Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year End Update to 2017 Outdoor Goals

I did not update the blog for the last several months of the year.  I went on another five hikes not included in the blog.  Blame facebook.  It was just easier to post a couple of pictures to facebook than write a blog post.  I am going to try and get back to writing the posts this year because I include more information on the blog.


1.  52 hikes.
One hike per week.  I think this is a good goal.  I was able to complete just over the average one hike per week for 2016.  The idea for this goal came from the 52 Hike Challenge.
33 hikes - disappointing.  I can blame some of the shortfall on being out of town for some family issues, but that doesn't explain it all.  This year, I eschewed walks in the woods for walks in the neighborhood.  It was more expedient, but I don't count walks in the neighborhood as hikes.

2.  Hike 250 miles.
I was short of this goal in 2016, and I really want to make sure I reach it this year.  I have been happy with MapMyHike and plan on continuing to use it to keep track of my miles in 2017.
As with above, disappointing:  115.8 miles

3.  Visit 3 waterfalls one of which has to be Bash Bish Falls (Massachusetts).
Yay, this was a win!  I went to Bash Bish by myself back in May.  Beautiful!

4.  Hike Mount Monadnock (New Hampshire).
Did not happen.  Again.  I have suggested to my hiking partner that we each pick three new-to-us hikes for 2018 and she has picked Mount Monadnock.  Better get training.

5.  Visit two "new-to-me" state parks or forests in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts (Bash Bish does not count).
Sunny Brook State Park in Torrington, CT. Much better than I expected.
Horse Guard State Park in Avon, CT.  Great views for not too much effort.
Sandisfield State Forest in Sandisfield, MA.

6.  Visit two "new-to-me" Trustees of Reservations properties.
Questing Reservation - New Marlborough, MA
Glendale Falls - Middlefield, MA

7.  Visit a National Park Service site.
This idea comes from the 52 Hike Challenge: Adventure Series.  There are no "typical" National Parks in CT, but there are places that fall under the banner of the Park Service.  Two that I have come across in my research for places to hike are Weir Farm National Historic Site and The Last Green Valley.  The Appalachian Trail would count as well, but I reached the goal of doing a hike (albeit a short one) on the AT last year.
Did not happen.

8.  Hike to a body of water.
The trail at Winchester Land Trust's Hurlbut Field took us to Winchester Lake.

9. One group hike.
Multiple hikes with both the Simsbury Land Trust and East Granby Land Trust.


10.  Go kayaking at a "new-to-me" location.
Only got out once, I think, and it was not a new-to-me location.

Biking - Fail.  Did not ride my bike once.

11.  Bike to the northern end of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield.

12.  Bike on another bike trail.
Probably either part of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in NY or the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires.  I'd also consider biking in a state park that allowed it.


13.  Read at least 3 books about hiking, nature, or other outdoor pursuits.
I read 42 books this year (lower than average), but only two were about the outdoors:
Lost on The Appalachian Trail by Kyle Rohrig - meh.  I've read better AT books.
Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery.  I'm not sure he proved his thesis, but an interesting book.

14.  Make enough progress on my "places to hike" list that I can publish it on my blog.
When trying to decide where to hike, I have to go to multiple sources to find what I am looking for.  I also lose track of ideas of where to hike.  I am working on creating a master list of places to hike by town. 
I started publishing these on the blog and got up to East Hartford.  I will try to add to it in 2018.
I am glad I did this exercise of reviewing what I accomplished because I did do more than I thought I did.  Not great, but okay.  As with most resolutions, more got accomplished at the beginning of the year.  Time for another fresh start!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 Hike #28: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 30, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.98 miles
Weather: 80°F, scattered clouds
Resources: McLean Game Refuge, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  Trout Pond
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  28/52 hikes; 95.26/250 miles hiked

Catching up on blog posts. 

Spring Pond

Looking across field along Werbitzkas Loop.  I think this field may be part of Schiro Preserve.

West Branch of the Salmon Brook

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bangor, Maine

Maine holds a special place in my heart.

Every summer, for the past 53 years, I have gone to our camp on the Kennebec River.  I spent my college years in Waterville.  I have climbed Katahdin, skied (not very well) at Sugarloaf, visited the shores of Moosehead Lake, taken the boat to Monhegan Island, explored Acadia National Park, investigated lighthouses along the rocky coast, and looked across Spednic Lake to the Canadian shore.  I had not, however, spent more than a pit-stop's worth of time in Bangor.  That oversight has been rectified with a little impetus from the Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook page.

