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

McWilliams is not taking a hike—yet

Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie Sunset, west of Cleveland

Oh dear, a month has passed since I posted and almost as long since I hiked.

The main culprit has been work, but there was also a lightning trip to Ohio to see in-laws and a friend’s visit from the UK. The Ohio trip did not involve any hiking, but it did yield a memorable Lake Erie sunset which I am happy to share here.

My last hike was a quick loop at Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted CT at the end of July. The outing provided raw material for August’s Taking a Hike column:

The View from Peoples State Forest at Hersam Acorn Arts & Leisure.

I never got around to posting July’s Taking a Hike either. Here it is:

A Walk on the Saugatuck Trail in The Hour.

Finally, the good news is that I do have a hiking adventure pending!

I booked an airline ticket to Reno NV for late September. I’m not going gambling; I’m planning to hike in the Sierra Nevada, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Much more about that plan to come. I can buy Cheryl Strayed red bootlaces at REI, right?

PCT Lower Echo Lake

Pacific Crest Trail, Lower Echo Lake – courtesy of Ray Bouknight–https://www.flickr.com/photos/raybouk/

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

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (9)

katie-at-bluff-head-mattabesett-trail-guilford-ct

Katie at Bluff Head, the rest of our journey to the Sound laid out to her right.

I won’t say that we could smell the salt air, but, by the end of this hike, Long Island Sound was only ten miles distant (if we could fly; it is 18 trail-miles). I don’t remember when we first glimpsed the Sound on our ridge-trek south from Massachusetts. It was, maybe, from the Hanging Hills. But from Bluff Head in Guilford, the Sound showed as a clear, gray-blue break between the Connecticut woods and the blur of Long Island in the distance. So, Katie and I will be done with the Connecticut portion of the NET after two more hikes. We already have a plan for our next home-state hike.

DATE: Friday, September 23rd
START: Reed Gap, Durham.
FINISH: Route 77, Guilford
ROUTE: Mattabesett Trail south.
DISTANCE: 10.2 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 93 miles (excluding side trails and wrong turns).
TIME: 7 hours (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Very moderate elevation gains and losses (hike terrain ranging from 300 to 750 feet above sea level), but plenty of short, steep climbs and descents to test the knees and stamina.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Sunny with increasing humidity. High of 81 degrees.
WILDLIFE: Lots of toads, one fleeing white-tailed deer.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s North Haven.
LUNCH: On Pistapaug Mountain, the usual fare.
UPS: Many, but the views from Bluff Head near the end of our trek stand out.
DOWNS: The sound of shooting practice to the west filled the first hours of the walk.
KIT: I found my poles really useful, essential even, on steep descents on loose rock.
COMPANY: Really only on Bluff Head.

metacomet-trail-map-9

Our NET route through CT — solid green = hiked, green dashed = yet to hike

Taking a Hike – Mattabesett Trail

The photograph below is deceptive and, to make it worse, deliberately so.

I took it on Higby Mountain on Connecticut’s Mattabesett Trail, and it faces approximately west. West looks pretty natural, doesn’t it? All those wooded ridges. The truth is, I stepped gradually back from the edge of Higby’s cliffs until the evidence of civilization mostly vanished. Then I crouched until all of it did. Still, I like the picture, and it nicely introduces this month’s “Taking a Hike” column:

On this trail, a desire to keep going at The Hour.
From the Metacomet to the Mattabesett to the Sound at Hersam Acorn.

The Sound (that’s Long Island Sound) is now two or three hikes away.

on-higby-mountain

On Higby Mountain, Mattbesett Trail

Day Hike Notes – New England Trail (8)

At the start of the climb up Beseck Mountain

The Mattabesett Trail starts up Beseck Mountain

There are few places on the New England Trail (NET) in Connecticut where you feel far from civilization. This does not mean there are few natural or beautiful places along the trail. There are plenty. It is just that the NET hiker sees civilization all around in a way that, say, the Connecticut Appalachian Trail hiker does not. There are busy roads to cross, subdivisions to view, powerlines to pass beneath, hilltop antennas and towers. In this, the section over mounts Higby and Beseck – our eighth since starting from the Massachusetts line in February – was typical.

In fact, Higby-Beseck felt closer to civilization than any other section. On Higby Mountain’s cliffs, we were 500 feet above I-91, but its noise rose loud and clear. Subdivisions came right up to the foot of Beseck’s cliffs, and Powder Ridge ski runs ran down the other side. We could hear target practice from the police academy in Meriden, and stone-crushing at Tilcon in Wallingford. But on our ridge we were nearly always alone, and the clutter and hubbub seemed to belong, for now, to another world. It seems you can escape civilization while still within its sight and sound. Maybe watching a city from a boat bobbing a half-mile offshore is much the same.

DATE: Friday, September 2nd
START: Bell Street, Middletown.
FINISH: Reed Gap, Durham
ROUTE: Mattabesett Trail south.
DISTANCE: A little over 12 miles.
ACCUMULATED DISTANCE: 83 miles (excluding side trails and wrong turns).
TIME: 7.5 hours (9:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
TERRAIN: A very gradual climb to the top of Higby Mountain’s cliffs (650 feet over 2 miles plus), then a clifftop walk until descent to Route 66; a very gradual climb to the top of Beseck Mountain’s cliffs, then a clifftop walk until descent to Reed Gap. Some loose traprock underfoot.
MAP: AMC/CFPA New England Trail Map & Guide.

WEATHER: Warm and sunny. High of 79 degrees.
WILDLIFE: A large black rat snake that slithered off with remarkable speed when we startled it, startling us in turn.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Lino’s Market, Durham.
LUNCH: Manchego cheese sandwiches, pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit above Black Pond.
UPS: Being back on the trail with Katie.
DOWNS: Not a “down” exactly, but the views were westerly, with a heavily developed – and noisy – slice of Connecticut in the foreground.
KIT: The only things our packs contained that were really essential were food and water.
COMPANY: A couple out with their exuberant dog; an older man out with what seemed like a very large backpack for a day-hike.

Metacomet Trail Map (8)

Our NET route through CT — solid green = hiked, green dashed = yet to hike