those hikes that grew out of wanting to go hiking but not having much of an idea where. Looking for ideas, I browsed my maps, this blog, and my old Taking a Hike newspaper columns. I didn’t want to drive very far but I did want something new. The New York Appalachian Trail, starting at the Connecticut line, fit the bill—an hour’s drive north but virgin path for me. Then there was the matter of what I’d hike to, so much better than just turning around at some nondescript point on the trail that just happens to be far enough. Studying the map, I noticed Quaker Lake sitting off the AT but reachable via side-trails. That, surely, would do as a target. And so it proved, the lake providing welcome sun and sky after a long forest trek.

 

DATE: Sunday, September 8th.
START & FINISH: CT-NY line, Hoyt Road, Sherman/Dover (GPS 41.641020, -73.520110).
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail (AT) south to Pawling Nature Reserve; counterclockwise loop around Quaker Lake on the Reserve’s Red and (for a short while) Yellow trails and Quaker Lake Road (dirt); return to Start on the AT (north).
DISTANCE: 12.4 miles.
TIME: 5¾ hours (8:50am to 2:35pm).
TERRAIN: A gradual climb to the Reserve, a dip down to Quaker Lake, a return to the ridge, and a steady descent back to Start—all on good, well-blazed trails.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1508.

WEATHER: Sunny and mild (upper 50s to low 70s).
WILDLIFE: The standout was a spotted fawn beside Quaker Lake Road.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and bagel at J.P. Gifford, Kent even though it was a little out of my way.
LUNCH: Propped against a pine in Pawling Nature Reserve.
UPS: A long walk in peaceful woods.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: No bug spray required.
COMPANY: Very little but, nearing the end, I met a group wearing Gaia GPS caps. Turned out one of the group worked for Gaia and kitted out the whole crew.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

GAIA GPS TRACK:

Gaia GPS Route

Day Hike Notes – Mount Everett and Mount Race

Everett and Race

My Route Tracked by GPS

I enjoyed my Mount Race via Sages Ravine hike on Saturday so much that I decided to drive north again on Memorial Day to climb Race from the other direction, branching off to take in Mount Everett on the way. The last time I climbed Mount Everett was on a winter’s day five years ago. Then, the views had mostly been hidden by falling snow. Not so today!

DATE: Monday, May 27th—Memorial Day.
START & FINISH: Race Brook Falls trailhead, Route 41, Sheffield MA (42.089770, -73.411021).
ROUTE: Race Brook Falls Trail and Appalachian Trail (north) to Mount Everett; AT (south) to Mount Race; AT (north) and Race Brook Falls Trail back to Start.
DISTANCE: About 7.5 miles.
TIME: 5¼ hours (8:15am to 1:30pm).
TERRAIN: Steep ascent until above Race Brook Falls; gentler climb to AT in saddle between mounts Everett and Race at around 2,000 feet; steep again to Everett’s summit (2,602’). Climb to Race (2,365’) from saddle is gentler than that to Everett.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1509.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm (about 70 by lunchtime).
WILDLIFE: Attractive blue birds flying low in the forest. Bluebirds? I don’t know.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and bagel at J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: A sandwich on Mount Race.
UPS: Beautiful Race Brook Falls; more big views—Taconics, Berkshires, Catskills …
DOWNS: I learned on the drive up to the hike that a cousin had died suddenly in Scotland. Derek was a keen walker too and, as I hiked, I thought about him, his family, and the transience of our lives.
KIT: I sprayed the back of my shirt with Off before setting out.
COMPANY: There were plenty of hikers out.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – Mount Race via Sages Ravine

Sages Ravine

Entering Sages Ravine

I have hiked Paradise Lane Trail many times. On reaching its junction with the Appalachian Trail, I have invariably turned left—up Bear Mountain or to follow the CT-MA line west to Mount Frissell and beyond. On Saturday, for the first time, I swung right, descending into Sages Ravine and Massachusetts. I am surprised that it took me 20 years to get around to this, especially given the beauty of the ravine that unfolded—shady stands of pine, a tumbling brook, waterfalls, rock walls. Then the Appalachian Trail climbed out of Sages and, over several miles, ascended Mount Race. The views from Race were as wide and open as the scene in Sages had been tight and sheltering.

DATE: Saturday, May 25th.
START & FINISH: Undermountain trailhead, CT Route 41, Salisbury (42.028738, -73.428815).
ROUTE: Undermountain, Paradise Lane, and Appalachian trails to Mount Race. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: About 13 miles.
TIME: 7 hours (7:45am to 2:45pm).
TERRAIN: Good trails, though rocky and rooty here and there (notably in Sages Ravine). 1,600-foot net elevation gain, more considering the descent into Sages that has to be made up.
MAP: National Geographic AT Topographic Map Guide 1509, rarely consulted.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm (high about 70).
WILDLIFE: Nothing that I recall.

