Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hike #12: American Legion State Forest - Barkhamsted, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, February 28, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 1.96 miles
Weather: 50°F, sunny
Resources: American Legion State Forest, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: streams, cliffs
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  12/52 hikes; 38.1/250 miles

Today I was joined on my hike by a friend and her husband.  Our original plan had been to hike the Henry Buck Trail at American Legion State Forest and then walk up Legion Road and hike the Turkey Vulture Ledges Trail.  Unfortunately, as you can see from the screen shot below, it took us over two hours to hike less than 2 miles! 

By way of explanation, I will just say we had a lot of catching up to do and spent a fair amount of time pausing to talk.  The trail was also tricky in places especially at the stream crossings.  My friend's husband was a good sport and did not complain about how slow we were going.  He was looking for geocaches, so that kept him a little busy, but we'd also find him waiting for us at different points along the trail.  The result of our slow progress was that we decided to save the Ledges for another day.

Foundation ruins of cheese box mill.

Part of the reason for doing this hike was to start working on the DEEP's Sky's the Limit Challenge.  In order to complete the challenge, I have to visit the 14 listed state parks and take two pictures of myself at each park.  One picture at the trailhead, and one picture at a designated place along the trail.  In the case of the Henry Buck Trail, the picture was to be taken on the wall across from the Henry Buck plaque.  The picture below shows the plaque as the black rectangle high on the stone cliff.

A little farther along the trail (after some rather treacherous climbing), we came to a view out over to Ski Sundown in New Hartford.   There must be a lot of snow-making going on because there was no snow on the ground anywhere else in view.

Ski Sundown in the distance.
We came out of the woods and had to walk down the road to our car.  There was a man in a kayak practicing his turns in the West Branch of the Farmington River.  We also stopped and talked for quite a while (didn't pause my trail app, so this explains part of the 2 hour time) to a woman who had done last year's Sky's the Limit Challenge.  She was at American Legion to get started on the 2016 challenge.

Man in kayak visible on right side.

Although I wish I had made more mileage, I am happy to have gotten out on this beautiful day.  I am also glad to have had the chance to catch up with my friend.  I don't really mind hiking alone, but it's nicer to have someone to share the experience with.

Other American Legion Hike recaps:
Farmington Valley Homeschool Hikers
The A to Z of CT State Parks
Greenhorn, Blue Blazes

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hike #11: Talcott Mountain State Park - Simsbury, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, February 27, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 3.98 miles
Weather: 30°F, sunny
Resources: Talcott Mountain State Park, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: tower and the views
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  11/52 hikes; 36.14/250 miles

Another great hiking day.  In February, no less!

I have been to Talcott Mountain State Park many times over the years, but today I hiked on a trail I had not been on before.  I decided to take the Metacomet Trail - now part of the New England Trail - on the way up, and come back on the yellow trail.

Given the lack of snow and the nice weather, I had forgotten that the gate to the park would be closed.  The gates are part way up the road, but not nearly as far as the first parking spot indicated on the map.  I did a three-point turn and parked along the side of the road (Summit Ridge Drive).  I got to Talcott sometime around 11:00 and I am glad I arrived in the morning.  The parking situation as I was leaving around 1:00 was a lot tougher.  Cars were lined up on both sides all the way down to the entrance on Route 185 and it made turning around once you got in there pretty difficult. 

Part of Trail Map from DEEP Website
From where I had parked the car, I walked down the hill back toward Route 185.  I was hoping I wouldn't have to walk along the busy road to get to the Metacomet, and I spied an area that looked like it had been cleared and might be the start of a trail.  Don't go there!  The cleared area peters out pretty quickly and there are pricker bushes everywhere!  I back-tracked and walked along the road on the inside of the fence.  The Metacomet Trail is clearly marked and I was soon heading away from 185.

Only 2.4 miles to the Heublein Tower.

Unlike last week, there was no snow, but I was happy I brought my hiking poles.  The trail was rocky and we recently had a lot of rain.  I had to cross a stream a couple of times and in some places the trail was the stream.  The poles allowed me to keep my balance over the rocks and on slippery areas on the trail.

I wound my way along the Metacomet and climbed to the top of the ridge.  I had no idea there was going to be a view up there, but truth be told, the views down below on the yellow trail are better because you can see the floor of the valley.  The advantage to the Metacomet is lack of crowds.  I met only one other person on this section of trail.  They yellow trail can get quite busy.

