Sunday, June 10, 2018

CF&PA Trails Weekend: Scantic River State Park - East WIndsor

Date Hiked: Sunday, June 3, 2018
Estimated distance:  2.6 miles
Weather: 68°F, scattered clouds
Resources: Scantic River Park Map, American Heritage River Commission Facebook Page
Highlights of the trip:  new bridge
Progress toward NET Hike 50 Challenge: 10.5/50 miles completed

I have long wanted to participate in CT Forest & Park Association's Trails Weekend, and I finally made it happen this year.  I selected a hike in East Windsor that was along the Scantic River.  The parking for this event was at the end of Melrose Road on the east side of the river.  From the map, you can see that there is a Melrose Road on the other side of the river, but the road is not connected.

When I arrived, there were quite a few cars already lining the road and as I looked down to the end, there was a group of people all wearing the same color shirt.  Also, the person I parked behind had legislative plates on their car.  Ugh.  What was I getting into?  I thought I was just going for a hike.

It turns out, that the American Heritage River Commission, who had organized this hike, was having a ribbon cutting for the new bridge that had been laid down.  It was placed within the framework of the old Melrose Road Bridge.  The ribbon cutting and speech took very little time and then we were off on our hike.  I do not remember the name of the trails, but they make a big loop.  First we climbed up along the ridge and then came down and walked back along the river.

The river was very shallow and I don't think it would be good for kayaking right now.  When we got back, I checked out the new bridge.  I have included pictures of the signs that were on display. 

On the far side of the bridge, the volunteers have just started clearing a path that follows the old road bed.  It is still pretty rough, and it looks like it took a lot of work.  A lot of undergrowth.  I don't know if they plan on continuing it all the way to the western part of Melrose Road.  During the dedication of the bridge, someone in the audience was explaining that this used to be the main road for the farms to get their goods to the Connecticut River.  It makes sense if you look at a map.  Melrose Road runs straight into Route 140 which continues straight to the Connecticut River.

One of the highlights of this hike for me was speaking with the hike leader after the event.  I had been on the hike by myself, and didn't know anyone, so felt a little out of place.  After speaking with the leader and learning more about the work the Commission has done and other activities they organize, I left feeling glad that I had attended.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cowles Park to Tariffville Gorge - East Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Estimated distance:  3.41 miles
Weather: 75°F, sunny and a bit humid
Resources: Cowles Park to Tariffville Gorge
Highlights of the trip:  Snake, view from the overlook, river
Progress toward NET Hike 50 Challenge: 10.5/50 miles completed

Hiked today with a couple of others from Cowles Park on Route 187 in East Granby, up to the lookout on the Metacomet Trail over Tariffville Gorge, down to the river, and back through Cowles Park to our cars.

As we were hiking along the ridge, before we got to the overlook, we came across a fairly large black snake.  He did not seem keen to move, so one of the others tried to gently move him along with her hiking pole.  He took exception to that at reared up and hissed.  It was a little nerve wracking even though I was pretty sure it was not a poisonous snake.  He eventually got fed up with us and moved off the trail.  Did I think to get my camera out while this was going on?  No.  Drat.  No snake pictures.

We got a great view from the overlook up and down the river and out across to the same Barndoor Hills we saw during last week's hike at Rattlesnake Mountain in Farmington.

Barndoor Hills in Granby are the two little humps in the middle of the picture.
The trail down to the river was much better marked than I remember it.  We came out on Tunxis Avenue not far from the powerline cut and then walked back up the road so that we could see the water flowing through the gorge.  There is a nice little sandy beach area that allows a good view of the river.  I believe you are advised against swimming there, though.  It would not be safe.

We walked back down the road and followed the trail between two homes back into Cowles Park.  Really, a nice little hike with the hard part over early and a reward of nice views.

If you go, I recommend looking at the map I drew in the post linked at the very top of the page, or getting an app that shows all the various trails in Cowles Park.  There are a lot of criss-crossing mountain bike trails and it could be confusing.  You want to stick to the yellow trail which goes north and then turns south.  When you get to a bench, you will head west on a trail out of Cowles Park, across the power line cut and up to the ridge.  Follow the blue blazes south to the overlook and then continue south on faded blue blazes down to the road.  A sign indicating the Orange Trail back into Cowles Park is on a post between two homes.  Follow that back to the bench at the yellow trail and back to your car.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rattlesnake Mountain

Date Hiked: Thursday, May 24, 2018
Estimated distance:  2.4 miles
Weather: 73°F, beautiful and sunny
Resources: CT NET: Section 16,
Highlights of the trip:  View, Will Warren's Den
Progress toward NET Hike 50 Challenge: 10.5/50 miles completed

I'm going to try and start blogging again.  We'll see how it goes.

