The Power of 3

Three mountains, three states, three people, three hours.  On the third day of April, three of us conquered Round, Frissell and Brace Mountain in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.

Arriving at the trail head was an adventure.  The unpaved road we drove for the last 1.6 miles was a slippery nightmare.  The road was a slick mud pit, after days of devastating rain that hit New England in the past week.  We weren’t sure if we would make it to trail head or slide off the road into a ditch and have to be towed out. We did make it to the trailhead and out again, though we witnessed one car that had the unfortunate experience of sliding off into a ditch and became mired in the mud.  A piece of advice on this road, travel it in dry conditions.

It was relief we tumbled out of the car and began the trek to our first summit of the day, Round Mountain.  Mike and I hiked this in the fall and luckily forgot how intense and rock faceted the ascents are.  The first .2 miles lulls you into a false sense of easy hiking, then bam….here come the ascents that are rocked based and steep.  Up we chugged with many a catch your breath breaks along the way.

At the top of Round Mountain you are provided with views of Bear Mountain in Connecticut.

After a brief break, we continued on and went around the bend of Round. Before our descent, we were able to view Mount Greylock in the far distance and at one point you even catch glimpses of Riga Lake in Connecticut.

We could also see where we had to go to reach Mt. Frissell and the high point of Connecticut.  The hike from our viewpoint appeared to be straight up and rock filled once again.

We began the climb down, while being serenaded by wood frogs.  Then came the next ascent up to Mount Frissell.  Up we traveled and then around a narrow path along the drop off.  We discovered the marker of the high point of Connecticut and we spent time making it an official visit by taking photos.

From here we headed down a rock slab to a trail surrounded by mountain laurel.

At this point we hiked to the tri state marker of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.  Connecticut doesn’t have its name carved on it.  There are two stories behind that:  One: CT was too cheap to carve their name in it or Two: CT. disagreed with the boundary marker.  Take your pick as to which makes the better story.

We then meandered to an open clearing where a few trails converged.  We wanted to summit Brace Mountain, so we continued on.  This was the easiest .4 mile ascent we’ve experienced on this trail.

Once there we relieved ourselves of our packs and had a snack.  We had a restful time on the spacious plain of the mountain and even climbed the cairn to ham for the camera.

The views were stunning and even the Catskills were visible, still covered in snow.  We packed up and headed back the way we came.

The hike back seemed to go quicker, but the downhills seemed more taxing on our bodies, then going up them.  One section we came up seemed so much steeper going down it.

The three of us and Molly the dog realized this was demanding hike physically and mentally, but the views were worth it.

We were three strong, climbing three mountains in three states on the third day.

The details:  We parked on East Road on the border of Massachusetts & Connecticut. This spring we came in on the Massachusetts side. In the fall we came in the Connecticut side.  The trail was 4.4 miles out and back on the red trail markers.  It is a physically demanding hike and you should be in shape.  We spent a total of four hours on the trail, but three of that was moving time.

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A Journey Into Spring

We had a little spring outing today at Steep Rock Preserve in Washington, Ct.  Spring hasn’t officially begun, but spring fever has hit hard, not just us but others as well today.  We met many a people on the trail that had a bounce in their step and warmth on their faces.

We trekked on the yellow blazed trail.  The beginning of the trail to the overlook is a steady switch back going up and up. We went through hard wood forest, to pine, to  hard wood, to pine and back and forth on this jaunt.  The smell of spring was in the air, piney and mossy scents teased our nostrils.

We followed the yellow blaze until we reached the trail that lead us to the overlook. This area is affectionately known as the Clamshell. You see a land mass hugged on three sides by the Shepaug River.  With the sun at an impossible angle, we couldn’t capture the image of the Clamshell.  This was a beautiful viewing area and  when the trees unleash their varying shades of green, I’m sure it is a stunning sight.

Returning to the yellow trail, we once again diverged from it.  This post intrigued us and as my courage has grown on hikes, I enjoy a bit of dangerous hiking.Truth be told, the sign in totality reads “Dangerous Trail No Horses”.  Well if a horse would have a difficult time, it must be fun.  We descended to a trail that was full of moss-covered logs and rocks.  The green budding out was a shout out to spring fever overcoming us.

Rocky and narrow was the trail we followed, down to the river it guided us.

From the river we followed the trail to the suspension bridge over the Shepaug River.  As I was contemplating the arrival of spring, while gazing down at the river, I witnessed the strangest thing float by.  An uncooked pizza crust.  I was so stunned I forgot to snap a photo.  I think it may be the large white thing floating almost by the bridge in this photo:

From here we forged our way to the railroad tunnel.  This place harbored the last of the winter ice, slowly melting its way into a new spring season. 

