Hiking Round Ireland

Hiking Round Ireland Still raining in the Finglas River valley

Rain in the Finglas River Valley, County Kerry – Courtesy Dave Byrnes

Back in mid-March, I received a mail with the same title as this post. It announced another Dave Byrnes adventure blog. Dave was my boss for a short time in Stamford, Connecticut, around 1999. He was a good boss, but not long after we worked together Dave returned to his native Australia to follow another calling – hiking, biking, and running adventures. We have stayed in touch, virtually.

When I first met Dave, I was starting to enjoy living close to the outdoors again after years dwelling in some of the world’s biggest cities. Part of the enjoyment was finding places to hike. One of my early conversations with Dave went something like this:

ROB: I walked on the Appalachian Trail at the weekend. It goes from Georgia to Maine. Have you heard of it?

DAVE: Yeah, about 12 years ago I hiked it.

I knew at that moment that Dave’s adventuring was out of my league.

When I received Dave’s mail, I replied that I’d be following his new adventure with interest, especially as a circuit of the nine counties of Ulster has been among my own hiking ideas. Several of my great-grandparents hailed from counties Cavan and Derry before they moved to Scotland. Dave invited me to join him on any sections I wished.

I seriously considered flying over for a week of Ulster hiking, but I had my recovering knee to consider. I imagined the indignity of crossing the Atlantic, tracking Dave down in, say, Cavan, and then heaving on my backpack only to develop excruciating knee-pain half a mile up some boggy trail. I opted to test my knee for backpacking nearer to home – Bigelow Range Backpack.

So, I have followed Dave via his diary. He has used the same format as on previous adventures (after which I pinched parts of it for my own hike posts).  It’s a good format – an overview in note form, plus a detailed journal. There are photos and a GPS track. I have posted (with Dave’s permission) two of my favorite photos here. I like to think that the Sperrin Mountains in the picture below, which border County Derry/Londonderry might have been known by my McWilliams ancestors.

As I write, Dave is in Dundalk. He has been hiking for 84 days, covered 1,468 miles, and eaten a lot of Full Irish Breakfast. If you are interested in walking in Ireland,  I can think of no better place to get familiar with what it has to offer than Dave’s blog.

Hiking Round Ireland Glenelly Valley

Glenelly Valley, County Tyrone – Courtesy Dave Byrnes

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.

Evening Hike, Bennett’s Pond and Pine Mountain, Ridgefield CT – April 15th

AMC-logoJoin me if you can this Friday for an Appalachian Mountain Club Connecticut Chapter hike in Bennett’s Pond State Park and Pine Mountain open space. Details from the AMC announcement below.

B2B means 5-8 miles, fast pace, strenuous terrain, although we will be very close to C3C (<5 miles, moderate pace, average terrain). There is no need to be an AMC member. 

Fri., Apr. 15. Bennett’s Pond and Pine Mountain, Ridgefield (B2B). 

Mark TGIF with an evening hike to a scenic overlook (Ives Site). We will hike through Bennett’s Pond State Park into Pine Mountain open space, covering approximately 5.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 2.5 hrs. (including break at overlook). There is one steep ascent, and one steep descent. Short muddy sections possible. Meet Bennett’s Pond SP parking (41.328538, -73.481169) on Bennetts Farm Road, Ridgefield, 4:30 p.m. for 4:45 sharp departure (sunset is 7:34 p.m.).

L Rob McWilliams, 203-434-0297, robert.c.mcwilliams@gmail.com. Co-Lead welcome. Call Rob if interested to car-pool from Rte 7 commuter parking lot near Orem’s Diner, Wilton. Heavy rain cancels.

Pine Mountain Scenic Overlook

The scenic overlook – same hike on the same date last year!

Taking a Hike – The Little River

The Little River breaches a stone wall

The Little River in Centennial Watershed State Forest, Redding CT

I have written about hikes in Redding, CT before. September 2014’s column (“Redding Trails”) was entirely about the town’s excellent hiking opportunities. Other columns have touched on Redding:

March 2014 – the Aspetuck Valley Trail
January 2015 – Saugatuck Falls
June 2015 – the Ives Trail, which starts – or perhaps finishes – in Redding.

The September 2014 column introduced Redding’s “The Book of Trails”. I wrote:

“The Book of Trails” divides its walks among three watersheds (Aspetuck, Little River, Saugatuck) and what it calls the West Ridge …. Early this month I took hikes in two of these divisions, putting the Little River and Saugatuck watersheds aside for now. It’s important to leave loose ends like that, for next time.

Well, this month I tied up another of those loose ends by taking hikes in the Little River watershed. Though I took them on March 3rd and 7th, these outings were snow and ice free. This was a noticeable contrast with my Aspetuck Valley walk exactly two years ago. Back then, the trails “were covered in hardened snow; slippery here, potholed with fossilized footprints there”.

So, a wide variety of trails in Redding, and each one different by season, and each season different each year. Hard to get bored.

“Taking a Hike” on the Little River can be found at The Hour and Hersam Acorn Newspapers.

Little River swamp, Redding CT

Swamp beside the Little River

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.

Taking a Hike – Fahnestock State Park

“Taking a Hike” #39 was published last Thursday. On the Saturday, my wife took a call from a reader (I was out having my eyes tested). I called the reader back later. His name was Paul, and he had enjoyed reading about my trek in Fahnestock State Park. He had done it himself, he said, with his scout troop, and had liked being reminded of its features.

Now, I do not have a particular type of person in mind when I write the column; not a particular age, not necessarily a dyed-in-the-wool hiker, not exclusively either a long-term resident of this area or a newcomer. But Paul made me think of a group I had not much considered – retired hikers. Paul said that various aches and pains had probably put his hiking days behind him. He had taken his hikes in Fahnestock quite a long time ago. I hate to think of anyone having to give up hiking; it becomes such a part of you. But in future, as I scribble, I will try to think of hikers who don’t get out much anymore, and put in for them what I can.

The article Paul called about can be found at The Hour and Hersam Acorn Newspapers.

SUNLIT REEDS ON THREE LAKES TRAIL

Beside Three Lakes Trail, Fahnestock SP

Pain, Disappointment, Some Perspective

It looks like a beautiful evening up in Piscataquis County, Maine.

The sun will be setting soon, after having the sky to itself all day. The night will be clear and cool (low, 40 degrees). Season and weather would be perfect for camping next to a pond in the forest and mountains, getting rested before a day’s hiking.

Whidden Ponds, Baxter State Park, September 2006

Whidden Ponds, Baxter State Park, September 2006

And that is what I had hoped to be doing this evening. There might even have been time, after the day-long drive from home to Baxter State Park, for a pond-side walk to listen out for loons and spy for moose.

I think it was on Saturday that I finally accepted that the trip would not happen. My big hope for a serviceable left knee – even just temporarily – was a cortisone shot. I had it on Thursday morning, and waited for the miracle. By Saturday morning, I was convinced the doctor must have injected me with his tea by mistake so unchanged were my symptoms.

This morning, when I should have been driving north, I instead called Baxter to cancel my six nights of camping. Now, compared to the pain and sadness that can afflict humans, my missing out on the north woods this year is small potatoes. Unlike some pain, mine probably has a cure. I am off to speak to a surgeon about that tomorrow.

It is a pretty evening in Connecticut too. I am going to limp outside to enjoy the last of it. Maybe I’ll find my wife already out there. We won’t hear a loon, but maybe an owl.

Perspective and compensations, but disappointment nonetheless.