Wednesday, March 22, 2017

2017 Hike #10: Holcomb Farm East Side Trails - West Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Estimated distance:  1.82 miles
Weather: 39°F, sunny
Resources: Holcomb Farm, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  views over snowy fields
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  10/52 hikes; 29.77/250 miles hiked

After my snowshoe fail the other day, I decided to try hiking without them.  I had thought about strapping the snowshoes to a pack and bringing them along, just in case.  I fumbled with strapping them on the pack and finally gave up.  I figured by picking a place where other people had packed the snow down, I would be okay without them.  People often walk their dogs on the east side of Holcomb Farm, so that was where I decided to go.

OpenStreetMap from my MapMyHike app.

Sure enough, the trail up the hill was pretty well worn.  The sun was shining and melting the snow.

Looking to the southwest from the bench.

I started to doubt myself as I made my way over to the bench at the viewpoint.  Not as many people had traveled this way and I was trying to stay in others footprints.  When I got to the bench, there was another person there on snowshoes.  He said the trails in the woods were pretty well traveled and packed down, so I thought I had made the right choice not to bring my snowshoes.

Entrance to the woods from the field with a trail sign.
No.  I had not made the right choice.  While the trails through the woods were well used, the snow was pretty mushy and hard to walk on - like walking on a sandy beach.  The trails are also narrow, and I felt bad for post holing ski/snowshoe trails.  (Although, I was not the only one who had been walking out there.)

I took the blue trail in a clock-wise direction.  I went past the first turn on to the red trail and took the second turn, which went south along an old barbed wire fence and cedar trees, to a field.  I walked across the field and back down to the road.

Today's lesson was "be prepared".  If I had strapped my snowshoes to a pack, I certainly would have put them on.  It would have been easier along the trail, and I wouldn't be hobbling around with sore calves 3 days later.  Hopefully, this is a lesson learned.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Snowshoe Fail

On Tuesday, March 14, our area received about a foot and a half of snow.  Thoughts of spring had to be put aside.

On Friday, I decided to dig out my snowshoes and try a little hike.  I don't think I used my snowshoes at all last year.  I thought that I'd be able to hike the 3/4 of a mile to Carpenter Falls in West Granby along Broad Hill Road.  I was wrong.

The going was tougher than I had anticipated.   I didn't want to wreck the X-Country ski tracks that someone else had made, so I was breaking my own trail.  The snow was still quite fluffy and, with each step, I sank into the snow and then pulled the snow out with my snowshoe. 

I made it about a 1/4 of a mile and decided to call it quits.  If someone else had been with me, maybe I could have motivated myself to go farther, but it just wasn't much fun.  I did enjoy being outside on a nice day - as long as I was standing there motionless!

Ostensibly taking a picture, but really taking a break.

I obviously need to get in better shape, but it probably would have helped if:
a.  I hadn't picked a hike that was on a hill (duh, Broad HILL Road),
b.  I had snowshoes designed for my current weight (I bought these a number of years ago).

In all, I went a little over 1/2 a mile, so I don't get to count it toward my hike goals (which must be a minimum of 1 mile). 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2017 Hike #9: Bear Hole Reservoir - West Springfield, MA

Date Hiked: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Estimated distance:  4.73 miles
Weather: 37°F, scattered clouds
Resources: AllTrails Recording, A Citizens' Guide to "Bear-Hole"
Highlights of the trip:  waterfall
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  9/52 hikes; 27.95/250 miles hiked

I have to say this hike was a pleasant surprise.  My hiking partner's husband had suggested this location because there were quite a few geocaches for him to get.  I think both she and I were thinking, "West Springfield.  Probably not that nice a hike."  But, we went along and were quite happy we did.

We parked in a fairly large lot at the end of the paved part of Bear Hole Road off of Dewey Street.  There were a lot of dog walkers (most dogs were not on leashes), but they seemed to head for the trail that went directly around the reservoir.  We headed up the disused road and had it mostly to ourselves.  There were only a few patches of snow remaining here and there.

As far as I can tell, there are no published trail maps of the area.  We used a map we got from AllTrails (linked above) and the MapMyHike app on my phone to figure out where we were and where to go.  The New England Trail passes along the western boundary of the watershed and near Lane Quarry.  I had seen somewhere that the trail may be moved to the east side of the reservoir, but it has not happened yet.

Birch Polypore

[Note on Birch Polypore from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American MushroomsThrough its varied history this species has been used in the absence of matches to keep fires blazing, as an anesthetic, and as a razor strop.]

The old road continued north and under the Mass Pike, but we turned west and then south back toward the reservoir.  As we got closer to the northern end of the reservoir, we took a trail that went down to a bridge over Paucatuck Brook.  We went into the woods to get a closer look and then saw that there was a waterfall.  We found that if we backtracked, the trail would lead us around to an even better view of the falls.

Bridge over Paucatuck Brook.

Waterfall seen from north side.

What is this chimney doing on a hillside right next to the brook?

