Taking a Hike – Giving a Day to the A.T.

Imagine what it would be like if your favorite hiking place did not exist (never had or, worse, it was taken away). Life would be the poorer, as if a good friend were not there. Like good friends, we can take trails for granted, especially famous, established trails like the A.T. We don’t expect the A.T. to wither and vanish any more than Interstate 80.

Connecticut Appalachian Trail - Spring comes to Schaghticoke Mountain, Kent

CT A.T. — Spring comes to Schaghticoke Mountain

I have enjoyed my local, Connecticut A.T. for 17 years. This blog has recorded some great outings along its 51 miles:

Bulls Bridge to Conn. 55
Kent to Bulls Bridge
Bear Mountain via Lions Head
Bear Mountain via Paradise Lane

There have been A.T. hikes in our neighboring NY and MA sections too:

Fahnestock State Park
Mount Everett

This is all a longwinded introduction to the point that my May “Taking a Hike” column (first published 5/14, so this is a belated post) is about a day spent giving something back to the A.T., trying not take it for granted, helping to keep it in good shape.

Apart from some flying rocks, I didn’t have space to get across that “Giving a Day” was a lot of fun – meeting friends, meeting new people, some great wisecracks, and drinks and snacks by the Housatonic afterward.

A nearby treasure

“Taking a Hike” in The Hour

The column has resumed publication in The Hour after a month’s hiatus following the change of ownership. This month, the column appeared in print only. Hopefully next month it will be online again. I am delighted to be published by Hearst.

And of course by Hersam Acorn: GIVING A DAY TO CONNECTICUT’S AT.

Happy Trails!

Taking a Hike – Spring Survey Hikes

The CT Appalachian Trail near Falls Village in late March

The CT Appalachian Trail near Falls Village in late March

When I took the hikes that I later wrote about for my “Taking a Hike” column, winter was retreating ever so slowly. Up on the Connecticut Appalachian Trail on March 28th, there was plenty of snow on the ground and more coming down. At the Devil’s Den in Weston – 40 miles farther south and 1,000 feet lower in elevation – things were better a few days later, but the signs of spring were still tentative.

I knew that everyone around here was sick of winter, and tried to look forward in the article to warmer outings. Indeed, the hikes I took were to check out the trails for the peak hiking season. The newspapers that publish the column must have known too that their readers would skip anything wintery, as they gave the column upbeat, forward-looking titles. It was published last week in The Hour as The sounds of spring on the trail, and by Hersam Acorn as Looking ahead to snow-less days. Enjoy.

Saugatuck Trail in early April, Devil's Den, Weston CT

Saugatuck Trail in early April, Devil’s Den, Weston CT

January’s “Taking a Hike” – Bennett’s Pond State Park and Saugatuck Falls Natural Area in Ridgefield and Redding CT respectively – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2015: “Jan – Bennett’s Pond” – or by clicking here).

Taking a Hike – Coming out of Hibernation

Bird talk from Milan Bull, Newman-Poses Preserve, Westport

Bird talk from Milan Bull, Newman-Poses Preserve, Westport

It seems crazy when it’s 82 degrees outside and we are a week away from the Fourth to have just published a column which talks about hikers emerging from hibernation. In part, that is just the cycle of the column, publication trailing writing which trails the actual hiking. But it also reminds me how quickly we move from cold to hot around here. I grew up in a place where it seemed you could have a cool July day in January and a mild January day in July. The sudden transition here from fires to ceiling fans still impresses me. It was frosty at night until two months ago, and snowed on April 16th. Now yard work bathes me in sweat.

So, now that I have excused myself for even hinting at winter in my column, I can say that this month’s “Taking a Hike” is available from The Hour here, and on the Hersam Acorn Art & Leisure website here. It is about the hiking, learning and trail laboring opportunities that are suddenly plentiful when the leaves come out. As usual, I have made a three-month-old column available in full on this site. It is from March, about (oh dear) a very cold walk on the Aspetuck Valley Trail (see the Taking a Hike tab – 2014: “Mar – Aspetuck Valley” – or click here) .

Wandering the White Mountains

Pemi - Owl's Head from Mt Garfield No one should be surprised that my Taking a Hike column for The Hour is about the White Mountains this month. It covers the backpacking trip that was the subject of my last four posts, and then gives three suggestions for short hikes in and around Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch state parks. You can read it here on The Hour website.

