Mohawk Trail-Appalachian Trail Loop

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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

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.

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Trail: Route 4 to Ford Hill Road

Mohawk Trail, Johnson Road, Cornwall CT

Johnson Road Trailhead

I am gradually working my way around the Mohawk Trail. Gradually, because each hike has been an out-and-backer. In three outings, I’ve covered 17.3 miles of the Trail, but that’s 36 miles for me (out and back, and then hikes 2 and 3 overlapped a bit). Mohawk has provided variety—forested hills, country lanes, a short stretch of busy road, waterfalls, fields. But this section was more uniform—wooded hills that were dank and buggy here, bright and airy there. The ledge on Red Mountain offered the only view. The Trail did cross a 1,428-foot summit called Overlook, but if there was a view, I overlooked it.

All Mohawk Trail posts.

DATE: Sunday, July 29th.
START & FINISH: Mohawk State Forest entrance on CT Route 4, Cornwall (41.844205, -73.289977).
ROUTE: Mohawk Trail north to Ford Hill Road; return.
DISTANCE: 12.6 miles according to the CT Walk Book.
TIME: I was out for 6¾ hours from 8:15 a.m.
TERRAIN: Up and down, steeply in places; occasional blowdowns obstructing the trail; 0.7 miles on Johnson Road—a quiet lane.
MAP: CFPA CT Walk Book.

WEATHER: Sunny and mild (mid-60s to mid-70s).
WILDLIFE: Hummingbirds graced both my food breaks. At the other end of the beauty spectrum, I startled a pair of vultures out of their perches.

BREAKFAST: Bagel & iced coffee from J.P. Gifford, Kent.
LUNCH: Split over two breaks—near Lake Road and, near the end, on Red Mountain; ham & cheese on pita.
UPS: Airy woods in a cool breeze.
DOWNS: Buggy woods in no breeze.
KIT: I yielded to Off! after a couple of hours.
COMPANY: A few words with a guy loading his golf clubs into his car on Johnson Road.

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Trail: Mohawk, Red, and Breadloaf Mountains

In Cathedral Pines Preserve

In Cathedral Pines Preserve

When I walked over Coltsfoot Mountain in April, I wasn’t thinking that this was the first of a series of hikes to trek the whole Mohawk Trail. But when I was looking for a Memorial Day weekend outing, I chose another section of Mohawk, joining up with where I’d left off at the foot of Coltsfoot.

Mohawk is a 25.7-mile half-loop that begins and ends on the Connecticut Appalachian Trail, and indeed was part of the AT until a 1980s relocation. By the time I’d finished my second Mohawk hike (“Hike 1” in the notes below), I’d covered 10.5 miles of Mohawk Trail—twice, in fact, as these had been out-and-back hikes. The idea of hiking all of Mohawk this season began to grow. And that was the reason for “Hike 2”—to tick off the short Mohawk section I had not hiked between the AT in Sharon and the start of the Coltsfoot section. Next, north from Red Mountain ledge.
 
DATE: Saturday, May 26th.
START & FINISH:
Hike 1—Mohawk State Forest entrance on CT Route 4, Cornwall (41.844205, -73.289977).
Hike 2—Parking area at Furnace Brook Memorial sign, CT Route 4, Cornwall Bridge (GPS 41.818627, -73.369069).
ROUTE:
Hike 1—Mohawk Trail south and west to Cornwall village; return. Then Mohawk trail north to Red Mountain ledge; return.
Hike 2—Mohawk Trail west to Appalachian Trail; return.
DISTANCE: Hike 1—9.5 miles. Hike 2—2.5 miles.
TIME: Hike 1—5.5 hours from 7:30 with long lunch break on Red Mountain. Hike 2—about 1.5 hours from 1:30 p.m.
TERRAIN: Good trail, some road-walking. 800-foot climb back up Mohawk Mountain from Cornwall village; 650 feet plus to summit of Breadloaf from Housatonic River.
MAP: CFPA CT Walk Book.

WEATHER: Sunny and hot, increasing clouds in the afternoon. High in the upper 80s.
WILDLIFE: I startled a fox out on a hot afternoon on Breadloaf Mountain. Earlier, on Mohawk, I found the substantial scat of a carnivore (contained fur)—coyote or bobcat, maybe.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Bagel & coffee from Village Market and Gas, Goshen (I was too early for more familiar places).
LUNCH: On Red Mountain ledge.
UPS: I was delighted by the ledge on Red Mountain, which I had to myself.
DOWNS: Having to apply bug spray.
KIT: Nothing noteworthy.
COMPANY: Sunny Memorial Day Saturday = hikers.

Coltsfoot Mountain

Back at Coltsfoot Mountain after a month’s absence

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Trail over Coltsfoot Mountain

Bonney Brook, Dark Entry, Mohawk Trail

Bonney Brook

I had hiked into Dark Entry once or twice before, over a decade ago. I had read back then of rumors of mountain lions, but what I found—or at least what I remember—was a steep climb to a mediocre view. So, in the run-up to this hike, Dark Entry was not what I was looking forward to, nor the views from Coltsfoot Mountain either. I was looking forward to a workout and seeing again the pretty flat-bottomed, steep-sided valley south of Cornwall village which I had first seen from the warmth of my car in February.

But how foolish it is to predict hikes based on old, half-forgotten experience! Soon after leaving Dark Entry Road for bona fide trail, I crossed Bonney Brook, pretty and decently full. Then, as I followed its bank upward, Bonney Brook served up a delightful succession of white cascades of all shapes and sizes, tumbling through boulders covered in moss and morning sunshine. My outing would have been worthwhile for this brook alone, but the remainder of my day turned out to be none too shabby either.

DATE: Sunday, April 22nd.
START & FINISH: Parking area at Furnace Brook Memorial sign, CT Route 4, Cornwall Bridge (GPS 41.818627, -73.369069).
ROUTE: Mohawk Trail from Dark Entry Road over Coltsfoot Mountain to Cornwall village; return by same route.
DISTANCE: About 11½ miles.
TIME: 6½ hours (8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: 0.7 miles on steep Dark Entry Road, then rocky trail to complete climb to Coltsfoot’s ridge (600-900 feet above starting point). Moderate terrain along the summit, then steep, awkward descent to Cornwall village.
MAP: Unusually for me, I didn’t carry one. Trail was well blazed.

WEATHER: Sunny, temperatures rising from 30s to low 60s.
WILDLIFE: Wild turkeys, hawks, the sound of woodpeckers.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: J.P. Gifford, Kent—bagel & coffee.
LUNCH: In the forest on the return leg—cheese & chorizo baguette.
UPS: The little waterfalls on Bonney Brook were an unexpected delight.
DOWNS: None, period.
KIT: I carried microspikes in case of lingering ice in shady places; there was none.
COMPANY: Just one group of three guys and a barky dog.

Coltsfoot Mountain from Cornwall CT

Northeast end of Coltsfoot Mountain from Cornwall village