We followed the trail around to the other side which gave a much nicer view of the waterfall.  The stone chimney was in front of us on the opposite hillside.  It seemed like a strange place for a chimney.  A little research led me to discover that there used to be a resort here from 1890-1906.  There was an open air pavilion that spanned the brook and the chimney anchored one end of the pavilion.  I could not find a picture of it directly online, but if you look on the page numbered 27 (or page 30 of the PDF) of A Citizens' Guide to "Bear-Hole" there are a couple of photos there.  How cool is that?

While this waterfall is not listed in my book New England Waterfalls (I have an older version), it is on the website under A List of More Waterfalls in Massachusetts.  I can't believe the falls get only a "Fair" rating.  I thought they were were pretty nice and I will be counting them toward my waterfall goal for 2017.

View up the reservoir.
As we headed to the southern end of the reservoir, we took a detour off the trail to go out onto a concrete structure that stuck out into the reservoir.  I'm not sure what this is for.  It is close to the southern end of the reservoir, but not quite.  We got to the end of the reservoir and looped back up to our car.

This was a great hike.   The trail was relatively flat and wide the whole way around.  There are other trails that could be explored and I believe you could connect to the NET if you wanted to.  I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by this place in the middle of busy West Springfield.

This will definitely be counting toward my waterfall goal for the year and maybe the hike to a body of water (though I was thinking of something a little more remote).

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Hike #8: Holcomb Farm - West Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Estimated distance:  2.82 miles
Weather: 44°F, overcast
Resources: Holcomb Farm, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  view of stream
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  8/52 hikes; 23.22/250 miles hiked

My hiking partner had a Tuesday off, so we decided to do a local hike.  We headed over to Holcomb Farm in West Granby and hiked the trails on the west side of the farm.  I wasn't sure what we would find for trail conditions, but I had my Microspikes with me just in case.

Before we got too far, I decided to put the spikes on.  There were icy patches near the barns.  We had to pass through the gates to cross the field, and there was only patchy snow here.  In the woods, the snow was very soft and the spikes ended up accumulating snow, so off they came.

I wanted to zigzag our way to the top and back down again to get more miles, but I didn't have a trail map with me.  I ended up zigging instead of zagging, so our hike was a little shorter than intended.  Still a pretty good workout because of the soft snow.  It was just nice to get outside.

We went down as far as the bridge over Beach Brook and turned back because I was pretty sure we would not be able to cross the brook farther down.

 A nice hike.  It can be made longer by connecting to the dirt Broad Hill Road and hiking in the McLean Game Refuge or by doing the trails on the east side of the farm.  (The trails on the east side can get very muddy in the spring).

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Hikes #6 & #7: Sandisfield SF and Questing Reservation - New Marlborough, MA

Date Hiked: Sunday, February 5, 2017
Estimated distance:  2.75 miles (Sandisfield State Forest) + 2.41 miles (Questing Reservation) = 5.16 miles
Weather: 31°F, overcast
Resources: Sandisfield State Forest, York Lake Loop Trail Map, Trustees of Reservations (Questing), Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  frozen York Lake, views from Questing
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  7/52 hikes; 20.4/250 miles hiked

My hiking partner and her husband are helping me toward my 2017 Outdoor Goals, not only mileage, but also getting me out to some different places.  Today we visited two "new-to-me" places, a state forest in Massachusetts and one of the Trustees of Reservations properties.

Ignore the straight line going off to the left.  I thought by pausing my GPS and restarting it, I could get both hikes to appear on one map.  Unfortunately, it draws a line between the two locations and counts the straight line as part of the mileage.

We started our day with a hike around York Lake in Sandisfield State Forest.  The forest straddles two towns, but our hike was in New Marlborough.  When we arrived at the lake, we could see a fisherman out on the ice.  We headed off from the parking area going in a clockwise direction.  The trail was well marked, but except for one location near the northern end of the lake and near the parking area, there were no viewpoints across the lake.

My friend and I went on ahead while her husband searched for geocaches.  We paused for a little bit when we got to the dirt road at the northern end of our loop.  I was reminded again that out in this more remote area, what may appear as a road on a map may not be paved and may not be passable in winter.

We continued on around the lake and got back to the picnic area not far from where we parked.  (Rest rooms closed in winter and no outhouses that I saw.)  The picnic area looked like it would be a nice little spot to view the lake in the warmer months.  The man who had been fishing was gone, but we walked out on the ice to take a look at the lake.  The ice seemed very thick and some of the previous holes had completely frozen over.  One of the strange things was that someone had plowed a straight line down the middle of the lake.  It looked like a runway.

When we came off the ice we were met by a woman who was looking for her dog.  She had started a hike going counter-clockwise around the lake, but only made it a short distance when she and her dog were chased by a fisher cat.  The dog took off and she had been out there for over two hours looking for him.  She had also gone out to the main road (no cell service at the lake) and called the police who were also out searching.  We had not seen the dog (or the fisher, thankfully).  I hope the dog eventually came back!

From York Lake, we drove north a few miles to the Trustees of Reservations Questing property.  The first part of this hike is up an old woods road to a field.

