Thursday, August 11, 2016

West Branch (aka Hogback) Reservoir - Colebrook, CT

Date Paddled: Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Estimated distance: 3.62 miles (not all paddling, as we got up and climbed up the spillway)
Weather: 81°F, scattered clouds
Resources:  MDC Farmington River, Colebrook Historical Society, Book:  Quiet Water Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island
Highlights of the trip:  views

My hiking partner and I decided to go for a paddle in our kayaks today.  I had heard about Hogback Reservoir from one of my neighbors and wanted to give it a try.  The weather was perfect - sunny, but not too hot (no swimming allowed).

My friend tried entering the boat launch into her GPS without success, so here are some directions:  From the center of Riverton (facing the General Store), go left/west on Robertsville Road.  This turns into Riverton Road as you enter Colebrook.  Turn right on Eno Hill Road.  Turn right again on Durst Road (sign for road on pillar).  The parking lot for the boat launch is on your left just before the dam.  Although the road over the dam goes all the way across to Hogback Road, I think it is gated.

There was a lot of construction going on and, at first, I was not sure whether we would be able to get to the launching area.  Then we noticed a gap in the silt fence with a driveway that went down to the launch.  You can not launch using a trailer.  We unloaded our kayaks and parked in the upper lot.  There is a port-a-potty available.

I know, it looks like we paddled over dry land.  For some reason the map doesn't show the full size of the reservoir.  We parked at what used to be called Hogback Dam, but has been renamed Goodwin Dam.  At the other end of the West Branch Reservoir is the Colebrook River Dam with Colebrook River Lake beyond. 

We paddled up the west side of the reservoir.  There were a couple of spots that looked kind of interesting and may have had trails that went down to them.

The only island.  Someone had stacked a rock cairn on it.
We paddled to the northern end where the Colebrook River Dam is located.  My neighbor has said that he climbs to the top and gets great views of both bodies of water.  Does he really climb these rocks?

Not too sure about climbing this.
Instead of climbing the rocks, we went around to the east side that had an area of exposed bedrock (and weeds) and climbed here.

Looking back down the reservoir.

Part way up the hill.

As we climbed, we realized we were not in the place my neighbor had suggested, and were probably in a place that we should not be.  We appeared to be in the spillway for the upper reservoir.  It has been very dry here this summer, so I doubted we were in danger of water coming over the top, and when we got to the top, we found that was true.  We were faced with a field with the water quite a distance away.

Looking across field to Colebrook River Lake from top of spillway.
We paddled back down the reservoir, this time along the eastern shore.  The wind was against us, but by sticking close to the shore, it wasn't too bad.  We could see a bald eagle soaring above.  We approached the spillway with no fear of being sucked over and then paddled back to the boat launch.

Looking back at the Colebrook River Dam.
In front of the parking area, there are tables with nice views of the reservoir.  I'll have to keep this place in mind and maybe come up here this fall for a picnic with some sandwiches made at the Riverton General Store.

One last look from picnic area.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hike #40: White Memorial Foundation - Litchfield, CT

Date Hiked: Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Estimated distance: 6.26 miles
Weather: 70°F, clear and sunny
Resources: White Memorial Foundation Trails
Highlights of the trip:  boardwalk, wildlife
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  40/52 hikes; 150.98/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I have lived in CT for over 30 years now (good grief!) and had never been to White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield.  My hiking partner and I decided to remedy that today.

Using the book, AMC's Best Day Hikes in Connecticut, and a map printed from the White Memorial Foundation website, I plotted our route.  This was not an easy task.  I, quite literally, needed a magnifying glass to read the minuscule print on the map.  But, I persevered and came up with a plan to hike by Mallard Marsh and around Little Pond.  Our first stop when we got to White Memorial was to stop in the museum and buy a larger scale version of the map for $3.  Now I have it for future reference.

There are lots of criss-crossing trails here and it is easy to get confused (at least we thought so).  Many of the trails are marked with colored symbols like a red triangle, for example.  The map is not directly labeled with the symbol, but with a letter that you then have to look up and find out what the colored symbol is.  It wasn't difficult, just a little annoying because it meant flipping the map from side to side to find the key.

Near Mallard Marsh

Yum.  High bush blueberries in abundance!

We made our way over to Little Pond which is encircled by a boardwalk.  Building that boardwalk was an ambitious project, and we really appreciate the work that went into it and what it requires to maintain.

View from the bridge on the boardwalk.

Looking back on bridge.

Monarch on jewelweed.


