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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Hike #2: Great Pond and Wagner Woods - Simsbury, CT

Date Hiked: Monday, January 2, 2017
Estimated distance:  4.44 miles
Weather: 32°F, overcast
Resources: Massacoe State Forest, Great Pond Trail Map, Simsbury Land Trust, Wagner Woods Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Walking with ease on my MICROspikes!
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  2/52 hikes; 8.55/250 miles hiked

With the trails still icy, I had thought a hike in a town in the eastern part of the state may would be a good idea. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with what is available and I was going to be by myself, so I ended up sticking closer to home.

I chose to hike at Great Pond and connect to the trails at Simsbury Land Trust's Wagner Woods property.  The parking lot at Great Pond was still open - I think they may close the gates once it really snows - but it was an ice rink.  I had put the MICROspikes in the car for yesterday's hike and never used them, but today I decided to break them in.  They are fantastic!  I had my poles with my, too, but I was able to walk across the ice with the MICROspikes on as I was extending my poles.  Not even the slightest slip.  Once they were on, I didn't really notice them.  This is in comparison to Yaktrax where I could feel the grip running under my foot and it actually made me feel a little unsteady, like my boot wasn't in full contact with the ground.

I headed off around Great Pond in a counter-clockwise direction.  The first view of the "pond" took me by surprise although it really shouldn't have.  I know there is a drought and had seen drastic evidence of it during my hike at Colebrook River Lake last fall, but it hit home again today.  The pond is empty except for a ring of water around the outside edge.  I am not sure it actually forms a complete ring.

The ground was pretty icy most of the way around the pond.  It started to get patchier in the last quarter of the circle.  I was able to keep the MICROspikes on, though.

After completing the walk around Great Pond, I took one of the side trails that brought me out just east of the parking area for Wagner Woods.  I had taken the MICROspikes off at this point because the trail was free of ice and snow.  I walked west along Great Pond Road and put the spikes back on at the entrance because it looked pretty icy on the red (Wagner) trail.  I was taking them off again a short time later because the blue (Boehm) trail was pretty clear and I kept them off until I was nearly back to my car at Great Pond.

Along the blue trail.  No water.

Witches Butter.
From the blue trail, I looped around to the yellow (Stierle) trail and then to the orange (Hop Brook) trail.  I took that down to the Hop Brook Overlook.

Hop Brook.

I backtracked up to the field and reconnected with the red trail and followed that out.  Along the red trail there are signs identifying some old foundations - one for the Boehm home which was destroyed in a fire.  It made me sad to think of the family losing the home that sat on this beautiful property.

Around the site of the Boehm home were the trees pictured below.  Does anyone know what they are?  The bark is what drew my notice.  Very thick and deeply furrowed.  Black locust?  I didn't walk over to investigate what leaves may have been lying about.

Foundation for an old barn and silo.

I carefully negotiated the ice near the entrance to the red trail, crossed the road and headed back to my car over at Great Pond. 

I had been meaning to connect these two sets of trails for awhile, and now I have done it.  It made for a nice hike.  You can add a little more mileage if you do some of the side trails at Great Pond instead of just sticking to the trail around the pond.  Something to investigate next time.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Hike #1: Northwest Park - Windsor, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, January 1, 2017
Estimated distance:  4.11 miles
Weather: 43°F, scattered clouds, breezy
Resources: Friends of Northwest Park, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  bald eagle, view of frozen reservoir
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  1/52 hikes; 4.11/250 miles hiked

Let's start the New Year off with a hike!  The tricky part is figuring out where to go.  We've had a little snow and then rain on top of that, so icy trails were likely.  I chose Northwest Park because it is relatively flat with a lot of open fields.  If the conditions were too bad, I hoped that at least the trails around the fields would be free of ice.  I threw my microspikes into the car just in case.

There were some icy spots in the parking lot and then again in front of the nature center, but overall things looked pretty good.  As you can see from the pictures, the snow is pretty much gone.  I left the microspikes in the car.  The nature center was closed today for the holiday, but I think it is normally closed on Sundays anyway.

I headed behind the nature center and back toward the reservoir.  The trails were pretty good except for an occasional icy patch and I just took my time and used my hiking poles.

I stopped for a moment to consult my map and see if there was a trail around the field I had just come to.  When I looked up again, there was a bald eagle flying over the field toward the reservoir.  Already a great hike!

I picked up the yellow (Wetland Forest) trail that runs along above Rainbow Reservoir.

From the yellow trail, I connected with the pink (Rainbow Reservoir) trail.  It became much more icy here, but in many cases the worst of the ice could be avoided by walking along the edge of the trail.

The reservoir was frozen, but I doubt the ice was very thick.

Someone got a little carried away with the pink blazes, but it added a little color to the scene.  The trails at Northwest Park are very well marked.  The only problems I have are when I come to the criss-crossing woods roads.  Putting numbered markers at the corners and marking those on the map might be helpful.

The picture below shows the dam at the end of the reservoir.  Somewhere along here, I looked across a cove and thought I saw a sign on a tree that said "Portage Here".  By the time I got over to that spot, I had completely forgotten about it, but now I am curious.  If it really did say "portage" where are you supposed to go?  Looking at the Farmington River Watershed Association website, there is no mention of a portage here.  You would take out at across the reservoir at the boat launch (Access Point 29) and drive down to River Street to put-in again (Access Point 30).  Curious.

I left the pink trail and picked up the black (Triassic) trail.  This took me through the woods and then out into a field.  I thought the trails would be free of ice here, but the trees block the rays of the sun on the trail that runs along the east side of the field.

When I got to the next field, I walked on the trails on the west side of the field which brought me to one of the old tobacco barns.  The roof is in bad repair, but the beams inside still look pretty good.

I made my way back to the entrance with a quick detour to see the animal barn.  This was a very nice hike on a beautiful first day of the new year.