Day Hike Notes – Aspetuck Valley Trail

Aspetuck Valley Trail, Connecticut

Shade, rocks, roots, twisted trunks

The most memorable part of this local hike was my logistics. I “spotted” a bike near the end of the route and rode it back to my car when the hike was done. This was a first for me. I suspect my bike would have been safe anyway, but I locked it to a tree and felt sure no one would be interested in my old, dirty helmet left hanging from its handlebars. As mentioned below, I made a couple of changes to my usual hiking gear to make bike-riding more comfortable afterward. The logistics worked well and I’ll certainly use them again. As for the bike ride, it was a breeze, especially the long downhill on Route 58! The Aspetuck Valley Trail itself is a pretty outing that fits a lot of variety into its 6.9 miles.

DATE: Sunday, August 11th.
START: Southern trailhead, Route 58, Easton CT (GPS 41.282006, -73.341421). There is a pull-off to park just south.
FINISH: Northern trailhead, Collis P Huntington State Park, Newtown/Redding CT (GPS 41.346706, -73.345383).
ROUTE: Aspetuck Valley Trail (AVT) north.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles (the AVT is 6.9 miles; I repeated the final 0.9 to get back to my bike).
TIME: 3½ hours excluding bike ride (7:30am to 11:00am).
TERRAIN: Gentle woodland trails with modest ups and downs; a mile of broad, flat track; a very short road-walk; a residential lane.
MAP: Not necessary, but the trailhead kiosks provide maps.

WEATHER: Cloudless. A cool start (50s), warming to 70s.
WILDLIFE: A bird of prey of some sort cruising the canopy.

BREAKFAST: Half a bagel in the car, half sat on a rock with the hike half-done.
LUNCH: Back at home.
UPS: Cool, sunshiny woods early on.
DOWNS: Meeting a group of fat-tire cyclists hurtling down a trail they shouldn’t have been on.
KIT: I walked in lighter boots than usual to make pedaling easier after the hike. I wore convertible pants so I could hike in longs but pedal in shorts. Surprisingly for mid-August, I wore a second layer (for the first 1½ miles).
COMPANY: None apart from DOWNS.

THE HIKE IN PICTURES:

Day Hike Notes – Macedonia Brook Loop

Macedonia Brook, blue-blazed loop

East side—a portion of the Blue trail

The last time I walked the blue-blazed loop in Macedonia Brook State Park was just after a Thanksgiving snowfall. The fallen snow made for tough walking and I took a long diversion to avoid an icy clamber. The loop was easier this time and no diversions were needed. Even so, this hike is no stroll in the state park. There are, perhaps, five significant ups and an equal number of downs. The west side has the best views and the ledges to enjoy them from.

DATE: Saturday, June 22nd.
START & FINISH: Macedonia Brook Road, Kent CT at GPS 41.760804, -73.493636.
ROUTE: Counterclockwise around the Blue trail.
DISTANCE: 6.6 miles.
TIME: 3¼ hours (11:00am to 2:15pm).
TERRAIN: The amount of up-and-down makes this a moderately strenuous hike. The NW side of Cobble Mountain involves a notorious act of gymnastics to surmount a creviced rock. However, the loop also includes some long stretches of easy walking. Gaia GPS says I ascended 1,438 feet over the course of the hike.
MAP: Available from CT Deep here.

WEATHER: Sunny and pleasantly warm (70s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing that caught my attention.

BREAKFAST: At home.
LUNCH: Cheese baguette on a ledge.
UPS: I love Macedonia Brook State Park—the brook, the tight valley, the wooded hills.
DOWNS: For some reason, an ankle was chafing uncomfortably against its sock by the final leg of the hike, maybe because, unusually, I hadn’t put on liner socks.
KIT: I got to play with a friend’s (see COMPANY below) PeakFinder App on Cobble Mountain. The app identified and named all the Catskill summits in the distance.
COMPANY: I ran into backpacking buddy Jim Liptack, plus Angela and (canine) Mindy on top of Cobble Mountain. Otherwise, Macedonia Brook was far from crowded.

GPS TRACK: Arrow marks Start.

Macedonia Brook Loop

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

IMG_2595

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

The Mattatuck Trail

Prospect Mountain Litchfield CT Cathole Road

On Cathole Road; the pack is mine, the discarded boot is not

For me, so far, Connecticut’s 42-mile Mattatuck Trail has been a winter thing. Two years ago, the day after Christmas, I hiked the Trail’s most northwesterly section until it ended at the Mohawk Trail. A layer of crunchy snow made for strenuous going. A year later, my eldest and I walked the next section down and saw bear tracks in the December snow. These two hikes added up to 14½ miles of Mattatuck.

Those 14½ miles form a detached section of the Trail in the towns of Cornwall, Goshen, and Warren. Last weekend, I drove up to Litchfield to pick the Trail up again. At home, there was little enough snow on the ground; in Litchfield—further inland and higher up—the Mattatuck Trail was as white as ever.

