Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Hikes #6 & #7: Sandisfield SF and Questing Reservation - New Marlborough, MA

Date Hiked: Sunday, February 5, 2017
Estimated distance:  2.75 miles (Sandisfield State Forest) + 2.41 miles (Questing Reservation) = 5.16 miles
Weather: 31°F, overcast
Resources: Sandisfield State Forest, York Lake Loop Trail Map, Trustees of Reservations (Questing), Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  frozen York Lake, views from Questing
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  7/52 hikes; 20.4/250 miles hiked

My hiking partner and her husband are helping me toward my 2017 Outdoor Goals, not only mileage, but also getting me out to some different places.  Today we visited two "new-to-me" places, a state forest in Massachusetts and one of the Trustees of Reservations properties.

Ignore the straight line going off to the left.  I thought by pausing my GPS and restarting it, I could get both hikes to appear on one map.  Unfortunately, it draws a line between the two locations and counts the straight line as part of the mileage.

We started our day with a hike around York Lake in Sandisfield State Forest.  The forest straddles two towns, but our hike was in New Marlborough.  When we arrived at the lake, we could see a fisherman out on the ice.  We headed off from the parking area going in a clockwise direction.  The trail was well marked, but except for one location near the northern end of the lake and near the parking area, there were no viewpoints across the lake.

My friend and I went on ahead while her husband searched for geocaches.  We paused for a little bit when we got to the dirt road at the northern end of our loop.  I was reminded again that out in this more remote area, what may appear as a road on a map may not be paved and may not be passable in winter.

We continued on around the lake and got back to the picnic area not far from where we parked.  (Rest rooms closed in winter and no outhouses that I saw.)  The picnic area looked like it would be a nice little spot to view the lake in the warmer months.  The man who had been fishing was gone, but we walked out on the ice to take a look at the lake.  The ice seemed very thick and some of the previous holes had completely frozen over.  One of the strange things was that someone had plowed a straight line down the middle of the lake.  It looked like a runway.

When we came off the ice we were met by a woman who was looking for her dog.  She had started a hike going counter-clockwise around the lake, but only made it a short distance when she and her dog were chased by a fisher cat.  The dog took off and she had been out there for over two hours looking for him.  She had also gone out to the main road (no cell service at the lake) and called the police who were also out searching.  We had not seen the dog (or the fisher, thankfully).  I hope the dog eventually came back!

From York Lake, we drove north a few miles to the Trustees of Reservations Questing property.  The first part of this hike is up an old woods road to a field.

Looking across the field after climbing the woods road.
The trail leads around the edge of the field before heading back into the woods to form a loop around Leffingwell Hill.  We crossed through several old stone walls (and apparently went by an old foundation, that we didn't notice).  The trail became a little slippery, so we put on our amazing MICROspikes.  Woohoo!  (I'm telling you, these things are the bomb.)  We looped back out to the field and came to a bench that offered great views of the mountains in the distance. (I forgot to get out my PeakFinder app, so I don't know what mountains those were.)

Questing was a very nice, quiet hike.  In the summer, the field is supposed to be filled with native wildflowers that attract butterflies.  I think it would be a beautiful spot for a picnic.

Another Trustee property, Dry Hill, is nearby, but it was already after 3:00 and we decided to save it for another day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Hikes #4 & #5: Dennis Hill State Park & Billings Trail - Norfolk, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, January 15, 2017
Estimated distance:  3.11 miles (Dennis Hill SP) + 1.06 miles (Billings Trail) = 4.17 miles
Weather: 37°F, clear skies
Resources: Dennis Hill State Park, Trail Map, Norfolk Land Trust, Trail Map (see Billings Trail, Tait Section)
Highlights of the trip:  beautiful views from the top of Dennis Hill
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  5/52 hikes; 15.24/250 miles hiked

It was a beautiful, sunny day.  Perfect for a mid-winter hike.  My hiking partner, her geocaching husband, and I decided to head to Norfolk to Dennis Hill State Park and then maybe on to one of the Norfolk Land Trust properties where he needed to nab a few more caches.

(Distance really 3.11 miles.  The line between green and red dots was us driving down the road.  Oops.)

I had been to Dennis Hill several years ago with the homeschool group I hiked with and what I remembered were the beautiful views and the impressive stone building at the top of the hill.

At this time of year, the gate is closed, but there is room for several cars outside the gate.  We climbed up the road, past the picnic area and then left the road and went on to the yellow trail toward the picnic pavilion.  The picnic pavilion is a nice little spot with beautiful views to the east.  There is a fire pit area next to the pavilion and an old chimney in the woods.

Picnic pavilion.

 We completed the yellow loop, retraced our steps along the yellow trail and picked up the white trail (almost missed it) which connected us to the park road farther up the hill.  We walked up the road to the large stone pavilion.  This building is pretty impressive and has commanding views to the south.  (There is also an outhouse nearby that was open and in pretty good shape.)

Pavilion at the top of Dennis Hill.

Inside the pavilion.  There are some picnic tables in here, too.

View to the south from inside the pavilion.
We took the park road down to our car.  On the way down the hill, there is an area with views to the east where you can see some of the wind turbines.

There is a wind turbine in the middle of the picture, just to the right of the tree.  Another turbine is hidden behind the branches of the tree.

From Dennis Hill State Park, we drove north on Route 272 a short distance and then turned right onto Winchester Road.  We parked along the side of the road to access the western end of the Billings Trail.  Our geocacher had already found the caches at the other end of the trail off of Grantville Road, so we just had a short out and back here.

Part of the trail runs along the Mad River and eventually we came to an old stone bridge with a stone bench.  A nice spot for viewing the wetland.  We turned around here and headed back to the car.

These were two relatively short, but enjoyable hikes.  I think Dennis Hill in the fall would be spectacular.  You could do a much longer hike in the Norfolk Land Trust property by parking on Grantville Road and taking the Billings Trail in and then connecting with the trails on Pine Mountain.  Something for another day.