Looking south across the pond.

We returned to the museum area and then took the Lake Trail down to the viewing platform on Bantam Lake.  The Ice House Ruins Trail is also in this area, and we could see the concrete supports from the conveyor that had been in operation during the ice harvesting in the early 20th Century.

North Bay of Bantam Lake and conveyor supports.

Canal used in ice operation.

White Memorial Foundation was well worth the drive.  I feel like we covered a lot of ground, but there are a few more trails that might be worth trying.  A visit in the fall could be spectacular.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hike #39: GLT's Western Barndoor Preserve - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Monday, August 1, 2016
Estimated distance: 1.23 miles
Weather: 77°F, mostly cloudy
Resources:  Granby Land Trust's Western Barndoor Hill Preserve Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  views from the top
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  39/52 hikes; 144.72/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My son was interested in doing another hike.  With me!  What a nice kid.  So far he has wanted to stick close to home.  I think it is because he does not want to take the time to drive to anything too far away.  Plus, he knows I am a slow hiker, so any hike with me will take awhile.

One of the things he has wanted to do is to hike from our house, through McLean Game Refuge, and up to the top of the Western Barndoor Hill.  The game refuge map, does not show a trail leading to the parking area for the Western Barndoor Hill on Barndoor Hills Road, but I was pretty sure there was a way to get through.  So, my suggestion was that we drive over to Barndoor Hills Road, climb the hill and then he could figure out a way back through the refuge.  He was happy with that plan.

As mentioned above, the parking for the Western Barndoor Hill is located on Barndoor Hills Road, right across from Kettle Pond Lane.  There is room for 2-3 cars at the side of the road.

We walked up Kettle Pond Lane to the clearly marked trail head on the left hand side of the road.  The trail climbs steadily, but it is not difficult.  It loops around the houses on Kettle Pond and you can also see houses on Black Oak Drive.

It was cooler today, but still seemed pretty humid.  We had no trouble working up a sweat on this short hike and my son was lamenting the fact that we forgot to put on bug spray.  I was fortunate to have him along, as he seemed to be the insect magnet.

The area at the top of the hill is quite pleasant.  No real undergrowth, just grass and scattered trees.  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture.  (For pictures of the trail, see Steve Wood's CT Museum Quest website).  The trail leads to an overlook which provides views to the Eastern Barndoor Hill in the game refuge and north to Manitook Mountain and even Mount Tom in Massachusetts.

Eastern Barndoor Hill

Cool old cedar tree.
The other day I had my son show me how to pay for the PeakFinder App and today was my first chance to use it.  I probably should have re-watched the video that shows how it works, but I managed to get what I wanted.  You can compare the two images below.  The large hill in the middle of the picture is nearby Manitook Mountain.  To the left of that, way in the distance, you can see Mount Tom in Holyoke, MA.

The app took some getting used to in that things don't seem totally lined up with the direction your phone is pointing, but it was close enough to use the shape of the mountains to figure things out. 

You can also use PeakFinder on your computer.  I use it in combination with Google Maps.  I drop a pin on my location on a peak to get coordinates.  I type those into Peakfinder and then use the compass to face in the correct direction.  Using Google Maps in 3D is cool, too.  Get to the right location and then use 3D to tip the map and look off into the distance.

My son and I returned to the car where he put on some bug spray and headed off on a trail into the game refuge.  The trail is not on the game refuge map, but he said he came out into the fields between Kettle Pond and Spring Pond and picked up the trail there.  I headed into the center of town and then home and he came in the door not long after me.  So, now he knows he can hike from our door to the Western Barndoor Hill.  Next, he'll have to see if he can make it all the way to Holcomb Farm.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hike #38: Lion's Head - Salisbury, CT

Date Hiked: Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Estimated distance: 2.35 miles
Weather: 80°F, sunny
Resources:  Berkshire Hiking, Hike the Hudson Valley, Agile Trekker, Hiking the Taconic Range,
Highlights of the trip:  views from the top
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  38/52 hikes; 143.49/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My hiking partner contacted me with an idea for a hike that would allow me to check off one of my hiking goals for the year:  Hike on the Appalachian Trail.

This was a relatively short hike, but since I hadn't been out hiking in a couple of weeks, I was a little afraid of biting off more than I could chew.  This hike was perfect.

You can get instructions on how to get to the trail head from Berkshire Hiking, linked above.  I will note that the center of Salisbury is a mess right now with a paving job going on on Route 44.  Hopefully it will be done before too long.

