Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sleeping Giant in the snow

Violet and Yellow Trails - 5.4 miles

After all the snow a few days ago, it was time to get out into the woods for a couple of hours.  Head to toe on the Giant and back again.  I picked the Violet and Yellow trails since they stay off the rocks (for the most part anyway) and were likely to have the best footing.  Packed snow most of the way, with just a bit of blazing my own trail.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chauncey Peak and Giuffrida Park

Sunday - Boxing Day - low 30's, driving wind, snow threatening - perfect day for hike (but just a short one).  Hiking with some of the Sleeping Giant crew on a small section of the Mattabesett Trail: Giuffrida Park and Chauncey Peak in Meriden.

Giuffrida Park is just off Westfield Road in Meriden, with a parking lot at the south end of Crescent Lake.  The hike takes us on the white trail around the west side of the lake, then up Chauncey on the blue blazed Mattabesett Trail, back down the mountain and around to the parking lot - a 3 mile loop around the lake with views all around from the mountain peak.

                                                               Trail Map

No skating yet, good thing we're just here for a hike

Once around the lake, we crossed a bridge over the stream to start the climb up the hill on Chauncey.  It's an easy climb - just a few steep, rocky sections.  Once up top, there are views from Sleeping Giant to the southwest, the lake and park to the west, up to Hartford to the northeast.  Like Higby and Beseck, the Mattabesett Trail tracks the cliff edge on Chauncey for tremendous views all around.

Crescent Lake with Sleeping Giant in the distance

Crescent Lake, Giuffrida Park entrance and Hunter Golf Club

Past the peak, the trail crosses over the east side of the mountain.  Chauncey Peak is a trap rock mountain.  This side is all quarry - The York Hill Trap Rock Quarry Company (Suzio) maintains the quarry and rock crushing operation.  It looks like half the mountain is quarried already, but the ridgeline is protected.

The quarry operations on the east side of Chauncey Peak

The blue trail has been rerouted a few times.  There is a blue/red blazed section that just seems to cut some of the switchbacks off the blue trail.  We got off trail and came across faded blazes making the trip back down the mountain a little more interesting.  It's a steep trip down the mountain, out along Westfield Road and back into the park.

and back to the parking area just as the snow starts to fall.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mattabesett Trail – Mount Higby.

Route 66 to Country Club Road:  4 ½ miles                 Trail Map

How do you turn a 4 mile hike with friends into an 11 mile solitary excursion?  Some would answer “by being stupid!”.  But that might be a little harsh, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

This hike started at Route 66 in Middlefield, then north to Country Club Road in Middletown. The Mount Higby section of the Mattabesett runs along another of the string of trap rock cliffs of the Metacomet Ridge.  Like the Beseck Ridge section to the south, Mount Higby has a long line of scenic outlooks to the north, west and south.

Starting from the parking lot, follow the blazed and rocky connector trail a short distance north to meet the blue trail.  Head west, parallel to Route 66, and pass junctions for two local trails.  And then it’s time to climb the mountain.  The trail heads up the hill, switchbacks in the steeper sections, and opens to a view south toward Black Pond and Beseck Ridge.  A little farther, the trail leads along the edge of the cliffs, giving you fantastic 180o view.  On a clear day, you can see from Long Island Sound to Mount Tom.  Today, it’s a little hazy.  We didn’t get the snow predicted, but it’s cold and cloudy – perfect day for a hike!

Black Pond and Beseck Ridge to the south

With apologies to my friends from New Hampshire - tinker
with the nose and eyes a little, we could have our own
"Little Man of the Mountain"

Mount Higby is a two-humper.  Follow the trail downhill into Preston Notch (which marks the border here between Middlefield and Middletown), then continue back uphill to the peak of Mount Higby (892’). 

