Day Hike Notes – Hunter Mountain

Notch Lake, Devil's Tombstone Campground, Hunter NY

Notch Lake, Devil’s Tombstone Campground – Start and Finish Point

The Catskill Mountains are over 100 miles from home. It’s hard to get an early start to a hike. I solved the problem this time by camping at Devil’s Tombstone Campground the night before, more or less right at my planned trailhead. I didn’t take much gear—1-person tent, sleeping bag & pad, pillow. It made for an easy, low-stress morning. I’d struck camp, breakfasted, and packed my day-pack in time for a 7 a.m. departure. The one drawback was no coffee, but I got over that eventually.

DATE: Friday, September 1st.
START & FINISH: Notch Lake, Devil’s Tombstone Campground, Hunter NY.
ROUTE: Devil’s Path, Hunter Mountain, and Spruceton trails to Hunter summit, then Spruceton and Colonel’s Chair trails to the Colonel’s Chair. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: 10-11 miles.
TIME: 7.5 hours, with rests and a (short) wrong turn (7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A real mix: A steep, rough 1,000-foot climb for starters, followed by much gentler grades for the next 1,000 feet. Hunter Mountain summit has flat soft trails. The 950-foot drop to the Colonel’s Chair is accomplished mostly on good, broad tracks.
MAP: AMC Catskill Mountains.

WEATHER: Sunny and cool (48 degrees on Hunter Mountain at noon).
WILDLIFE: I scared a covey of ground nesting birds, that’s about it.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: A bagel at the trailhead.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese sandwich on Hunter Mountain.
UPS: September 1st, but no bugs!
DOWNS: Hunter Mountain resort at the Colonel’s Chair must give a lot of people a lot of fun, particularly skiers. For a summer hiker, it’s an eyesore.
KIT: I could have done with gloves at times.
COMPANY: South of Hunter Mountain, a solitary backpacker; north of it, two runners and, at the Colonel’s Chair, a troop of zipliners.

Looking northwest from the Hunter Mountain fire tower —Thomas Cole Mtn, Black Dome, and Blackhead right of center

Looking northwest from Hunter Mountain fire tower —Thomas Cole Mtn, Black Dome, and Blackhead right of center

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 – Alander Mountain

DATE: Tuesday, July 4th.
START & FINISH: Mt Washington State Forest HQ, Mt Washington MA.
ROUTE: Counterclockwise loop using these trails: Alander Mtn, South Taconic, unnamed connector, Ashley Hill, and Charcoal Pit.
DISTANCE: In the 9-mile range.
TIME: Nearly 5 hours (8:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Alander summit (2,250’) is a mostly gradual climb from the starting point (already 1,700’ up). The descent off Alander was in places steep and on loose trail surface. Thereafter, trail quality was good and grades moderate, though the South Taconic-Ashley Hill connector trail was a little overgrown here and there.
MAP: NYNJTC South Taconic Trails

On Alander Mtn; summits from the right, Brace, Frissell, and maybe Bear

Looking south from Alander Mountain

WEATHER: Cool and sunny, then warm and sunny (70s).
WILDLIFE (sort of): The mountain laurel was still blooming, and there were blueberries.
MORE PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, New Milford.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese and chorizo sandwich.
UPS: Finally seeing Alander Mountain after intending to for so long.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: No DEET required.
COMPANY: A couple of joggers on Alander Mtn Trail; a couple of campers on Alander summit; a group of hikers in need of a map on the Ashley Hill Trail.

The Catskills from Alander Mountain

The Catskills from Alander Mountain

Day Hike Notes – Saugatuck Trail

Early summer on the Saugatuck Trail

Somewhere about halfway along the trail

The Saugatuck Trail is more than it once was. Not so long ago, it ran only along the west side and northern end of the Saugatuck Reservoir. In those days, I hiked it only as part of my traditional post-Thanksgiving “turkey burner”, and I hiked only about 2.5 miles of it. In 2014 a new section of the trail opened (thanks CFPA volunteers!) linking it to the Aspetuck Valley Trail in Easton. I soon walked this new section, but I did so in a group, and therefore paid more attention to my companions than to the trail. This past Sunday, I hiked the Saugatuck Trail end-to-end, starting on the new section, moving on to the middle section that was completely new to me, and ending on my familiar turkey-burner stretch. Good to be still discovering new trail so close to home.

 

DATE: Sunday, June 25th.
START: Near 1165 Black Rock Turnpike, Easton CT.
FINISH: Near 205 Davis Hill Road, Weston CT.
ROUTE: Saugatuck Trail.
DISTANCE: 10.2 miles.
TIME: 6 hours (8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Gentle grades, with some short steeper sections. Trail mostly easy underfoot.
MAP: Saugatuck-Aspetuck Trail System (from ct.gov/deep, Centennial Watershed SF).

