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 – Cobble to Caleb

Fuller Pond, Kent CT

Fuller Pond

In spring this year, hiking to Pond Mountain via the Appalachian Trail in Kent, CT, I conceived the idea of “Caleb to Cobble”—a hike “from views of the Housatonic River valley to a panorama of the distant Catskills”. Seven months later, on Black Friday, I took the hike; except it became “Cobble to Caleb”, for the simple reason that parking is better in Macedonia Brook State Park than it is beneath Caleb’s Peak on Skiff Mountain Road. I am delighted to say that the views—west and east—did not disappoint.

I was hiking alone, so this was an out-and-back. A point-to-point variant would be to park beside the Housatonic on River Road, scale St. John’s Ledges to Caleb’s Peak and end up on Cobble Mountain (second car spotted in Macedonia Brook SP).

DATE: Friday, November 23rd.
START & FINISH: Parking near Macedonia Brook State Park pavilion (41.768129, -73.494803).
ROUTE: Cobble Mountain and back; yellow, blue, and green trails to Fuller Mountain Road; Fuller Mountain Road to Pond Mountain Natural Area; Entry, Pond, and Red Gate trails to Skiff Mountain Road; very short stretch of Skiff Mountain Road to Appalachian Trail; AT to Caleb’s Peak. Return by same route (except, in Macedonia Brook, I used the green and orange trails on the return leg).
DISTANCE: About 11 miles roundtrip.
TIME: 5.5 hours (8:30am-2:00pm).
TERRAIN: Steep 650-foot up-and-down of Cobble, followed by climb to Macedonia Brook’s eastern boundary. A mile of tranquil Fuller Mountain Road. Mostly gentle grades on Pond Mountain NA trails. Caleb’s Peak is a few hundred feet above, and 0.7 miles from, Skiff Mountain Road.
MAP: CT Deep Macedonia Brook SP trail map (on my tablet); Pond Mountain Natural Area (paper, obtained from trailhead on a previous outing); AT official map (not necessary).

WEATHER: Sunny and cold (single digits rising to mid-20s F)
WILDLIFE: A couple of white-tailed deer hightailed it from me in a field beside Fuller Mountain Road. 

BREAKFAST: My traditional coffee and bagel at J.P. Gifford, Kent (bagel eaten half in the café and half on Cobble Mountain).
LUNCH: Turkey (of course) sandwich on Caleb’s Peak.
UPS: Beautiful places in sunny weather.
DOWNS: Wheezing a bit ascending Cobble in very cold air despite wearing a clava.
KIT: Katie, my eldest, lent me a Hydro Flask to test. I filled it with tea at home (6:30am) and opened it on Caleb’s Peak five hours later, and after three hours outside in cold temperatures. The tea was warmer than lukewarm, but cooler than hot.
COMPANY: A threesome climbing Cobble as I was coming down and, in the afternoon, a couple dog-walking beside Fuller Pond. That’s all.

Day Hike Notes – Pond Mountain via the Appalachian Trail

IMG_1594

More than half the hike is AT

Until very recently I thought of the Appalachian Trail and Macedonia Brook State Park as separate hiking places. In Kent, CT, you could either hike the AT or you could head for Macedonia Brook. I knew, of course, that the places were close, but assumed that the lands between them were off-limits. Then, in February, I discovered Pond Mountain Natural Area which, east, nearly touches the AT and, west, bounds Macedonia Brook.

I began to think about a hike I would call “Caleb to Cobble”—a trek from Caleb’s Peak on the AT to Cobble Mountain in the state park, from views of the Housatonic River valley to a panorama of the distant Catskills. I am saving Caleb to Cobble for another day, but this hike was a step toward it. It was a varied hike—ledges above the Housatonic, a loop around a glacial pond, big views to the west from Pond Mountain.

DATE: Sunday, April 29th.
START & FINISH: CT Route 341 west of Kent (GPS 41.731220, -73.490832).
ROUTE: AT north to Skiff Mountain Road; short road-walk to Red Gate Trail in Pond Mountain Natural Area; to Pond Mountain summit via Red Gate, Pond, and Mountain trails, circumnavigating Fuller Pond. Return by same route, except replacing Pond Trail with Escarpment Trail.
DISTANCE: A little over 9 miles.
TIME: 5 hours (8:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Good trails underfoot. Ups and downs, mostly gentle. Start at 400 feet elevation, Pond Mountain summit = 1,332 feet.
MAP: For Pond Mountain, trail map picked up at Fuller Mountain Road trailhead on a previous visit. There is a different map online.