There are warning signs along the Mattabesett here – the trail leads right along the cliff edge.  While that gives you great views, it can be a little unnerving if you’re not fond of heights.   Along the ridge, there is an alternate trail that stays a little farther away from the cliff edge – leads around the steep rocks and pops out at spots with the best views.  It’s not marked, but it well worn and easy to follow.

The view north, from foreground to back:
The Pinnacle, Preston Notch and Mount Higby Peak

A land bridge - walk over, under, across the rocks

The view west - the Hanging Hills to the left, Chauncey Peak
Lamentation Mountain to the right

At about mile three, I met the crew from Sleeping Giant coming the other way.  What does a trail crew do in the off season?  Hike other trails, of course.  When you’re hiking with a group, it’s good to know the ground rules – are they a “unless you’re five minutes early, you’re late” crowd, or is the 15 minute rule in place?  I was supposed to meet them at the Route 66 parking lot for a car drop and then hike the trail back one way.  But I just missed them, so decided to hike out and back instead.  That would only make it about 9 miles, and the weather was OK.  So why not?  Anyway, we stopped for a snack, and they continued south while I headed north.

The trail winds its way northeast down the mountain along a woods road in the Middletown Water Company property.  It levels off, leading through a Hemlock grove – another victim of Woolly Adelgid.  You pass a junction for the Blue/Red trail marked for Tynan Park, and then work your way to out to the trailhead on Country Club Road.  Try to ignore the piled truck tires and keep out signs.  These are remnants of a closed ATV park.  The Country Club Road trailhead is set back from the road, tough to spot unless you know what you’re looking for. 

Country Club Road trailhead - the only trail sign is set way back

Once at the trailhead, I took a quick break and headed back south again.  Blue/Red blaze trails are often alternate routes giving you the opportunity to see different scenery in a Blue Trail loop hike.  Since I wasn’t planning on making this trip, I really didn’t check the maps before coming out.  If this was an alternate trail around Mount Higby, that would be good to check out, right?  As it turns out, it is just a connector to Tynan Park on Higby Road – a flat walk through forest, across stream and fields, to the park.  It gives you another parking / starting spot instead of trying to get one of the two spaces on Country Club Road.  But for me today, it was just a two mile detour right back to the same spot! (Note – the connector trail is shown on the Meriden Land Trust map at the beginning of this post)

Back on the Mattabesett, the trail climbs more gradually up to the ridge again.  From the top, it was about an hour’s hike back along the ridge and down to the parking lot.  I passed a couple more groups of hikers along the way, out enjoying the brisk day and views (yep, it was getting colder!)  One guy was trying to balance his water bottle, climb a rock section and still watch his phone – Manning was just intercepted.  Never let anything get in the way of a Giants game, I guess.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Holidays at Sleeping Giant

On Sunday,  the Sleeping Giant Park Association celebrated the season with their Holiday Hike and Social.  About 50 people showed up for a two mile hike, and more met up for the party a little later.  After all, who can resist a roaring fire, cookies and snacks and hot mulled cider with friends on a chilly afternoon.  Add in a Christmas Carol sing, and you've got the Holiday Social.

Hiking down the Nature Trail

A short break at the overlook

Almost time for the carol sing

The SGPA is a volunteer organization to protect and enhance the park - maintaining and improving the hiking trails with the Trail Crew, organizing hikes to bring more people into the park and to teach them what's around, maintaining the park website and its quarterly newsletter to keep us informed about what's going on there.  And keeping an eye on neighboring land to protect and expand the park.

They do a tremendous job making sure Sleeping Giant stays a great place to visit.  No matter where you hike, there's a group like this clearing the way for you.  So where ever you are, join up and become a member, volunteer a little time, make your park or forest or trail a little better for the next guy.

If you're in southern Connecticut, I'll make it easy.  Here's a link to the SGPA membership page.

They picked a great day for the party - sunny, not too cold.  And timing was good - the next day, the park looked like this...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chatfield Trail, Killingworth

4.7 mile trail, with a ¾ mile alternate trail to make loop hikes possible.

The Chatfield Trail runs between Route 80 and River Road in Killingworth, just south of Chatfield Hollow State Park.  The north section of the trail travels through Foster Pond State Park, an undeveloped section of the Cockaponset State Forest.  The southern section skirts state land and wanders through some privately owned property. I couldn't find good maps on line, so here's one more good reason to go out and buy the Connecticut Walk Books.  Chatfield Trail is in the East book.

The north trailhead, with parking for about eight cars, is ¼ mile west of the state park on Route 80.  And old forest road starts you off from the parking area.  There’s also a new trailhead right across the street from the Chatfield Hollow entrance – it joins up with the main trail about a ¼ mile in.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Salmon River Trail

Colchester CT
6.7 mile loop trail through the Salmon River State Forest and the Day Pond Brook State Park.

    Trail Map                  Salmon River State Forest              Day Pond State Park

The Salmon River Trail starts with a stroll across one of the last active covered bridges in Connecticut, the Comstock Bridge.  This photo is from a great site that chronicles the covered bridges in the state.  The bridge was built in the 1870’s for horse and buggy, and then pedestrian, traffic. 

But here’s the state of the bridge today.  It was starting to sag and fail, and the great news is that instead of being replaced with a modern bridge, it’s being restored with much of the original material and design.  Expected completion next June.  You can catch up on the details here

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Black and White

For all the research I do about the park or forest I'm hiking, sometimes there's a welcome surprise or two. While I finish cleaning up the photos, here are a few shots of the day.

For any of Carmi's friends visiting from Written, Inc - black and white with a twist. Come back in a few days and I'll take you on a wander around the Salmon River and Day Pond Brook.

It's too nice to stay inside.  Besides, I don't know any of the
symphonies for two hands and a paw.

Hunters forewarned - I AM NOT A DEER
Even black and white, I love the falls!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

American Legion Trails, Barkhamsted

American Legion State Forest – the trails that CCC built

Park Web Site                                  Trail Map

The American Legion State Forest is on the west bank of the west branch of the Farmington River in Barkhamsted, CT.  It’s a beautiful area, great for camping, fishing, canoeing along the river, with two short blue-blazed trails: the Henry Buck Trail, and the Turkey Vulture Ledge Trail.  I was at Bradley Airport early Thursday morning, about 20 minutes away, so picked these for a quick hike.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Legend of Mad Mare's Hill

Gather round, my fainthearted friends.  It's a Halloween tale of ghosts and ghouls and the Mad Mare of Hamden's Hills.  She was a monster, black as night, standing 16 hands high.  Bred of Mustang and Shire Horse, she was wild and ill-tempered.

But when the moon rises on All Hallow's Eve, something evil awakens in her very soul.  Nostrils flared, searching the air; the red tint of her crazed eyes glowing like fire in the moonlight.

With a chilling whinny, an ear splitting neigh, she goes mad on Halloween night, terrorizing any who are fool enough to cross her hill...

hmmhmmwah ha ha...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Three Down, One To Go

Heartbreak Hill

I'm working toward the Four Seasons Giant Master - hiking all 30 miles of trails at Sleeping Giant State Park once each season.  Spring and Summer are done, and since we're almost halfway through Fall with weekends getting busy, I packed the trek into two days.  No stories, no camera, no photos - just plugging along, getting the miles done.

It's either training for a Giant Marathon (everything in one day) or justification for taking it slow and enjoying the trails.  Give me a couple of days to decide!

OK, one photo with my phone snuck through:  my version of Heartbreak Hill above - looking up the trail to the ascent of Giant's Head halfway through day 2, and wondering if my rubbery legs will get me there - go Gumby go.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Top of the World

or at least Connecticut's little piece of it.
Bear Mountain, Mt. Frissell, Brace Mountain loop

Bear Mountain - as seen from the west on Mt Frissell

Bear Mountain, in the northwest corner of Connecticut, is the state’s highest summit.  But not the state highpoint.  That honor belongs to a little section of the south face of Mount Frissell.  This New Haven Hiking Club hike took us up and over Bear and Round Mountains, and then up Frissell in Massachusetts, over to the Taconic Ridge and Brace Mountain in New York.  Three states, one state highpoint, four mountain summits and a great hike; about 12 miles on a beautiful autumn Sunday.

We started from the Route 41 parking lot and trailhead, about three miles north of Salisbury, CT on the blue blazed Undermountain Trail.  This is a popular spot; the parking was already filled when we got there at 9am.  Two groups headed up with us, but we were hiking at a pretty good pace, and lost them after a few minutes.  The hike starts with a brief walk through the flats, then a steady incline up the west side of Bear Mountain - it's a workout!

We passed Paradise lane, a cutoff trail that leads north around the summit of Bear instead of going over the top.  Note - This makes a good 6.7 mile loop hike if you just do Bear Mountain – head up over the summit and then take the Paradise Lane Trail back around.  Brassie Brook cuts across the trail next, and with rain yesterday, the brook ran over and flooded the trail making a wet crossing.

The trail levels off for a little while, and then starts back up again heading to the Riga Junction on the Appalachian TrailConnecticut has about 50 miles of the 2175 mile Trail, and this is just a little piece of it.  From this junction, it’s almost a mile to the Bear Mountain Summit.

Climbing the mountain trail
Bear Mountain summit

After another steep climb, the trail levels off again as the trees give way to scrub oak and pine nearing the top of the mountain.  And then the summit – there’s a stone tower, about eight feet tall, that gets you above the treeline for unrestricted views all around.   The tower was originally built in 1885 (much taller with 350 tons of stone hauled up),  and since vandalized, fixed, rebuilt and reset.  We were about an hour and a quarter into the hike now, so relaxed sitting on the tower enjoying the breeze and views –

View North - Mt Everett reservation

View East - Twin Lakes

Break's over – we headed west off the mountain, bushwacking through what used to the Bee Line trail, hands feet and butts down the rock tracks – wet leaves make slippery rock even more so.

Hiking into Northwest Camp
Nestled in the gap between Bear and Round Mountains, you'll find the Northwest Camp - an Appalachian Mountain Club maintained shelter and campsite.  It bunks six plus whoever fits on the floor and is available by reservation on the AMC website.  Just past the cabin, the path leads out to the Frissell trailhead on Mt Washington Road

Our hike leader also happened to be the steward for this section of the Frissell Trail.  The NHCC has maintained the trail to the tri-state line for about 20 years.  So, loppers in hand, we hiked up from the Mt Washington Road lot, past a Connecticut border marker and onto the trail.  There were a few stops to clear some of the brush, and note places that will require more work when the group comes back in the spring.

Up Round Mountain, it's a really steep climb through the last section to the summit.  Most of the forest is oak, and the leaves were just past peak autumn color.  But there were still fire-red maples sprinkled around, and the most striking colors were the bright white birch trees against the red leaves of blueberry bushes.

White Birch and blueberry bushes

After a more gentle descent off Round, it was a tough, steep climb up Mt Frissel.  We made the peak from the east side, and then hiked around to the south face of the mountain. I'm not sure what kind of monument to the highest point in Connecticut I expected, but this wasn't it.  A rock cairn is built up next to a small green post marking the spot.  We broke here for a rest, snack and a little work clearing a view point to the south.  If I had phone service up here, I could have texted out how I was head and shoulders above everyone else in the state, but a photo will have to do.

Around the face, then down through birch forest to the tri state marker.  This monument, dated 1898, has New York etched on one side, Massachusetts on the other, and a nice blank face pointing into Connecticut.  When the marker was placed, Connecticut was still disputing the border.  If that dispute is still on, I say we annex Mt Frissell and take the summit as the new highpoint.  Massachusetts would never even notice!  For now, someone has scratched and marked CT on the blank side just so we know where we are.

The Frissell Trail just past
the New York border
Tri State Marker, with CONN
scratched into the stone.

Continuing west to the end of the Frissell Trail in Taconic State Park, views open up at the southern end of the South Taconic Trail.  We made a quick hike up Brace Mountain, just in time to see a paraglider land in the valley to the west.  This is prime sailing real estate for the Mount Brace Outdoor Club, with near constant wind coming up the valley across the ledge.  After hanging out on the summit for a while, we started the hike back down one of the mountain roads and met a team from the Outdoor Club clearing the trail.  They truck the paraglide rigs in to the base of the mountain on the east, and then hike them up the road to the summit.  No sailing today because it was too windy - one of guys explained "it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than be in the air wishing you were on the ground."

The view west from Brace Mountain summit

I found a video of a flight over the area - check it out here.

The trip back was a quick hike through the open mountain roads - wide level trails that have been used for logging over the years.  The trails were swamped in sections – running water down Brace Mountain road and in through the Bear Mountain road.  I got to test that the new boots really are waterproof.

Here's a summary of the hike route:
·    Follow the blue blazed Undermountain Trail west from the Rt 41 Trailhead.  Pass the Paradise Lane turnoff, and cross Brassie Brook.
·    Turn north on the white blazed Appalachian Trail to the summit of Bear Mountain (2,326’).
·    West off the summit on the Bee Line trail (not well blazed) to the AMC Northwest Camp.
·    Continue to Mount Washington Road at the CT-MA state border (marker 198) to the start of the red blazed Frissell Trail.
·    Up, over and down Round Mountain (2,293’)
·    Up Mt Frissell to the summit. (2,451’)
·    Down SSW to the CT Highpoint (2,372’) and green post border marker
·    West on Frissell Trail to the tri state marker
·    Continue west on Frissell Trail to its end at the South Taconic Trail in Taconic State Park.
·    White blazed STT south to summit of Brace Mountain (2,323’)
·    Backtrack on the STT and then take Brace Mountain Road down Brace, across Monument Brook.  North on Mt Washington Rd between Round Mountain and Gridley Mountain.
·    Southwest on Bear Mountain Rd to the AT. 
·    South on the AT, then east on the Undermountain Trail back to the Rt 41 parking lot.

5 hours out – including time for snacks, lunch, some trail maintenance, rests at the summits and time waiting for me to get my butt up the steep climbs.  Just under 2 hours back along the flat mountain roads.  Check out the rest of the photos here -

Monday, October 18, 2010

Butterworth Brook Reservoir

Have you been to Sleeping Giant State Park?  I spent a long lunch there today, but not where you'd expect. Northwest across Tuttle Avenue, the Butterworth Brook property is not developed - no trails yet - but this time of year is really worth a look...

Enter along Butterworth Brook

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Macedonia Brook Trail - Kent, CT

Sunny and 60o – an absolutely beautiful morning in Kent.  The leaves are starting to turn – reds and yellows brighten the day. 

        State Park Website                                    Trail Map

You couldn’t script a better start to the hike today.  Sound – babbling brook in the main park picnic area, wind rustling the leaves, a hawk screeches in the distance.  Cue the wildlife – three deer bolt off into the woods as the hawk circles overhead.  And action – start east up the hill on the Blue Trail in Macedonia State Park.  This 2300 acre state park has camping spring to fall, fishing and of course, hiking – seven marked trails including the 6.7 mile blue-blazed loop. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mattabesett Trail – Beseck Ridge

Route 68 to Route 66 section, Middlefield / Durham - 5.7 miles

But since I hiked it out and back and around a little, make it about 12 miles.

Where to hike next?  A friend from work remembered a photo she had, a view off a cliff with water in the background, somewhere around Middletown – maybe Mattabesett Mountain?  A confirming email from her friend came back – the Mattabesett trail south of 691.  Check the Connecticut Walk Book – that sounds like the Beseck Ridge section of the trail.