My son and I have been following the Facebook page for several months.  Why?  Well, because the author of the posts, Lieutenant Tim Cotton, is a pretty funny guy.  (You can also catch some of his musings on NPR's Car Talk Blog)  Most posts are humorous, but serious or thought-provoking topics are also covered, and he always remind us to "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another."

The mascot of the Bangor Police Department is the Duck of Justice (DOJ).  The duck is a stuffed wood duck that Cotton retrieved from the district attorney's trash can.  The duck has been featured in many posts, but became rather the worse for wear after much handling.  It was recently refurbished and placed in its own glass case in the museum at the police station.  After learning that there were DOJ t-shirts, I had to get one for my son.  However, he didn't feel right having a DOJ t-shirt without having actually seen the Duck.  So, one overcast day, we left our camp in the City of Ships, and made the pilgrimage to the Queen City.

Our first stop was, of course, the police station.  We entered the lobby and received a key card to let us in to the Law Enforcement Museum.  The museum is very, very small, but is packed with a lot of cool stuff.

The displays presented a history of law enforcement, from old uniforms and call boxes, to weapons and restraints.  I was fascinated by the front page headlines of the killing of the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1, Al Brady, in downtown Bangor in 1937.

British Bobby's uniform and Royal Canadian Mounted Police patches.

State Police uniform.
At the back of museum, maybe 10 steps from where you enter the museum, sits the Duck of Justice on its pedestal.  The holy grail.  The reason for our trip to Bangor.  We took a multitude of pictures (some included us) and I think we did pretty well on the dangle (duck+angle = dangle) to reduce the glare. 

The Duck of Justice

The correct dangle can be tricky to achieve as the duck faces the large plate glass windows.  In fact, I hope that the department can find a way to get some shades installed, because I noticed some of the lettering on the exhibits by the window had faded.

So, mission completed.  But, you don't drive hours into the heart of Maine and not take in other sights.  The next stop was the Bangor Fire Department.  We drove right by it on the way to the police department and my son, the firefighter, was hoping to get a tour.  Unfortunately, luck was not with us that day.  We had seen them go out on a call when we were at the police station.  When we stopped back after lunch, they were at training, and when we stopped back again at the end of the day, the office was locked. 

About all we saw at the fire department.

We headed back out to I-95 and went to lunch at Dysart's.  Yes, I am sure there are plenty of great restaurants in downtown Bangor, but Dysart's is iconic.  We just had to go.

We were not disappointed.  I don't remember exactly what we had for sandwiches, but I do remember my son's eyes lit up when he learned he could get free refills on his farm house fries.  The real highlight was dessert.  I had a delicious Bumbleberry (blueberries and raspberries) Crisp and he had an Oreo Ice Cream Pie.  Yum!

After lunch and our failed attempt at seeing the Fire Station, we next headed over to the Cole Land Transportation Museum.  Wow!  As much as we loved seeing the Duck of Justice, the transportation museum was the highlight of my son's day.

From the museum website:

Our purpose at the Cole Land Transportation Museum is to collect, preserve, and display (before they disappear forever) a cross section of Maine's land transportation equipment from which this and future generations will gain knowledge of the past.

We also wish to remember, record and display U.S. military memorabilia to forever remind this and future generations of the high price our comrades have paid to protect our freedom. In doing so, we hope to inspire and challenge the young people of today to continue on in the footsteps of pioneers who have built our state and country.

All of the vehicles on display had some connection to Maine.  They were arranged on "streets".  One street was devoted to snow clearing equipment, two streets to fire trucks (obviously, a favorite of the firefighter I was with), another with farm equipment, and so on.  Across the back of the museum they had a locomotive and boxcars! 

I knew that the Cole family was involved in trucking, but it wasn't until I saw the old semi's that it hit me.  I remembered those trucks!

I can't recommend the Cole Land Transportation Museum enough.  It was really wonderful.

I would call our trip to Bangor a success.  I am sure there is a lot more to see here, but we were just up for the day.  We did not go down to the waterfront and we did not stop and take a picture of the large (can it be otherwise?) Paul Bunyan statue, though we did drive by it.

And before I complete this post, I have to leave you with a link to a fun video on how to properly pronounce Bangor.   The Duck of Justice and Tim Cotton have cameos.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Farmington River Kayak - Simsbury, CT

Date Kayaked: Saturday, July 29, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.37 miles
Weather: 66°F, cloudy
Resources: Farmington River Watershed Association, Map and Access Information
Highlights of the trip:  green heron!

A friend joined me for a kayak trip on the Farmington River in Simsbury.  We put in at Curtiss Park (see intermittent access point #25 on map and in description) and headed up-river toward the center of town.

