Wednesday, May 20, 2015

West Granby - Holcomb Farm

Date Hiked:  Sunday, May 17, 2015
Number in Group: 1
Estimated distance round-trip: 2.2 miles
Weather: Warm, low to mid 70's when I started hiking at around 9 a.m.
Resources: Holcomb Farm, trail map
Highlights of the trip: wildflowers

I decided to get my hike in earlier rather than later on Sunday, since I knew it was supposed to get into the high 80's.  I was on the trail around 9 a.m. and it was already pretty warm.  I didn't use my car to get to the farm, so I had no bug spray with me.  I definitely could have used it!

Holcomb Farm has gone through some changes in the last few years, but activities including art classes, Two Coyotes Wilderness School, educational classes, and more, keep the place busy.  I was surprised to see people there on a Sunday morning.  They were there for The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition class.

The western trails start behind the big red barns.  I walked down the hill, crossed Kendall Brook, and entered the CSA fields.  Straight across the field and through the gate took me to the banks of the West Branch of the Salmon Brook.

Kendall Brook

Holcomb Farm CSA

Bridge over the West Branch of the Salmon Brook

On the far side of the bridge there is a lot of sand and rounded rocks.  It's a nice place to sit and enjoy the sun, or look for unique looking rocks.  Head straight back toward the woods and you will come to the start of the Yellow Trail.  I decided I would take the trails in order - Yellow to Blue to Green to Purple - always turning right and gaining elevation on each trail.  I went to the right and wound my way through the woods a bit, noticing a few wildflowers and a lean-to, before I got to the stairs.

Canada Mayflower

Going up!
At the top of the stairs, I turned right onto the Thruway (Blue) Trail.  This trail climbed a little higher and turned 180 degrees, after which it connected to the High Ridge (Green) Trail.  This leads you out to a trail head off of the dirt section of Broad Hill Road, or if you turn left and stay on the trail, it very quickly connects to the Lookout (Purple) Trail.

Fringed Polygala
The Lookout Trail has a little spur that takes you to the lookout.  It is an outcrop of rocks in the middle of the woods.  There is not much to see at this time of year, but maybe once the leaves have fallen you can get a view to the east.  Just below the lookout, on the trail, is a picnic table and small bench next to a couple of glacial erratics.

The sign on the right indicates the Lookout that you see on the left.

A bench to enjoy the view once the leaves are gone.

Glacial erratics.
Continuing on the Lookout Trail, I soon connected back to the High Ridge Trail at the end opposite from where I started.  A short section of the High Ridge Trail, took me back again to the Thruway Trail.  I think it was near here that I came across what I assume are shelters built by the kids in the Two Coyotes classes.  I also spotted the only Pink Lady's-slipper that I have seen this year.  I looked around, but didn't see any others.

A little village in the woods.

Pink Lady's-slipper
When the Thruway (Blue) Trail connects with the Yellow Trail again, you have two choices.  If you go left, you will stick to the woods and go back to the stairs.  If you go to the right, which is the way I went, you will follow the Yellow Trail down the hill until you get to the bridge over Beach Brook.

A hawk or owl feather.  Not sure which.
You must cross Beach Brook again in order to get back to where you started.  The only issue is, there is not another bridge.  The water needs to be low enough for you to be able to cross using the rocks in the stream.  Someone has put a rope between a couple of trees to help with the first part of the crossing.  This gets you to a little "island" from which you have to make your way over another smaller section of the stream.  I got the toe of one boot wet, but not a big deal.  You would not be able to cross this area in higher water.

See the rope tied between the trees?

West Branch of Salmon Brook


West Branch of Salmon Brook back near the bridge.
I followed the Yellow Trail back to where I started, crossed the bridge, went through the CSA fields and back to the barn. 

According to the data on my phone, I went about 2.2 miles and reached an elevation of 644 feet.  I really enjoyed the hike.  It was on the warm side, but not too bad, although the mosquitoes were ferocious if I stopped moving.  You could lengthen this hike by zig-zagging the trails as you went up, or you could visit some of the Granby Land Trust properties (Diamond Ledges, Petersen, and Beman Family Preserves) off of Broad Hill Road.  (As far as I know there are no trail maps for these properties). 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Simsbury - Wagner Woods

Date Hiked:  Thursday, May 14, 2015
Number in Group: 1
Estimated distance round-trip: 1.5 miles
Weather: The pick of the week! sunny, 73°F, light breeze
Resources: Simsbury Land Trust Wagner Woods
Highlights of the trip: tom turkey, pileated woodpecker

The other night, I was poking around for a hike I could do on Thursday afternoon.  The local meteorologist had named Thursday as the "pick of the week", and I wanted to be ready with a place in mind so that I could get out and enjoy the day.  In looking at the Simsbury Land Trust website, I noticed a hike I hadn't done before - Wagner Woods.  I believe this is a newer property not included in The Walkbook.  There is a trail map available online.

