Sunday, May 30, 2010

When the Giant blows his top, or maybe his knee

...he was but an extinct volcano; he had been active in his time, but his fire was out, this good while, he was only a stately ash-pile now; gentle enough, and kindly enough for my purpose, without doubt, but not usable.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

When I think of an extinct volcano, I picture something like this - a mountain peak, maybe a flat top, but there's no question it looks like a volcano.

Is there an extinct volcano on Sleeping Giant?  The area's mountains were formed by massive lava flows (the traprock), tipped up after a little fault here and there shuffled the landscape.  But can you find the mouth of a volcano?  There's a spot just off the White trail on the Giant's right knee.  It is a depression surrounded by boulders, filled with water during the spring, but drying out now.  Is it a volcanic crater? 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's just a nice morning for a hike...

My son was down from Boston, we took time for a little hike this morning - starting at the Tuttle Ave Red Circle trailhead, east over the horsetrail to the Red Square trail.  We took an unmarked trail off the Square.  It's on the park map as just a dotted line.  Maybe the Lost Vista trail I've heard of?  If so, the vista was lost behind the trees.  I'll check again in the winter - there should be good views north and east.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roaring Brook Falls - Cheshire

Since I've done all the Giant's trails, I can venture outside the park now without risking the bad karma attached to leaving our impish friend Hobbomock unfinished.  The Quinnipiac trail continues past Sleeping Giant, over to the Naugatuck State Forest, up into Cheshire and Prospect. 

Once I found the Blue Trail parking lot on Bethany Mountain Road (Rt 42), it was about a mile hike north toward the Falls.  The terrain is a lot like Sleeping Giant - forest, then higher to a grassy plateau with Cyprus and Pine.  Without the leaf cover, there would be good views of the ridges to the west and north.  And of course it wouldn't be the Blue Trail without the occasional rock climb.

Just when I got the feeling I missed the turn off, I heard the falls in the distance.  The trail comes out at the top of the falls, and there is an orange blazed trail down the south side of the river to an entrance on Roaring Brook Road.  It's a steep hike down (400' change in elevation), but the trail was laid out to offer views of the falls, and still switchback around some of the steepest sections.  The Falls is a series of cascades and waterfalls, the second highest in Connecticut, with the state's "highest single drop falls".  (and yes I copied that off Cheshire's web site).

This is not a state park, the 85 acre property is town owned - part of the Cheshire Land Trust.  At the base, there's a chimney and foundation  - either an old mill or homesite.  There are camp sites and fire pits up and down the trail on both sides of the falls, it looks like the park is well used.  It's tough to get photos of the falls through the trees, so you'll just have to come out and see it yourself...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Giant Master!

That's it!  The Nature Path was the last trail I needed to complete my goal of hiking every blazed trail in Sleeping Giant Park.  There were trails I've been on over and over, and trails I have never seen before.  And it just took a few weeks.  It's a great park to wander around - come on out!

But in hiking all over, and reading about the park, there are spots I haven't checked out yet.  What's the Lost Vista trail?  Where was the Carriage Path?  Is there really evidence of a long dead volcano?

I guess I'm just not done yet.  The Sleeping Giant Park Association sponsors the Giant Masters Program, and recognizes each member who has hiked all the park's trails.  But they also note Four Season Giant Masters, and 12 Month Giant Masters.  Since I've done the trails, and it's still spring, I could always do it again this summer... and fall, and winter...  Here we go - the Four Season Giant Masters Program!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Nature Trail

How old it that pine tree? 
Is that a hemlock, dogwood or oak tree?
How does a tree grow on stilts?
What's the difference between sandstone and trap rock?
And what the heck is a tallus slope?

Geology, botany, plant science, natural history...  and you just thought you were going on a hike this morning!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Blue Trail

or What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
6 miles, 3 hours.

In my first blog entry, I said I'd been up and down the Giant many times, but I was sure there were trails I'd never been on.  Well, I have never been to this part of the park.  Started at Hartford Turnpike, a steady hike up away from the street.  The CFPA Blue Trail sign reminded me that these trails exist by the goodwill of landowners.  So let me say it right here - for anyone bordering the trails who allows their land to be used by me and countless other hikers, Thanks!

Parallel Lines - trail through the trees
Have you ever bought a "relaxation tape" with bird songs, and the sounds of gentle breezes?  Great.  Now picture that, hear that.  Do you feel relaxed?  That's what I heard, what I felt this morning...  It was going to be a nice hike. It was a half hour walk before I hit parts I recognized - crossing the yellow trail, the orange - knowing that meant the "nice hike" was over and it was time to hit the hills and climb!

Up to Hezekiah's Knob, up even more to the Left Knee, a quick detour on the Blue/Violet crossover and back to find where that Violet trail waterfall starts.  Then across toward the tower.  I stopped for a break just before the Tower, sat on the cliffs and watched turkey vultures flying lazy circles, riding the up-drafts.  Back on the trail, it started to get crowded - more groups, more noise.  Yes - the Tower! and there were people hanging out of every window enjoying the day, enjoying the view.

The Blue Trail goes across the Giant's northern ridges and is, just as the guide map says, one of the toughest trails here.  Lots of climbing, but since it runs along the peaks of the hills, you get some of the best views in all directions.

Hanging Hills to the north
Ever notice how people outdoors act?  Boaters sound their horns and wave as they pass another boat.  Hikers give you a smile and a "good morning" when you pass on a trail.  Try that as you drive a car down the street - the other driver may wave, but with fewer fingers!  I'll stick with the hikers when I can.

The Tower is on the highest point on the mountain.  Another of the highest points is the Chin.  So as I'm going down a steep hill after the Tower, I know that means even more of a rock-climb back up to the Chin!  On the way up, I passed several groups coming the other way - down toward the Tower. In fact, I was the only one heading in this direction all morning.  As we got close, I could hear snippets of the conversations...
One guy - " ... how he got such a low GPA?Other guy - "Too much partying, dude.  Some kids get the freedom and can't handle it...We pass on the trail - " Hi - how're you doing?"
Second group comes into view -
One girl - "... you saw her - up there dancing, she couldn't tap dance to save her life"Another guy - "Oh yeah, but she could..."We pass - Hi, come on down", I say, making room on the rocks.Girl, smiling, says "Don't worry, it's all good.  Have a good day!"
After I was out of earshot, they could have been saying "did you see him?  Dead man walking!"  But they were nice about it, I was tired and trying to get up to the Chin.  So it was all good.

The view off the Chin is worth the climb.  Looking down on Quinnipiac, south to New Haven, north to the Hanging Hills of Meriden.  I can see for miles and miles and...

Lessons learned:
1.  Any more trips on the Blue Trail will be broken into smaller chunks.
2. A two hour hike is better than a three hour hard hike (and yes I know that means I need to get out more).
3. Never, never, NEVER hike the Chin going west!  Trying to climb down the cliff past the quarry to the base is life threatening, especially when tired at the end of the hike.  Going up is steep, but definitely the way to go next time.

The Quarry on the way down
I will admit to some butt-sliding down the rocks.  But I'm sure nobody saw, so my Mountain Man persona is intact!  I remember years back taking my kids, with some of their friends, up the blue trail here to the Chin.  And how some of them were terrified of the climb up the rock face.  "Don't look down, you'll be fine".  Well all I can do now is look down.  Sorry kids - I should have been more sympathetic!

Mill River - cooling my feet after the hike


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