Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston CT – February 24th

AMC-logoJoin me if you can this Friday afternoon for an Appalachian Mountain Club CT Chapter hike in the Devil’s Den. Details from the AMC announcement below. C2C means <5 miles, fast pace, average terrain. There is no need to be an AMC member. Despite the picture, we should be snow-free.

Fri., Feb. 24. Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston (C2C). Looks as if our snow and ice will melt completely this week. Let’s take an afternoon hike in the Devil’s Den with a chance of enjoying the sinking sun on the ridge traversed by the Hiltebeitel Trail.  We’ll cover 3.5-4.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 1.5 hrs, stopping at vistas along the way. Muddy sections possible. Meet Pent Road parking area (41.237020, -73.396220) 3:45 p.m. for 3:55 sharp departure. Co-Lead welcome. Call Rob if you would like to car-pool from Rte 7 commuter parking lot next to Orem’s Diner, Wilton. Only heavy rain/snow cancels. L Rob McWilliams (203-434-0297, robert.c.mcwilliams@gmail.com).

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil's Den

Sinking sun on the Hiltebeitel Trail

Taking a Hike – Back to the Den

rough-bridge-devils-den

Rustic trail bridge, Devil’s Den, Weston CT

You can tell it’s autumn; we had snow flurries last week, but t-shirt weather yesterday. I doubt we’ll have many more t-shirt days this year, but I do hope the serious snow holds off. I still have hiking and even backpacking plans. More about those next, but first – belatedly – my October “Taking a Hike” column.

The column, not for the first time, is about the Devil’s Den in Weston CT. The Den is my nearest hiking place, and my family has visited it frequently for almost 18 years. The Den is not Yellowstone or even the Litchfield Hills, but even so it has its “wow!” places. The article is not about those places. It’s about a few of the Den’s unsung, quietly rewarding corners.

The Den’s big little places at The Hour.
The Den’s big little places at Hersam Acorn.

Those hiking plans:

My eldest daughter, Katie, and I still have a day and a half of hiking to do to reach Long Island Sound, and so complete our north-south traverse of Connecticut on the New England Trail. I am confident we will get it done in November.

Back in July, I wrote that I would be “off to the Dacks in August, or September, or maybe October”. It didn’t happen, on account of work projects. The idea was to backpack in Silver Lake Wilderness. I have not given up on the plan entirely, but recognize that the weather will need to cooperate. No part of the hike is much over 2,000 feet in elevation, and grades are gentle. But we are talking Upstate New York, so who knows what the weather will do? I am not bothered, within reason, by cold; it’s deep snow that would make me call a halt. Short days, too, may cause a cut-back on distance.

the-gully-on-ensors-trace

The gully on Ensor’s Trace, Devil’s Den

Evening Hike, Devil’s Den, Weston CT – May 20th

AMC-logoJoin me if you can on Wednesday for an Appalachian Mountain Club CT Chapter hike in the Devil’s Den. Details from the AMC announcement below.

C2C means <5 miles, fast pace, average terrain. There is no need to be an AMC member. Bugs likely.

Sunset on HiltebeitelWed., May 20. “Sunset on Hiltebeitel” (C2C) , Devil’s Den, Weston CT. Good forecast, let’s take an evening hike in the Devil’s Den Preserve with a view to enjoying the sinking sun on the ridge traversed by the Hiltebeitel Trail. We’ll cover 3.5-4.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 1.5 hrs, stopping at vistas along the way. Meet Pent Road parking area 6:00 p.m. for 6:15 sharp departure. NOTE THAT GODFREY ROAD BRIDGE IS OUT. YOU WILL NEED TO APPROACH PENT ROAD FROM THE EAST (NEWTOWN TURNPIKE / RTE 53). Lead Rob McWilliams (203-434-0297, robert.c.mcwilliams@gmail.com). Co-Lead welcome. Call Rob to car-pool from Rte 7 commuter parking lot next to Orem’s Diner, Wilton. Heavy rain cancels.

