Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hike #33: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 18, 2016
Estimated distance: 2.76 miles
Weather: 80°F, partly cloudy
Resources:  McLean Game Refuge, Map,
Highlights of the trip:  milk snake, kingfisher
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  33/52 hikes; 129.32/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Just a short hike today in the refuge.  I did one of my usual loops and, after going up the hill past Kettle Pond and taking the trail that skirts the field, I walked by a "stick".  Wait a second.  Let me turn around and look again.  As you can see below, it was not a stick, but a snake.

It did not move as I approached.  Was it dead?  I crouched nearby and watched and eventually tossed a few pine needles in its direction.  It "rattled" its tail.  It is not a rattlesnake, but the vibration of the tail must have been hitting some dried leaves and it certainly gave me pause.  Checked - no rattle on tail.


I walked around to the other side of the snake and now I could see it kind of roll a little.  I am not sure why it was not moving away from me.  I couldn't see any injury.  I decided to let it be.  After comparing my pictures to a reference book, I believe it is a milksnake (see the "V" on the back of its head).  Here is a great guide to snakes in CT.

A few pink waterlilies.
As I walked along Spring Pond, I flushed three kingfishers from their perches.  Two flew across the pond, but the third was probably trying to figure out why the other two flew off and only went as far as the end of a log below the trail.  I tried to get a picture, but the camera on my phone doesn't zoom as much as I'd like.

Mountain laurel in bloom around Spring Pond.
The snake and the kingfisher reminded me that even for short hikes I should at least take my phone so I can take pictures if something interesting shows up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hike #32: Sessions Woods WMA - Burlington, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, June 12, 2016
Estimated distance: 6.89 miles (2.87 of which was on the Tunxis Yellow-dot and Black-dot trails)
Weather: 80°F, partly cloudy, temperature started dropping as wind picked up
Resources:  Sessions Woods WMA Trail Map, CFPA Tunxis Hiking Map - Burlington re-route
Highlights of the trip:  Tunxis black dot trail, wildflowers, beaver marsh
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  32/52 hikes; 126.56/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

An excellent hike today at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area!  I hadn't been here in awhile and I forgot all that it had to offer.

My hiking partner and I were joined by her husband, who likes to geocache.  There were quite a few caches to find in the area and he found the first ones when we took the short Forest Meadow Trail. 

Sessions Woods Trail Map

Then we followed the Beaver Pond Trail and he found another cache at the junction with the Crosscut Trail.  That one took a little hunting, but he eventually found it.  He was going to continue on the Crosscut Trail while we kept to the Beaver Pond Trail, but his trail became impassable before too long and he caught up to us.

Sheep laurel (Lambkill)

We decided to back-track and pick up the Tunxis Yellow-dot trail, which would take us around the far side of the beaver pond.  This was a fantastic decision.  This trail is quite different from the wide cindered trails you find in Sessions Woods.  Unlike the fairly heavily traveled Sessions Woods trails (a lot of joggers and dog walkers), we had the Tunxis Trails to ourselves.  Another cache was found on the far side of the pond and we continued to loop around and picked up the Tunxis Black-dot trail.

Pink corydalis (aka harlequin corydalis, rock harlequin, pale corydalis)
The Black-dot Trail was the most impressive area.  A lot of rocks and caves that my pictures just can't do justice to.  Very rugged terrain which makes it more interesting.

Looking back up the trail from which we came.

We re-entered Sessions Woods at the camping area and took the Beaver Pond Trail back in a clockwise direction toward the beaver pond.  My friend's husband left us to continue on while he searched for a couple of caches.  We told him we would continue and maybe stop at the waterfall and fire tower before heading toward the beaver pond.  It had already been a decent hike, so when we saw the warning about the trail to the waterfall being in disrepair, we decided to skip it.  As we came to the trail for the fire tower, we skipped that, too.  So, we went straight to the beaver pond, noticing two turtles on the path along the way.  They had probably left the marsh to come up and lay their eggs.

There were both pink and yellow water lilies, though my photos show them as white.

The beaver pond is my favorite part of Sessions Woods.  We walked across the boardwalk to the viewing area and then found a place on a rock to sit, relax, and look at the pond.  There were a lot of high bush blueberries and huckleberries.  Not ripe yet, though.  The water was much higher than I remember it being the last time I was here.  Some extra planks had been out down to allow access to the boardwalk as the start of the boardwalk is under water.

We thought we were sitting in a place that would make it easy for my friend's husband to find us, but I guess not.  It had become really windy and after about 45 minutes, we decided we had better get up and head back to the car.  We ran into him on the trail headed back out.  He had gone to the car looking for us after going to the waterfall and fire tower and passing the pond and not seeing us.

