Day Hike Notes – Saugatuck Trail

Early summer on the Saugatuck Trail

Somewhere about halfway along the trail

The Saugatuck Trail is more than it once was. Not so long ago, it ran only along the west side and northern end of the Saugatuck Reservoir. In those days, I hiked it only as part of my traditional post-Thanksgiving “turkey burner”, and I hiked only about 2.5 miles of it. In 2014 a new section of the trail opened (thanks CFPA volunteers!) linking it to the Aspetuck Valley Trail in Easton. I soon walked this new section, but I did so in a group, and therefore paid more attention to my companions than to the trail. This past Sunday, I hiked the Saugatuck Trail end-to-end, starting on the new section, moving on to the middle section that was completely new to me, and ending on my familiar turkey-burner stretch. Good to be still discovering new trail so close to home.

 

DATE: Sunday, June 25th.
START: Near 1165 Black Rock Turnpike, Easton CT.
FINISH: Near 205 Davis Hill Road, Weston CT.
ROUTE: Saugatuck Trail.
DISTANCE: 10.2 miles.
TIME: 6 hours (8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Gentle grades, with some short steeper sections. Trail mostly easy underfoot.
MAP: Saugatuck-Aspetuck Trail System (from ct.gov/deep, Centennial Watershed SF).

WEATHER: Warm (high around 80) and sunny until the very end, when an unexpected shower fell.
WILDLIFE: A turkey vulture settled on a branch close above, then flapped away to show off its wingspan and plumage.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: At home.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese and chorizo on olive ciabatta, sat on a pile of sunny rocks.
UPS: Some really beautiful stretches of trail – a shaded, narrow line through fern-carpeted woods.
DOWNS: Squirting DEET in my eye; getting stung by a yellowjacket.
KIT: I was grateful for the DEET in the morning, once I learned to squirt it in the right direction.
COMPANY: Almost no hikers, but much of the trail runs close to Route 53 and Valley Forge Road. They are pretty routes, so cars and motorcycles were frequently seen and heard; bicyclists too.

Shallow pond adjoining Route 53 and reservoir

Shallow pond adjoining Route 53 and reservoir

Taking a Hike Columns – May and June

I am behind with posting my Taking a Hike columns. Here are May and June together:

May: As has become something of a spring tradition, the subject was the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. This time, there was a hefty dose of memoir in the article, revolving around an inept backpack on the trail 15 years ago. I’ve got better since then, but you never stop learning from mistakes. “There’s No One Way To Tackle CT Appalachian Trail” in The Hour and at Hersam Acorn.

On Schaghticoke Mountain, CT AT Mile 5

On Schaghticoke Mountain, CT AT Mile 5

June: No big surprise that June’s column was about Silver Lake Wilderness, part of my Big Spring Outing to the Adirondacks. “Alone in the Dacks” at Hersam Acorn and The Hour.

Beaver pond, Silver Lake Wilderness

Beaver pond, Silver Lake Wilderness

Day Hike Notes – Avalanche Lake, Adirondacks

The heat had been building through the week. In Silver Lake Wilderness, Monday had been pleasant (60s). By the time I left the Wilderness on Wednesday, we were heading for the high 80s. Thursday was warm even atop the High Peaks. But thunderstorms came along in the evening, and Friday dawned cloudy and mild. There was still a chance of storms in the forecast, so I didn’t want to climb another mountain. I was anyway quite happy with the prospect of a valley-floor hike to end my Dacks trip. Here it is:

DATE: Friday, May 19th.
START & FINISH: Adirondack Loj, near Lake Placid, NY, Adirondack High Peaks region.
ROUTE: Trail to Marcy Dam, then trail to Avalanche Pass and Lake. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: About 8 miles roundtrip.
TIME: Hmm, 5 hours maybe? 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
TERRAIN: Under 700 feet of elevation gain on mostly good trails, so pretty easy.
MAP: Trails Illustrated Adirondack Park, 742.

WEATHER: Overcast and mild on out leg; rainy on back leg. Temperatures in lower 60s.
WILDLIFE: Nothing to note.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Oatmeal and coffee at Loj campground.
LUNCH: Trail food.
UPS: (1) Moody scenery in moody weather; (2) finding snow at 3,000 feet in May.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: I got to try my new rain jacket, and like it so far.
COMPANY: A few small groups. At Avalanche Lake, I chatted with two young backpackers from Montreal. They were on their way back to the Loj after a trek deeper into the High Peaks Wilderness.