The contiguous Mattatuck Trail resumes in White Memorial Conservation Center, six road-miles from the Warren trailhead of the detached northwest section. From White Memorial, the Trail runs uninterrupted southeast to Wolcott, all unfamiliar territory to me. But before I went to White Memorial, I took country lanes north of Bantam to Prospect Mountain Preserve. Here, a 1.7-mile fragment of Mattatuck Trail winds over Prospect Mountain. The view from the North Summit is narrowly framed, but the South Summit offers a broader panorama toward—I think—Mount Tom.

After lunch in Bantam, I went to White Memorial and worked off my pulled pork by hiking the Mattatuck Trail from Bissell Road to Route 63 and back—a 6-mile level trek through forest, pond, and swamp.

Day Hike Notes – Cobble to Caleb

Fuller Pond, Kent CT

Fuller Pond

In spring this year, hiking to Pond Mountain via the Appalachian Trail in Kent, CT, I conceived the idea of “Caleb to Cobble”—a hike “from views of the Housatonic River valley to a panorama of the distant Catskills”. Seven months later, on Black Friday, I took the hike; except it became “Cobble to Caleb”, for the simple reason that parking is better in Macedonia Brook State Park than it is beneath Caleb’s Peak on Skiff Mountain Road. I am delighted to say that the views—west and east—did not disappoint.

I was hiking alone, so this was an out-and-back. A point-to-point variant would be to park beside the Housatonic on River Road, scale St. John’s Ledges to Caleb’s Peak and end up on Cobble Mountain (second car spotted in Macedonia Brook SP).

DATE: Friday, November 23rd.
START & FINISH: Parking near Macedonia Brook State Park pavilion (41.768129, -73.494803).
ROUTE: Cobble Mountain and back; yellow, blue, and green trails to Fuller Mountain Road; Fuller Mountain Road to Pond Mountain Natural Area; Entry, Pond, and Red Gate trails to Skiff Mountain Road; very short stretch of Skiff Mountain Road to Appalachian Trail; AT to Caleb’s Peak. Return by same route (except, in Macedonia Brook, I used the green and orange trails on the return leg).
DISTANCE: About 11 miles roundtrip.
TIME: 5.5 hours (8:30am-2:00pm).
TERRAIN: Steep 650-foot up-and-down of Cobble, followed by climb to Macedonia Brook’s eastern boundary. A mile of tranquil Fuller Mountain Road. Mostly gentle grades on Pond Mountain NA trails. Caleb’s Peak is a few hundred feet above, and 0.7 miles from, Skiff Mountain Road.
MAP: CT Deep Macedonia Brook SP trail map (on my tablet); Pond Mountain Natural Area (paper, obtained from trailhead on a previous outing); AT official map (not necessary).

WEATHER: Sunny and cold (single digits rising to mid-20s F)
WILDLIFE: A couple of white-tailed deer hightailed it from me in a field beside Fuller Mountain Road. 

BREAKFAST: My traditional coffee and bagel at J.P. Gifford, Kent (bagel eaten half in the café and half on Cobble Mountain).
LUNCH: Turkey (of course) sandwich on Caleb’s Peak.
UPS: Beautiful places in sunny weather.
DOWNS: Wheezing a bit ascending Cobble in very cold air despite wearing a clava.
KIT: Katie, my eldest, lent me a Hydro Flask to test. I filled it with tea at home (6:30am) and opened it on Caleb’s Peak five hours later, and after three hours outside in cold temperatures. The tea was warmer than lukewarm, but cooler than hot.
COMPANY: A threesome climbing Cobble as I was coming down and, in the afternoon, a couple dog-walking beside Fuller Pond. That’s all.

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Trail: The End

Mohawk Trail, Connecticut, Housatonic State Forest

Somewhere in Housatonic State Forest

Four months after my first Mohawk outing this year, yesterday I completed the 25.7-mile Trail. It took me four hikes and, because of doubling up, some 46 miles. On this last section, I was accompanied by Katie, my eldest, and was therefore able to make it a point-to-pointer (two cars). Most of our hike was in Housatonic State Forest, but relief from the trees was provided by swamps, waterfalls in full spate, and finally a grand view from Lookout Point. 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.

DATE: Sunday, August 19th.
START: Just off Lake Road, Cornwall, CT (GPS 41.881821, -73.295923).
FINISH: Northern terminus Mohawk Trail, Falls Village, CT (GPS 41.939016, -73.361660).
ROUTE: Mohawk Trail north and west.
DISTANCE: Something over 10 miles.
TIME: About 7 hours (9:30 to 4:30).
TERRAIN: Trail overgrown in places and many blowdowns to negotiate. Steep climb and descent near the end at Lookout Point.
MAP: CFPA CT Walk Book.

WEATHER: Cloudy, humid, mild (low 70s).
WILDLIFE: Climbing Lookout Point, we heard a sound, repeatedly, that seemed to be huffing, scraping, or flapping. We saw vultures, but couldn’t pin the sound to them. Mystery!

BREAKFAST: Bagel & coffee from J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: At Wickwire lean-to.
UPS: Catching up with Katie.
DOWNS: For some reason, my forearm itched furiously as I sweated up Lookout Point. If it persisted, such an itch could drive you to madness!
KIT: We resorted to Off! after an hour or two.
COMPANY: Katie, otherwise no one.