Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (6)

[Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.]

Merimere, Mine Island, South Mountain

Lunch spot – Merimere Reservoir and South Mountain

On Friday Katie and I completed the Metacomet Trail! It required six day-hikes spread over four months. Above all, the hikes have been a great way of staying connected with my eldest daughter, hiking being conducive to real conversation. The Metacomet Trail has taken us to new places, and given us a fresh perspective on Connecticut. Places that, for me, were just names on a road sign now have associations and color – Farmington recalls the cliffs of Rattlesnake Mountain, Southington (which I can now pronounce properly) means views from Ragged Mountain, and Meriden will conjure up Mine Island nestled in the Hanging Hills. Our procession was also through seasons; since we took our first Metacomet steps, we have seen the leaves come out, the snakes and frogs emerge from hibernation, and the days warm by almost 60 degrees. Finally, we have decided that we do have the time and energy to hike on to Long Island Sound. Mattabesett Trail here we come!

DATE: Friday, June 24th.
START: Edgewood Road, Berlin.
FINISH: Spruce Brook Road, Berlin.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south, plus the first 0.7 miles of the Mattabesett Trail.
DISTANCE: About 12 miles, plus the obligatory wrong turn or two.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: A little over 62 miles (excluding side trails and wrong turns).
TIME: 7.5 hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A fairly gradual 700-foot climb to West Peak (1,024’). Sometimes rough trail for the remaining three miles in the Hanging Hills (loose rock underfoot etc.). Second half of hike easy to moderate, including final two-mile road-walk.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Sunny and hot. High about 87 degrees.
WILDLIFE: A black rat snake (see photos). We also startled, and were in turn startled by, a large bird on the ground. Katie then spotted her chick. Mom took flight looking too brown for a turkey, but now I am guessing that is what she was – a browner-hued wild turkey.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Starbucks, Newington.
LUNCH: Chorizo and manchego cheese sandwiches above Merimere Reservoir.
UPS: Everyone we met was open and friendly.
DOWNS: Saying “we really must keep an eye on the blazes today”, and almost immediately missing a turn in the trail.
KIT: Three liters of water!
COMPANY: Mainly around Castle Craig, to which there is an auto road.

Metacomet Trail Map (6)

The New England Trail within Connecticut’s “blue-blazed” trail system – Metacomet (dark blue) and trail yet to hike (green).

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (5)

[Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.]

The Hanging Hills from Ragged Mountain

The Hanging Hills from Ragged Mountain

On the long approach to Ragged Mountain we met two hikers, both gray-beards if I remember right. They were section-hiking the New England Trail south to north, and so had hiked some 65 miles from Long Island Sound to where they met us. They said that the stretch over Ragged Mountain, which they had just completed, was the best so far. Several hours later, when Katie and I were done with Ragged Mountain ourselves, we agreed with them. It had been the best section so far of our north-south hike. By then it was warm mid-afternoon, and we had hiked an additional few miles of rough trail because of a navigation lapse. Something else the gray-beards had mentioned felt very enticing – a refreshing plunge into the Sound when/if we reach it sometime this fall.

DATE: Friday, May 20th.
START: Crescent Lake, Southington.
FINISH: Edgewood Road, Berlin.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south.
DISTANCE: 11 miles, including 0.6 mile access trail from Crescent Lake (and we did at least 3 additional miles through poor navigation).
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 50.4 miles (excluding side trails and wrong turns).
TIME: 8.5 hours (9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Often rough trails interspersed with quiet road-walks. Highest point, Ragged Mountain, 761 feet.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Sunny, warm, and still. High about 75 degrees.
WILDLIFE: The black tail of a snake slithering into cover (probably a Black Rat).
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Meriden.
LUNCH: The wonderful usual, above Wassel Reservoir.
UPS: Views of the Hanging Hills. Quiet country lanes so close to so many towns.
DOWNS: Discovering we had walked a mile / 30 minutes down a side-trail by mistake, just when we were overheating and tiring.
KIT: We both brought 2 liters of water, but could have done with more.
COMPANY: On and off, mainly on Ragged Mountain.

Metacomet Trail Map (5)

The Metacomet Trail within CT’s CFPA trail system. Our 5 day-hikes so far are indicated.