Recently, I have joined a facebook group called Take a Hike! Farmington Valley.  Today, I joined five people from that group for a hike up Rattlesnake Mountain in Farmington.  They were a nice group of people and it was a good hike. 

We started our hike by parking along the side of Route 6 just east of Pinnacle Road.  There is a short trail that parallels the road before heading away from it.

There were several large rock outcroppings, but you have to get almost to the overlook before you come to Will Warren's Den.  Here is a short video from the kids at Farmington Alternative High School that talks about the mountain and Will Warren's Den.  In the video, you can see one of the boys crawling into the den.  The idea of doing that did not cross anyone's mind today.

The view from the overlook is fantastic and we were blessed with a beautiful clear day.  The picture below is a view to the south and shows East and West Mountains in Hubbard Park in Meriden.  The Tilcon quarry in Plainville is in front of the mountains.  We did not head over to Pinnacle Rock today, but it can be seen as a small outcropping just right of center.

Looking north, you can see the city of Hartford.

On our hike, we ran into another group that was hiking all the way through to Route 372.  Here, a few people are standing on the traprock ridge.  If you continued on the trail, you would go right down under these cliffs.  Later, when we got back to the parking lot, we saw two people carrying what looked like large black mattresses folded in half.  We asked what they were and they said they were crash pads for climbing.  I didn't notice that they were carrying any other equipment, so I assume they were going to be free climbing.  It would have been interesting to see.

One of the people I hiked with spotted a Lady's slipper on the trail.

Near the bottom of the trail, there was a small clearing that gave a good view to the north.  In the picture below, you can see the Barndoor Hills in Granby at the center of the picture.

We could not have had a better day for this hike.  I look forward to getting out more and getting some miles for my NET Hike 50 Challenge.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year End Update to 2017 Outdoor Goals

I did not update the blog for the last several months of the year.  I went on another five hikes not included in the blog.  Blame facebook.  It was just easier to post a couple of pictures to facebook than write a blog post.  I am going to try and get back to writing the posts this year because I include more information on the blog.


1.  52 hikes.
One hike per week.  I think this is a good goal.  I was able to complete just over the average one hike per week for 2016.  The idea for this goal came from the 52 Hike Challenge.
33 hikes - disappointing.  I can blame some of the shortfall on being out of town for some family issues, but that doesn't explain it all.  This year, I eschewed walks in the woods for walks in the neighborhood.  It was more expedient, but I don't count walks in the neighborhood as hikes.

2.  Hike 250 miles.
I was short of this goal in 2016, and I really want to make sure I reach it this year.  I have been happy with MapMyHike and plan on continuing to use it to keep track of my miles in 2017.
As with above, disappointing:  115.8 miles

3.  Visit 3 waterfalls one of which has to be Bash Bish Falls (Massachusetts).
Yay, this was a win!  I went to Bash Bish by myself back in May.  Beautiful!

4.  Hike Mount Monadnock (New Hampshire).
Did not happen.  Again.  I have suggested to my hiking partner that we each pick three new-to-us hikes for 2018 and she has picked Mount Monadnock.  Better get training.

5.  Visit two "new-to-me" state parks or forests in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts (Bash Bish does not count).
Sunny Brook State Park in Torrington, CT. Much better than I expected.
Horse Guard State Park in Avon, CT.  Great views for not too much effort.
Sandisfield State Forest in Sandisfield, MA.

6.  Visit two "new-to-me" Trustees of Reservations properties.
Questing Reservation - New Marlborough, MA
Glendale Falls - Middlefield, MA

7.  Visit a National Park Service site.
This idea comes from the 52 Hike Challenge: Adventure Series.  There are no "typical" National Parks in CT, but there are places that fall under the banner of the Park Service.  Two that I have come across in my research for places to hike are Weir Farm National Historic Site and The Last Green Valley.  The Appalachian Trail would count as well, but I reached the goal of doing a hike (albeit a short one) on the AT last year.
Did not happen.

