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...


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