Taking a Hike – Metacomet Trail

My “Taking a Hike” column for April was published a week and a half ago by Hersam Acorn Newspapers – Discovering the Metacomet Ridge.

The column has not yet appeared in The Hour of Norwalk. The Hour recently changed ownership, and I am not sure what the new owners will do, if anything, with “Taking a Hike”.

I experimented this month with an audio version of the column. Needless to say, I don’t like how I sound at all. But, if you prefer listening over reading, you will find the recording at the top of the text (same link as above).

HAN Arts & Leisure

On HAN Arts & Leisure

I also made an appearance on HAN Network TV’s Arts & Leisure show, rabbiting on some more about the Metacomet Trail. The show was entitled Navigating Connecticut Trails and Connecticut Wedding Season. I stuck to trails, and begin at minute 32:30 of the video.

So, a multimedia Metacomet experience this month.

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (4)

[Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.]

Rattlesnake Cliffs, Farmington CT

From Rattlesnake Cliffs, the Hanging Hills (right of picture) 10 miles south.

I set out on this, our fourth, section of the Metacomet Trail mainly curious about how it would feel in suburban Farmington and Plainville, and how it would navigate the crowded notch occupied by ten-lane I-84/CT 72. I was not expecting a rough or scenic hike. Wrong on both counts! This section had three moods: (1) pleasant and easy suburban woods and lanes for the first four miles; (2) a mile or so beside busy CT 372 to get under I-84; and (3) the rest. The rest – Farmington Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, Pinnacle Rock, around Bradley Mountain – was surprisingly scenic. Not pristine, Grand Tetons scenic, but scenic enough. Strips, highways, a quarry or two did intrude, but there were also big views of the leafing-up woods and distant downtown Hartford; spectacular boulders and cliffs; and the Hanging Hills ten miles south, where we will go next. The rest was also unexpectedly demanding, and we were both feeling our knees by the time we reached Crescent Lake.

DATE: Friday, April 29th.
START: Old Mountain Road, Farmington.
FINISH: Ridge above Crescent Lake, Southington.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south.
DISTANCE: 12-13 miles, including 0.6 mile access trail to Crescent Lake.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: About 40 miles.
TIME: 7.25 hours (9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Very gentle trail and quiet road-walks as far as Route 6. Then rougher over Rattlesnake Mountain and Pinnacle Rock, including steep, awkward descent from Rattlesnake Cliffs. Unnerving walk into oncoming traffic beside Route 372 to pass beneath I-84. Rough ridge above Crescent Lake just as we were tiring. Highest point, Rattlesnake Mountain, 760 feet.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Bright in the morning, then cloudy. High around 60. Slight breeze on summits.
WILDLIFE: Turkey vultures (see photo). And we saw a dog-walker carrying bear spray!
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Southington.
LUNCH: The inevitable cheese sandwich, plus trail mixes, on Rattlesnake Cliffs.
UPS: The surprising number of great views despite passing through so much development.
DOWNS: Very minor, but the Metacomet Trail/New England Trail space beside Route 372 was unceremoniously usurped by road work, leaving us squidged between traffic and concrete barriers.
KIT: Glad of trekking polls on several descents.
COMPANY: Very little, except crossing the notch occupied by I-84.

Metacomet Trail Map (4)

The Metacomet Trail within Connecticut’s CFPA trail system. Our four day-hikes so far are indicated.

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (3)

[Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.]

Metacomet Trail Map (3)

The Metacomet Trail within Connecticut’s CFPA trail system. Our three day-hikes so far are indicated.

Although the Metacomet Trail is nowhere far from human settlement, our third section brought us right alongside the Hartford conurbation, and I’d wondered what this would mean for the feel of our hike. There was no denying the intrusion of the unnatural – woods cleared for powerlines, woods cleared for underground pipelines, the difficult crossing of Route 44, graffiti-daubed Kilkenny Rock. I suspect there will be more of this on the coming sections in Farmington and Plainville, which cross more suburbs and busy routes (including I-84). But our third section also had compensations –  fine westerly views from Talcott Mountain State Park/King Phillip Mountain, a peaceful reservoir-side stroll, quiet woods. With luck, the next sections will have rewards too.