8.  Hike to a body of water.
The trail at Winchester Land Trust's Hurlbut Field took us to Winchester Lake.

9. One group hike.
Multiple hikes with both the Simsbury Land Trust and East Granby Land Trust.


10.  Go kayaking at a "new-to-me" location.
Only got out once, I think, and it was not a new-to-me location.

Biking - Fail.  Did not ride my bike once.

11.  Bike to the northern end of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield.

12.  Bike on another bike trail.
Probably either part of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in NY or the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires.  I'd also consider biking in a state park that allowed it.


13.  Read at least 3 books about hiking, nature, or other outdoor pursuits.
I read 42 books this year (lower than average), but only two were about the outdoors:
Lost on The Appalachian Trail by Kyle Rohrig - meh.  I've read better AT books.
Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery.  I'm not sure he proved his thesis, but an interesting book.

14.  Make enough progress on my "places to hike" list that I can publish it on my blog.
When trying to decide where to hike, I have to go to multiple sources to find what I am looking for.  I also lose track of ideas of where to hike.  I am working on creating a master list of places to hike by town. 
I started publishing these on the blog and got up to East Hartford.  I will try to add to it in 2018.
I am glad I did this exercise of reviewing what I accomplished because I did do more than I thought I did.  Not great, but okay.  As with most resolutions, more got accomplished at the beginning of the year.  Time for another fresh start!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 Hike #28: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 30, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.98 miles
Weather: 80°F, scattered clouds
Resources: McLean Game Refuge, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Trout Pond
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  28/52 hikes; 95.26/250 miles hiked

Catching up on blog posts. 

Spring Pond

Looking across field along Werbitzkas Loop.  I think this field may be part of Schiro Preserve.

West Branch of the Salmon Brook

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bangor, Maine

Maine holds a special place in my heart.

Every summer, for the past 53 years, I have gone to our camp on the Kennebec River.  I spent my college years in Waterville.  I have climbed Katahdin, skied (not very well) at Sugarloaf, visited the shores of Moosehead Lake, taken the boat to Monhegan Island, explored Acadia National Park, investigated lighthouses along the rocky coast, and looked across Spednic Lake to the Canadian shore.  I had not, however, spent more than a pit-stop's worth of time in Bangor.  That oversight has been rectified with a little impetus from the Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook page.

My son and I have been following the Facebook page for several months.  Why?  Well, because the author of the posts, Lieutenant Tim Cotton, is a pretty funny guy.  (You can also catch some of his musings on NPR's Car Talk Blog)  Most posts are humorous, but serious or thought-provoking topics are also covered, and he always remind us to "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another."

The mascot of the Bangor Police Department is the Duck of Justice (DOJ).  The duck is a stuffed wood duck that Cotton retrieved from the district attorney's trash can.  The duck has been featured in many posts, but became rather the worse for wear after much handling.  It was recently refurbished and placed in its own glass case in the museum at the police station.  After learning that there were DOJ t-shirts, I had to get one for my son.  However, he didn't feel right having a DOJ t-shirt without having actually seen the Duck.  So, one overcast day, we left our camp in the City of Ships, and made the pilgrimage to the Queen City.

Our first stop was, of course, the police station.  We entered the lobby and received a key card to let us in to the Law Enforcement Museum.  The museum is very, very small, but is packed with a lot of cool stuff.

The displays presented a history of law enforcement, from old uniforms and call boxes, to weapons and restraints.  I was fascinated by the front page headlines of the killing of the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1, Al Brady, in downtown Bangor in 1937.

British Bobby's uniform and Royal Canadian Mounted Police patches.

State Police uniform.
At the back of museum, maybe 10 steps from where you enter the museum, sits the Duck of Justice on its pedestal.  The holy grail.  The reason for our trip to Bangor.  We took a multitude of pictures (some included us) and I think we did pretty well on the dangle (duck+angle = dangle) to reduce the glare. 

The Duck of Justice

The correct dangle can be tricky to achieve as the duck faces the large plate glass windows.  In fact, I hope that the department can find a way to get some shades installed, because I noticed some of the lettering on the exhibits by the window had faded.

