I continued my journey along the Quinnipiac Trail (the oldest in Connecticut) by parking on Chestnut Lane in Hamden, on the eastern end of Sleeping Giant State Park. This park has 30 miles of trails and 30 gazillion visitors each year, so people looking to escape the swarms of people like to skip the main entrance and park on "the quiet side." I also like to avoid weekends.
I set an ambitious goal of finding my 500th letterbox while at the park. Before ascending the Giant, I peeked under a rock and found an Eastern Red-Backed Salamander (leadback phase):
Anyone who has ever bushwacked through the forest knows what it's like to walk into a spiderweb. In this case I came face to face with a brightly colored Marbled Orb Weaver spider just inches from my nose:
As I was taking the above picture, the spider suddenly scurried away and then returned with a prize it its mouth:
The trail started out easy, and I had lots of little detours looking for boxes, but after awhile it ascended to my first overlook at Hezekiah's Knob. The rest of the day was a series of ups and downs and increasingly spectacular views as I went up the Left Knee, Left Hand, Left Leg, and Left Hip (each summit or knoll seems to have been assigned to some part of the Giant's body).
These little asters were everywhere along the rocky ridge tops. I believe they are Stiff Asters, a native species that was planted at Eklund Garden this summer, in the rock garden section. Appropriate! That aster species will now always remind me of the Giant.
The footing at Sleeping Giant is treacherous. This is not a trail to attempt right after all the leaves have fallen, or if it's wet or icy. The hard basalt "trap rock" is angular and forever trying to trip you up. Here the blue trail goes down this scree slope....
and then it's a scramble up the other side, the kind of ascent where you're using your hands as feet:
As the Quinnipiac Trail ascends the Giant's main body it follows the increasingly dramatic ridge line, with a cliff below and views out across New Haven, Long Island Sound, and Long Island:
At the top (a.k.a. Left Hip) is the popular tower, where I found my 500th box (yay!). It's always crawling with people, most of who have walked up the gravel park road. Even on a Friday, it was pretty busy.
The view at the top is amazing. Here's New Haven.
I returned via the White Trail, visiting the Giant's right side (Right Hip, Right Leg, Right Knee and, intriguingly, Ned's Cabin). Amazingly, this return trail was even more arduous than the blue trail. I had to remove my back pack at one point for fear it would tip me backwards off the cliff I was climbing.
Eventually I descended to a more sane trail, finally turning back onto the Quinnipiac Trail where I had been many hours earlier. It was late, and a Barred Owl hooted as I turned onto the trail, joining a chorus of crickets and some chattering chipmunks. Here on the quiet side I seemed to be alone with the forest.