DATE: Friday, April 8th.
START: Penwood State Park entrance, Rte 185, Bloomfield-Simsbury line.
FINISH: Old Mountain Road, Farmington.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south.
DISTANCE: 9.8 miles.
TIME: 5 hours (9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Easy to moderate. A 600-foot climb to King Phillip Mountain and Heublein Tower, followed by an equal descent to Hartford Reservoir No. 6. Then a flat waterside stroll followed by ups and downs on the 4.2-mile section south of Route 44.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Clouds and sun; cool (40s); breezy on ridge; even a little hail/ice.
WILDLIFE: Wild turkeys, a fishing heron (I think).
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Brookside Bagels, Simsbury.
LUNCH: Cheese sandwiches on olive bread, on boulders somewhere in the West Hartford woods.
UPS: The whole outing was a real blower-away of cobwebs.
DOWNS: Quite a few powerlines and pipelines, and the section south of Kilkenny Rock in particular was anything but scenic.
KIT: Loving my new Osprey reservoir.
COMPANY: Occasional dog-walkers, hikers, mountain bikers.

Heublein Tower, Talcott Mountain State Park

Heublein Tower, 165 feet tall, 1,040 avove sea level

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (2)

[Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.]

Farmington River, Metacomet Trail, Tariffville CT

The Farmington River at Tariffville

This hike was our second section. It proved longer and tougher than the first, although overall it still rates as a moderate hike. Compared with our previous outing, the notches in the Metacomet Ridge were deeper (notably at Tariffville gorge where the Farmington River cuts through). We managed to miss a 180-degree turn in the trail above Tariffville and, trying to pick it up again, lost maybe an hour. In the end, we retraced our steps. On the plus side, it was 30 degrees warmer than on our first outing, just two weeks ago.

DATE: Friday, March 11th.
START: Rte 20, East Granby CT.
FINISH: Penwood State Park entrance, Rte 185, Bloomfield-Simsbury line.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south.
DISTANCE: Around 11 miles (plus distance for our wrong turn in Tariffville).
TIME: 6.5 hours (10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A lot of gentle ridge, but some short, steep ups and downs. The Pinnacle in Penwood SP was our day’s highest elevation – 737 feet above sea level (though only 437 above our start point).
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Sunny, mild (high about 60), breezy on summits.
WILDLIFE: The call of wood frogs, awakened (and made ready to breed) by recent warm days.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Brookside Bagels, Simsbury.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese sandwiches looking down on Tariffville.
UPS: Many, but I love Penwood SP’s Lake Louise.
DOWNS: The wrong turn above Tariffville was frustrating.
KIT: A cap instead of a wooly hat!
COMPANY: A handful of other trail users.

Metacomet Trail Map

The Metacomet Trail within Connecticut’s CFPA trail system. Our two day-hikes so far are indicated.

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail

Metacomet Trail, Suffield

On Suffield Mountain

Connecticut’s Metacomet Trail runs 62 miles from the Massachusetts line at Suffield to the Hanging Hills north of Meriden.  It is now a segment of the 215-mile New England Trail (Long Island Sound to New Hampshire). My daughter and I hope to section-hike the Metacomet Trail this year, and perhaps continue south to the Sound, if we have time and energy.

This hike was our first section (not counting a short out-and-back Metacomet hike last fall). Except for a fierce NW wind, this northernmost section was a gentle introduction, a jog over a series of low summits on the trap rock ridge. I was reminded again that, no matter how small Connecticut is and even if I live here another 17 years, there will always be more to discover. Nice feeling.

DATE: Friday, February 26th.
START: Hiker parking on Rising Corner Rd, Southwick MA.
FINISH: Rte 20, East Granby CT.
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail south.
DISTANCE: 7.7 miles.
TIME: 4.5 hours (11:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Mostly gentle and dry (despite recent rain). Summits about 400 feet higher than trailheads.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Sunny, cold (low 30s), and windy.
WILDLIFE: Nothing of note.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonalds on the road.
LUNCH: With our backs to the wind on, I think, West Suffield Mtn.
UPS: Hiking with my daughter.
DOWNS: Not one.
KIT: Four layers, wooly hat, and long johns much appreciated.
COMPANY: We had the trail to ourselves.