BREAKFAST: Coffee and cappuccino muffin at J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: A sandwich, sat on a log on the return leg just north of Bear Rock Stream.
UPS: Sages Ravine; big views from Mount Race; fine weather.
DOWNS: Bugs were a minor irritant when stationary and I did apply Off mid-morning.
KIT: I am enjoying having Gaia GPS on my phone, though the novelty will surely fade.
COMPANY: Sunny Memorial Day weekend = plenty of company. It was all friendly and considerate.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Mohawk Trail-Appalachian Trail Loop

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Mohawk State Forest Lean-to #3

Last year, I section-hiked Connecticut’s Mohawk Trail. In my final “Day Hike Notes” post, I wrote:

One day, preferably in the fall, I would like to join Mohawk with a section of the Appalachian Trail for a 3-day backpacking trip.

Somebody picked up on that and e-mailed me: “If you are looking for company let me know. It is on my list to do some day as well.”

The somebody was Jim Liptack. I knew Jim from helping him a few times to put in rock steps on steep sections of the Connecticut AT. Jim is generous toward the AT with his time and trail maintenance expertise. Although we’d never hiked together, it struck me that Jim would be an excellent hiking companion—knowledgeable, organized, and not overly talkative. Over the winter, we gradually fixed on an April outing; not the fall, but the next best backpacking season.

I am not going to post at length about our trip; this blog already covers the Mohawk Trail and the relevant AT section. I will confine myself to some details, special memories, and a few photos.

DETAILS

DATES: Sunday, April 14th to Tuesday, April 16th.
START & FINISH: Route 7 just NW of Route 4, Cornwall Bridge CT (GPS  41.821489, -73.375709).
ROUTE: Mohawk Trail counterclockwise to AT near Falls Village, AT south back to Start.
SECTIONS:
SUNDAY: Cornwall Bridge to Mohawk Mountain (lean-to #3)—8.7 miles.
MONDAY: Mohawk Mountain to Belter’s campsite (AT)—17.3 miles.
TUESDAY: Belter’s campsite to Finish—11.6 miles.
NOTE: The lean-tos and campsites in Mohawk and Housatonic state forests require a permit, easily obtained from CT DEEP.

SPECIAL MEMORIES

  1. Jim and I hung out at lean-to #3 from 3 p.m. Sunday to after breakfast Monday. The lean-to is at about 1,400 feet and a very short walk from a grand westerly view. It was fun watching the weather change the scenes, near and far. Not long after we arrived, light rain filled the westerly view. We took a misty evening stroll into Black Spruce Bog. The night was wild—thunder and lighting, wind and rain. In the morning, the grand view was restored and refreshed (see photos).
  2. (Special for the wrong reasons.) On Monday afternoon, instead of camp in Deans Ravine, we decided to push on to Belter’s campsite on the AT. We were tired, but stopping in the ravine would make Tuesday a long day. The problem was that the additional miles to Belter’s pass over Lookout Point, strenuous enough in good weather, treacherous—up and down—on rain-slicked rocks. Except for a minute or two at the lookout itself, I did not enjoy this hill.
  3. I did enjoy Belter’s campsite. The rain had passed; we had enough daylight to set up our tents and eat dinner; and then came a long sleep as a chill wind blew through the trees outside.

PHOTOS

Day Hike Notes – Pond Mountain via the Appalachian Trail

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More than half the hike is AT

Until very recently I thought of the Appalachian Trail and Macedonia Brook State Park as separate hiking places. In Kent, CT, you could either hike the AT or you could head for Macedonia Brook. I knew, of course, that the places were close, but assumed that the lands between them were off-limits. Then, in February, I discovered Pond Mountain Natural Area which, east, nearly touches the AT and, west, bounds Macedonia Brook.

I began to think about a hike I would call “Caleb to Cobble”—a trek from Caleb’s Peak on the AT to Cobble Mountain in the state park, from views of the Housatonic River valley to a panorama of the distant Catskills. I am saving Caleb to Cobble for another day, but this hike was a step toward it. It was a varied hike—ledges above the Housatonic, a loop around a glacial pond, big views to the west from Pond Mountain.

DATE: Sunday, April 29th.
START & FINISH: CT Route 341 west of Kent (GPS 41.731220, -73.490832).
ROUTE: AT north to Skiff Mountain Road; short road-walk to Red Gate Trail in Pond Mountain Natural Area; to Pond Mountain summit via Red Gate, Pond, and Mountain trails, circumnavigating Fuller Pond. Return by same route, except replacing Pond Trail with Escarpment Trail.
DISTANCE: A little over 9 miles.
TIME: 5 hours (8:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Good trails underfoot. Ups and downs, mostly gentle. Start at 400 feet elevation, Pond Mountain summit = 1,332 feet.
MAP: For Pond Mountain, trail map picked up at Fuller Mountain Road trailhead on a previous visit. There is a different map online.

WEATHER: Overcast with showers; a little sun on the return leg. Temperatures in low 50s.
WILDLIFE: I saw a couple of white birds swooping low through the forest, then realized they were deer tails—deer bodies well camouflaged!
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFASTJ.P. Gifford, Kent—bagel & coffee.
LUNCH: Sandwich on Fuller Mountain, return leg.
UPS: At the very start I felt a surge of joy to be walking across a field in a cool breeze and rain!
DOWNS: None.
KIT: The routine stuff.
COMPANY: No-one at all.

Almost done—Macedonia Brook near start and finish

Almost done—Macedonia Brook near start and finish