McWilliams is not taking a hike—yet

Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie Sunset, west of Cleveland

Oh dear, a month has passed since I posted and almost as long since I hiked.

The main culprit has been work, but there was also a lightning trip to Ohio to see in-laws and a friend’s visit from the UK. The Ohio trip did not involve any hiking, but it did yield a memorable Lake Erie sunset which I am happy to share here.

My last hike was a quick loop at Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted CT at the end of July. The outing provided raw material for August’s Taking a Hike column:

The View from Peoples State Forest at Hersam Acorn Arts & Leisure.

I never got around to posting July’s Taking a Hike either. Here it is:

A Walk on the Saugatuck Trail in The Hour.

Finally, the good news is that I do have a hiking adventure pending!

I booked an airline ticket to Reno NV for late September. I’m not going gambling; I’m planning to hike in the Sierra Nevada, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Much more about that plan to come. I can buy Cheryl Strayed red bootlaces at REI, right?

PCT Lower Echo Lake

Pacific Crest Trail, Lower Echo Lake – courtesy of Ray Bouknight–https://www.flickr.com/photos/raybouk/

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 – 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 – 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 – Peoples State Forest

West Branch Farmington River

West Branch Farmington River from the Jessie Gerard Trail

I was supposed to go hiking on Friday, but it snowed. The snow did not look from the forecast as if it would pose a problem for hiking, but it might make for a slick drive to the trailhead, so my daughter and I postponed. On Saturday, I felt restless, in need of exercise and a change of scene, so I made plans for a Sunday outing. I leafed through AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut and settled on Number 20, Peoples State Forest (compelling attributes, “strenuous” and “incredible mountain views”). I had never hiked Peoples before. It did turn out to be strenuous, but only for a half-mile, until those incredible mountain views. Thereafter, the only difficulty was a wind that caught me when I stopped to admire – and photograph – a swamp. I would surely have ended up with frostnipped fingers if I had kept my gloves off any longer than I did. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect short hike.

DATE: Sunday, March 12th.
START & FINISH: East River Road, Barkhamsted, CT.
ROUTE: Falls Cut Off, Jessie Gerard, Charles Pack, Agnes Bowen, and Robert Ross trails.
DISTANCE: A little under 5 miles.
TIME: 3¼ hours (9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.)

TERRAIN: A rough, steep climb to start, then mostly easy going. Scenery a mix of big views, attractive forest, and beautiful swamp.
MAP: Available from CT DEEP website and at the trailhead.

WEATHER: Sunny, breezy, with a p.m. high of 25 degrees.
WILDLIFE: A flight, over the swamp, of small birds I could not identify.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Torrington.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese on ciabatta, sat on a rock on the Robert Ross trail.
UPS: A perfect winter’s hiking day; cold and just enough snow – decoration not impediment.
DOWNS: Frosty fingers when the wind caught me with my gloves off.
KIT: Took microspikes, but did not need them. I did without water because it froze in the reservoir tube.
COMPANY: A runner; a friendly couple hiking together (carrying full packs to prepare for longer treks).

Swamp on the Charles Pack Trail

Swamp on the Charles Pack Trail

Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston CT – February 24th

AMC-logoJoin me if you can this Friday afternoon for an Appalachian Mountain Club CT Chapter hike in the Devil’s Den. Details from the AMC announcement below. C2C means <5 miles, fast pace, average terrain. There is no need to be an AMC member. Despite the picture, we should be snow-free.

Fri., Feb. 24. Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston (C2C). Looks as if our snow and ice will melt completely this week. Let’s take an afternoon hike in the Devil’s Den with a chance of enjoying the sinking sun on the ridge traversed by the Hiltebeitel Trail.  We’ll cover 3.5-4.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 1.5 hrs, stopping at vistas along the way. Muddy sections possible. Meet Pent Road parking area (41.237020, -73.396220) 3:45 p.m. for 3:55 sharp departure. Co-Lead welcome. Call Rob if you would like to car-pool from Rte 7 commuter parking lot next to Orem’s Diner, Wilton. Only heavy rain/snow cancels. L Rob McWilliams (203-434-0297, robert.c.mcwilliams@gmail.com).

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil's Den

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail