Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Violet Trail and Tower Path

3/21/2010 3½ miles, 1½ hours

Early morning hike up the Violet trail to check the crossing between the Red Triangle and Circle trails for the Waterfall hike I talked about last entry. Then a switch over to the Blue trail west to the tower, and back down the Tower Path ending in the park’s parking lot.

The Violet trail runs along the Mill River on the park’s west side, past the dam and swimming hole (Axle Shop Pond), the old trap rock quarry, and then up the mountain. In the summer, the rocks around the swimming hole might be covered in kids, but there are only a couple of fisherman out on the river this early.

The path along the river gets a little tricky – climb up through the rocks, sometimes the tree roots form steps up the hill, other times they try to reach up and grab an ankle. Once past the steepest incline around the quarry, the trail eases off and gradually works its way up the mountain.

As I came over a rise in the trail, three startled deer bolted off. They were hidden in the trees, all I saw at first was the flash of their white tails as they took off up the hill. But a single hiker doesn't scare this bunch. They stopped about 50 feet off the trail, and started nibbling around again. Two watching me, one eating. Another quarter mile through the woods, five more deer were off on the left. They just kept walking – alert, watching me, but not running away. Again about 100 feet off the trail, this group stopped and kept watch. One stomped it’s hooves at me. If I remember Deer 101, that means he's not sure if I'm a threat or not, and stomps to evoke a response.  My response?  I’ll keep walking. But I won't turn my back on him just yet.

The Violet trail is an easy walk at this point, running between the Triangle and Circle trails. It crosses a couple of streams along the way, though I think these will be dry in the summer. The Violet trail continues to the east end of the park, but I turn off here and head south on the Circle trail for a short distance, and then turn west on the Blue trail toward the Tower.

The Blue trail runs the 5 mile length of the park, and is the most challenging trail on the mountain. It runs along the highest elevations, so offers great views. I’m saving it for later in the year, but today am using it to cut back to the Tower Path. After a steep rock climb, the trail leads into a clearing and to the Tower.

If you’ve been to the park, chances are you’ve been on the Tower Path. A wide, gravel path with gentle inclines, the trail is the easiest walk up to Sleeping Giant tower – the castle built on the mountain’s highest point as a WPA project around 1936. During the summer, the trail will be full of hikers, walkers, kids, families and dogs, but today I only passed a half dozen people coming up as I was headed down. One father was showing his young son a plaque along the way – introducing another generation to the history of the park.

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