WEATHER: Warm (high around 80) and sunny until the very end, when an unexpected shower fell.
WILDLIFE: A turkey vulture settled on a branch close above, then flapped away to show off its wingspan and plumage.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: At home.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese and chorizo on olive ciabatta, sat on a pile of sunny rocks.
UPS: Some really beautiful stretches of trail – a shaded, narrow line through fern-carpeted woods.
DOWNS: Squirting DEET in my eye; getting stung by a yellowjacket.
KIT: I was grateful for the DEET in the morning, once I learned to squirt it in the right direction.
COMPANY: Almost no hikers, but much of the trail runs close to Route 53 and Valley Forge Road. They are pretty routes, so cars and motorcycles were frequently seen and heard; bicyclists too.

Shallow pond adjoining Route 53 and reservoir

Shallow pond adjoining Route 53 and reservoir

Day Hike Notes – Avalanche Lake, Adirondacks

The heat had been building through the week. In Silver Lake Wilderness, Monday had been pleasant (60s). By the time I left the Wilderness on Wednesday, we were heading for the high 80s. Thursday was warm even atop the High Peaks. But thunderstorms came along in the evening, and Friday dawned cloudy and mild. There was still a chance of storms in the forecast, so I didn’t want to climb another mountain. I was anyway quite happy with the prospect of a valley-floor hike to end my Dacks trip. Here it is:

DATE: Friday, May 19th.
START & FINISH: Adirondack Loj, near Lake Placid, NY, Adirondack High Peaks region.
ROUTE: Trail to Marcy Dam, then trail to Avalanche Pass and Lake. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: About 8 miles roundtrip.
TIME: Hmm, 5 hours maybe? 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
TERRAIN: Under 700 feet of elevation gain on mostly good trails, so pretty easy.
MAP: Trails Illustrated Adirondack Park, 742.

WEATHER: Overcast and mild on out leg; rainy on back leg. Temperatures in lower 60s.
WILDLIFE: Nothing to note.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Oatmeal and coffee at Loj campground.
LUNCH: Trail food.
UPS: (1) Moody scenery in moody weather; (2) finding snow at 3,000 feet in May.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I got to try my new rain jacket, and like it so far.
COMPANY: A few small groups. At Avalanche Lake, I chatted with two young backpackers from Montreal. They were on their way back to the Loj after a trek deeper into the High Peaks Wilderness.

Cliffs by Avalanche Lake, Adirondack High Peaks

Looking back to Avalanche Pass from Avalanche Lake

 

Day Hike Notes – Wright Peak, Adirondacks

You-know-who on Wright Peak

On Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak in the background

In Silver Lake Wilderness I met no one in two days and two nights. At times the trail had been hard to follow. The Adirondack High Peaks, which I drove to after leaving the Wilderness on Wednesday, was quite different. Even mid-week in May, there were lots of other hikers about, and the heavily used trails were clear as day. Most of the company was good, and I was pleased to have it.

I had thought I might climb Mount Marcy again, 15 years after my only previous ascent; but the Adirondack Mountain Club ranger at the information center at Adirondack Loj said there was still snow on the way to the summit. I could have rented microspikes from him, but didn’t feel like dealing with snow even with them. He listed off summits that were snow-free, and I chose Wright Peak (4,587 feet). Thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, and it looked like a trek I could be done with before the rumbling started.

DATE: Thursday, May 18th.
START & FINISH: Adirondack Loj, near Lake Placid, NY, Adirondack High Peaks region.
ROUTE: Trail toward Marcy Dam for 1 mile, then trail up Algonquin Peak for 2 miles to Wright Peak side-trail. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: 7 miles roundtrip
TIME: 6 hours (8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A 2,400-foot climb that starts out easy and gentle, and becomes increasingly rough and steep, with some significant scrambling on the approach to the summit (butt-work on the way down).
MAP: Trails Illustrated Adirondack Park, 742.

WEATHER: Hot. Even on the windy summit, it was comfortably warm. Down below, it was in the 80s.
WILDLIFE: Nothing memorable.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Mountain House Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash at Loj campground.
LUNCH: Trail food.
UPS: Lying back on the summit and watching the clouds swirl.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: My old, damaged trekking poles did not collapse down and stow in my pack. My new ones do, and this was extremely useful on the scrambles near the summit.
COMPANY: Ascent, none; summit, 2 couples; descent, plenty.

On Wright Peak, Adirondack High Peaks

On Wright Peak