Almost 7 miles of hiking today, and probably closer to 9 miles for my friend's husband. (Sorry.)  We started our hike around 11 a.m. and finished around 3:30.  As a bonus at the end of the hike, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and got drinks for the ride home.  An excellent day of hiking. I'd highly recommend taking the Tunxis Trail around the outside of Sessions Woods.

Hike #31: New England Trail - Suffield, CT to Agawam, MA

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Estimated distance: 4.88 miles (although my GPS says 5.22, we had started driving down the road before I turned it off)
Weather: 62°F, overcast then some rain
Resources: CT NET: Section 21 (Metacomet Trail), MA NET: Section 01 (Metacomet-Monadnock Trail)
Highlights of the trip:  bog
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  31/52 hikes; 119.67/250 miles; 28.5/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

One of my old roommates, who shared a CIGNA house with me in Bloomfield before I got married,  contacted me to see if I wanted to go on a hike.  We ended up choosing to hike a part of the New England Trail (Metacomet and Monadnock) that I hadn't done before.  We left a car on Route 57 near the Southwick/Agawam line (huge parking area across from Agawam Bowmen's Club) and took the other down to Phelps Road in Suffield to start our hike.

I was glad I had looked at the information on the New England Trail website before we left so that I knew we would be following the blue trail in CT and the white trail in MA.  When we started our hike there were two trails, and at least I knew to take the blue one.

We climbed up and eventually came to a look out.  A beautiful view except for the huge power lines.  The picture below is my attempt to get a view with minimal power line intrusion, but I probably should have just taken one power lines and all so you could see what it really looked like.

We knew when we started the hike it was supposed to rain later in the day, but it started raining about half-way through our hike.  Much earlier than we had anticipated.  Thank goodness it wasn't a heavy rain (yet) and for the most part we were under the trees.

As we came out to Rising Corner Road in Southwick, we felt like we were walking through someone's yard.  There is a kiosk and parking for hikers in the field across the street.  Walking in between two other properties, we soon came to the bog I had read about.  There was an old wheelbarrow full of scraps of metal and, as we stopped to put on more bug repellent, I tripped over a metal rod that was sticking out of the ground and then managed to stab my leg with it.  Thankfully, it was nothing more than a surface scratch, but be careful there!

A boardwalk of sorts has been built across the bog.  It is not fancy, and seems to be built layer upon layer.  It needs to be high in order to make it passable.  There is no way you could cross the bog without it, so thank you to the folks that built it.


Once across the bog, we were back under the cover of the trees.  Thankfully, it hadn't rained heavily.  We were wet, but not soaked.  We got to the car and headed back to the other car at Phelps Road.  It started raining a little more.  We went our separate ways and within a mile, the sky opened up.  It was crazy.  I had the wipers on full speed and I just started laughing.  We got lucky on this one!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hike #30: Northwest Park - Windsor, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 4, 2016
Estimated distance: 5.76 miles
Weather: 71°F, cloudy and humid
Resources: Northwest Park, Trail Map, Hike #9
Highlights of the trip:  tulip poplar flowers, mountain laurel in bloom, deer
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  30/52 hikes; 114.79/250 miles; 28.5/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

May was a busy month and I only logged two hikes!  I hope I can do a little better in June.  I'd like to get at least half-way to my goal of 250 miles.

My hiking partner was not available this weekend, so I put off the next section of the Tunxis Trail for another time.  Saturday was CT Trails day, but I just couldn't seem to come to a decision on which of those hikes to do.  I struck out on my own and over to Northwest Park.

Northwest Park Trail Map

I started my hike, in the way I usually do at Northwest Park, by walking past the nature museum and down to the reservoir.

Maybe Rosa multiflora, an invasive species.

Pond with beaver lodge.

The trail near the pond is almost always wet and people have put down branches and small logs in an attempt to make it passable.  I did not bring my hiking poles today, but if I had, they would have been useful in helping me navigate this area.  I think it will almost always be wet here because the level of the pond is higher than the trail.

I walked out to the old dam or bridge abutment.  There were a couple of people fishing out there (as well as some people fishing off of boats in the water), so I did not take any pictures.

I turned back around, crossed the wet part of the trail and turned left on the Wetland Forest (yellow) trail.  This trail follows along next to the reservoir, but at a higher elevation.  With the leaves on the trees, you can only get occasional glimpses of the water.

Flower and leaves from tulip poplar tree.
The trail goes back down to the reservoir in a couple of areas.  Below is a picture of the boat launch on the other side of the reservoir.

