Saturday, October 29, 2016

First Snow of the Season

It's here.  The first snow of the season arrived on October 27.

Thankfully, it was only an inch, rather than the foot we received five years ago today.

Day after picture:  October 30, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hike #50: Peak Mountain (Metacomet Trail) - Suffield/East Granby

Date Hiked: Saturday, October 15, 2016
Estimated distance:  5.2 miles (based on CF&PA Walk Book)
Weather: 75°F, sunny
Resources:  CF&PA Walk Book West, CT NET: Section 20
Highlights of the trip:  fall colors, views, fun group of people to hike with
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  50/52 hikes; 191.35/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

My husband and I have been attending the Our Night Sky video/discussion series put on by the East Granby Land Trust.  We have really enjoyed it and have met some very nice people.  They invited us to join them on their next hike, and I took them up on their offer.

The plan was to hike the part of the Metacomet Trail that runs from Phelps Road in Suffield, south to the corner of Route 20 and Newgate Road in East Granby.  We met at the East Granby Community Center and carpooled to our starting point in Suffield.  Cars had already been left at the finish in East Granby.

GPS Route from the MapMyHike app using OpenStreetMap.

I thought I had turned my MapMyHike app on before we started, but it didn't register and we were about 3/4 of a mile in before I realized it (that's why I am using the mileage listed in the Walk Book).

Whenever I think about hiking along this section of the trail, I think of an initial climb to gain the ridge and then level trail until the climb down at the end.  That is not really what happens (which you can see by looking at the red elevation line at the bottom of the map above), but the trail is still not that difficult.  The most challenging part is at the start/end in East Granby.  However, when you have a nice group of people to talk with along the way, you barely notice when you are climbing.

Not long after we started the hike, we came to an old chimney on the east side of the trail.  There was a bench nearby (I think there used to be more).  I don't know if this was part of an old cabin or was built as a free-standing structure.  I tried to do a little research, but did not come up with anything.

As we hiked along, there were some great westerly views of Manitook Mountain in Granby. In the picture below, you can see the cliff that is located near the bike trail that goes by the other end of Phelps Road.

We came to several overlooks on our way south.  They are difficult to see in the picture below, but the Barndoor Hills are visible just below the horizon in the middle of the photo.

And while the views may be why most people take this hike, there are plenty of other interesting things to see along the way.  We had some great discussions about various trees - telling white oak, from red, and the different types of white and red oak.  Did you know that black oak is a type of red oak?  Or that there is something called chestnut oak (part of the white oak group)?  We were also on the lookout for witch hazel.  I believe we found it, but with no flowers, there was some discussion.  We also saw quite a few mushrooms, including the Sulphur Shelf, that I think is so cool.

The rocks that make up the ridge are really interesting.  I think we take them for granted when we are standing on them looking out at the spectacular view.  In a couple of places, rocks jut up along the trail, and then you can really get a sense of how amazing they are.  These are the result of volcanic and then earthquake activity.  


This was truly a spectacular day to hike.  The air was crisp.  The sky was sunny.  And the leaves on the trees were really amazing.

Our final viewpoint was at Peak (aka Copper) Mountain.  From here, you can look south along the ridge and see Talcott Mountain and the Heublein Tower in the distance.

Talcott Mountain in the distance.

Thank you to the folks of the East Granby Land Trust for inviting me to join them.  I had a great time and look forward to future hikes together.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hike #49: McLean Game Refuge - Granby/Simsbury, CT

Date Hiked: Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Estimated distance: 6.02 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny
Resources: McLean Game Refuge Map
Highlights of the trip:  fall colors
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  49/52 hikes; 186.15/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Today, I worked on my quest to see how the trails in the main part of McLean Game Refuge connect to those over near Broad Hill Road.  I wrote about my Broad Hill Road hike (#44) and how I went part way on the white-blazed Eddy Loop Trail.  If I had continued I would have ended up on Firetown Road.  In this hike, I started on Canton Road, hiked through the main part of the Refuge over to the corner of Barndoor Hills and Simsbury Roads.  I crossed Simsbury Road and hiked over to the parking area on Firetown Road.  By wallking just a short distance on Firetown (I could see the sign), I could connect to the Eddy Loop Trail and keep on going over to Broad Hill Road.

The field in the main part of the Refuge just before heading down to Barndoor Hills Road.

After crossing Simsbury Road, I climbed up and over a small hill and wound my way down to a small field.  Pretty view with the trees changing color.

I continued over to Firetown Road and crossed over to look at the (non-existent) waterfall.  The Eddy Loop was just up the road to the right.

After looking at the waterfall, I headed back.  It is a really nice trail and I wonder how much it gets used.  I saw no one out here today.

