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

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

Ambler Gorge, Devil’s Den, Weston CT – January 27th

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, moderate pace, average terrain. There is no need to be an AMC member.

Fri., Jan. 27. Ambler Gorge, Devil’s Den, Weston (C2C). Friday’s forecast is good, and after recent rain the Den’s water features should be in full flow. We will take an afternoon hike to Ambler Gorge and back, taking in streams, ledges, and the rocky chasm itself. We’ll cover approximately 3.0 miles of mostly gentle grades in about 1.5 hrs, stopping at vistas on the Ambler Trail. Muddy sections possible. Meet Pent Road parking area (41.237020, -73.396220) 3:00 p.m. for 3:15 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. Heavy rain/snow cancels. L Rob McWilliams (203-434-0297, robert.c.mcwilliams at gmail.com).

ambler-gorge

Ambler Gorge, Devil’s Den

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

Taking a Hike – Great Hollow

My July “Taking a Hike” column has been published:

Exploring the trails of Great Hollow – The Hour
Discovering New Fairfield’s forests – Hersam Acorn

Great Hollow Nature Preserve is a  new place to hike, located 10 miles north of Danbury CT. The accessible part of the preserve offers scenic variety in a small area – brooks, hills, wetland, meadows, and of course forest. Wildlife abounds, as captured on the preserve’s cameras.

The inaccessible, eastern part of Great Hollow is contiguous with a fragment of Pootatuck State Forest, though there are no marked trails in the area. I followed my Great Hollow hike with a (largely unsuccessful) exploration of the Pootatuck fragment, and then a hike in the mapped part of the state forest, which offered some fine overlooks.

Candlewood Lake from Pootatuck SF

Candlewood Lake from Pootatuck State Forest, New Fairfield CT

 

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!