Looking across the field after climbing the woods road.
The trail leads around the edge of the field before heading back into the woods to form a loop around Leffingwell Hill.  We crossed through several old stone walls (and apparently went by an old foundation, that we didn't notice).  The trail became a little slippery, so we put on our amazing MICROspikes.  Woohoo!  (I'm telling you, these things are the bomb.)  We looped back out to the field and came to a bench that offered great views of the mountains in the distance. (I forgot to get out my PeakFinder app, so I don't know what mountains those were.)

Questing was a very nice, quiet hike.  In the summer, the field is supposed to be filled with native wildflowers that attract butterflies.  I think it would be a beautiful spot for a picnic.

Another Trustee property, Dry Hill, is nearby, but it was already after 3:00 and we decided to save it for another day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Hikes #4 & #5: Dennis Hill State Park & Billings Trail - Norfolk, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, January 15, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.11 miles (Dennis Hill SP) + 1.06 miles (Billings Trail) = 4.17 miles
Weather: 37°F, clear skies
Resources: Dennis Hill State Park, Trail Map, Norfolk Land Trust, Trail Map (see Billings Trail, Tait Section)
Highlights of the trip:  beautiful views from the top of Dennis Hill
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  5/52 hikes; 15.24/250 miles hiked

It was a beautiful, sunny day.  Perfect for a mid-winter hike.  My hiking partner, her geocaching husband, and I decided to head to Norfolk to Dennis Hill State Park and then maybe on to one of the Norfolk Land Trust properties where he needed to nab a few more caches.

(Distance really 3.11 miles.  The line between green and red dots was us driving down the road.  Oops.)

I had been to Dennis Hill several years ago with the homeschool group I hiked with and what I remembered were the beautiful views and the impressive stone building at the top of the hill.

At this time of year, the gate is closed, but there is room for several cars outside the gate.  We climbed up the road, past the picnic area and then left the road and went on to the yellow trail toward the picnic pavilion.  The picnic pavilion is a nice little spot with beautiful views to the east.  There is a fire pit area next to the pavilion and an old chimney in the woods.

Picnic pavilion.

 We completed the yellow loop, retraced our steps along the yellow trail and picked up the white trail (almost missed it) which connected us to the park road farther up the hill.  We walked up the road to the large stone pavilion.  This building is pretty impressive and has commanding views to the south.  (There is also an outhouse nearby that was open and in pretty good shape.)

Pavilion at the top of Dennis Hill.

Inside the pavilion.  There are some picnic tables in here, too.

View to the south from inside the pavilion.
We took the park road down to our car.  On the way down the hill, there is an area with views to the east where you can see some of the wind turbines.

There is a wind turbine in the middle of the picture, just to the right of the tree.  Another turbine is hidden behind the branches of the tree.

From Dennis Hill State Park, we drove north on Route 272 a short distance and then turned right onto Winchester Road.  We parked along the side of the road to access the western end of the Billings Trail.  Our geocacher had already found the caches at the other end of the trail off of Grantville Road, so we just had a short out and back here.

Part of the trail runs along the Mad River and eventually we came to an old stone bridge with a stone bench.  A nice spot for viewing the wetland.  We turned around here and headed back to the car.

These were two relatively short, but enjoyable hikes.  I think Dennis Hill in the fall would be spectacular.  You could do a much longer hike in the Norfolk Land Trust property by parking on Grantville Road and taking the Billings Trail in and then connecting with the trails on Pine Mountain.  Something for another day.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 Hike #3: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, January 8, 2017
Estimated distance:  2.52 miles
Weather: 20°F, overcast
Resources: McLean Game Refuge, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  snow still on the trees
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  3/52 hikes; 11.07/250 miles hiked

Let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first. 

I was only a little way into my hike - enjoying the quiet, snowy woods - when I was jarred by the sight of some miscreant's vandalism.   I really don't understand people like this.  It's all me, me, me.  Idiots.

Okay, back to more pleasant things.

I had hoped to get out with my hiking partner this weekend, but with the snow forecast for Saturday, we decided not to venture out.  I don't mind driving in the long as everyone else stays off the road!  I had plans on Sunday afternoon, but decided to do a short loop in the game refuge while the snow was still clinging to the trees.

My husband suggested bringing the MICROspikes and I was glad I did.  It had only snowed a couple of inches and it was very light and fluffy.  Underneath it was still all ice.

Brook just before Spring Pond.

Spring Pond.

 I noticed some tracks winding their way across the frozen pond.  I went over to investigate because I didn't think the ice was that thick.  It was thick enough to hold a deer, apparently.

Deer tracks.

 The prettiest sight was the snow still on the branches of this little pine plantation.

I hiked up the hill and took a look across the field over to one of the Barndoor Hills.  Then I continued on the trail through the woods around the field.

I met a couple out cross-country skiing who, when I asked, said the conditions weren't very good.  With the ice underneath it was hard to use their poles to push off and the few inches of light snow did not provide enough cover when they went over roots or branches.

 I didn't go that far, but I enjoyed getting out and seeing the scenery in the fresh snow.  I know people don't want to hear it, but I'd love to get a chance to do some snowshoeing this winter.