I think my next step will be to have a friend join me so we can spot our cars and hike all the way through from Broad Hill to Canton.  Based upon my out and back mileage for this hike and the one on Broad Hill, I am guessing a through hike would be a little over 6 miles.

Hike #48: Penwood State Park - Bloomfield, CT

Date Hiked: Monday, October 10, 2016
Estimated distance: 4.43 miles
Weather: 53°F, sunny
Resources: Penwood State Park, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  view
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  48/52 hikes; 180.13/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Another beautiful October day!  It has been almost a year since I have been to Penwood, and with the foliage starting to show, I figured it was time for another trip.  Last time, I thought I had hiked 6.5 miles, but since I took the same route today and it was under 5 miles, I was obviously mistaken.  I think I used the trail map to figure mileage last time and must have double counted the stretch along the Metacomet.

The above map comes from my MapMyHike app.  I wish I could get a screenshot zoomed in closer, but then I don't get the whole map.  I like the detail that the OpenStreetMap provides, but as far as I can tell, I do not have the option to view it that way while I am hiking.  Once I get home and check the hike on the computer, I can change the map options to OpenStreetMap.

Along the Metacomet Trail.

Part way along the Metacomet Trail, there is a little area off to the side where people have stacked rocks.  It is really interesting.  I believe there are little notes tucked in between some of the rocks in remembrance of loved ones.

The trail took me down to the road (closed to cars) near Lake Louise.

From Lake Louise, I continued on the Metacomet and climbed the "stairs" up to the Pinnacle.  The view up here is tremendous.  Looking south along the ridge, I could see the Heublein Tower in nearby Talcott Mountain State Park.  To the left of that, I could make out a series of hills in the distance.  It was funny, but my PeakFinder app wasn't labeling all of them.  From west to east, I think I was seeing Lamentation Mountain, Beseck Mountain, and Mount Higby.  Not 100 percent sure, but that's my guess.

Looking south at Talcott Mountain and the Heublein Tower.

I took the road down from the Pinnacle and continued to follow it past Lake Louise and around the west side of the park.  I left the road to go a short distance on the yellow trail which also offered some nice views of the valley.

I recommend taking the Metacomet, at least in one direction, to avoid some of the "crowds".  The parking lot was pretty full when I arrived and jam-packed when I got back, with people parked up on the grass.  I saw only two people while I was on the Metacomet and only a couple more at the Pinnacle.  Along the road and yellow trail, I saw quite a few more, but the vast majority of people must keep to the road on the east side of the park.

A very nice hike, and one that I should do more often.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hike #47: Shenipsit State Forest - Somers, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Estimated distance: 3.34 miles
Weather: 57°F, cloudy
Resources:  Shenipsit State Forest, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  not much
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  47/52 hikes; 175.70/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I have to say this is one of the few hikes that I just wasn't that thrilled with.  We parked up near the Soapstone Mountain tower in Somers.  The tower is closed, which we knew before we went.  I had hoped there might still be views, but there weren't.  You really need the height of the tower to get you above the tree canopy.  There is a pretty view with picnic tables part way up the road, but we didn't stop there.

The hike was okay, but nothing special and we used up a lot of mental energy trying to figure out where we were.  Sometimes the trails were marked, sometimes not.  To me, you should be able to see the next blaze before you leave the other one behind.  This was not the case here.  The Orange trail was particularly confusing because the blazes were not painted on the trees, but were instead, little metal markers that actually appear to be brown.  There weren't any brown trails on the map, so we decided we were on the orange trail, but it took us a few minutes of wandering around on a bunch of intersecting unmarked trails to decide that.

It is funny how using your mental energy this way seems to sap your physical energy.  That, plus the fact that we started at the top, hiked down when we were fresh, and then had to hike up after we had hiked for awhile made things seem more difficult.

The one interesting thing we did see was the mushroom pictured below.  It seems to be covered in spores.  There are puffballs right next to it, but it didn't seem like one of the puffballs had exploded.  

I would consider going back once the tower is reopened, but otherwise, I wouldn't be in any rush.  My friend's husband did get a bunch of geocaches, so that worked out well.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hike #46: GLT's Mary Edwards to Godard Preserve - North Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Friday, October 7, 2016
Estimated distance: 2.70 miles
Weather: 62°F, sunny
Resources:  Granby Land Trust's Mary Edwards Mountain Property, Godard Preserve
Highlights of the trip:  views, fungi
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  46/52 hikes; 172.36/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I have to take advantage of these beautiful October days!  Today I decided to go to the Granby Land Trust's Mary Edwards Mountain Property and nearby Godard Preserve.  My plan had been to start at the top of the hill in Mary Edwards, go over to Godard and then continue with the Mary Edwards loop on the way back.  Things didn't really work out that way.

