Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Arrives at Giuffrida Park

Rue Anemone
Spring is here and the wildflowers are blooming!  I returned to the New England Trail after being away on vacation (by the way, I can say the mountains in Virginia are seasonally our match - the same species were in bloom there).

View from Mt. Lamentation towards Castle Craig
A fairly quick hike up Lamentation Mountain gives the expected great views, and this day was nice and clear.
Early Saxifrage - top of Mt. Lamentation
Most of the wildflowers I saw were down by the lake, but there were a few species that prefer the dry hilltop.

Yellow Corydalis - top of Lamentation Mt.

Building below Castle Craig

What is that big white building half way up the hill and, if they had to build there, why couldn't they make the building the color of traprock?

Quiet up above, busy down below
The view towards Hartford was nice and clear. 

Hartford to the right, Mt Tom in Massachusetts is in the far distance to the left (click to enlarge)
I could see Mt Tom off in the distance, about 45 miles way.  The New England Trail is heading right for it. You will have to click on the photo to see it.

Vernal pool 
There was a small vernal pool on the side of Mt. Lamentation with a really low water level.  It's a very dry spring. It was filled with wood frog tadpoles and lots of egg masses.

Amphibian eggs and a wood frog tadpole
The eggs are probably either wood frogs or spotted salamanders. Both species breed in pools like this one, but live in the forest.

The "Tripping Tree"
Back down along the powerlines, according to local lore, this magnificent beech tree is called the "Tripping Tree."  It obviously matured in a pasture and it's horizontal limbs are so long they are now laying on the ground. Don't see that too often.

Round Lobed Hepatica
More wildflowers.  Hepatica is one of my favorites.

Lava Pillow
Not far from the Tripping Tree is an outcrop of trap rock with some interesting structures that look like lava pillows. If you don't know what a lava pillow is, look at this picture of a modern day lava pillow. When lava is ejected under water, it tends to form these structures because the lava cools before it can level out.  That would mean there was a lake here when the lava oozed out.

Crescent Lake
The trail along the lake is blazed blue.  Normally, that would not be a problem, except that the map clearly shows the trail as being blazed white, and there is another blue trail (the NET- Mattabesett) running parallel to this blue trail just a few hundred feet away.  Also, it's "CFPA blue", that certain special shade of light blue we all know and love and reserve for trails that are part of the CT blue-blazed trail system.   Did someone mess up when they were painting the trail blazes?  Because this trail should most certainly be white. The map even states in writing that the trail is blazed white.  At any rate, this confusion has presented me with the need to go back up Chauncey to find something I missed a few weeks ago. I take the "other" blue trail along the shoreline.

Spicebush in bloom
The excursion brings me to an area with a high concentration of blooming wildflowers at the north end of the lake.

Dutchman's Breeches

Spring Beauties 

Trout Lily

Red Trillium (aka Purple Trillium)

Bloodroot sheltered in a blowdown

Wood Anemone

View from Chauncey
And we're back up on Chauncey for a brief time. Great views!

Canal feeding Crescent Lake
There's a canal that runs between Chauncey and Mt. Lamentation apparently used to feed water into the reservoir, although it wasn't feeding much water today.

Wicked talus slope, Chauncey
I took a rough trail, sort of blazed white, back along the east shore of the lake.  Since the lake is at the bottom of  talus slope below the Chauncey cliffs, it was quite rough and trekking poles much appreciated. I don't know how those trees in that photo managed to grow in this rock.

Red maple flowering at sunset
The maples were really flowering.  Here's a red maple in full bloom (not to be confused with the Japanese Maple, the one that is red all summer).
Time to get back to the car! 

A great thing about spring hiking is all the daylight:  I was able to hike until 7:30.  When I started this blog, I had to be back to my car by 4:30! In winter, the combination of cold and approaching darkness keeps you on move. This day I was relaxed and lingering everywhere to enjoy the sights.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Highland Pond to Chauncey Peak, Meriden

The New England Trail has now crossed to the west side of I-91. For this hike I parked at Giuffrida Park in Meriden, and walked back up Westfield/Country Club Road to find the trailhead. Before long the road goes right under a conveyor belt at the huge quarry operation that we saw from Higby's north peak.  The facility sprawls across both sides of the road.

It wasn't a bad walk along the road.  We passed a cat guarding some chickens. 

This section of trail has been completely rerouted since the latest version of the CT Walk Book came out, so there are updates online here.  Unfortunately, I didn't see the first link, only the second, which is hard to read, so I overshot the trailhead and walked almost to I-91. Then I discovered the trail doesn't go into the woods from the road, but turns onto Bell Street and follows that for some distance. Sigh.

So it was a good hour before I really got hiking, but it started out nicely at Highland Pond. I was looking for the orange trail for a side trip but couldn't find it. Turns out it was just 100 feet from the NET trailhead off of Bell Street. 

Lots of beaver sign here and waterfowl, and you can see the quarry in the background. 

That bridge is a little nicer than I'm used to on the NET.  Before long, the trail came out on Atkins at a cemetery, and there was another road walk before the trail headed into thick secluded forest. Finally! 

The trail is pretty easy, gradually heading up a hill, then down into a gully.  Hope there's no bear in that cave.

CFPA has some "Flat Stanley" letterboxes along the trails, like this one here, which uses a pink eraser for the carving material. 

Eventually the trail passes an unexpected canal and then climbs quickly up Chauncey Peak for some gorgeous views of Crescent Lake. Although it was a beautiful Sunday, I saw only one hiker until just before reaching Chauncey, and then there were plenty of people.

Castle Craig is just visible on Meriden's Hanging Hills (Hubbard Park). 

A view north towards Lamentation Mountain, the next leg of the journey. 

The views up here are just about the best I've had so far. Looking north, one can see Hartford. 

To the south is a hint of New Haven and Sleeping Giant.

And then to the east the land opens up at the quarry. There are some teenagers there throwing rocks, so tiny they look like ants. The quarry has been operated since 1898 by the same company that also was mining the head of the Sleeping Giant before public outcry, the Great Depression, and legal maneuvers halted that process. Here's a blurb on the history

Continuing south along the ridge, there's the a view of Beseck Mountain, overlooking Black Pond...

...and the twin peaks of Mount Higby (with Beseck continuing on to the right). 

And then the friendly blue blazes played a joke on me and disappeared over the edge of the cliff.  My first thought was, "that can't be right," and just then I heard a group of hikers coming up from below. I edged closer to the cliff, and watched as they scampered up the rock. It's easier to go up than down a rock scramble, though, so I had to make a decision. Every hiker should know his or her limitations and have the sense to turn around when necessary.  I determined the wise thing to do would be to turn around and descend the north slope, the way I came up. Not being very wise,  I rolled my back pack down the cliff, unleashed the dog, and very slowly slid down the rock on my butt, maybe 25 or 30 feet.  Having survived the rock scramble, I still had to pick my way down the steep slope very carefully using my trekking poles, because the ground was eroded and full of loose dirt and gravel. 

The parking area at Cresent Lake was right at the bottom of the hill. Another successful hike along the NET!