Day Hike Notes – Breakneck Pond


Breakneck Pond

I took this hike with Katie—my eldest—and her pup, Munro. Breakneck Pond was Katie’s suggestion and a new destination for us both. On a fine Saturday in the time of COVID, I wanted to get an early start. Breakneck Pond is not much more than 30 minutes from Hartford, where Katie lives, but a longer trek from southwest Connecticut, where I live. So an early start at the trailhead meant a 4:45 rise for me—no hardship in the long light of near-midsummer.

After my health concerns at Sleeping Giant a few weeks before, I was keen to discover how comfortable this hike would be for me. Much better, it turned out. Even on the steep climb to Cat Rocks, I felt my lungs working well. If things keep going in that direction, I’ll be happy.

DATE: Sunday, June 7th.
START & FINISH: Parking area at north end of Bigelow Pond, Bigelow Hollow State Park, Union, CT (GPS 41.998711, -72.126300).
ROUTE: Counterclockwise loop of Breakneck Pond using the East Ridge, Nipmuck, Breakneck Pond View, Ridge, and unnamed trails.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles.
TIME: 4½ hours (7:30am to midday).
TERRAIN: Even following the pondside, the trails are often up-and-down, rocky and rooty. The East Ridge Trail climbs steeply, gaining a couple of hundred feet as it winds between Connecticut and Massachusetts. And easy-to-moderate hike overall.
MAP: That in the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book.

WEATHER: Beautiful early, more clouds later. Cool to begin with, rising to 60s.
WILDLIFE: A snake’s molted skin.

BREAKFAST: Katie had a bagel for me when I arrived in Hartford.
LUNCH: Skipped on the drive home (OK, and replaced with an ice cream).
UPS: Being out with Katie and Munro; beautiful Breakneck Pond.
DOWNS: Very minor, but when the wind dropped, the first mozzies of the season.
KIT: I carried bug repellant but did not use it.
COMPANY: We were mostly alone on the outward leg, and even the return leg was hardly crowded.



GPS Route

Day Hike Notes – Sleeping Giant Circuit


The Giant’s Head—new tornado-improved view

Last month, on Good Friday, I started to feel unwell; not seriously unwell, but chills, aches, fatigue. I wasn’t laid low by any means, and after a few weeks I started to feel pretty good again. I resumed (masked and distanced) bike rides and began to look forward to resuming strenuous hikes too.

But I also noticed that I didn’t feel as robust as before Good Friday. Sometimes, randomly it seemed, I’d feel wiped out, or it would feel as if my lungs weren’t quite giving me enough oxygen. On the positive side, this didn’t happen when I was bike riding, even when pedaling uphill. Even so, rather than realize on some isolated peak that I wasn’t actually up to a tough hike, I decided on a test walk in a place where it would be easy to abort if necessary.

I completed my hike at the Sleeping Giant as planned and at about my normal pace. So, all good? Not really. For significant parts of my circuit of the Giant, I had that not-quite-enough breath feeling and the anxiety this caused me detracted from what would otherwise have been a perfect spring morning’s outing. I’m going to have to be patient about resuming strenuous hikes.

All Sleeping Giant posts

DATE: Wednesday, May 20th.
START & FINISH: Main parking lot at Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, CT (GPS 41.421422, -72.898580).
ROUTE: Orange trail to White trail near Hezekiah’s Knob; White to reach Blue on the Knob; Blue east to rejoin Orange; Orange to Chestnut Lane trailheads; Violet back to Start.
DISTANCE: 6.3 miles (including one navigational error).
TIME: 3¼ hours (8:15am to 11:30am).
TERRAIN: A bit of everything from smooth trail to rocks & roots. 900 feet of ascent/descent overall. The Giant is a basalt ridge and surprisingly rugged for its suburban location. The head and chin, which I did not climb today, are particularly craggy.
MAP: Color map from SG Park Association

WEATHER: Sunny and comfortable (around 60 F).
WILDLIFE: Watersnake in the Mill River.

BREAKFAST: Sesame bagel, toasted, butter and swiss (eaten in the car and just before setting out).
LUNCH: Afterwards, in New Haven, with my ICU nurse daughter—Shake Shack take-out on the Green.
UPS: Sunny woods.
DOWNS: Health issues—see above.
KIT: It was nice to set out in only two thin layers.
COMPANY: Except nearer the parking area, very little.


GPS TRACK: Star marks Start; I walked counterclockwise.

GPS Track

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.


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.


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).


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.



