Saturday, May 5, 2012

West Peak in a New Light

I love hiking on cool, foggy days. It's not gloomy, it's moody. No one is on the trails, and if you have a camera that can take pictures in low light, it's great for photography.  Here's the proof:

Walkbook Rock - same camera, same photographer, different light. 
That's the view on the Connecticut Walkbook West cover. The left photo was taken on April 27 in bright sun, and the right photo was taken on May 3 in the fog. I'm using a Panasonic G-2, which is what they call a "micro four thirds" camera. Almost a DSLR but not quite. The sensor is a lot bigger than a point-and-shoot, allowing me to take pictures in low light, but the camera is lighter than a clunky DSLR.

Here's another comparison of sun vs fog lighting.  The dampness brings out color. Rock is darker when it's wet, and plants are covered with tiny water droplets.

Columbine in the fog

Columbine in the sun a week earlier.

White Trail, Hubbard Park. An easy trail.
So let's enjoy the cool damp weather before summer strikes and take a walk through the park.   Instead of focusing on the "gloom" of the overcast day, look at how vivid the new green growth of spring is. I'm starting down below West Peak at Hubbard Park and hiking up the Metacomet because there's a section of trail I haven't hiked yet. 

Climbing up the talus slope of West Peak
The down side to wet weather is the wet, slippery rock, and trap rock can be especially slick. Walking sticks came in handy.

Rising into the low clouds that surround West Peak
This part of the trail might be a hassle to go up in normal weather, but because I was going into the moody fog, it was really neat.

The trail goes up through a notch created by a fracture or fault zone that left behind slabs of trap rock. Slick! 

Metacomet Trail

West Peak - No view today.

Radio Towers on West Peak

After snapping a few shots of foggy West Peak, I descended back to the easier trails of Hubbard Park, which were starting to dry out even as West Peak was up in a misty fog.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

Box Turtle

We discovered a box turtle really close to I-691. I hope he manages OK. The species as a whole is threatened because it reproduces very, very slowly. A box turtle can live up to 100 years.  Let's hope this one lives a long life at Hubbard. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lost & Found: The Metacomet Trail

Last month I lost the trail after coming out onto a dirt road east of Route 71 in Berlin that's labeled "Victoria Drive" on Google Maps. I eventually found it a quarter mile away after some bushwhacking down a talus slope.   I journeyed back for a visit recently and here's the scoop: Apparently a half-mile section of trail was reroute as shown, without visible blazes at any of the junctions, and sporadic blazes along the old route (just enough to confuse you):

My hunch is that a new subdivision road is being built over the old route, so the trail was rerouted. I bet they were going to build houses before the market crashed.

At this time if you are hiking northbound on the NET (but actually head south on this particular section), you come out onto Victoria Drive (dirt) and the blazes completely end. There is nothing to indicate whether you should go left or right.  If you are lucky and decide to turn right, you come to an intersection with another dirt road on the left and no trail markings: 

2nd dirt road on left. The old Metacomet went this way. New houses soon?
So now you have to choose. At this time, I recommend Option #1: If you explore this second road, you'll find a few obsolete blue blazes on the tree line to the right, but these come to an end about half way along.  That's where I started bushwhacking and stumbled upon the new trail down below. No need for that!

Keep going down this second road, you will eventually reach the end. Walk around the right side of the big pile of logs and go into the woods and look around until you find the old blue blazes. This is by far the easier and more enjoyable route.  However, it is clearly subject to change. 

Go around the right side of this mess and hunt for the trail
Option #2:  When you come out onto Victoria Drive (dirt), take a right and keep on it, ignoring the second dirt road on the left. Keep going about a quarter mile on Victoria, and at a slight curve where you can start to see Route 71, look very very carefully on the left for the new trail.  It's almost impossible to see: 

Trail exit from Victoria Drive.  See it? Neither do I. 

The new trail is a rather sad state of affairs compared to what I bet the old one used to be, because the old route was up on the smooth ridge top while the new one meanders below along the uneven talus slopes, a  more arduous and tedious journey.   There is no trail tread, just blazes and plenty of loose traprock. 

If you are doing this in reverse, heading east from Route 71, the old section can be found if you look closely. You climb up the hill from Rt 71, cross the stream, and will come to a talus slope where the trail is solidly benched into the slope. The blazes are nice sharp rectangles. Immediately after the long talus bench ends, the new trail descends slightly to the left and the blazes get very sloppy, while the old trail goes up the hill at a diagonal, but the first blaze was blacked out. Head up this hill as if you were off to see the Wizard and you very quickly come to the end of the dirt road. 

There.  Now you can hike the Metacomet between Victoria and Rt 71.