Cliffs by Avalanche Lake, Adirondack High Peaks

Looking back to Avalanche Pass from Avalanche Lake

 

Day Hike Notes – Wright Peak, Adirondacks

You-know-who on Wright Peak

On Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak in the background

In Silver Lake Wilderness I met no one in two days and two nights. At times the trail had been hard to follow. The Adirondack High Peaks, which I drove to after leaving the Wilderness on Wednesday, was quite different. Even mid-week in May, there were lots of other hikers about, and the heavily used trails were clear as day. Most of the company was good, and I was pleased to have it.

I had thought I might climb Mount Marcy again, 15 years after my only previous ascent; but the Adirondack Mountain Club ranger at the information center at Adirondack Loj said there was still snow on the way to the summit. I could have rented microspikes from him, but didn’t feel like dealing with snow even with them. He listed off summits that were snow-free, and I chose Wright Peak (4,587 feet). Thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, and it looked like a trek I could be done with before the rumbling started.

DATE: Thursday, May 18th.
START & FINISH: Adirondack Loj, near Lake Placid, NY, Adirondack High Peaks region.
ROUTE: Trail toward Marcy Dam for 1 mile, then trail up Algonquin Peak for 2 miles to Wright Peak side-trail. Return by same route.
DISTANCE: 7 miles roundtrip
TIME: 6 hours (8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A 2,400-foot climb that starts out easy and gentle, and becomes increasingly rough and steep, with some significant scrambling on the approach to the summit (butt-work on the way down).
MAP: Trails Illustrated Adirondack Park, 742.

WEATHER: Hot. Even on the windy summit, it was comfortably warm. Down below, it was in the 80s.
WILDLIFE: Nothing memorable.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Mountain House Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash at Loj campground.
LUNCH: Trail food.
UPS: Lying back on the summit and watching the clouds swirl.
DOWNS: None.
KIT: My old, damaged trekking poles did not collapse down and stow in my pack. My new ones do, and this was extremely useful on the scrambles near the summit.
COMPANY: Ascent, none; summit, 2 couples; descent, plenty.

On Wright Peak, Adirondack High Peaks

On Wright Peak

 

Silver Lake Wilderness Backpack

Silver Lake, Silver Lake Wilderness, Adirondacks

Early morning on Silver Lake

Last July, I posted that I was going to backpack in Silver Lake Wilderness “at the drop of a hat” sometime in August, September, or October. I meant that I would go at short notice, when weather and free time aligned. It didn’t happen. It would not have happened last week either unless something else had fallen through. I was booked, you see, to spend the week of May 15th in Maine’s Baxter State Park. I had my hikes there all picked out.

Now, the people at Baxter State Park are helpful and friendly, and they did warn me that my part of the park might not open on time. It was, they said, all a question of how soon the snow on the park roads melted, and how soon after that the roads dried out. Four days before my planned departure, they called from Millinocket to say that the road to South Branch Pond would not be useable. Fortunately, I had a Plan B ready to dust off, and headed instead for the Adirondacks.

DATES: Monday-Wednesday, May 15-17.
START & FINISH: Godfrey Road, Upper Benson NY (43.252824, -74.345014).
ROUTE: Short side-trail (yellow-blazed) to Northville-Placid Trail (NPT, blue-blazed), then NPT to Whitehouse. Return by same route.
DISTANCES:
MONDAY: Godfrey Road to Mud Lake – 12.5 miles.
TUESDAY: Mud Lake to Whitehouse, then back to Silver Lake – 11.6 miles.
WEDNESDAY: Silver Lake to Godfrey Road – 7.0 miles.
TIME: Just over 48 hours (9:45 a.m. Monday to around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday).
TERRAIN: No big elevation changes (entire route between 1,300 and 2,100 feet up), but trail often rough, overgrown, and blocked by blowdowns and other obstacles.
MAP: The one that came with Adirondack Trails: Northville-Placid Trail guide.

DSCN9084

Trailside sculpture

WEATHER: Mild and breezy on Monday; hot and sunny on Tuesday and Wednesday.
WILDLIFE: Standouts: moose scat, wailing loons, calling owls.
PHOTOS: Here.