We got to the trail head parking lot around 9:45 and were the only ones there.  The beginning of the trail is on the east side of Bunker Hill Road and from here we had fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

We crossed Bunker Hill Road and entered the woods.  Before long we started a fairly steady climb to the summit.  The Appalachian Trail, blazed white, came in on the right and joined the trail we had been on, which was blazed light blue.  We reached a flat area where the trails diverged.  The Appalachian Trail heads to the right up a short, but fairly steep hill to the top.  This is the route we took, but you can also stay straight and take the blue trail which loops around to the top and is not as steep.  We took the blue trail on our way down.

White-blazed Appalachian Trail.
The view from the top is well worth the climb (and it really wasn't that bad a climb).  We could see Twin Lakes to the east (where we were headed after our hike) with Toms Hill behind it.

Twin Lakes to the east.

Looking southeast.
As we stood taking in the view, we heard voices approaching.  A young couple from Florida arrived.  I believe she was through hiking the AT and he was joining her for the week.   We had a nice chat with them and headed out.  There were a couple of other guys that looked like through hikers taking a break under the sign for the summit.

We continued on the trail until we came to the plateau (mentioned on the Berkshire Hiking website) with nice views looking north.  Maybe Bear Mountain in the distance, I am not sure.  I was supposed to download the PeakFinder app, but it hasn't happened yet.

We left the plateau and headed back along the blue trail.  It looped back around to the place where we had taken the steeper climb up to the top, and then we went back down along the trail to the car.  Not a long hike at all and round 500 feet of elevation gain.

Once we got out of the mess that was downtown Salisbury, we made our way over to my friend's cabin on Twin Lakes and had a picnic lunch and caught up.  At other times, we've come out here to go kayaking, but today it was just yakking.  Hiking and having a picnic with a friend is a great way to spend a summer day.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hike #37: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 3, 2016
Estimated distance: 3.65 miles
Weather: 79°F, sunny
Resources:  McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  views of Spring Pond and fields
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  37/52 hikes; 141.14/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I didn't plan, so did a tried and true hike today.

Spring Pond.

Water lilies.

Western Barndoor Hill off to the left.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Update: 2016 Hiking Goals

An update at the end of the second quarter.

1.  Take 52 hikes.  
36/52 hikes.  I am more than half-way to my goal, so I am ahead of schedule.

2.  Hike for 250 miles.
137.49/250 miles.  To be on target, I should have completed 125 miles in the first 6 months.  I am ahead of schedule, but this is the goal that keeps me motivated.  I'm afraid I will slack off in the warmer weather.

3.  Hike at least 25 miles of the Tunxis Trail
31.37/25 miles.  This goal has been completed.  There are more miles that can be done on this trail, but unless they form a loop where my hiking partner and I can just take one car, we probably won't do them.  They are just too far away to justify two cars.

4.  Visit Bash Bish Falls (Massachusetts)

5.  Hike Mount Monadnock (New Hampshire)

6.  Visit a "new-to-me" state park or forest in Massachusetts (Bash Bish does not count).
Hiked the D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen, MA on April 23.

7.  Hike on the Appalachian Trail

I had hoped to have Bash Bish done by now, but it just hasn't worked out, probably because I have it in my head to combine it with nearby Alander Mountain and that requires more planning.  I know where I want to go on the Appalachian Trail, I just want someone to go with me since it is farther away.  With the Tunxis out of the way, I should be able to focus on getting one of these other goals done in the next quarter.

Hike #36: Hedgehog Trail - Simsbury, CT

Date Hiked: Thursday, June 30, 2016
Estimated distance: 1.00 miles
Weather: 77°F, sunny
Resources:  Simsbury Land Trust WalkBook
Highlights of the trip:  view
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  36/52 hikes; 137.49/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My son asked if I would join him for a hike.  I couldn't pass that up!  I know he likes something that provides a "wow" factor and he wanted something relatively close to home, so we decided to climb up to the lookout on the Hedgehog Trail, part of the Western Highlands in Simsbury. 

It was a relatively quick up and back, starting from the end of North Saddle Ridge Drive.  We parked in the cul-de-sac and climbed up past the non-existent waterfall.  The views from the top are excellent.  Looking north, you will see the Barndoor Hills in Granby and farther west and north you can see Mount Tom in Massachusetts.

Mount Tom is far left just above the tree branch.  Barndoor Hills in the middle of the picture.

This wrapped up my first six months of hiking in 2016, so my next post will take a look at the progress I have made on my hiking goals.