I left the yellow trail and started on the Rainbow Reservoir (pink) trail and continued along the reservoir.  The Mountain Laurel was in full bloom.

The pink trail heads away from the water and along a little ravine before joining the Triassic (black) trail.  I took the black trail back toward the reservoir along the other side of the ravine.  The black trail comes to an end in a field and just before I came out into the field, I spotted a deer.  I was able to get my camera out and take a picture, but once I started to sneak a little closer, it bounded away.

I looped around the field on an unmarked trail until I came back to the black trail.  I followed it for a short distance and picked up the Woody Succession (green) trail.  After that, I found my way to the Softwood Forest (orange) trail.  A couple of areas on these trails need some work as the plants are starting to creep in.  Make sure you do a tick check!

Lady slipper.
The orange trail took me back to the other half of the yellow loop, which I followed back to the woods road that runs behind the nature center.  As I approached the nature center I took two quick detours to the Sensory Saunter Trail and the Butterfly Garden. 

Silver-spotted skipper on lupine.
One of the things I love about Northwest Park is the variety of habitats.  You have open fields, the beaver pond, the reservoir, a bog, hardwood and softwood forests.  It really has a lot to offer.  In addition there are animals in the barn for the kids to check out and a small, but really well done nature museum.  There is also a playground and picnic tables.  I think that next time the nieces are in town with their kids, we'll have to plan a trip over here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hike # 29: Tunxis Trail (Nepaug SF to Rte 4) - New Hartford to Burlington

Date Hiked:  Sunday, May 15, 2016
Estimated distance: 5.3 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny, breezy, started clouding up
Resources: CFPA Interactive Map, Burlington Land Trust, CTMQ
Highlights of the trip:  scarlet tanagers!, marsh area, pine plantation
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  29/52 hikes; 109.03/250 miles; 28.5/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My goal of hiking 25 miles on the Tunxis Trail has been completed!  I still plan on doing some more, and I am happy this goal got me out to areas I hadn't been to before.

This section of the trail was a little bit of a surprise for me.  I think after my disappointment with the last section of the trail, I was expecting more of the same.  We found this section of the trail to be surprisingly pleasant.  No real wow factor, but nice.

In this case, hiking north to south required more uphill hiking.

In The Walk Book, the trail appeared to end at Hotchkiss Road in Burlington and the next section picked up at the State Fish Hatchery on Route 4.  This gap has now been closed and we were able to hike all the way down to Route 4 in Burlington.  The trail south of Route 4 has been re-routed and we'll hit that section next time.  The fish hatchery is not part of the mainline trail anymore.

We parked one car at Joni's Antiques.  I'm not really sure this was where we were supposed to park.  The CFPA Interactive map indicates a parking lot large enough for 6 cars, but I have no idea where this is supposed to be.  I just hoped that with it being a Sunday and Joni's having a large parking lot we'd be okay.  We drove back through Collinsville, turned west on 202 and parked in the Nepaug State Forest parking lot.

From Nepaug, we had to walk on the shoulder of 202 for a little bit and then climb over a guard rail to follow the trail.  I think that later in the year, this section, unless it is kept mowed will be hard to navigate.  The trail was not easy to pick out and there were prickers and other weeds.  As we neared the trees away from the shoulder, there was quite a bit of poison ivy.  It is still pretty low to the ground right now, but I wouldn't want to walk through it later.  An alternative, if you are not a trail purist, would be to skip this little section and just keep walking on 202 until you get to Southeast Road.  The trail just cuts the corner.

The trail comes out on to Southeast Road.  We headed south and after a little way turned left into the woods.  There was a lot of signage here letting you know it was the trail and also telling you to stay on the trail.  There was also something about hunting, but it looked like it was left over from last fall.  Most of the hike was along MDC service roads, but much easier to traverse than the ones through Nepaug.

On Douglas Road (the MDC roads are named), we came across a section that had been cleared and contained a field of yellow plastic tubes.  A sign explained that this was a research project for Chestnut trees.  The American Chestnut, once a major source of timber, suffered a blight in the early part of the 20th century.  Experiments in cross-breeding American Chestnuts and Chinese and Japanese Chestnuts, which are resistant to the blight, have been going on for a number of years.  This area is one of the experimentation stations.  The yellow tubes protect the saplings from browsing by deer and other animals.  Speaking of deer, we saw one on the trail out here today!  Couldn't get the camera out before it bounded away.

Chestnut experimentation station.

Vein of quartz.

