Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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

Date Hiked:  Sunday, May 15, 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.