Day Hike Notes – Macedonia Brook Loop

Macedonia Brook, blue-blazed loop

East side—a portion of the Blue trail

The last time I walked the blue-blazed loop in Macedonia Brook State Park was just after a Thanksgiving snowfall. The fallen snow made for tough walking and I took a long diversion to avoid an icy clamber. The loop was easier this time and no diversions were needed. Even so, this hike is no stroll in the state park. There are, perhaps, five significant ups and an equal number of downs. The west side has the best views and the ledges to enjoy them from.

DATE: Saturday, June 22nd.
START & FINISH: Macedonia Brook Road, Kent CT at GPS 41.760804, -73.493636.
ROUTE: Counterclockwise around the Blue trail.
DISTANCE: 6.6 miles.
TIME: 3¼ hours (11:00am to 2:15pm).
TERRAIN: The amount of up-and-down makes this a moderately strenuous hike. The NW side of Cobble Mountain involves a notorious act of gymnastics to surmount a creviced rock. However, the loop also includes some long stretches of easy walking. Gaia GPS says I ascended 1,438 feet over the course of the hike.
MAP: Available from CT Deep here.

WEATHER: Sunny and pleasantly warm (70s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing that caught my attention.

BREAKFAST: At home.
LUNCH: Cheese baguette on a ledge.
UPS: I love Macedonia Brook State Park—the brook, the tight valley, the wooded hills.
DOWNS: For some reason, an ankle was chafing uncomfortably against its sock by the final leg of the hike, maybe because, unusually, I hadn’t put on liner socks.
KIT: I got to play with a friend’s (see COMPANY below) PeakFinder App on Cobble Mountain. The app identified and named all the Catskill summits in the distance.
COMPANY: I ran into backpacking buddy Jim Liptack, plus Angela and (canine) Mindy on top of Cobble Mountain. Otherwise, Macedonia Brook was far from crowded.

GPS TRACK: Arrow marks Start.

Macedonia Brook Loop

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.

Tunxis Trail—Connecticut’s Wild Woodlands

The Tunxis Trail “northern terminus” is a remote, tranquil spot

The Tunxis Trail northern terminus

Wildness, like pretty much everything else, is relative. If you’re from Maine, the idea of wild Connecticut woods may provoke a chuckle. If you’re a city-hound, almost any forest may seem way too nature-dominated. I’ll be the first to admit that some of Connecticut’s forest tracts are small and intruded upon by civilization (Connecticut’s Wild Corner is a notable exception). But in Tunxis State Forest, Katie and I walked for 13 miles without seeing a car, or hearing a leaf blower, or meeting hardly any other hikers at all. We found moose scat and knew for sure that bears were in the neighborhood. Wild.

For a change, I am posting my Day Hike Notes (below) and my Taking a Hike column simultaneously. Katie and I took this hike over a month ago. Here are the links to the column:

Tunxis Trail in The Norwalk Hour
Tunxis Trail in Hersam Acorn Newspapers

I am, by the way, just back from the wild Maine woods. More to follow.

DAY HIKE NOTES—TUNXIS TRAIL

DATE: Friday, May 11th.
START: Pell Rd at CT-MA line, Hartland CT (GPS 42.037715, -72.898143).
FINISH: CT Route 219 northeast of Saville Dam, Barkhamsted CT (GPS 41.926324, -72.925151).
ROUTE: Tunxis Trail south.
DISTANCE: About 13 miles.
TIME: 8 hours (8:50 a.m. to 4:50 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Only moderate elevation gain and loss, but often rocky & rooty underfoot.
MAP: I carried the CT Walk Book (a bit bulky, really).

WEATHER: Sunny and warm, high in upper 60s.
WILDLIFE: I don’t associate Connecticut with moose, but some do live here, and we saw their scat!
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Cheese & bacon hard roll from Pleasant Valley General Store, Barkhamsted.
LUNCH: Sandwich and snacks somewhere in the Tunxis State Forest.
UPS: 13 miles of tranquil forest.
DOWNS: Worrying about my (still newish) car on rutted and potholed Pell Rd.
KIT: This was the first hike of the year when I carried my water reservoir instead of bottles—no chance of freezing up and a greater quantity of liquid required.
COMPANY: Katie McWilliams from beginning to end; 3 encounters with other hikers, mostly nearing the end.

Clouds above Indian Council Caves

Clouds above Indian Council Caves

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

Day Hike Notes – Ragged Mountain

Ragged cliff

Ragged Mountain Cliff

Time flies faster than sleet in a storm. Can it really be nearly two years since my eldest and I went up and over Ragged Mountain on our 11-hike trek from Massachusetts to Long Island Sound? Apparently it is, and I will have to accept this speeding-up of the reel of life just when I want it to go slower.

It was a different day in May 2016—green, warm, snakes basking. This time, I went to Ragged Mountain to avoid new snow that I knew would greet me north and west of home. Here—northeast—Friday’s nor’easter had brought just rain. Even so, I found a harsh day, what you’d expect of March—grays and browns, debris and blowdowns, black scavengers perched on bare branches … But I also found basalt cliffs, a (surely temporary) waterfall, and a windswept summit.

DATE: Sunday, March 4th.
START & FINISH: Andrews Street, Southington CT (41.630112, -72.833566).
ROUTE: Metacomet Trail to blue/red Preserve Trail. Blue/red clockwise to rejoin Metacomet near Ragged Mountain summit. Metacomet back to finish.
DISTANCE: 8½ miles.
TIME: 5½ hours (8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Quite rough. Although Ragged summit (all of 761’) was only 350’ or so above my starting point, there are numerous short, steep ups and downs (some very steep). Moreover, the trails are often rubbly underfoot.
MAP: Ragged Mountain Preserve Trail System from ctwoodlands.org.

WEATHER: Overcast; low 40s; breezy on exposed ledges.
WILDLIFE: A pair of perched turkey vultures let me get very close before flapping off.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Southington.
LUNCH: On a ledge overlooking Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
UPS: The hike’s many big-view ridgetop sections—Hartford’s high-rise downtown, 12 miles northeast, was clearly visible from Ragged summit.
DOWNS: I was mentally tired toward the end and switched off somewhat.
KIT: Glad of a rain jacket to keep out the northerly breeze in exposed places.
COMPANY: I chatted a while with a hiker about my age. He is planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail when he retires at 65! Good on him.

Hart Ponds and Hanging Hills

Hart Ponds and Hanging Hills, Ragged Mountain, Berlin CT