One of the highlights of this hike was spotting some scarlet tanagers!  I had never seen one before.  They are incredibly vibrant!  First we spotted just one, and then another one came, and then a third!  They were all relatively near the trail and not high in the tree-tops.  I have done a little reading and they must have all been males because of their coloring.  In the winter, they look more like the female which is a yellowish-green.  Yellowish-green?  I think that is just crazy - going from scarlet to greenish to scarlet again.  The colors are so different.  Check out this page at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds website.

Another pretty area along the trail was the marsh.  I think this must be Phelps Brook.  We saw a small beaver dam here.

We reached a point in the trail where we could see people jogging along Hotchkiss Road.  If we stuck to the original trail, we would have quickly been at the parking area shown in the Walk Book.  The  new trail headed to the right which brought us down to the corner where Hotchkiss meets Covey Road.  Walking south on Covey Road, we turned right and  followed the blazes into the woods.  We had left the service roads behind and were on a trail.  In here, we came to a pine plantation.  It was pretty cool to walk down a tunnel of pine trees.

In the pine plantation.

Overall, a very nice hike with a new bird to add to my lifetime birding list.  I think we will have to take two cars again for the next section of the trail, but I think we may be able to do some loop trails after that.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hike #28: Tunxis Trail (Ratlum Road through Nepaug State Forest) - New Hartford, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, April 30, 2016
Estimated distance: 6.04 miles*
Weather: 60°F, sunny, started clouding up
Resources: CFPA Interactive Map, Nepaug State Forest Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Ratlum Brook dam, view of Farmington River from Route 44
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  28/52 hikes; 103.73/250 miles; 23.2/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My overall thoughts on this hike:  The beginning part on either side of Ratlum Road was okay, but nothing spectacular; I didn't really care for the road walk on Route 44;  I don't feel the need to go back to Nepaug State Forest.

We took two cars again and dropped one in the parking lot off Route 202 in Nepaug State Forest.  We drove back up to Ratlum Road and started our hike just north of Ski Sundown.  We had to walk down Ratlum a short distance before heading into the woods.

We didn't start at a high point, I forgot to turn on the app.  Missing the initial ascent.

This first section of our hike was nice, but there were no real views or streams.  Just a walk in the woods (which is fine).  We crossed Ratlum Road and climbed again and came back down near a pretty little pond created by a dam across Ratlum Brook.

Dam across Ratlum Brook.

Ratlum Brook pond with a few Canada geese.
We left the pond and walked along the side of a ridge and eventually came out on someone's driveway.  We turned right down the driveway.  I missed the town-line marker (New Hartford/Canton) and I guess I also missed a turn in the trail.  We walked down the driveway and saw the blue blaze going into the woods on the right, but also saw it farther down the road.  Hmm.  The one on our right, was probably where we should have been coming out.  So, we missed a tiny section that leaves the driveway and comes back.  I was not going to walk back up and re-do that small section.  I am not a purist.  Sorry.

The blaze we could see down the driveway, soon directed us off the driveway and down a series of switchbacks to a dirt road (Farmington River Turnpike/Puddletown Road).  The walk along this road was very pretty.  As we approached the corner with Breezy Hill, there was a beautiful farm with sheep and geese.  Very picturesque.

The walk along Farmington River Turnpike.
We got out to Route 44 and made a dash across.  Walking west, we came to the bridge over the Farmington River.  A beautiful view of the river, but the traffic is rushing past pretty fast.  Satan's Kingdom Recreation Area, where you can rent tubes in the summer is on the north side of Route 44 here.  We were headed south into Nepaug State Forest on Satan's Kingdom Road.

View of Farmington River from Route 44.
As we walked along the road, we could see fishermen far below.  A family with small children had just arrived with their fishing rods and were headed down the steep trail to the river.  For the most part, the Tunxis Trail follows a dirt road through the forest.  There were a couple of loop trails, but we did not try any of them.  The forest seems to be a popular place for dirt bikes and ATVs.  Several dirt bikes, jeeps, and pick-ups passed us as we walked along.  No one was rude or annoying, but I prefer to hike on trails closed to motorized vehicles.  The road itself was also a little bit of a pain to walk on because of the loose trap rock that had been put down. 

Near the very end of the trail, the blue blazes head off into a single-track into the woods.  Finally!  We ended up back on the park road not far from our car.

As a side note, when we were dropping the car off at Nepaug, we noticed the Nepaug Reservoir on the south side of Route 202.  It looked beautiful and I wondered if there was a trail around it.  I found this website which has a map of the reservoir.  It does not look like you can go completely around, but might be worth checking out.

 *  Forgot to start app again!  Not too much distance lost.  Tunxis trail mileage will be based on Connecticut Walk Book.