The Mattatuck Trail

Prospect Mountain Litchfield CT Cathole Road

On Cathole Road; the pack is mine, the discarded boot is not

For me, so far, Connecticut’s 42-mile Mattatuck Trail has been a winter thing. Two years ago, the day after Christmas, I hiked the Trail’s most northwesterly section until it ended at the Mohawk Trail. A layer of crunchy snow made for strenuous going. A year later, my eldest and I walked the next section down and saw bear tracks in the December snow. These two hikes added up to 14½ miles of Mattatuck.

Those 14½ miles form a detached section of the Trail in the towns of Cornwall, Goshen, and Warren. Last weekend, I drove up to Litchfield to pick the Trail up again. At home, there was little enough snow on the ground; in Litchfield—further inland and higher up—the Mattatuck Trail was as white as ever.

The contiguous Mattatuck Trail resumes in White Memorial Conservation Center, six road-miles from the Warren trailhead of the detached northwest section. From White Memorial, the Trail runs uninterrupted southeast to Wolcott, all unfamiliar territory to me. But before I went to White Memorial, I took country lanes north of Bantam to Prospect Mountain Preserve. Here, a 1.7-mile fragment of Mattatuck Trail winds over Prospect Mountain. The view from the North Summit is narrowly framed, but the South Summit offers a broader panorama toward—I think—Mount Tom.

After lunch in Bantam, I went to White Memorial and worked off my pulled pork by hiking the Mattatuck Trail from Bissell Road to Route 63 and back—a 6-mile level trek through forest, pond, and swamp.

Taking a Hike – Number 50!

mohawk-state-forest-cornwall-at-sunrise

Mohawk State Forest at sunrise

My January Taking a Hike column was, I realized only after its publication, Number 50. I am pleased to have delivered the column every month for over four years (I almost wrote “churned out”, but frankly too much effort goes into each article to make that true). I was never at serious risk of skipping a month either. Even when I spent long days on a work project in New York City, there was time for hikes and to write them up afterward on the commuter train. An unexpected trip to Scotland enabled an unplanned Scottish hike to write about. Even immobilized by an injured knee for two months in 2015, I found subjects to ramble on about. Anyway, here is January’s column – the first of 2017 and Number 50!

Up Mohawk Mountain, but not by ski lift at Hersam Acorn Newspapers
First Mattatuck Trail trek is a success, and a workout at The Hour

mattatuck-trailhead-at-flat-rocks-road

Mattatuck trailhead at Flat Rocks Road

Day Hike Notes – Mohawk Mountain

beaver-pond-beside-the-mattatuck-trail-cornwall-ct

Beaver pond near Great Hill Road

When I was reading up on this hike, I liked the idea of a long, steady ascent of a modest mountain. I liked that most of the ascent would pass through state forest. I was not so keen on the number of roads that the trail would use or cross.

Oh, how different the real world is from maps, especially out of date maps.

At first, the Mattatuck Trail was, barring a layer of snow, much as I expected. Then it reached where my map indicated a dirt road-walk. Instead, the trail swung off in another direction and meandered through woods – very beautiful woods in patches. When the trail used Camp Road for a half-mile, it was as quiet as a path, and pleasant relief from walking on snow (ice is easier, as long as you have spikes).

I followed the blue Mattatuck Trail blazes dutifully all the way to the top of the Mohawk Mountain ski runs (in use). But on the return journey, I cut corners using those roads I had not been keen on. Even on those open to traffic, there was hardly a car.

This was likely my last long hike of 2016. Great that it exceeded expectations.

DATE: Monday, December 26th.
START & FINISH: Flat Rocks Road, Cornwall, CT.
ROUTE: Mattatuck Trail north to where it ends at the Mohawk Trail.
DISTANCE: Something over 12 miles roundtrip.
TIME: 6.25 hours (7:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Easy to moderate topography, but a layer of crunchy snow made for a strenuous hike. Dirt road sections were very icy. Hike gains 600 feet from trailhead to Mohawk Mountain summit (1,683’).
MAP: From the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book West, now out of print and out of date for this section. Trail well blazed though.

WEATHER: Sunny until 11:00, then overcast. It began to rain as I neared the finish line. Cold at first and on summits.
WILDLIFE: Lots of tracks in the snow, distorted by thaw and refreeze.
PHOTOS: Here.

BREAKFAST: Bagel and coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, New Milford.
LUNCH: A sandwich, split between Cunningham Tower and Mohawk Pond.
UPS: Some fine woodland, ponds, and swamps; the views from Mohawk summit.
DOWNS: My phone – and therefore camera – announcing one hour into the hike that its battery was going flat (it survived at 4% for the remaining five hours, but I used it economically).
KIT: Microspikes essential.
COMPANY: All alone on the way out; a few walkers on the return leg.

looking-north-from-mohawk-mountain-cornwall-ct

Looking north from Mohawk Mountain