Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Hike #16: Macricostas Preserve - New Preston, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, April 30, 2017
Estimated distance:  4.68 miles
Weather: 57°F, overcast with some rain
Resources: Steep Rock Association's Macricostas Preserve, Points of Interest, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  views over Lake Waramaug, new birds for my life list
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  16/52 hikes; 51.07/250 miles hiked

Even though there can still be surprises when hiking familiar trails, it was time to try someplace new.  I especially like hikes that have some sort of reward like a great view or a special feature like a cave or waterfall.  I did a little research and presented my hiking partner and her husband with a list of three places we could try.  One of them was Steep Rock Association's Macricostas Preserve in New Preston.  This hike definitely had the view!  

My partner and her husband picked me up on a beautiful sunny morning.  When we got to New Preston, it was overcast and a little chilly.  I had not planned well and only had a long-sleeve t-shirt to put over the short-sleeve one I was wearing.  I figured I would warm up as we hiked.

The first part of the hike was across a field and through an area of apple trees to another field.  In the first field, there were a number of bird houses and lots of birds diving and coming quite close to us.  The birds were a vibrant blue and, looking them up when I got home, I found they were Tree Swallows.  A new bird for my bird list!  They were beautiful.

Tree Swallow

Apple tree
 We came out into a larger field and walked around it clockwise and followed the trail into the woods.

The trail was muddy near the area of Bee Brook.  We saw several types of wildflower along the trail including Wood Anemone and either a Wild or Woodland Strawberry. (I'm not sure which).

Wood Anemone

Either the Wild or Woodland Strawberry.
We came to a fork in the trail and took the trail to the right, going in a counter-clockwise direction around the loop.  As the trail climbed, all of a sudden it started to rain.  I was not prepared for that!  I had no raincoat to put on and my partner had left hers in the car!  We rather unsuccessfully tried to use a nearby rock for cover as we dug out our phones to take a look at the radar.  Was this just a quick, passing shower, or did we need to turn around?  Thankfully, we were in a narrow band of showers that was already letting up.  We could see from the radar that farther to the north there was a much larger area of rain and lightning strikes.  Whew!

We continued on our way and before too long, my friend's phone started beeping and I received a text.  She was getting an alert about lightning strikes in our area (a little late, since the storm had already passed over), and we could hear thunder to the north of us.  The text on my phone was from my husband checking to see if we had been hit by the deluge.  He had been golfing and the horn blew to get the golfers off the course.  On his way home, he said it was raining so hard he couldn't see the road.  He was afraid we had been caught in something similar.  Boy, we really dodged a bullet this time.

We came to another trail intersection and headed to the right.  This was an out and back spur to Waramaug's Rock and the spectacular view over the lake.  (There is a blue trail that continues down to the road along the lake).

Pink Corydalis

Looking southwest.

Looking west over Lake Waramag.

After enjoying the view, we headed back until we reached the loop and then continued in a counter-clockwise direction back down.  We came to a view that looked east over the field we would soon be walking around.  Shortly after the viewpoint, we saw another bird I had not seen before.  I did not get a picture of it, but my hiking partner and I both agreed it looked similar to a nuthatch, but was striped.  When I looked it up at home, I found it was a Black and White Warbler.

When we got to the field again, we completed the loop and walked out to the viewing platform over the swamp.  If we had approached the platform a little more quietly (we were busy gabbing), we might have had a better view of a Great Blue Heron.  As it was, we scared it off and only saw it as it was flying away.

Looking over the swamp and beaver lodge.

Despite my lack of preparation for the weather, this was a fantastic hike.  The terrain was varied and offered tremendous views and I added two birds to my life list.  I look forward to trying another of the Steep Rock Association's properties.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Wildflower Walk with East Granby Land Trust

I was afraid the Wildflower Walk with the East Granby Land Trust might be canceled due to rain, but we lucked out.  I met the group in the East Granby Senior Center parking lot.  We started off by walking behind the Center and over toward the elementary school.  There is a little path there and a bridge over the wet areas.

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Some kind of grass - no idea.  Pretty though.

Canada goose and beaver lodge at pond near senior center.

