Day Hike Notes – Aspetuck Valley Trail

Aspetuck Valley Trail, Connecticut

Shade, rocks, roots, twisted trunks

The most memorable part of this local hike was my logistics. I “spotted” a bike near the end of the route and rode it back to my car when the hike was done. This was a first for me. I suspect my bike would have been safe anyway, but I locked it to a tree and felt sure no one would be interested in my old, dirty helmet left hanging from its handlebars. As mentioned below, I made a couple of changes to my usual hiking gear to make bike-riding more comfortable afterward. The logistics worked well and I’ll certainly use them again. As for the bike ride, it was a breeze, especially the long downhill on Route 58! The Aspetuck Valley Trail itself is a pretty outing that fits a lot of variety into its 6.9 miles.

DATE: Sunday, August 11th.
START: Southern trailhead, Route 58, Easton CT (GPS 41.282006, -73.341421). There is a pull-off to park just south.
FINISH: Northern trailhead, Collis P Huntington State Park, Newtown/Redding CT (GPS 41.346706, -73.345383).
ROUTE: Aspetuck Valley Trail (AVT) north.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles (the AVT is 6.9 miles; I repeated the final 0.9 to get back to my bike).
TIME: 3½ hours excluding bike ride (7:30am to 11:00am).
TERRAIN: Gentle woodland trails with modest ups and downs; a mile of broad, flat track; a very short road-walk; a residential lane.
MAP: Not necessary, but the trailhead kiosks provide maps.

WEATHER: Cloudless. A cool start (50s), warming to 70s.
WILDLIFE: A bird of prey of some sort cruising the canopy.

BREAKFAST: Half a bagel in the car, half sat on a rock with the hike half-done.
LUNCH: Back at home.
UPS: Cool, sunshiny woods early on.
DOWNS: Meeting a group of fat-tire cyclists hurtling down a trail they shouldn’t have been on.
KIT: I walked in lighter boots than usual to make pedaling easier after the hike. I wore convertible pants so I could hike in longs but pedal in shorts. Surprisingly for mid-August, I wore a second layer (for the first 1½ miles).
COMPANY: None apart from DOWNS.


Day Hike Notes – Ives Trail West

Danbury CT from Mootry Peak Lookout, Ives Trail

Danbury from Mootry Peak Lookout

Usually, I have a big hand in planning my hikes. When I go alone, mine is, of course, the only hand, Mother Nature excepted. But maybe because I am a moderately serious hiker, I find myself doing quite a lot of the planning and suggesting even when I hike with company. This hike was different. Katie, my eldest, suggested a Saturday outing, to which I agreed in a heartbeat. Then she said where, when, and how. All I did was make the sandwiches and turn up.

I was delighted with Katie’s choice of hike. I’d been thinking for a while about Bennett’s Pond to Route 7, but it would require two cars and that’s always harder to arrange. Katie’s plan gave me that hike and went a section better. Bennett’s Pond to Tarrywile Park is half the Ives Trail—the best and rugged half.

DATE: Saturday, February 3rd.
START: Bennett’s Pond State Park entrance, Bennetts Farm Rd, Ridgefield CT.
FINISH: Tarrywile Mansion, Tarrywile Park, Danbury CT.
ROUTE: Ives Trail.
DISTANCE: About 11 miles.
TIME: 5¾ hours (8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Ups and downs, mostly short but often steep.
MAP: The Ives Trail and Greenway.

WEATHER: Sunny and cold (low teens to upper 20s F).
WILDLIFE: Snowy owls are about in CT this winter, and Katie saw a large white bird when we were stopped for lunch. A snowy? Maybe, but they are not primarily woodland creatures.

LUNCH: Sandwiches and snacks on Moses Mountain.
UPS: Being out with Katie on a perfect winter’s day.
DOWNS: None at all.
KIT: I think I worked my layers quite well to avoid sweating, the cold-weather hiker’s curse.
COMPANY: Katie, plus a few other hikers and runners, mostly in Tarrywile Park.

Bennett's Pond, Ridgefield CT

Bennett’s Pond, Ridgefield CT

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, 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.

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,

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


Ambler Gorge, Devil’s Den

Taking a Hike – Back to the 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 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