Oops.  Forgot to shut off app.  Ignore GPS trail on Route 315.

When we got to Curtiss Park, we saw a couple of people fishing.  Apparently, the woman was putting the man to shame and she pulled out a largemouth bass as we were standing there.

We put in and started paddling upriver toward Simsbury.  Before too long, we passed under the Route 315 bridge.  I told my friend to be on the lookout for herons in the little cove on the left.  I almost always see one there, but they usually see me first and fly away.  Sure enough, we saw one sitting on a large log, but he ignored us.  We were able to float and watch him for quite awhile.

There is a Great Blue Heron on the log just to the right of the leaves.
A little farther along, we saw another bird fishing along the shore.  He'd watch the water and then shoot his neck out and nab a little fish in his beak.  I wasn't sure what kind of bird it was, but the curve in its neck reminded me of a heron, though much smaller than the Great Blue.  When I got home, I looked it up.  I am pretty sure it is a Green Heron.  A new bird to add to my list!

Green Heron with small fish in its beak.

I needed to rest my backside, so we took a break on a small "beach" area.  It was more muddy than the sandy shore at Curtiss Park.  The mud made it easy for us to spot animal tracks and I think the ones below are from a racoon. 

Racoon tracks.
After our break, we turned around and headed back.  We went almost 3.4 miles in total.  It was a nice relaxing paddle and it was fun to get out on the river.

2017 Hike #27: Peoples State Forest - Barkhamsted, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, July 22, 2017
Estimated distance:  4.66 miles
Weather: 82°F, cloudy, humid
Resources: American Legion and Peoples State Forest, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  view
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  27/52 hikes; 91.28/250 miles hiked

I joined the Simsbury Land Trust for a hike at Peoples State Forest.  We met at a pull-off on East River Road that had enough room for about 8-10 cars and was across from the Falls Cut Off and Jessie Gerard Trails.  It had been hot and humid during the week, but it was cloudy this morning which gave us a little reprieve.

We started our hike with the toughest part first (thank goodness).  We climbed the Falls Cut Off Trail and then headed north toward the lookouts.

Some tree clearing has been done and, at the first overlook, you can get a nice view of the West Branch of the Farmington River.  The second overlook that looks toward the town of Riverton has become a little more obscured.

After the overlooks we headed along the Jessie Gerard Trail, past the Veeder Boulders to Greenwoods Road.  We went through the Big Spring Area, crossed Beaver Brook Road and continued on the Charles Pack Trail.  We completed our loop by going west on the Agnes Bowen Trail to the Robert Ross Trail and then back down to our cars using the Jessie Gerard Trail.

A month has now passed since I took this hike and I realize I should have taken notes.  There was one woman in our group who was very knowledgeable about mushrooms.  We saw a lot of different varieties, but the coral fungus above is the only picture I took.

We also came across a foundation along one of the trails.  I can't remember the story behind it though!

Beaver Brook

Ledges near where we turned to go down Jessie Gerard Trail to our cars.
On our way down the Jessie Gerard Trail, we made a brief stop to see the Manitou Stones which mark an old cemetery.  This was near the Lighthouse Trail where there are some exhibits related to the old village that was here.  At this point many of us were pretty beat, and it had gotten fairly humid, so we skipped this short side trail.

Another great hike with the SLT.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

2017 Hike #26: Northwest Park - Windsor, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 16, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.77 miles
Weather: 84°F, scattered clouds
Resources: Northwest Park, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  butterflies, birds
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  26/52 hikes; 86.62/250 miles hiked

Catching up on my blog posts.

I am working on a weekly photo challenge, and this week's challenge was "Path".  I decided to head over to Northwest Park because I knew they had some boardwalk-type paths over wet areas in the woods, plus trails in the fields that I thought might make nice photo opportunities.  I did take some photos, but I definitely need to work on my skills.

As you enter Northwest Park, there is a little pond on the left.  There are tons of fish and quite a few painted turtles there.  I took a few minutes to take a look.  When I left the park, there was a family tossing pieces of bread to the fish.  The kids were so excited to see all the fish coming up to get the bread.  Unfortunately, the turtles seemed interested, but weren't much of a match for the speedy fish.

Painted turtle

I started off taking the trails along the fields.  There were several butterflies.  While I would have said they were Monarchs, research makes me think they are really Viceroys.

Viceroy butterfly

I also saw some birds in the field.  While the coloring of the one below looks like a female Goldfinch, I don't think it is.  The beak doesn't look like a finch beak.  I am thinking some kind of warbler?  (Prairie or Blue-winged?)

There was also a male Goldfinch nearby, so maybe the previous one is the female.  I can't tell.