After spending a few minutes in this area, we headed over to the Metacomet Trail on Route 189 north of Tarrifville.

Persicaria without flowers.

Violet of some kind.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia viginica)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Toothwort? Although, I don't remember that name coming up.

Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum)

A look at the Farmington River as it flows through Tarrifville Gorge.

This was a nice, informative hike.  Now, I just have to try and remember what I learned!

Thanks, East Granby Land Trust!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

2017 Hike #15: Bash Bish Falls - Mt. Washington, MA

Date Hiked: Sunday, April 23, 2017
Estimated distance:  1.67 miles
Weather: 55°F, clear
Resources: Bash Bish Falls SP, Taconic State Park - Copake Falls Area,
Highlights of the trip:  waterfall
Progress toward 2017 Outdoor Goals:  15/52 hikes; 46.39/250 miles hiked

Let's call this "Grab the Bull by the Horns Day".  Bash Bish Falls has been on my list of places to visit for ages.  There is always some reason that I don't end up going.  Last year, I didn't go in the spring and then we had a very dry summer.  I didn't want to drive all the way out there and be greeted by just a trickle of water.  I had also been putting the visit off, hoping to go with someone else.  It is nicer to share the experience, plus it takes about an hour and a half for me to get to this area - an area that I am unfamiliar with.  In the end, I decided if I was going to get there this spring, I just needed to take action.

Bash Bish Falls is located near the border of Massachusetts and New York.  In planning the visit I came across information that indicated that the road that came in from the Massachusetts side might be closed.  The information was a little old, but there was nothing that I could find that said the road had re-opened.  I found that I could still get to the Massachusetts parking lot by going around, through New York, and back into Massachusetts.  Once there, there is a steep 1/4 mile long trail down to the falls.  Or, I could park on the New York side and take a more gradual 3/4 mile long trail up to the falls.  In order for a hike to count toward my mileage goal, it needs to be at least a mile long, so I decided to go in from the New York side.  (Yeah, it had nothing to do with the fact that the MA side was steep.)

Going east on Route 344 through Copake Falls, the parking lot for the NY side is on the right.  It is a fairly large parking lot (50 cars?) and had two port-a-potties.  I imagine that it gets quite crowded as it warms up.  The parking lot was nearly full when I left.  (I met a family in the parking lot that indicated that the road on the MA side was open).

The hike from this parking lot was very nice because you are walking along the river the whole way.  It is funny, but for some reason I had expected the river to be flowing the other way.  I thought the falls fell toward Massachusetts, but they don't.  The picture below doesn't show it well, but the water looks crystal clear.

Beautiful, clear water.

There were all sorts of people along the trail - older groups, young families, couples, and a few singles like me.  After about 3/4 of a mile, you reach the viewing area above the falls.  There were a few people on the rocks below the falls, but it was not at all crowded.  I took the stairs down to the rocks and easily found a vantage point to sit and watch the falls for a few minutes.

Bash Bish Falls

The map on the kiosk in the parking area had indicated a viewpoint above the falls.  I wasn't sure how much farther beyond the MA parking lot the viewpoint was and I really wasn't looking forward to climbing the steep stairs to find out.  That was one of the reasons I avoided the Massachusetts parking lot to begin with.  I decided to take the path back to my car and then drive to the Massachusetts parking area and go to the lookout from there.  Well, just for your information, the viewpoint is 0.05 miles beyond the parking lot.  Not far at all, but up even higher.  I don't regret my choice to drive.

Looking west over the Bash Bish Brook.

I remembered to get out my PeakFinder app and get a read on some of the mountains in the distance.

I am really glad I decided to seize the day.  It is a well-visited park, so I never felt unsafe even though I was by myself.  Possibilities for other visits out this way would be to hike up Mount Alander which you can do as a loop using the South Taconic Trail and Falls Trail.  (A sign at the kiosk indicated a trail closure.  It may have been Falls Trail, but I am not sure.)  Another idea would be to bring your bikes and ride along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.  Right next to the trail in Copake Falls is Depot Deli.  It looks like a perfect place to stop and grab a bite.  I will be visiting this area again.