We were hoping to explore the entire tunnel, but ice floes that coated the floor made it dangerous to do so.  The ice formations and icicles were a study in art form of the natural variety.

After departing the ice tunnel, we returned to the yellow trail. A wide wood road that paralleled the river to the left and the railroad to the right.  The river was running fast, a sure sign that spring was fast approaching, We even had the company of a common merganser duck couple.  These are typically summer birds in this area, but to see them now, was a jump for joy sign of spring and summer fast approaching.

We neared the end of the trail.  This section  reminded us that life is flowing and spring will soon be fully upon us.  It was a walk that had the aromas of new birth; pine, crisp air, and decaying of fall.  The sounds of spring: birds rejoicing, the crunch of the frost of the thawing earth,  and the fast  river finding its purpose.  The sights of  spring:  people embracing the warmth of the  sun, moss  emerging and insects beginning their journey. 

Until the next hike…

The Details:  Steep Rock Reservation in Washington, Ct. Trail map has 4.2 miles on yellow trail. We went off and 5.5 miles.  Easy walking, no trekking poles required.  Beautiful area with lots of options to walk.  We parked at Lower Church Hill Road and River Road. Lots of parking.

Place of Bad Noises

“Place of Bad Noises” according to the Native Americans is Machimoodus State Park located in the Moodus section of East Haddam, CT.  Native Americans believed this area erupted in bad noises due to an angry god and later settlers believed the devil was making those sounds.  The only sounds we experienced  on the New Day of the New Year was the crunching and moaning of snow beneath our feet.

This was an easy hike, actually more like a walk in the woods.  Most of the walk was on old wood roads covered in freshly fallen snow.  The trees were adorned with white and the sky line had a gray cast to it.  It was a beautiful walk that didn’t strain our bodies.

This would be a great spot to return in the summer for a quick walk and then spread out to have a relaxing picnic lunch.

Machimoodus State Park winds you into what appears to be an abandoned tree farm.

It has wide open stretches of land that make a winter hike easy to do and in summer it would be even easier.

We passed through farmer fields where remnants of tomatoes could be found popping through the snow.

It has overlooks of the Salmon River, but the view is a bit obstructed and I’m sure once the leaves unfurl the view will become minimal.  Benches were strategically placed along the way.

I kept listening for the strange sounds, but only the song of birds, wind whistles and the crunch of snow surround us.

Until the next hike…

Details.  Machimoodus State Park. Moodus, CT 3 miles 1 hour.  Easy walking

The Fearsome 3 and Tale of the Trail

This is the story of the harrowing trail we hiked  from Pisgah Road to Route 77 on the Mattabesett.  Karen, Mike and I set out early to enjoy a day full of fun, beauty and friendship.  It turned into something else.

Our day began innocently enough, with a half-mile road walk to the trailhead.  As soon as we turned onto the trailhead the hike started to go terribly wrong.

We encountered snow-covered tunnels, barely being able to trudge our way safely through. A “scenic view” required us to  blaze our treacherous way through the forest. Monsters of green leaped out at us and obstructed our path at times.  We had to forge a raging river that tested our physical agility.  We learned orienteering skills as a pyramid appeared in our midst.  We suffered aerial assaults at every twist and turn.  Vultures mistook us for food and we had to fight them off.  We teetered on the edge of mountains with only prayers keeping us from falling to our death.  Boggy swamps tried to grasp a hold and swallow us.  Animal urine markings surrounded us. I could just feel the forest coyotes watching us, waiting for us to become their afternoon snack.  Just when we thought we had survived and it couldn’t get any worse…the Forest and Park death sign appeared.  Our bodies were physically beaten and our spirits were low and yet we had to go on.  This last section was our undoing with the rugged ups and downs, mudslides and a massive rock formation to go through.  We survived barely and the car was never such a welcomed site.

It’s all true but I will give you the full details.

After the road walk, we quickly ascended a half-mile up to Mount Pisgah.  In order to get there, you had to walk through tunnels of mountain laurel that draped over the path, drenched in snow.

Once up, the views were pretty, but clouds surrounded us. The snow-covered hills were a quiet beauty.

Departing the summit we headed to the next scenic overlook. Unfortunately this path had been swallowed by water and in order to get to it, we had to make our own detour.  Unfortunately, the view was not worth the effort.

We returned to the blue blazes and shared the path with many of the green monsters.  Boulders were covered in green lichen that had icicles dripping off of them.

Our next obstacle was crossing Chalker Brook.  It was raging from all the rain and snow this week.  There was no easy place to cross, unless you were long legged.  Both Karen and I are not.  Getting across did require physical agility, mental fortitude and the proverbial leap of faith.  We both did it with some coaxing from Mike.