I parked at the trail head located on Great Pond Road.  There is not a lot of room here, maybe enough for 3 cars.  There is another parking area at the George Hall Farm on Old Farms Road.  There is a kiosk at the entrance with a trail map, an aerial view from 1934 of the old Stierle Farm, and information on the various bird species on the property.

Entrance kiosk on Great Pond Road
I started down the red trail and soon found myself in a pine forest.  The trail was very well marked.

I took a right onto the blue Boehm Trail.  The trail crossed over a small muddy stream and went through breaks in several rock walls.

Interesting how this one tree twisted around the other as it grew.

The purple trail went off to the right to the parking at Hall Farm.  I was taking a few photos as I went along, but man!  The mosquitoes were really out in force.  I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked observing what was around me.  As I approached the turn-off for the yellow Stierle Trail, I heard some rustling in the leaves off to my right.  I didn't pay much attention, thinking it was just a squirrel.  I was wrong!  It was a tom turkey.  As I struggled to get my phone camera out and focused, he moved off at a pretty good clip through the undergrowth.  I got a picture, but nothing that was in focus.  Rats!

I took the yellow trail down a little hill and just before I went through another stone wall, I noticed some feathers lying on the ground.  I took a quick snap to identify later.  Again with those mosquitoes.  Using the Feather Atlas, I believe I have identified the feathers as coming from a mourning dove.  Unfortunately, there were quite a few lying around, so I am not sure of a positive outcome for the poor thing.

Mourning dove feather?
In this same area, I noted a bunch of white, fluffy, "cotton" on the ground.  I thought I had identified the trees.  The leaves looked right, but the bark, for such large trees was not thick and furrowed like cottonwood.  Perhaps the trees I saw were aspen, but then where was the "cotton" coming from?  I'll have to go back and make better observations (and take pictures that are actually in focus).

Shortly after going through the rock wall, I came to the orange Hop Brook Trail.  Turning left takes you into the field.  Instead, I took a right, along a stone wall and down to the brook.

Love these big old wolf/pasture trees.

Hop Brook
On the way back up from the brook, I heard and then spotted a pileated woodpecker on a fallen log.  It stayed long enough for me to get a picture.  Unfortunately, the camera on my phone has a rather poor zoom.  I think I need to start carrying my camera and my phone, something I had been trying to avoid.

I was now back to where I started on the orange trail and I could look across the field.  The orange trail is a narrow path that runs along the edge of most of the field and then meets up with the red trail.  The red trail cuts across the field and along the far side.  It was not long before I thought that taking this path may have been a bad idea.  I mean, it was a lovely trail, but all I could think was, "Ticks, ticks, ticks!"  The trail was not mowed recently, and the grass brushed my legs.  I did not stop to enjoy the scenery or to see if any birds were using the nesting boxes.  Instead, I just made my way across the field until I got to the edge and could take a moment for a tick check.  Unbelievably, I did not find a single tick.  However, I still felt like I had them crawling all over me.

At the edge of the field, I found a lilac bush and some lily of the valley.  I also saw two different yellow flowers.  Again, my pictures were completely out of focus.  I could not identify the first one, even though it had fairly distinctive leaves, but I am pretty sure the second one was celandine.

Not far from where the trail leaves the field and enters the woods, there is a vernal pool.  I managed to scare two mallards (and myself) and they quickly swam to the far side.  On the other side of the trail, there is supposed to be an old foundation.  In my agitated, feeling like ticks are crawling all over me state, I forgot to go and take a look.  I simply headed back to the car.  Another tick check and things still looked good.

I had thought about combining this hike with one at Great Pond which is just across the street, but decided to do that another day.  Below is a map they have at the kiosk showing the trails of both Wagner Woods and Great Pond State Forest.  The Wagner Woods route was about 1.5 miles and I believe the trail around Great Pond (not including side trails) is probably about the same, so the combination would make a nice 3 mile hike.

I will definitely be back to Wagner Woods.  In my short walk, I saw a fair variety of wildlife and I think there is much more to observe.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

East Granby/Suffield - Metacomet Trail


I have finally hiked the section of the Metacomet Trail in East Granby and Suffield from end to end.  (See CT NET: Section 20)  It seems a minor accomplishment.  It is only about 5 miles long, but I was able to achieve something I hadn't before - find the trail register.  I have hiked part way in from the East Granby end and part way in from the Suffield end, but I never saw the trail register that was supposed to be there.  I think I must have missed a small section of the middle of the trail. 

I hiked with my friend, D, and we left one car at the junction of Phelps Road and Route 168 in Suffield.  Then we drove around to the parking on the corner of Newgate Road and Route 20 in East Granby.

