Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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

Date Hiked:  Sunday, May , 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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hike #27: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked:  Thursday, April 28, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 3.58 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny
Resources: McLean Game Refuge, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Turtles at Spring Pond
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  27/52 hikes; 97.69/250 miles; 16.9/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Just a quick hike in the game refuge.  No photos.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hike #26: Tunxis Trail (Lake McDonough) - Barkhamsted, CT

Date Hiked:  Sunday, April 24, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 3.10 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny
Resources: CFPA Interactive Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Views of Lake McDonough
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  26/52 hikes; 94.11/250 miles; 16.9/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My hiking partner and I continued our southward progress on the Tunxis Trail with the section that ends near Ski Sundown.

The following image shows that hiking north to south has its benefits, at least for this section of the trail.

We parked one car on Ratlum Road near Ski Sundown (room for 2-3 cars) and parked the other where we left off last week at the parking lot near the northern part of Ratlum Road.  Note, I would not suggest parking at Ski Sundown.  It is not designated parking, though it may be tempting.  The gate was closed when we arrived, but open as we were leaving.  I'd be afraid of getting my car locked in.  The last time I did this section, I did leave a car at Sundown and just lucked out.  There was a brewfest going on that day.

From the parking area, we crossed Ratlum Road and climbed the hill.  Before too long, we came to the Barkhamsted Reservoir Overlook.  It is much harder to see the water when the trees are leafed out.

Barkhamsted Reservoir.
About a mile from the end of our hike, we came to the trail register.  There aren't great views from this spot, but as you continue down the trail, a red-dot trail goes off to the right.  This leads to a bald area with fantastic views of Lake McDonough.

Lake McDonough and, on the left, a little bit of snow still on the slopes at Ski Sundown.

Lake McDonough.

We sat here for a few minutes talking and enjoying the sun and the view.  There were at least three  fishing boats in the lake below.

Our hike was fairly short at just over 3 miles.  I'm trying to figure out how best to break the hikes into sections based on where the parking is located.  Next hike we can either decide to do 3.5 miles, or continue and make it 6 miles.  I'll have to do some research on what is coming up.

Hike #25: D.A.R. State Forest - Goshen, MA

Date Hiked:  Saturday, April 23, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 4.29 miles
Weather: 59°F, sunny
Resources: DAR State Forest, Trail Map,
Highlights of the trip:  Walk along lake
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  25/52 hikes; 91.01/250 miles; 13.6/25 miles on Tunxis Trail**

Today, I went hiking with a friend and her husband.  They live in Agawam, so it seemed like a good opportunity to knock off another of my hiking goals:   Visit a "new-to-me" state park or forest in Massachusetts.  We chose the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) State Forest in Goshen.

The night before we went, I saw that the state had closed the park early last fall so that they could begin work on the dam on Upper Highland Lake.  There was no indication that the park had re-opened, it just said, "see you next spring".  Hmm.  I poked around on the internet, hoping to find more information, but didn't find any.  We took our chances.  We got up to the main entrance and it was closed.  It looked newly paved, though, so I assume it will be open soon.  We drove around the north end of the park and down West Road (spectacular views to the east) and parked near the gate at Moore Hill Road.

Starting at this end, put us close to the fire tower.  On the way up, a brush truck (small fire department truck) passed us going in the opposite direction.  It passed us again a few minutes later going back with a pickup truck behind it.  They must have gone down to let the other truck in the gate.  When we got to the tower, there were several fire vehicles there and the men were up in the tower.  This was a real fire tower viewing station, not like the other fire towers I have seen locally that are just a viewing platform.  With the firemen up above and a "No Trespassing" sign below, I wasn't going to go up.  (Although looking at the state website, it says "Climb the Goshen fire tower for spectacular views of the Connecticut River Valley and into five states.")  Oh, well.

Before getting to the tower, we had run into a mountain biker who suggested we take the Long Trail down to the lake.  He even waited for us at the tower to show us the correct trail.  The trails are marked in some spots, but not in others and are not separately color coded.  It does become a little confusing.

A small stream near Upper Highland Lake.

We walked along the lake shore, which was very pretty.  We came to a small beach that is only available for people who are camping.

Upper end of Highland Lake looking toward dam.
When we got down to Moore Hill Road, we had the choice of taking the road back or following the New England Mountain Bike Association Trail, which had been suggested earlier by the biker we met.  Because it was already 4:45 p.m. and it was going to take me an hour and a half to get home, we opted for the road.

We didn't even scratch the surface of the trails available here.  I think it would definitely be worth a return trip, especially in the fall.  And now that I know that the state's own website suggests you climb the tower, I will make sure I do!

Hike #24: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked:  Friday, April 22, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 2.24 miles
Weather: 75°F, cloudy
Resources: McLean Game Refuge Map
Highlights of the trip: nice walk in the woods
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  24/52 hikes; 86.72/250 miles; 13.6/25 miles on Tunxis Trail**

Not too much to report.  I managed to get out for a quick hike in the game refuge.  It was warm, but overcast.  Rain expected later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hike #23: Tunxis Trail (Indian Council Caves) - Barkhamsted, CT

Date Hiked:  Sunday, April 17, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 3.85 miles*
Weather: 60°F, bright, sunny day
Resources: CFPA Interactive Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: caves
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  23/52 hikes; 84.48/250 miles; 13.6/25 miles on Tunxis Trail**

I have completed the first section of the Tunxis Trail, and am over half way to my goal of 25 miles!

Rats.  I forgot to start GPS.  Parked near Legeyt Road.
We left one car at the parking lot on Ratlum Road and drove up to Legeyt Road to start.  It seems kind of funny to me, but no one else parked on Ratlum Road.  Instead, they squeeze into the area on the side of 219 and then have to try and back out on to that busy road.  Also, no one else parked at Legeyt for the easy walk into the caves.

We walked down the forest road, freshly widened and graveled from tree work in the area.  We came to the pond we saw at the end of last week's hike and continued on to another.  There were a couple of old cellar holes nearby.

Shortly after, we turned right to the caves.  While not real caves, the boulders are still pretty impressive.  Think about them traveling along in a glacier and being left behind.  Pretty cool.

Indian Council Caves.
We climbed to the top of the boulders and had the place to ourselves.  There is not really much of a view from the top, mostly the tops of trees, but without the leaves, we could see one of the ponds.

View from top of boulders.
We were lucky to get the caves to ourselves.  It was a beautiful day and as we headed south on the trail, we ran into a slew of other hikers.  Everyone was very friendly and we had conversations with a couple of people as we crossed paths.

Another excellent hike with well-marked trails.  A little wet in spots, but nothing we couldn't navigate.  On to the next section which will take us to a view over Lake McDonough.

*Curses!  I forgot to start the GPS tracker when we left the car!  Using the website, Map My Hike, I was able to use the "Create a Route" feature to estimate that I had gone a mile before turning on the tracker. 

**I will true-up the distance on the Tunxis when I finish the next section.  We completed the northern most section in the Walk Book (Route 219 to the Massachusetts State Line), which is listed as 12.6 miles.  We also did part of the next section because we parked on Ratlum Road rather than deal with the limited parking on 219.  I estimate this added a mile.