Monday, July 30, 2012

Rattlesnake Mountain, Farmington

Slug weather.  
Welcome to the back side of summer and in Connecticut you know what that means: Slugs. There they are, leaving that gooey trail of slime everywhere they go. This was the trip I set my logbook down to stamp in, and after getting a nice firm impression of a beautiful hand-carved stamp in my logbook, I picked it up and discovered a smashed slug on the cover.  Ewe!!

Another gauge of the humidity: I pulled my camera out of my backpack and took a bunch of pictures only to discover the lens had completely fogged over and my pictures were more or less blank.

So it's not my favorite time of year for hiking, and usually I don't bother hiking in summer, but I've got it in my head that maybe I can box the entire Connecticut section of the NET by the end of the year. One full year to hike the Connecticut NET, reflecting all seasons, albeit without snow.  I just happened to start this journey in January, assuming it would snow soon and that would be the end of my letterboxing for a while, but fate handed out a freakishly warm winter and I made great progress up the trail week after week. I thought it would take me two years to get to Farmington and yet it's only July. Keep in mind I'm not simply hiking the NET, but trying to find all the letterboxes along the NET as well as along all the connecting trails. Many of the parks the NET passes through I've visited repeatedly. I was up on Chauncey Peak four times.

Christmas Fern, an evergreen 
So I picked the coolest day of the week and hit the trail.  I pulled off Route 6 next to private road plastered with no parking signs (the road is said to lead to the Channel 30 broadcast towers on Rattlesnake Mountain) and headed south.  The goldenrod was in full bloom, and to me that means late summer and the promise of approaching fall.  Berries were ripening and the fridge is full of garden produce (summer squash, anyone?).Almost immediately the trail passes a fork with a sign that indicates a parking area further west along Route 6, so clearly people must go hiking here quite a bit. This was a Monday, so I didn't expect to see anyone all day, although I did pass a few people.

View north along the Metacomet Ridge, Hueblin Tower in the distance
Very quickly there's a view looking north at what must be my first glimpse of Hueblin Tower up Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, about ten miles away as the crow flies. Neat. I was there a few years ago.

The first part of the trail went through very open country with only scatter trees where it must be a nightmare to keep the trail clear from overgrowth, so I give a round of applause to the volunteer Trail Manager of this section.

A very old Chestnut Tree, continually reborn
Eventually the trail enters the forest as it climbs Rattlesnake Mountain.  The photo above is a Chestnut Tree, shown in it's typical modern form.  This tree is probably hundreds of years old and once may have been several feet in diameter, but the portion above ground was repeatedly killed off by the Chestnut Blight. Typically, the tree will resprout and thrive until it is a few inches in diameter before it is struck by the blight again and dies back, only to resprout. You can see the old decaying sapling next to the sprouts.

Polypody: the cute little fern that grows on boulders

Possible spaceship or rocket launcher

The trail passes the Channel 30 towers and a couple rocky places with mostly obstructed views (wrong season) before arriving at Will Warren's Den, marked with a plaque.
There was also an interpretive sign, which was good because I had no idea who Will Warren was. According to the sign, Mr. Warren was an outcast from the nearby village who was accused of various crimes such as stealing sheep, and at one point supposedly hid in the small cave there while the villagers were hunting him down. My terrier immediately plunged deep into the cave, because that's what terriers do, and came out all relaxed, which means there are absolutely no mammals living in that cave at the moment because she would have told me if there were. 

Biscuit certifies Will Warren's Den as animal-free

Will Warren's living room?
There's quite the jumble of boulders there, and a nice overhang around the corner from the cave looks like it would have been a great place to set up camp. The trail climbs up above the boulders and before you know it comes out onto one of those Metacomet Ridge vistas.  

Looking south towards the Tilcon Quarry and West Peak
This vista messed with me, though, because I'm so used to looking West at a vista, and this one was looking South at a cliff running East-West. Wha?  Not where I was expecting to be looking.   There's West Peak once again in the distance, with the Tilcon Quarry in the middle distance.

In this view you can see "the Pinnacle" -- that cliff at the lower right
And then there was the rock I was headed for, "the Pinnacle", about where I left off last time.  Zooming in with the camera lens I could see the railings and bench atop the rock. Ha! So down the mountain we go, steeper than expected, along a narrow tread barely benched into a scree slope along the base of some cliffs. The reward is something I've never seen before: The trail goes right through a cave (or what in Connecticut qualifies as a cave), formed by a couple of big boulders.

The trail goes right through this "cave"
In the cave is an inscription that looks pretty legitimate to me that reads "J.A. McCo 1882 Oct.1."  I wasn't able to find out anything about this.  Opposite this historic inscription was a sticker that said simply, "I love Hooters."  Times have changed. 

Engraving in the cave.
Joe Pye Weed
Wild Ginger

Old quarry, looking north

After continuing on the steep descent the trail crosses some powerlines, heads back up a bit, and a short detour leads to a northern overlook of an old quarry.  The line of boulders keeps four-wheelers from plunging off the steep face of the cliff. 

False Solomon's Seal, berries ripening
After that the trail was pretty uneventful, but longer than expected, heading gradually uphill towards the Pinnacle. Are we there yet? And finally yes, I rounded a corner and there was a section of trail I had been on before. Time to turn around and head back to the car. 

Old fashion trail blaze

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