After leaving the fields, I was on the Jurassic trail for awhile and from there to the Woody Succession trail. 

One of the boardwalks on the Woody Succession Trail.

And back out to the fields...

When I got back to the area of the barn and nature center, I took a little side trip to the Butterfly Garden and the Sensory Saunter Trails.  The flowers were beautiful and I loved listening to the aspen leaves rustle in the wind.

While I usually come here to hike, there are lots of other things to see and do.   The kids can go into the barn and see the animals, go to the nature center, and play on the playscape.  Bring a picnic and have some fun!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Hikes #24 & 25: WLT's Ehrich Woods and Hurlbut Field - Winchester, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 9, 2017
Estimated distance:  5.23 miles (3.59 miles at WLT's Ehrich Woods & Ruez Trails, 1.64 miles at WLT's Hurlbut Field)
Weather: 78°F, scattered clouds
Resources: Winchester Land Trust, Ehrich Woods Trail Map, Ruez Trail Map, Hurlbut Field Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  wildflowers, Bobolinks, field of milkweed, butterflies
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  25/52 hikes; 82.85/250 miles hiked

Two fantastic hikes today on Winchester Land Trust properties!  

Our first hike was at Ehrich Woods.  The map gives you a couple of options for parking, including at the town green (just pull to the side of the road - that's what the parishioners of the local church do on Sunday morning), but we chose to park at the small turn-out (room for about 3-4 cars) on Preston Road.  Regardless of where you park, you can make a loop, but it requires a road walk.  Instead, we did an out-and-back hike along the dirt road.

From the parking area, we headed east along Preston Road and turned south onto Old Waterbury Turnpike.  As you approach the marsh, Rugg Brook forms a little waterfall to your right.

Rugg Brook
Along the edge of the road, we saw a flower that I don't think I have seen before.  It had a very tall stalk with whorled leaves.  The first one we came across was more orange, but the others we saw looked a little more yellow.  They are Canada Lilies and are native to the area.

Canada Lily

You can see it grows quite tall.

Not 100 percent sure, but maybe Swamp Candles?
We continued on, past the sign for the Ruez Trail (huge, you can't miss it!), and down to another area along the road where we could see the marsh.  There were a few frogs and water lilies in the small area of open water.

We turned around and headed back to the Ruez Trail.  This is a lollipop shaped trail that heads off to the east.  The highlights here were finding a red eft and seeing the glacial erratic.

Hey, little buddy.

The glacier decided to drop this big boy right in the middle of the woods.  Okay, there were probably no woods then.

We returned to our car and headed down Grantville Road to the parking area we had passed earlier for Hurlbut Field.

There is a nice big sign at the entrance to the field, so you know you are in the right place.  There is also a kiosk with more information and trail maps available.

Park at the side of the road near the sign.

Follow the mown path through the field and go into the woods.  Before long you are on the shore of Winchester Lake.  But, don't be in too much of a hurry to get through the field.  The field was the highlight of our day.

So picturesque.  I wish I had more than the camera on my phone.  See the different colored ladder-back chairs on the side of the barn?
As we reached the top of the field, we saw some birds flying about and coming to rest on top of some of the taller plants in the meadow.  I had never seen this type of bird before, but I remember reading on the Land Trust's facebook page that there were Bobolinks nesting here.  Huh.  I always thought Bobolinks were like partridges.  No. No.  Those are Bobwhites!  The Bobolinks are song birds that, as it says on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, look like they have their tuxedo on backward.  They are white on the back of their head and back and black on their wings and breasts.  That is what these were.  Sadly, they are just little black blurs in the pictures I took.

One of the other fantastic things about this meadow was all of the milkweed.  Just look at it all!  We saw several different kinds of butterflies.  We think we might have seen a Monarch or Painted lady, Swallowtail, and a Fritillary (not sure which type).

Glorious milkweed!

Cow Vetch

Fritillary on Milkweed
After spending a little extra time enjoying all the meadow had to offer, we entered the woods.  This trail took us along the eastern shore of the lake and over to the dam.  There were several people fishing from the grass-covered dam, a few people getting ready to put their float tubes in the water at the boat launch, and another few already out on the water in their canoes and kayaks.

Winchester Lake
We spent a few minutes enjoying the view of the lake and looking at the wildflowers along the dam before heading back to the car.  You can make this hike into a loop hike if you want to do a road walk, but we returned the way we had come.  That gave us another chance to see the meadow.

Winchester Land Trust doesn't have a ton of property, but what they do have is quite diverse.  I especially recommend a visit to the Hurlbut Field property.  It has been several days, but I am still excited thinking about all that property had to offer.