WEATHER: Overcast with showers; a little sun on the return leg. Temperatures in low 50s.
WILDLIFE: I saw a couple of white birds swooping low through the forest, then realized they were deer tails—deer bodies well camouflaged!
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFASTJ.P. Gifford, Kent—bagel & coffee.
LUNCH: Sandwich on Fuller Mountain, return leg.
UPS: At the very start I felt a surge of joy to be walking across a field in a cool breeze and rain!
DOWNS: None.
KIT: The routine stuff.
COMPANY: No-one at all.

Almost done—Macedonia Brook near start and finish

Almost done—Macedonia Brook near start and finish

Taking a Hike – The Winter Giant

The Mill River, Sleeping Giant State Park

The Mill River, Sleeping Giant State Park

It was summer the last time I hiked the Sleeping Giant. If you live in the US northeast, you might be idealizing summer right now. Here are some things I remember from that July hike – stickiness, bugs, bug bites, sweat, still air, and a daughter saying “it’s too hot”.

I went back to the Giant at the end of last month, all alone this time. Clammy? Of course not. Bugs? What are they? Instead I found blue skies, brilliant ice, pristine snow, tree shadows, and sharp-focus views. Let’s not damn winter just because it has stayed with us a little too long this year – again!

“Taking a Hike”, my monthly newspaper column, is this month about the winter hike from the Giant’s head to his foot, and back to his noggin again. The column was published this week in both The Hour (A perfect day at Sleeping Giant) and at Hersam-Acorn Arts & Leisure (Sleeping Giant in Winter).

Valley of the Macedonia Brook, looking north.

Valley of the Macedonia Brook, looking north.

December 2014’s “Taking a Hike” – more snow, this time at Thanksgiving at Macedonia Brook in Kent, CT – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2014: “Dec – Macedonia Brook” – or by clicking here).

Day Hike Notes – Macedonia Brook

Macedonia Brook State Park, Kent CT.

Macedonia Brook valley, Kent CT, from its west side.

For many years now, I have hiked the same route on Black Friday (so called, by the way, because too many people go shopping instead of hiking). The route crosses the Saugatuck watershed in Easton and Weston CT. If you are interested in that hike, there is information for it here. But this year I broke with tradition. I was more in the mood for a mountain than a meander through Fairfield County woods. I thought of the Catskills or Taconics, but then the snow came just before the turkey, and I thought it would be stupid to drive for two hours just to find a mountain now made inaccessible. So, after some wavering, I compromised, and drove an hour to the little mountains of Macedonia Brook State Park. Little mountains, but still plenty of snow.

DATE: Friday, November 28th.
START & FINISH: Intersection of the Blue trail with Macedonia Brook Road, near the State Park’s southern entrance.
ROUTE: Anticlockwise around the Blue trail, plus a long detour and double-back after baulking at the slick clamber up Cobble Mountain’s northeast side. Detour took the Green, Orange, and White trails – plus an unmapped trail – to reach Cobble via the Blue trail from the south.
DISTANCE: Blue trail is a 6.4-mile circuit. The detour made my hike more like 8 miles.
TIME: 6 hours, more or less.
TERRAIN: Up and down steep, wooded hills. Some awkward scrambles. 6-9 inches of snow cover made everything slower and more difficult. I gave up the ascent of Cobble from the northeast (Blue trail) for lack of safe foot- and handholds.
MAPS: Available from CT Deep here.

WEATHER: Sunshine and clouds; light snow showers in the afternoon.
WILDLIFE: Just tracks in the snow.

PHOTOS: Here.

Cobble Mountain, Macedonia Brook State Park, Kent CT

Looking southwest from Cobble Mountain

BREAKFAST: McDonald’s in New Milford.
LUNCH: Thanksgiving turkey on rye. Walkers oatcakes (“bannocks”) carried across the Atlantic by my eldest daughter. Thanks, Katie!
UPS:
– Patches of the purest ultramarine sky.
– “Winter” views of the Macedonia Brook valley.
DOWNS:
– The cold air got to my lungs at first.
– Finding out that I had lost the White trail, and that even my detour was going to be longer than expected as a consequence.
KIT: I brought snowshoes, but left them in the car. They would have been useful at times, but a nuisance on steep, rocky sections.
COMPANY: Nobody at all, until a couple with three dogs five minutes from the end.