Sunday, June 1, 2014

Trail's End - Middletown

Asylum Reservoir #2, Brooks Road
Finally!  All winter long this last section of trail has been taunting me, but anyway, better late than never. And I see there's a new sign at the Asylum Reservoir trailhead. Pretty sure that wasn't there last fall. I started out today the same location as my last hike in December, but this time I walked all the way through to River Road along the Connecticut River, a distance of about five miles. My amazing husband agreed to pick me up at the end and cart me back to my car.   

Meet Mr. Quinn, an 8-month old package of crazy
I got a Welsh Terrier puppy last fall, which was one of the reasons I couldn't finish up the trail before our early snow in December.  I left my trusty Wire Fox Terrier Biscuit at home today because taking both dogs is just too much. I felt bad leaving her home. But if I leave Spazz-Boy Quinn at home with nothing to do, it's bad for everyone (and everything). 

Lots of interesting rock along the first section
The first half of this hike features lots of dramatic rock and is pretty slow going unless you have the agility of a goat. I'd avoid it if it's wet or icy out. The terrain is quite scenic, and is rough enough to have kept out the riff-raff.  

Asylum Reservoir #1
The trail passes by Asylum Reservoir #2, then twists and turns up to an overlook of Asylum Reservoir #1.

Pitch Pine
It's a high point along the rim of the Connecticut Valley. The land drops away on either side: To the west is the Connecticut Valley, while to the east is the Connecticut River. There aren't many views along the hike though, due to the trees.

"Rock Pile Cave"
Not long after descending from the reservoir overlook, the trail comes to  what the CFPA walkbook refers to as a "rock pile cave."  It was a lovely place to stop for lunch.

Dog walked right over this half-grown Garter Snake and never saw it. 
After lunch, the terrain change fairly abruptly.  The dramatic rock was left behind, the path leveled out, and the walking became a lot easier. Eventually the path began a very gradual descent down the bank of the Connecticut River.  


As the path descended, the plant community changes. Instead of pitch pine growing out of rock, there were large patches of Mayapple, something I don't run into very often while hiking in Connecticut.  The trail circled about and then began to run parallel to a powerline corridor for quite some time.

Very dangerous open well - yikes! 
I almost missed seeing this incredibly hazardous well only a few feet from the path. I think my dog actually spotted it.  It was maybe 8 or 10 feet down to the water surface, and I don't know how deep the water was. Based on all that green moss growing on the well walls, I'd say it's been open to the sky for quite a while. Whoever owns the property should get that covered over ASAP.

Well is located in the lower left part of the photo (looking back up the trail).
Powerlines are to the left, parallel to the trail.
Piece of shell found next to the old well
Tadpole -- probably for a Green Frog
Laying on the trail maybe ten or twenty feet from the old well was an old piece of wampum shell, perfectly round and obviously formed by humans. I don't know what to make of it. Wampum has been used in jewelry for hundreds of years, and continues to be used to this day. It was also used as an alternate form of currency by colonists for a time, but since anyone could just make their own wampum beads from shells (often poorly), they lost their value. Normally there would be a hole drilled in the enter of a wampum bead so it could be strung up. So what is this? Did it just fall off some hiker's jewelry a few years ago? Or is it a relic? The location along the banks of the Connecticut River adjacent to a hand-dug well gives me pause. Any thoughts? There were no other shells around, just this one on the trail. It's quite eroded, but was most definitely a round disc, about 3/4" diameter.

Probably an old quarry road
This was a very big area for pegmatite quarries back in the day. I thought I might pass a lot of old quarries, but instead I passed a lot of old roads that were probably constructed to access the quarries.

Pink Lady Slipper
When I hike through the woods, I feel like I'm surrounded by stories. There's the story of the trail itself, of course, starting as the Mattabesett Trail in the 1930's and now also the New England Trail.  How many people have walked the same trail since then?  But there are also stories in the rocks and plants and animals. The Pink Lady Slipper (above) can live for 50 years, blooming only when conditions are just right. It takes many years for this plant to have it's first bloom. This particular Lady Slipper may have been in bloom back when Nixon was president.
Speckled Green Fruitworm (Orthosia hibisci)
And here's a green caterpillar. Sure, it's just a plain old green caterpillar, but that looks like a epic journey he's on. Maybe he's grown large enough and is ready to transition into a moth.  Assuming I correctly identified the critter, it is "one of the most ubiquitous forest insects of spring and early summer." It will eat, "many woody shrubs and trees including both broadleaf and coniferous species." Which would explain why it's so common. This insect will do well regardless of suburban development and invasive species.

Connecticut River!
Ragged Robin (not native)
There was only one overlook along the second half of the hike (the map lied), reached by following the powerlines to the crest of a hill. The Connecticut River - finally!  Sadly, the trail does not actually end right at the riverbank, as there is a huge powerplant in the way, so this is the only view of the river.  On the opposite side of the Connecticut, the ridgeline along the rim of the Connecticut Valley continues, as does a CT Blue-Blazed Trail along the top, but it's no longer called the Mattabesett Trail (it's called the Shenipsit Trail.)

Severe trail damage from dirt bikes
This section section of the hike was full of damage from ATVs and dirtbikes.  All in all, the general area is probably not a bad location for them to ride since there are no residents nearby to disturb. It's not a state park or forest - not sure who owns the land. There are lots of old woods/quarry roads, as well as the powerline corridors. I wouldn't want to have to listen to them while hiking, though, which is why I went early in the day and chose a day that was rather gloomy and threatened rain. The strategy seems to have worked, since I didn't hear any ATVs at all. But clearly they are in here a lot.

Dirt bike erosion several feet deep.
Maidenhair Fern
But they seriously need to stay off the hiking trail.  The dirt bike damage becomes more severe as you get closer to the trailhead on River Road, but even near the top I had so much trouble getting around an ATV-created mudhole that I slipped and soaked one of my boots. I wasn't wearing waterproof boots because, and I'm not making this up, my dog ate my Gore-tex lined boots. So I spent the rest of the afternoon with a foot that was soaking wet. I hate it when people act like riding an ATV or dirtbike on a trail is just a form of trespassing - no big deal. It's not, it's vandalism, because the machines destroy the trails for hikers.

A sign at the trailhead says a trail relocation is in progress. I didn't see any evidence of the trail being moved, but I'm guessing they may have given up on the trail where it is due to all the dirt bike damage. What a shame.

Power plant as seen from the trailhead. 
There's a huge power plant on the Connecticut River right across the street from the trailhead, but is was surprisingly rather hidden by the trees. River Road was completely deserted - not a car anywhere. Except for my ride, of course :). Next weekend is Trails Day, and I'm looking forward to going to the grand opening of the NET trailhead at Chittendon Park in Guilford. Food and live music along the shoreline - what a great way to celebrate.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, wonderful photos. We are addressing the open well, which I just saw for the first time recently (my guess is that after storms of recent years, some trees that blew down then exposed the well more to the sky). The trailhead relocation depends on the property owner's plans to create a new parking area. It would be a slight relocation from where it is now -- only about 20 to 50 feet to the left of that sign as you look at it. Happy hiking. -- Chris Woodside, trail manager for Connecticut Forest & Park Association.