So, mission completed.  But, you don't drive hours into the heart of Maine and not take in other sights.  The next stop was the Bangor Fire Department.  We drove right by it on the way to the police department and my son, the firefighter, was hoping to get a tour.  Unfortunately, luck was not with us that day.  We had seen them go out on a call when we were at the police station.  When we stopped back after lunch, they were at training, and when we stopped back again at the end of the day, the office was locked. 

About all we saw at the fire department.

We headed back out to I-95 and went to lunch at Dysart's.  Yes, I am sure there are plenty of great restaurants in downtown Bangor, but Dysart's is iconic.  We just had to go.

We were not disappointed.  I don't remember exactly what we had for sandwiches, but I do remember my son's eyes lit up when he learned he could get free refills on his farm house fries.  The real highlight was dessert.  I had a delicious Bumbleberry (blueberries and raspberries) Crisp and he had an Oreo Ice Cream Pie.  Yum!

After lunch and our failed attempt at seeing the Fire Station, we next headed over to the Cole Land Transportation Museum.  Wow!  As much as we loved seeing the Duck of Justice, the transportation museum was the highlight of my son's day.

From the museum website:

Our purpose at the Cole Land Transportation Museum is to collect, preserve, and display (before they disappear forever) a cross section of Maine's land transportation equipment from which this and future generations will gain knowledge of the past.

We also wish to remember, record and display U.S. military memorabilia to forever remind this and future generations of the high price our comrades have paid to protect our freedom. In doing so, we hope to inspire and challenge the young people of today to continue on in the footsteps of pioneers who have built our state and country.

All of the vehicles on display had some connection to Maine.  They were arranged on "streets".  One street was devoted to snow clearing equipment, two streets to fire trucks (obviously, a favorite of the firefighter I was with), another with farm equipment, and so on.  Across the back of the museum they had a locomotive and boxcars! 

I knew that the Cole family was involved in trucking, but it wasn't until I saw the old semi's that it hit me.  I remembered those trucks!

I can't recommend the Cole Land Transportation Museum enough.  It was really wonderful.

I would call our trip to Bangor a success.  I am sure there is a lot more to see here, but we were just up for the day.  We did not go down to the waterfront and we did not stop and take a picture of the large (can it be otherwise?) Paul Bunyan statue, though we did drive by it.

And before I complete this post, I have to leave you with a link to a fun video on how to properly pronounce Bangor.   The Duck of Justice and Tim Cotton have cameos.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Farmington River Kayak - Simsbury, CT

Date Kayaked: Saturday, July 29, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.37 miles
Weather: 66°F, cloudy
Resources: Farmington River Watershed Association, Map and Access Information
Highlights of the trip:  green heron!

A friend joined me for a kayak trip on the Farmington River in Simsbury.  We put in at Curtiss Park (see intermittent access point #25 on map and in description) and headed up-river toward the center of town.

Oops.  Forgot to shut off app.  Ignore GPS trail on Route 315.

When we got to Curtiss Park, we saw a couple of people fishing.  Apparently, the woman was putting the man to shame and she pulled out a largemouth bass as we were standing there.

We put in and started paddling upriver toward Simsbury.  Before too long, we passed under the Route 315 bridge.  I told my friend to be on the lookout for herons in the little cove on the left.  I almost always see one there, but they usually see me first and fly away.  Sure enough, we saw one sitting on a large log, but he ignored us.  We were able to float and watch him for quite awhile.

There is a Great Blue Heron on the log just to the right of the leaves.
A little farther along, we saw another bird fishing along the shore.  He'd watch the water and then shoot his neck out and nab a little fish in his beak.  I wasn't sure what kind of bird it was, but the curve in its neck reminded me of a heron, though much smaller than the Great Blue.  When I got home, I looked it up.  I am pretty sure it is a Green Heron.  A new bird to add to my list!

Green Heron with small fish in its beak.

I needed to rest my backside, so we took a break on a small "beach" area.  It was more muddy than the sandy shore at Curtiss Park.  The mud made it easy for us to spot animal tracks and I think the ones below are from a racoon. 

Racoon tracks.
After our break, we turned around and headed back.  We went almost 3.4 miles in total.  It was a nice relaxing paddle and it was fun to get out on the river.