 

Radio Arts & Leisure, May 1st

HAN RadioOn Friday, I took part in a radio show for the first time, nattering for a while about hiking. The show was Radio Arts & Leisure, on HAN Radio, a local (southwest Connecticut) online station. It is part of Hersam Acorn Newspapers which, along with The Hour of Norwalk, publishes my Taking a Hike column each month.

Click here if you would like to listen to the podcast of the show (my segment starts at minute 29:00). If HAN Radio is on air, better to pause the broadcast before starting the podcast unless you are good at listening to two soundtracks at once.

I talked a little about hike preparation and trail etiquette, before suggesting three hikes in western Connecticut. If you are interested in the hikes, there are articles for each as follows:

EASY – Aspetuck Valley Trail, September 2014
MODERATE – Devil’s Den Great Ledge, December 2012
TOUGH – Bear Mountain and Lions Head, April 2013

My thanks to Sally and Steve for having me on the show. I’m looking forward to the next time!

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).

Coming to Terms with Snowshoes

Meadow, Brinckerhoff Preserve, Redding CT

Meadow, Brinckerhoff Preserve, Redding CT

“Snowshoes don’t allow you to magically skim across the surface like a water strider on a summer pond,” advised an article I read recently. Well, that is just too bad, because I really wish they did precisely that. When I set out from Redding’s Brinckerhoff Preserve yesterday afternoon, I thought I might hike over to the ledges on the far side of the Devil’s Den, a round-trip of 6 or 7 miles. I had brought microspikes and snowshoes, but it was soon obvious that it was the snowshoes I’d be wearing; and equally obvious, as I crossed the big meadow near the Preserve entrance, that big feet would not stop me sinking plenty into the powder.

Ensor's Trace trail, NW corner of the Devil's Den, Weston CT

Ensor’s Trace trail, NW corner of the Devil’s Den, Weston CT

It was a beautiful afternoon to be out, cold but cloudless. The bright, white woods were a joy to see – but a pain to walk through. I still sank 6 inches into the snow with every step, and my big clown feet increased the physical and mental effort expended. I moved forward too slowly for my liking, but sweated to do so. Winter hikers should avoid sweat, as wet layers will chill soon enough; but I baulked at the bother of stripping off and stowing my jacket. Not far over the line into the Devil’s Den – a line that is also the Redding-Weston boundary – I knew the ledges would be beyond me.

Ravine and hidden brook, Ensor's Trace, Devil's Den

Ravine and hidden brook, Ensor’s Trace, Devil’s Den

After covering perhaps a mile and a half in an hour, helped here and there where deer had trampled down the snow, I stopped where the trail called Ensor’s Trace meets the Donahue Trail and a brook. Although this spot is less than half a mile from people’s homes, it felt that it could have been deep in big woods. No one had come this way since the last snowfall. Apart from a solitary trail marker sticking out of the snow, there were no human sights or sounds. I had hoped to look out from high ledges, but this patch of woods would do just fine.

Brinckerhoff meadow again, 2 hours later

Brinckerhoff meadow again, 2 hours later

I have owned snowshoes for a while, but have not used them frequently. I might need to improve my technique, or at least manage my expectations. By the time I was back at the big meadow, I felt like I’d had a good workout. This morning I got an e-mail from a hiking buddy talking about his new snowshoes. “They are a remarkable improvement over boots alone in deeper snow,” he says. I guess that is the point. You don’t magically skim over the surface, but at least you are out in the snow.

Taking a Hike – Solo Hiking, Group Hiking

The Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil's Den, Weston CT -- destination of one of my AMC hikes

The Hiltebeitel Trail, Devil’s Den, Weston CT — destination of one of my AMC hikes

“Taking a Hike”, my monthly column, has now been published for October at both The Hour and Hersam-Acorn Arts & Leisure. It’s a bit of a ramble (appropriate, I suppose) on the pros and cons of hiking alone versus in company; and how I have started to appreciate social hiking more, helped along by two fun group hikes I organized for the AMC at the Devil’s Den in Weston, CT.

July’s “Taking a Hike” – a very solitary walk in the Catskill Mountains – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2014: “Jul – Panther Mountain” – or by clicking here). Thinking back to its voiceless woods, I know I will never give up solo hiking entirely. There are photos for this hike here.