The always spectacular view from Mary's Rock.

As I was leaving the Mary Edwards Property, just before crossing Donahue Road to go over to the Godard Preserve, I saw this trail map at a kiosk.  This map could be a little confusing to people who are not familiar with the property since it seems to indicate you are up on Mountain Road.  Note, you are not at #4, you are at #1!

And while we are on the subject of trail maps, I just want to take a moment to point out something that bugs me about the maps for the two properties.  If you do as I did, and print copies to take with you, please realize that they are not oriented in the same direction.  The Mary Edwards map has no "north" arrow indicated, but the top of the page is generally north.  The Godard map, does have an arrow indicating north, but it is pointing to the bottom of the page.  Confusing for two properties that are connecting.

Mary Edwards and Godard maps.

I played around a little and the following image is of the two maps oriented in generally the same direction.  Doesn't this make things much easier to follow?  I know, whine, whine, whine.

Mary Edwards and Godard property maps with the same north orientation.

 You have to put up with more mushroom pictures today, too.

Witches butter.
This is one of the "streams" on the Godard Property.  This is what an 11-inch rainfall deficit looks like.

Absolutely no water.

The three leaves of the sassafras tree - single lobe, mitten, triple.

Glacial erratic.

Pholiota of some type.

Sulphur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom
Laetiporus sulphureus
And back over to Mary Edwards where I have to climb back up to the top.  As I mentioned, my plan had been to complete the Mary Edwards loop, but it was lunchtime and I decided to head back.

There are lots of stone walls.

This was a nice hike.  I used up a little too much mental energy trying to decipher the Godard map (I'd like some indication of bridges on the map, too), but now that I have done it, I should be able to add the Mary Edwards loop, too.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hike #45: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Estimated distance: 3.46 miles
Weather: 55°F, sunny
Resources: McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  awesome variety of fungi, views
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  45/52 hikes; 169.66/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I wanted to get out for a hike on this beautiful day, but since I hadn't planned ahead, I stuck with my usual trip to McLean Game Refuge.  I did decide to change my loop just a bit, figuring the highlight of the trip would be the hike to the top of the Eastern Barndoor Hill.  The view was nice, but what really made this hike great was the amazing variety of fungi I found.

Spring Pond.  The leaves are just starting to change.

The variety of mushrooms I saw in just one hike was amazing.  Colors crossed a wide spectrum - white, beige, yellow, pink, orange, and violet.  Be prepared to be bored by my many, many pictures of mushrooms.  In some cases I have guessed as to their names, but they are only guesses.

Some sort of coral fungi.

False turkey-tail fungus?

Some sort of slime mold.

Witches' Butter

Wolf's-milk Slime?

As I turned from the trail that came up from dried-up Kettle Pond, I came to this big, dead tree.  I love this tree.  So stately.  It was here that I had seen puffballs before, so I stopped to take a look.  No luck.

I continued on the trail to the summit.  Aster and goldenrod were growing along the side of the trail.

I stepped out onto the ledge so that I could look north.  It looks like that is Sodom Mountain in Southwick, MA just to the right of center.  The leaves are only just starting to change.

I walked to the second viewpoint to look out over the Western Barndoor Hill.

Spiny puffball.

Another spiny puffball?

I had been keeping my eyes out for puffballs and was rewarded with a log absolutely covered with them.  These seem relatively "fresh" in that the insides were a spongy white.  As they age, a little hole opens in the top and the insides turn to a powder of spores.  If you squeeze the puffball a little "puff of smoke" comes out.  When I was a kid, we used puffballs as mini-grenades in our war-play out in the woods.

Gem-studded puffball?

Near the beginning of my hike, when I was taking a picture of the pink slime molds, another hiker came along the trail.  He mentioned that he had seen these great big orange mushrooms back the way I had come.  I didn't feel like backtracking, and as it turns out, I didn't need to.  I came across these tremendous mushrooms later on.  They seriously looked like the color of pumpkins and I saw them from across the woods road.  Amazing!

Sulphur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom
Laetiporus sulphureus
Instead of taking the usual woods road back to the entrance, I decided to cross the stream and take the horse trail back.  I am so glad I did.  Check out the mushroom below.  It had to be at least as big as a basketball.

Hen of the Woods?

Birch polypore?
And finally, this little guy caught my eye because I noticed a flash of purple by the side of the trail.

Viscid Violet Cort (Cortinarius iodes)

It never ceases to amaze me that I can find something new and interesting on trails that I have hiked many, many times.