GPS Track

Day Hike Notes – Mount Moosilauke, White Mountains

Moosilauke summit - snowcapped Presidential Range center, far distance; Franconia Ridge left of center, middle distance

Moosilauke summit – snowcapped Presidential Range center, far distance; Franconia Ridge left of center, middle distance

The highlights of my White Mountains trip last month were undoubtedly Mount Hight/Carter Dome (Saturday) and Mount Moosilauke (Monday). I climbed on Sunday and Tuesday too but they were lesser—if perfectly OK—outings. Since I’m in the happy position of being backed up with my posts (happy because it means I’ve done more hiking than reminiscing), I’ll post the good stuff first. This particular route up Mount Moosilauke can be divided neatly into three parts: (1) a strenuous, deep-woods climb beside Beaver Brook, (2) a gentler, mostly conifer-forest ascent to reach Moosilauke’s alpine zone, and (3) that bald mountain top. No prizes for guessing which section was the most rewarding.

DATE: Monday, October 21st.
START & FINISH: Parking area on New Hampshire 112 in Kinsman Notch (GPS 44.040195, -71.792700).
ROUTE: Beaver Brook Trail (part of the Appalachian Trail) to Mt Moosilauke and back.
DISTANCE: About 7 miles.
TIME: 7¼ hours (8:10am to 3:25pm).
TERRAIN: The toughest is at the beginning and end—a 2,000-foot ascent (on the return, descent) beside Beaver Brook that is accomplished in a mile and a quarter and which requires great care with foot placement. Elsewhere, inclines were more gradual. Moosilauke summit (4,802’) is more or less 3,000’ above the trailhead. Some “gradual” sections of trail were nonetheless rough underfoot, just jumbled boulders in places.
MAP: Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) White Mountains Map 2.

WEATHER: Perfect! Sunny, calm, and becoming mild.
WILDLIFE: Nothing of note.

BREAKFAST: White Mountain Bagel Co, Lincoln.
LUNCH: I ate on the summit and again at Beaver Brook Shelter on the way down. Usual trail rations.
UPS: The breathtaking views from the top of Moosilauke (see pictures).
DOWNS: I did not relish the long, steep descent at the end, especially as surfaces had been slickened by overnight rain.
KIT: Nothing of note—all the usual, well-used stuff.
COMPANY: Nobody until very near the summit, then a few hikers who had arrived by different routes. On the summit, I took a photo (on her phone) of an excited lady who had just climbed her first Whites 4,000-footer. On the return leg, two or three parties came up the Beaver Brook Trail.



GPS Track

Day Hike Notes – Carter Dome, White Mountains

Emerging onto Mount Hight

Emerging onto Mount Hight

This was the first of four climbing hikes I took in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last month. It was unfinished business. I’d planned to climb Carter Dome five years ago on a backpacking trip but a cold front and forecast of thunderstorms forced a change of plan. I reached the Dome (4,832 feet) this time but it didn’t prove the highlight of the hike. The summit of the Dome is mostly treed in. But the top of Mount Hight—a mile NE of Carter—is not, and there I enjoyed views that made me hungry for more.

DATE: Saturday, October 19th.
START & FINISH: Hiker parking lot on New Hampshire 16, 6.8 miles south of Gorham (GPS 44.302434, -71.221133).
ROUTE: Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails to Zeta Pass; Appalachian Trail over Mount Hight and Carter Dome to Carter Notch; Nineteen Mile Brook Trail back to Start.
DISTANCE: Just under 10 miles.
TIME: 7¾ hours (8:35am to 4:20pm).
TERRAIN: There is 3,350 feet of net elevation gain between the parking lot and the summit of Carter Dome. The descent from Carter Dome to Carter Notch is steep—1,500 feet in about a mile. Trails are uniformly rough and, today, often wet from meltwater or, higher up, icy. So, the going was tough.
MAP: Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) White Mountains Map 5.

WEATHER: Sunny and calm; just above freezing at Start.
WILDLIFE: Gray jays on Carter Dome (see pictures).

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Lincoln.
LUNCH: Tortillas with cheese sat on a bench outside Carter Notch Hut.
UPS: The scenes from Mount Hight.
DOWNS: Concentrating on every foot placement on the long descent from Carter Dome to Carter Notch.
KIT: I did not think to bring microspikes and, probably, the ice was too patchy for them to have helped much.
COMPANY: Plenty, particularly at Carter Notch where a big group had taken over the AMC hut for the weekend.


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


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.


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.



Gaia GPS Route