I made it to the beautiful Heublein Tower.  If you come during the summer months, you can go in for a look.  I was most pleased to find that there were composting toilets available and they were clean and stocked with toilet paper.  Much appreciated.

Heublein Tower
After spending a few minutes walking around the tower and looking at the view, I headed back along the yellow trail.  There were a couple of nice view points along the way.

Looking north.

Looking south from a different view point.
The yellow trail had a big icy patch as it headed down the hill toward the parking.  I got my hiking poles back out and used them to help me navigate the ice.  Two more composting toilets at the bottom near the trail head  (just in case you wanted to know).

Here is a screen shot of the elevation for this hike.  I guess the graph and the values listed below must be calculated using different methods (one uses GPS and the other somehow overlays a terrain map?).  The graph seems to indicate a minimum elevation of around 300ft and a maximum elevation of around 800ft.  The values below the graph are 431ft and 945ft, respectively.  The total gain seems to be in the ballpark.

Again, I didn't manage to make the 5 mile mark.  If I had continued past the tower and down toward the reservoir on Route 44, I certainly would have.  I have never done that before, so I may have to try that another time.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hike #10: Roaring Brook Nature Center - Canton, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, February 20, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 2.81 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny
Resources: Roaring Brook Nature Center, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: waterfalls
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  10/52 hikes; 32.16/250 miles

After last weekend's below zero temperatures, I had to take advantage of today's nice weather and get out on a trail.  I didn't want to drive too far since I wasn't sure what I would find for trail conditions, but I wanted to do something I hadn't done in awhile.  Roaring Brook fit the bill.

I turned the map on its side to better match the GPS trail.

I have been to Roaring Brook many times over the years.  We have attended the Hobgoblin Fair and several concerts.  My kids enjoyed classes and camps here and have volunteered with friends to work in the Butterfly Garden.  We also came here to go hiking, just doing the Werner Pond Trail to begin with, the perfect length for little legs, and then expanding to include the trails on the other side of Bahre Corner Road.  It surprised me today, that there were still new things for me to discover.

I started at the nature center and headed counter-clockwise down the Werner Pond Trail (red).  The trail was covered with about an inch of slushy snow.  While not hard to hike in, it did slow me down.  My feet tended to slip as I pushed off.  I had brought my hiking poles with me and I was glad I did.  They provided some extra stability especially when going downhill or crossing over streams.

Along the Werner Pond Trail.
I took the Werner Pond Trail to Quarry Trail and crossed Bahre Corner Road.  I continued on the Quarry Trail in a clockwise direction and soon came to Jim Brook.  There were a lot of little waterfalls and even a small chasm.  I just wish I had brought my camera rather than having to rely on my phone for pictures.

Jim Brook

Note how the icicles are wider at the bottom.
I turned away from the brook and made my way past the old quarry and, after a moment of confusion, turned left onto the Orchard Trail (green) just before the stone wall.  This trail led south through the woods then turned north and crossed through an old orchard that seems now to be filled with weeds and oak saplings.  Upon entering the trees again, I came across a magnificent old Wolf Tree.  I love these big old trees that dwarf the younger trees around them.

I love this old Wolf Tree.
I came to another field and got confused.  I was looking for the Plantation Trail (gray), but looking at the trail map, I was thinking I needed to cross another field before turning left.  I think I see where I went wrong now.  The green trail took me to the rock wall closer to the Plantation Trail.  If I had just turned left when I came into that field, I would have ended up at the Plantation Trail.  No matter.  A little extra walking around the fields and I found the Plantation Trail.  I did that loop and came back to the field.

View upon leaving the Plantation Trail.
A little more confusion crossing the fields as I tried to find my way back to the yellow Quarry Trail.  I did eventually figure it out and came out on Bahre Corner Road again.

Back on the other side of the road, I decided to take the small Dish Mill Pond loop.  How had I never done this before?  The water flowing over Dish Mill Dam was stunning.  I have been to Roaring Brook with my kids countless times, but I have never been on this little trail.

I was out on the trail for almost two hours and didn't even go three miles!  I did stop to take a fair number of pictures, especially along the stream, but I think the slippery snow is what really slowed me down.   It felt great to be out on such a beautiful day and I'm looking forward to more hikes as the weather improves.