There is an initial ascent that is fairly steep, but then things level out for awhile.  If you check out the link above, it indicates numbers of +999 feet/-1007 feet.  I can only assume that that is the cumulative elevation gain and loss over the entire trail section.  My phone indicated that the lowest elevation was 388 feet and the highest was 815 feet.  In general, once you get up on the ridge, there is not a lot of change in elevation except for the ravine between the two peaks, Peak/Copper Mountain and West Suffield Mountain.  (The CT Walk Book gives elevations of the two peaks as 672 and 691 feet, respectively).

Heading up from Route 20, we soon spotted some pretty little violets.  Based on information from the Connecticut Botanical Society website, I am guessing they are birdfoot violets.

Birdfoot Violet?

We also saw a lot of Wild Red Columbine.   Really pretty and they stand out from the browns and greys of the leaves and rocks.

Wild Red Columbine

There are several lookouts to the west along the way (not to the east as indicated by the Walk Book).  The first overlook is quite expansive and gives a great look at the valley and down the ridge line toward Talcott Mountain and the Heublein Tower.  Unfortunately, it was pretty hazy, so our views were limited.  At around the 1.5 mile mark, there is a view of Old Newgate Prison.  Still closed for renovations with no opening date in sight as of this writing.

Old Newgate Prison on far side of road.
The basalt formations along the ridge are really interesting.

Basalt spire.
At about the 4.0 mile mark, there is a great view of flat-topped Manituck Mountain.

Manituck Mountain
The trail register is near one of the viewpoints (can't remember which one).  We nearly missed it because as we came back down from the viewpoint, it was behind us.  One of the people who signed it the day before us was on his way to completing the whole New England Trail.  He was planning on finishing at Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire (which isn't technically on the NET - yet).  I like the idea of setting a goal like this.  The Appalachian Trail is beyond me, but perhaps the NET is achievable.

Friday, May 8, 2015

West Granby - Holcomb Farm

Saturday was a perfect hiking day.  Sunny and not too warm.  Hardly any bugs.

 I decided to hike the trails on the east side of Holcomb Farm (trail map).  When I got to the farm, I was surprised to see the parking lot full and a couple of people directing cars to parking places.  It turns out that Two Coyotes (more on them later) was having an open house.

After parking the car, I crossed Simsbury Road and headed up the tractor path to the field.  I wish I was better at identifying birds from their calls because I heard an unfamiliar call as I was walking up the hill.  I spotted the bird in a tree, but he sun was such that I could really only see it's silhouette.

When the trail branched to go in opposite directions around the field, I went to the left.  I took another little trail to the left that leads to a great view over the valley and the farm buildings below.

Looking down on the Holcomb Farm barns.
I continued on the trail that goes around the field and could see The Knolls in the distance.

I entered the woods near an old gate and turned left on the Vernal Pool (blue) trail.  Before too long, I came across split logs that had been placed to keep you out of the mud.  I very nearly broke my ankle walking on these as they weren't secured and just rolled sideways.  Fortunately, the ground here was dry enough to walk on.  Not true later on.

After a short way, I came upon a couple out enjoying the day.  We had a nice chat and, since we were on the Vernal Pool Trail, talked about where it might be and what we could expect to find.  I went on ahead, but very quickly came upon an area of water.  I waited for the couple to catch up.  It was rather swampy and not very picturesque, but probably a good place for wood frogs and newts.  We parted ways again, and again I came across another wet area.  Maybe it should be Vernal Pools Trail.

When I came to the Boundary (yellow) Trail, I turned left again.  On the east side of the trail, outside of the Holcomb Farm property, there is clearly an area for deer hunting.  Trees have been cleared to allow browse for the deer and I saw two metal tree stands.  I think I would avoid this trail in the fall.

The Boundary Trail ends at the Laurel Loop (red) Trail.  I took another left, crossed a small stream and came across the orange trail that leads to McLean Game Refuge.  I have never taken that trail, but in looking at the game refuge map, I believe it is going to bring you to a horse trail across Barndoor Hills Road from the refuge headquarters.  Some future exploring is in order.

Continuing on the red trail, I came to another part of the orange trail to the game refuge and then to another bridge.  This is where things started to get really muddy.  I tried to walk along the edge of the trail or use logs or rocks to hop along, but sometimes there was nothing to be done, but get my feet wet.  The wettest areas had brambles or mountain laurel on either side that prevented me from walking around.  I came out of the woods at another field and went around it to the right.  This was the field we had snowshoed to on a full-moon hike in March. I followed the tractor path back along the first field and then back down the hill to the farm.  I think the whole hike was just shy of 3 miles.

When I got back to the parking lot, I ran into Justin Pegnataro, the Executive Director of Two Coyotes Wilderness School.  It sounds like they had a great open house.  I know Justin from many years ago when my boys attended Two Coyotes back when they held their classes at Penwood State Park.  That was probably about seven or eight years ago.  Time flies!  My kids really enjoyed the program.  It was great to hear from Justin that the program is doing really well at the farm.