I parked at the Route 66 parking lot on the north side of 66, just west of the Baileyville Rd (Rt 147) intersection.  A trail leads north and then east from the lot, passing the Mattabesett sign, and the ubiquitous CFPA warning: “STOP – PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  This section of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail traverses a portion of the Metacomet Range, a series of high traprock ridges that drop precipitously at the cliff edge.  A fall from the ridge will result in serious injury or death….”   oooo this will be fun! 

Somewhere in my blog description, I said you can find a trail near pretty much anywhere in Connecticut.  That means you can go from life’s hustle and bustle to the peace and quiet of the forest and trail in no time.  The Mattabesett Trail here is a perfect example. 

With just a short hike, you can go from this…                 To this.

But let’s start at the beginning.  After hiking toward 147 and across Route 66, and then a little walk through the woods, you start to see a clearing through the trees.  Maybe the first views of the pond and mountains?

Well, maybe. But it does get better once you pass the power lines.  There are water views through the trees as you descend the trail – steep and a little tricky with loose stone in spots.  Pass a stone chimney and then what was an old stage road.  Lake, mountain, old road – would have made a good spot for the cottage, or whatever was attached to that chimney.

Start the ascent again, and you break out of the woods onto the first set of cliffs, with great views.  The trail continues along the edge of the cliff, and the views get better the higher you go.  Nearly two miles of traprock ridges that drop precipitously at the cliff edge (now I remember that warning).

... and here.

Precipitous drop here...

Soon the trail moves inland a bit, along old woods roads.  And into what’s left of Powder Ridge Ski Area.  The lifts, operator shacks and snow guns still line the ski trails, just waiting for the town to negotiate a new owner and open up again.  Good Luck Middlefield, I hope it works out this time!

Back into the woods, and then out on the cliff again, this time looking out on the neighboring homes.  You cross another set of power lines, the wander down toward Reed’s Gap with one more cliff view south toward Trimountain.  The trail leads down the hill, over the railroad tracks and out onto Route 68 near its intersection with Route 157.  And that would be the end of this section’s 5.7 mile hike, except that now I have to go back and get the car.  So I took a break near the tracks for a quick snack, and then got on my way again.

When you come to the fork in the trail, take it.

The walk book describes this trip south to north.  So having been through the hike once, I can look through and note anything that’s, well, not quite right.

Let me read how it goes after crossing the railroad tracks… “Start gradual ascent first north then northwest to Beseck Ridge.  Turn north again and follow ridge, passing many cliffs with vistas and views of Talcott Mount and Meriden to the northwest and Long Island Sound to south.” (Connecticut Walk Book, 19th edition, pg 99).  And the topography shown on the trail map bears that out. 

It sounds good, a gradual ascent.  Here’s what it’s really like.

Reed's Gap is the hollow between Beseck Ridge and Trimountain where Route 68 and the railroad tracks run through.  From there it is a easy ascent, and then a drop, and then a steeper ascent and then a drop, and then an even steeper ascent to the first cliff lookout.  I guess that does average out to gradual.  At least this topo map shows some elevation change (follow the blue line down between Mount Higby and Trimountain, find Conrail cutting across, now go up a bit, zoom in and find those small peaks)   Footing on the north side of the second hill is tricky – rocks and pebbles, so take it slow there.  From then on, it’s a nice hike up along the ridge, never straying far from the cliff edge, to the lookouts along the way.

Black Pond and Mount Higby to the north

West Peak, Hanging Hills to the northwest

Sleeping Giant (Mt Carmel) and Prospect Ridge to the southwest

Trimountain and Ulbrich Reservoir to the south

And when you finally come down out of the woods onto 147 and cross Route 66 you find gold - Guida's Restaurant.  Hot Dog and shake to go, please.  I have another half mile to hike back to the parking lot and my car.


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