Three months ago the column was about Sleeping Giant SP, near New Haven CT. As usual, I have now made that article available in full via this blog’s Taking a Hike tab – or just click here. How the seasons change – there were biting bugs and stifling humidity in July, and the woods were uniformly green. Give me fall any day.

I am not sure what is coming up next. I really need to get down to sustained desk-work. But there will be plenty of day hikes. As for backpacking, I think the CT AT is off the agenda for this fall, but my eldest is still very keen on the Great Smokies in the spring. And this Saturday is the CT Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s “AT Day”. Now that the government is back at work, and therefore the AT officially open, I plan to join a work party building rock steps. It seems only fair after all my trail usage up in the Whites!

Trails and the Senior Prom

The most important event of the weekend was without doubt my middle daughter’s senior prom. It is, I am certain, already very adequately documented on Facebook. And since this is a blog about trails and escape, I am going to write about activities that took place either side of shuttling her from pre-prom to prom and then on to post-prom. It was National Trails Day on Saturday and Connecticut Trails Day Weekend as well.

Norwalk River Valley Trail Missing LinkOn Saturday morning we (that is Norwalk River Valley Trail volunteers) led the public along the new stretch of trail we hacked on May 4th. The public was four brave men and women undaunted by temperatures already over 80 at 10.00 in the morning, or by our warnings of loose riverbank, poison ivy and – possibly – wet feet. I was delighted that 75% of the party – fully three people – had turned up this morning after reading my article in The Hour about the May 4th work.

NRVT under Route 7 Norwalk CTI had worried about how people would react to our trail, but need not have. Once we passed the junk and urban art under the Route 7 bridges and clambered down to the river, everyone agreed what a great pity it is that this stretch of river has been inaccessible for so long. One member of the group remembered how, before the Army Corps of Engineers channeled the river after the floods of 1955, Norwalkers fished here for trout and skated on a riverside pond.

Deering Pond, Norwalk, NRVTWe emerged from the woods onto Riverside Avenue and waited an age for the lights to grant mere pedestrians a few seconds to jog across New Canaan Avenue. A passenger in a stopped SUV shouted over at us, “You on that hike up the river? Yeah! I saw the article in the paper.” We invited him to join us. “Uh, maybe next week.” Still, this further recognition gave the last, sweaty leg to Deering Pond  a pleasant glow for me.  The Silvermine and Norwalk rivers meet at Deering Pond and, despite the nearby highway and overhead power lines, it is an attractive place. It was inhabited by a wader that I took to be a white heron. I wish my camera was capable of a better picture.

On Sunday, a little tired from the shuttling and emotions of the prom, I went with my youngest to a work day at the Devil’s Den. It was hard labor. For two hours we dug, hacked and scraped away at hard ground to build water bars on the Den Trail. I hope they worked well today when the heavens opened.

May Article for The Hour

I have posted my May article for The Hour on the Taking a Hike page (and made February’s piece – about Cobble Mountain in Macedonia Brook State Park – available in full via the drop-down menu).

Volunteers arriving to blaze the Norwalk Valley River TrailMay’s article is not about a hike at all, but about hacking a thin trail through tangled riverside woods. It is the hope of the group that did the hacking that, eventually, our slim path will grow into beautiful bike and walking track, part of a grand Norwalk Valley River Trail. You can imagine it like that, a shady asphalt trail along the riverbank for Norwalkers to ride and stroll on. The riverbank is now unused – almost. I went back with two of the group today to hack back new growth, and our trail took us under highway bridges where discarded bottles, graffiti and a fire pit suggested that a popular trail may not be good news for everyone. Later we found two plastic chairs neatly arranged in a rudimentary riverside shelter of branches and boards.

Lions Head sign on Connecticut Appalachian TrailUrban trail, at least on the basis of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”, is surely more important than wilderness trail. I had to drive 50 miles to get to another bit of trail work this month. It was admittedly nicer scenery up in Sharon. There another bunch of volunteers was ready to put in a shift. This crew were from the CT Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Some, like me, were newbies. Others had clearly been doing this together for a long time. I joined the party that went to build a privy at Pine Swamp Brook lean-to. It wasn’t arduous work compared to blazing the NRVT. As somebody quipped, it was about passing tools to those who knew what they were doing. But when D2 and I pass that way in a few weeks (see previous post), I will direct her to “my” privy with great pride.