A pyramid did appear on our path.  Luckily the trail went around it, but this boulder was massive.

As we hiked the weather warmed up and snow was bombing us from the tree limbs.  Not to mention if you brushed against a tree, all that snow came crashing down on your head and found its way down your back.

Steeply through a hemlock forest, we weaved our way to the mica ledges with turkey vultures circling overhead.  They were gracefully dancing on the thermals, joyfully soaring through the air, looking for tasty morsels to devour.

The mica ledges have views that overlook a new housing development and rolling hills.  Snow capped pitch pine trees dotted the ridge and made for picturesque scenes.

After leaving the ledges, we hiked old forest roads, ups and downs, going through extremely wet, boggy sections that sucked out boots in if we weren’t careful.

I started to notice a great deal of yellow markings on this section of trail.  At first I believed an animal was marking his territory, but strangely there were no animal prints by these yellow spots.  On closer inspection, I discovered it was “tree pee”.  The sap was oozing out of the trees causing the snow to change color.  So much for the wild animal theory.

At this point we are very tired, legs sore from the demands of hiking in snow.  Our GPS tells us the road is only 800 feet away, but the trail map has us going for another mile or so.  We could hear the tease of the road throughout this last section.  We knew we were ever so close, but the trail had to make its final demands of us.  That is when we see the warning sign from the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.  We affectionately refer to this sign as “the death sign”.

What crazy ledges do we have to climb now, we think?  I always worry when I see this sign at the end of a hike, because I’m tired and more likely to make a misstep.  We are at the Broomstick Ledges, a series of ups and down, crossing up, over, around and through rocks, boulders and ledges.  The worst part was going down a slick spot that was a mini mudslide.  This required sure footing and pole support.

As we ascend the final hundred feet to the car, I review the hike and realize we have an exciting tale to tell with a few embellishments.

So my friends you see the story was a true one, a little imagination never hurt a good story to be a better story.  We did have a day of fun, beauty and friendship on the Mattabesett.

Until the next hike….

Details:  Mattabesett Trail from Durham to Guilford. 7.5 miles ( a little less, the gps wearer had to double back at Chalker Brook while looking for easier crossing for us short legged people, no found).  Parked at Pisgah Road at a small turnoff. Had car waiting for us at lot off of Route 77 below Bluff Head.   A little over 5 hours for us to hike it.

The Mantras I Recite on the Trail

I have certain key mantras I recite to myself when climbing up on a trail.  Yesterday’s hike found me saying my top three; “slow and steady”, “I am the little engine” and finally my favorite “I am a billy-goat.”

Mike’s birthday hike had us going on the Mohawk Trail to the Appalachian Trail then doing the Pine Knob Loop Trail and return on the A.T. and the Mohawk.  Slogging through snow made the ups and downs a great work out with me reciting to myself “slow and steady” at various points.

Mohawk trail lead us to the summit of Breadloaf  Mountain.  Along the way we encountered a strange item hanging from a tree.  Wonder what animal this belonged to?

The hike up to Breadloaf was all uphill, slow and steady we went.  This part wasn’t strenuous as the way up was via gentle switchbacks.

After reaching the peak, we began hiking the Appalachian Trail for a little over a mile.  This was my favorite part of the hike because we blazed the first human prints in the snow.  Forest creatures had clearly enjoyed hiking this part of the A.T. before us, including a bobcat. The track was so light you could barely see it in the sparkling sunlight.  We had other tracks leading us also, fox, deer, racoon and still one we can’t identify.  This section had a  few stream crossings, including the Hatch Brook.  This brook was beautiful and I’m sure in the summer a refreshing place to rest and rejuvenate tired feet.

After leaving the A.T. to join the Pine Knob Loop we came across another trail oddity.  Who had sprinkled pepper over the path?  Wait the pepper hops.  We decided to call these strange things snow fleas.  We thought how original are we in naming these snow fleas? Not so clever, we found out.  After doing a bit of research,  we learned they are indeed called snow fleas, though not related to the flea at all and they are year-round insects. 

After the first sighting of the snow fleas, my mantras were called upon.  We steadily go up and up to Pine Knob and I find myself reciting over and over again “I am a billy goat, I am a billy goat.”  This trail was traveled by humans, so we weren’t breaking fresh snow tracks, but after the mile on the A.T. blazing through  heavy snow,  my little legs were hurting.  My thighs were aching, my calves were whining, but mentally my mantras was coaching me to the top.

I made it to the top and what a tranquil view it was.  My thighs thanked me for sitting down and having a lunch break.  Our view-point provided us with the site of the Housatonic River and Mine Mountain, Dean Hill and Coltsfoot Mountain.  We had reached an elevation of 1,120 feet.  I thought we were at the summit, but we still had higher to go.  I became the little engine that could and started reciting lines from the book.  My mantra of being that little engine helped my legs to keep churning.  The mantras, views and chocolate covered ginger fueled me on.

