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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hike #22: People's State Forest - Barkhamsted, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, April 16, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 6.17 miles
Weather: 60°F, bright, sunny day
Resources: American Legion and People's State Forest, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: beautiful day, views of river and Riverton
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  22/52 hikes; 80.63/250 miles; 10.1/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I parked in the main parking lot at the Matthies Grove.  There was no one manning the booth to collect fees this early in the year (but the restrooms were open).

I crossed the street and took the trail up to the Stone Museum (closed and boarded up) and turned left to follow the Robert Ross trail to the overlooks.  One of the overlooks listed on the map is the Gothic Window Overlook.  There may have been an overlook there at one time, but the trees have grown up.  It is fairly young growth, so maybe it gets cleared out periodically. 

Shortly after I came to a large outcropping of rock looming above me.  It looked like other people may have tried climbing to the top, but I decided not to.  I knew there were good lookouts ahead that were free of trees.

Large outcropping shortly after Gothic Window Lookout.

Having done some climbing already, I was dismayed to see yet another descent.  I know I still have to climb to the overlooks, so I don't want to go down!

No.  I don't want to go down!

I did go a few feet down the Falls Cutoff Trail to take some pictures, though.  Not a whole lot of water, but still pretty.

Stream at Falls Cutoff.

I climbed to the first really good overlook.  Funny how the overlooks with the best views don't have names, but the one with no view does. (Actually looking at the trail description, they may be the Chaugham Lookouts).  When I got to the overlook there was a group of hikers already there.  They had taken a water break and were loading up full packs.  I asked them if they were training and it turns out they were Boy Scouts training for their trip to Philmont.  The views here were spectacular.  You could see the river down below and the mountains in the distance. 

Looking southeast at West Branch of Farmington River.

I left the Robert Ross Trail and took the Jessie Gerard Trail to the next overlook and came to another group of Boy Scouts. At this overlook, you can see the town of Riverton to the north.

Continuing on the Jessie Gerard Trail I passed the pair of glacial erratics (Veeder Boulders) and came out on Greenwoods Road near the Big Spring camping area (outhouse available).

I walked down Greenwoods Road a little bit until I came to the Charles Pack Trail on the left.  I followed this down to Beaver Brook Road crossing a pretty stream with moss covered rocks.

Stream on Charles Pack Trail.
My plan had been to continue on the Charles Pack Trail, following it all the way down to the start, but I was starting to feel like I wanted to head back.  I ended up taking Beaver Brook Road to Greenwoods and picking up the Robert Ross Trail near the end to finish my hike.  The difference in distance between taking the trail and the road was probably not significant, but I was able to pick up my pace on the road.

This was an excellent hike and even though I took the road back, I was happy to have logged over 6 miles.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hike #21: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked:  Friday, April 15, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 4.67 miles
Weather: 55°F, bright, sunny day
Resources: McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: beautiful day, pond
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  21/52 hikes; 74.46/250 miles; 10.1/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Another gorgeous day that had to be taken advantage of.  I went to the game refuge again, going in at the Canton Road entrance.  I walked along the woods road between Spring Pond and Trout Pond and then turned onto another road and took the North Trail over to the Blue Loop.

The Blue Loop climbs to the top of a hill that, right now without the leaves, allows you to see over to the Barndoor Hills.

View to Barndoor Hills.
The Blue Loop is joined first by the Orange Loop and then by the Red Loop trails and travels along the brook that runs between the game refuge and Salmon Brook Park.  There is a side trail that takes you into the park near the pond.

Salmon Brook
The three loop trails come out near Trout Pond in the refuge.  As I walked along the edge of the pond, I could see this ropy material in the water.  It looked kind of like frog eggs, but not what I am used to seeing.  I guess it could be frog eggs, but at a different stage than what I am used to seeing.  I would expect it to be more gelatinous with small black dots in it.  That is not how this appeared.

Frog eggs?  I have no idea.

Cabin at Trout Pond.
I finished the walk by following the woods road back toward Spring Pond and then up to Canton Road.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hike #20: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked:  Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 2.93 miles
Weather: 48°F, bright, sunny day
Resources: McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: View from Eastern Barndoor Hill
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  20/52 hikes; 69.79/250 miles; 10.1/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Too nice a day to pass up going for a hike.  I did a loop in McLean Game Refuge that took me in Canton Road, past Spring Pond, and up the hill over to Kettle Pond.  I turned left on the woods road and went to the top of the hill to the summit.  Returning from the top, I took the other section of the Summit Trail to the North Trail and out of the Refuge via the Creek Trail.

If you go out on one of the ledges, you can look north up the valley.  

From your position on the Eastern Barndoor Hill, you can look across at the Western Barndoor Hill.  Horse farms below are on Barndoor Hills Road.

The Creek Trail takes you across a balance beam over the creek.  Okay, it's quite a bit wider than a balance beam.

 Nice mid-week hike!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hike #19: Tunxis Trail (Pine Mountain) - Barkhamsted

Date Hiked:  Sunday, April 10, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 3.85 miles
Weather: 40°F, bright, sunny day
Resources: CFPA Interactive Trail Map, Short Nature Walks in CT starting on page 13
Highlights of the trip: View to Springfield and beyond
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  19/52 hikes; 66.86/250 miles; 10.1/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

A nice hike on the Tunxis Trail today at Pine Mountain in Barkhamsted.  I had my hiking partner with me once again, so we were able to leave one car at Legeyt Road and took the other up to the start at Pine Mountain Road.

We debated whether to do this hike or stretch and go for the longer hike which would have included the Indian Council Caves and all the way down to the next parking area on Route 219.  In the end, we decided on the shorter hike.  For some reason, it did feel really short, maybe because we got the hardest part (Pine Mountain) over with early.

