Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lone Pine East Loop

This loop was all about the unusual geology, specifically Connecticut's Eastern Border Fault, which extends from Long Island Sound 130 miles to Keene, New Hampshire, and which is shown in purple on the map below (click to enlarge). I have a DEP brochure called "Traprock Ridges of Connecticut: A Naturalist's Guide," the perfect companion for anyone hiking the NET, and there is a section on the geology at Bluff Head, which is really striking (no pun intended).

It's possible to do some nice loops in the "Northwoods", as the Guilford Land Trust calls them, so let's do that.   

There was plenty of parking at Braemore Preserve, where CFPA's Lone Pine Trail crosses Rt 77, and immediately the cliffs of Bluff Head rose dramatically above the fault line. Usually Trap Rock cliffs are only on the west side because the rock formation dips gently to the east. These cliffs on the east are only there because of the fault.  This Trap Rock formed from one of the biggest lava flows in world history, which covered the entire Central Valley with a few hundred feet of lava. 

The road walk down Rt 77 wasn't too bad, and as I got closer to the NET, the highway was directly over the fault.  This is a massive extinct fault line. The land on the west has fallen 10,000 feet -- about two miles-- relative to the land on the east.  Just imagine the earthquakes the dinosaurs must have experience as the land dropped abruptly along the fault line. The land across the street is in the Central Connecticut Valley and is about 200 million years old. Just a few quick steps across the highway and you are on the ancient Eastern Highlands,  the basement of old mountains that once rose above the newly forming Central Valley and quickly filled it with red sand. 

Up, up, up the New England/Mattabesett Trail goes above the highway and fault line.  The valley below was formed along the fault line because the rock was pulverized and eroded away. Broomstick Ledges is a series of striking rock formations running parallel with the fault line. 

In the first valley between the ledges is a vernal pool.  This time I managed to get a picture of one of the salamander larvae there. 

Further on, another smaller pool is drained by a seasonal stream in which this cress (bittercrest?) is growing under the water. 

The rocks of Broomstick are twisted, gray schists, completely different from the rocks of the Metacomet Ridge that the New England Trail will be following for the remainder of the journey. This is the original rock of Connecticut. It started out as mud, and was squeezed, heated, and twisted under enormous pressure to form the gnarly stuff you see today. The rock was further stressed by its proximity to the Eastern Border Fault. 

Switching subjects, this is one of the weirdest trees I have ever seen, and I like CFPA's playful trail blaze.  My guess is the tree started to splinter during an ice storm, but managed to survive and generate some new growth around the splintered sections.  What do you think? This is on the Mattabesett headed towards Rockland Preserve. 

Entering Rockland Preserve, Madison. Rockland was well named. 

There is a whole network of trails in Rockland which I was unable to explore.  Eventually I hit Rockland Junction, where the Lone Pine Trail meets the Mattabesett Trail.

Before long I was thinking the Lone Pine Trail wasn't very nice and was just a crappy old road full of water and blowdowns, but then it finally dawned on me that there were no blazes and I wasn't even on the trail. Turned out I was on Crooked Hill Road. Time to backtrack. This is a common hazard to anyone hiking a blue-blazed trail who isn't paying attention. Especially common when the trail leaves an old roadbed.

On the plus side, there was a really nice stand of Lycopodium growing along the top of the old road. I found where the trail left the road and before too long I was at the ledges of Braemore Preserve. 

Look at this bent rock.  We will not see anything like this once we cross Rt 77 and enter the Central Valley.  Braemore is filled with striking rock formations like this.  I walked the Red Ridge Trail loop and there was rock everywhere, as well as seasonal views for much of the trail.  The topography is similar to both Broomstick Ledges and the western edge of Timberlands, which I suspect is also along the fault line, although I haven't actually looked it up. 

Here are some more folds. Amazingly, the rock was not melted in order to fold like this. It was just warmed up a bit and under an huge, huge amount of pressure. 

There's the Bluff Head again, from the Braemore parking lot. It wasn't really that dark, just a camera thing. 

Full moon! Full day of hiking. 


  1. Very interesting! Looks like a great hike.

  2. I've never tried letterboxing but I'm always interested in trying new trails. Salamander larvae-pretty cool!