We descended down and came across other people out enjoying the trail.  It was a balmy 48 degrees on our hike and the sun provided a nice uplift to my tired legs and constant mantras. 

We had to repeat the A.T. and Breadloaf Mountain trail to return to our car.  Once last time I had to call forth all of three of my mantras “slow and steady, I am the little engine and I am a billy goat” to ascend back up Breadloaf.

Leaving Breadloaf, I felt a sense of accomplishment of not giving up or letting my little legs stop churning.  This wasn’t a technical hike, but the snow and climbs made it for a physically demanding one. Thank goodness for mantras, especially my favorite “I am a billy goat.”

Until the next hike….

The Details:  6.8 miles, six hours, little over an hour of rest.  Parked on unpaved lot on route 7.  Followed Mohawk Trail up to Breadloaf Mtn. then followed Appalachian Trail, to Pine Knob Loop Trail and then re hike the A.T. to Mohawk Trail.  In winter, a strenuous hike with a few steady climbs up.  Heart pumping trail and leg tiring trail, but worth it.

The Trail That Taught Me Trust – Macedonia

A warm June weekend,  two weeks shy of being married 19 years, hiking Macedonia Brook trail,  I was handed  a huge life lesson.

I thought I trusted Mike completely, but with this hike I realized I was holding back my trust.  After this hike I understand the meaning of  trusting  someone so completely…but that comes later on the trail.

The hike started out as a gentle walk in the woods, beautiful, serene.  What was the AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut talking about, when it mentioned difficult climbs? The air was fresh, the green of the forest floor vibrant, a wispy cool breeze and we were happily ambling along.  We even found blueberries at the trail side, great early morning snack, though I do apologize to the bears/deers that we are eating their food.

We start a gentle climb, level out and stroll along the portion of the former AT.  After we exited off the AT, we turn onto an old roadway. I’m still thinking when does this trail get difficult, even technical?   We had some little ups and downs but nothing major. That is all about to change and I spend a great deal of the remainder of this hike sliding on my butt, having a mini breakdown, learning to trust and finally an awakening of budding self-confidence.

Time to summit Pine Hill. Up we go But that means we must go down and this is the beginning of me sliding down on my butt on many parts of this trail.  My trekking poles were helpful, but at times I just gave into the comfort and security of scooting down the rocks. 

Time to head up to Cobble Mountain and the lesson of trust.  Mike and I read, research all our hikes.  We do our homework, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to face.  The books mentioned a scramble, using handholds.  One gently mentioned that one would have to climb up an 8 foot ledge.  I had been lulled in a to  false sense “of this is a moderate trail, nothing I can’t handle.”  I’m short, 5’2″  which means sometimes these scrambles aren’t easy and having to get up an 8 foot ledge is almost impossible by myself.  The pictures doesn’t  fully explain how high up you have to pull yourself up …just look for yourself:

Mike hoists himself up first, a bit of a struggle for him but he manages.  Next it is my turn.  I feel the color drain from my face, inner conflict starts, the voices of you can do this and you can’t do it start to control my brain. Mike stands patiently trying to coax me to hold onto him and he will pull me up.  The tears start, the panic is becoming stronger, so do I try to find my way around this or throw my gear up to Mike , then he can pull me up?  The battle that is waging inside of me, is causing me to feel sick.  I know deep down, if I don’t do this, I will kick myself for giving up.  But I have to give total control to Mike to get me up here, can I, can I do this?  The battle shifts inside my head, I’m going to do this…but can I trust Mike enough to pull me up and not pull him down or  even over my shoulder?  What do I do?

I realize at this moment, he has never let me down and he won’t now.  I pass my gear up to him, hold my breath, grasp his hand,  squeeze my eyes shut (probably not the smartest thing to do) and give a leap of faith to our life together, place all my trust in him and I made it or rather we made it.

Next we ascended another 30 feet of ledge, but after that last battle, nothing can stop me.  The views on Cobble Mountain were stunning.

We proceeded down, with some deep descents.  At our car, we unpacked a great lunch of chopped salad, bread, cheese and chocolate chip cookies.  We soaked our tired, sore feet in the brook and reflected on the events of the day. Will I do this hike again? You betcha!!

The best reward of this hike, was learning what the deep meaning of trust is and an awakening of self-confidence in myself.

The Details:  Macedonia Brook, Ridge Trail, Kent, CT.  Loop Trail. 7.1 miles 5 hours about 45 minutes of rest.  Difficult and technical hike, don’t let the first few miles fool you.

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