The view from Pine Mountain was quite impressive.  On the far left, we could see the white steeple of the church in the center of East Hartland.  We could also make out Springfield, MA in the distance.  I don't know how far beyond that we were seeing.  (I really need to check out the PeakFinder App).

Little white dot on left is East Hartland church steeple.

Metacomet Ridge?

We came across two Geodetic Survey markers.  The first one was in the open area at the top and the other was off to the side, just as we were about to head down the trail.

We descended and reached the other end of Pine Mountain Road.  We continued on the trail until we came to the pond at Roaring Brook.  We could see a beaver lodge and there were a couple of geese out on a little tuft of grass in the middle.  The trail looks like it splits with one way going over a bridge near the pond.  I believe the other way just goes a little farther down the brook and then connects back to the same trail.

Pond at Roaring Brook.

A short distance on, we came to the woods road that would take us back to the car we parked at the end of Legeyt Road.  There has obviously been some work done here recently.  The last time I was here, the road was much more overgrown.  A lot of gravel has been laid down and it is fairly wide.  (Taking the woods road in the other direction would lead to the Indian Council Caves).

Pond along woods road.
A good hike on a beautiful day.  We probably could have gone a little longer and done the caves, but we'll just save those for next time.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hike #18: Broad Hill Road Area of McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked:  Saturday, April 9, 2016
Estimated distance round-trip: 5.79 miles
Weather: 40°F, partly cloudy
Resources: CT Waterfalls, New England Waterfalls, McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip: Waterfalls, remains of old homesteads
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  18/52 hikes; 63.01/250 miles; 8/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Fantastic hike!  Today I decided to explore the Broad Hill Road area of McLean Game Refuge, including sections of Weed Hill and Old Beech Road.  Whenever I hike in the Refuge, I give a little word of thanks to Senator McLean.  And today I found that I also need to thank the Messenger, Reynold, Caruso, Collamore, and Carpenter families, who have given land to expand the Refuge.  What a tremendous gift you have all given!

I parked on Broad Hill Road in the small parking area (3 cars) near the gate.  The road beyond the gate is not paved and there is a sign indicating that it is not maintained in winter.  I have not been here when the gate is open, so I don't know if it ever is.

The kiosk is a Little Free Library.
I climbed up past the Granby Land Trust's Diamond Ledges and Petersen Preserves on the right, and trails into Holcomb Farm's Western trails on the left.  At around 0.7 miles (total guess), Weed Hill Road goes off to the left on a bridge over Beach Brook.  An unmarked trail leads down to Carpenter Falls.  (From the bridge you can see a large plaque on one of the rocks in the stream with the name Carpenter Falls on it).  The falls were absolutely spectacular!  How did I not know about them?

Carpenter Falls

Carpenter Falls
After viewing the falls, I continued on Weed Hill Road.  This road is lined with old stone walls and wolf trees.  There are also a couple of old cellar holes that I find just fascinating.  Why did they get abandoned?

Circular foundation near a regular rectangular one.  An old silo?

Old well.

Maybe the stone to the right of my hiking poles used to cover the well.

An area of daffodils in the woods.
I eventually came to the "end" of the road.  Not really.  I am guessing it is the start of the Weed Hill trail in McLean Game Refuge.  When Steve Wood of CTMQ posted about it (page alomost to the bottom), there were a couple of old couches out here around the fire pit.  The couches are gone (if I have the location correct), but there are a few old springs adorning a tree.

The end of Weed Hill Road for me, but the start of Weed Hill Trail in McLean Game Refuge.

Old couch springs?
 I turned around and headed back down the hill to the intersection with Broad Hill Road.

Heading back to Broad Hill Road.
Turning left and continuing on Broad Hill, I soon came to an area with a couple of cabins on the left and a man-made pond on the right.  This is marked on the McLean map as private property, so I just kept to the road.  I could see a great blue heron standing in the pond and was able to get a reasonable picture from my vantage point.

Great Blue Heron.
Where Broad Hill Road takes a sharp right to head over toward Route 219, Old Beech Road (marked as abandoned on the map), continues straight.  A new trail, called Pine Cone Trail, has been created that follows this old road.  Pine Cone Trail is blazed black.  It is listed with the other trails on the McLean Game Refuge map, but it is not actually indicated on the map. 

The start of Pine Cone Trail.
As I walked along Pine Cone Trail, I could hear water from Beach Brook rushing to my left (funny how it is Old "Beech" Road, but "Beach" Brook).  I eventually came to another sign for Pine Cone Trail, but it seemed a little misplaced.   The sign is to the right of the trail and points left, as if you were to continue on going straight.  However, the black blazes go into the woods and seem to end rather abruptly (two horizontal blazes indicates the end of trail, so I did not look any further).  If you look at the McLean map you will see the trail takes a sharp right here and should continue on to the top of Pine Cone Mountain. 

The left arrow makes no sense to me.
 I chose to keep going straight, which took me out of the Game Refuge and into Enders State Forest.

View of trail that continues straight into Enders.
I continued up this trail for a little bit and then decided to call it quits.  I would like to try it again another day.  It looks like the trail will take you pretty close to a stream that flows into the falls.

Where I called it quits and turned around.
On the way back down the Pine Cone Trail, I just had to investigate the sound of rushing water from Beach Brook.  I am glad I did.  Another fantastic waterfall!

Mystery waterfall - I'll call it Old Beech Waterfall.

Another view of Old Beech Waterfall.
There may be more waterfalls downstream, but I decided to call it a day and head back to the car.  This was an absolutely fantastic hike!  I am just amazed at how much land there is to explore here.  Thanks to all those who made it available to the public.