ACCOMMODATION: Mud Lake lean-to (Monday) and Silver Lake lean-to (Tuesday). At Silver Lake, to escape the evening bugs in the lean-to, I pitched my tent, but did not put on its fly (to catch a breeze and see the stars). About 10 p.m., I was woken by rain, and had to move everything quickly into the lean-to. It turned out to be a feeble shower, but I wasn’t to know that.
MEALS: Mountain House for dinner, otherwise cold fare (of which cheese and tortillas were the best).
UPS: Many, but I’ll settle for waking in the middle of the night to find the moon shining on Mud Lake and flooding the world with its light.
DOWNS: At times, bugs – no-see-ums? – were a nuisance. When combined with heat and fatigue, they made for a few no-fun stretches.
KIT: I need to lighten my load for future outings. I was weighed down with too much stuff I did not use.
COMPANY: None at all, and no cell coverage, for 48 hours. Two young women, trail-runners, passed me near the end (the sudden noise of them behind me had startled).

West Branch Sacandaga River, Silver Lake Wilderness, Adirondacks

West Branch Sacandaga River, my turnaround point

Taking a Hike – Fahnestock Summits

My April Taking a Hike column has been published by The Hour and Hersam Acorn Newspapers. It describes an early spring (aka wintery) hike in Fahnestock State Park:

Relishing hardship, starkness of Fahnestock State Park at Hersam Acorn
Gray skies don’t dim the appeal of state park trek at The Hour

One thing I liked about the hike is that it helped me join up some bits of local landscape. I’d hiked in Fahnestock twice before, but it had stayed a disconnected, standalone kind of place in my mental atlas. I knew the Hudson River was off to its west and Connecticut to its east, and that the Appalachian Trail ran through it. Other than that, I had little sense for how it fitted with other places I like to hike.

Bull Hill (right) and cliffs south of Storm King Mountain (center) from Round Hill

Photo 1 – Hudson Valley from Round Hill, Fahnestock SP

The joining-up happened on west-facing slopes near the end of the hike. I saw the Hudson Valley, the steep-sided part of it near where the river flows between Breakneck Ridge and Storm King Mountain (Photo 1). Now, I had seen this stretch of valley from another angle, on another hike, years ago (Photo 2).

Most of the scenery in Photo 2 (taken looking south from Sugar Loaf Mountain) is hidden in Photo 1 behind Bull Hill (middle-distance summit in the right of the picture), but the scenes definitely join where the Hudson flows beneath the bluffs just left of center in Photo 2. It is possible to cover most of the distance – about 4 miles in a straight line – between where I took each photo on trails. I’d like to do that one day.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Photo 2 – Looking south from Sugarloaf Mountain

Day Hike Notes – CT AT (2): Kent to Sharon

On Caleb's Peak, Connecticut AT

On Caleb’s Peak, mile 15.0

Hike One of our trek up the Connecticut A.T. took place in early February. Katie and I did not expect then to wait ten weeks for Hike Two. It was, mainly, March snow that got in the way. On Friday, there was not a trace of that snow, not even a smidgen in a deep, dark crevice on a north-facing slope. This was a true spring hike – an early sunrise, signs of blossom, full brooks, and a day that felt much warmer than advertised. It also covered a pleasantly varied section of the CT AT – ridge, of course, but also cliff and riverbank. Hopefully, Hike Three will happen within a month.

DATE: Friday, April 14th.
START: Route 341, Kent CT.
FINISH: Route 4, Sharon CT.
ROUTE: Appalachian Trail north.
DISTANCE: 11.1 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 22.6 miles.
TIME: Just under 7 hours (8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A 600-foot climb to warm up, then relatively level until Caleb’s Peak and the scramble down St John’s Ledges. Next, a flat, five-mile river walk, followed by a slog over Silver Hill.
MAP: A.T. official map MA-CT Map 4.

WEATHER: Perfect – partly sunny, then wholly sunny, high in the low 60s.
WILDLIFE: Sight and sound of woodpeckers.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Cornwall Country Market.
LUNCH: Manchego and chorizo on olive oil ciabatta at Stewart Hollow Brook lean-to.
UPS: Pretty much everything.
DOWNS: Very minor, realizing too late that the back of my neck was getting sunburned.
KIT: It was great to have, at last, poles I can collapse and stow in my pack – very useful for the scramble at St John’s Ledges.
COMPANY: Surprisingly little given the glorious weather.

Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to

Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to, mile 18.5