Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tunxis Trail

The Tunxis Trail is one of Connecticut's wildest trails.  Over the course of a few weeks I set out to hike the most northern twenty miles of the trail, from Route 44 in New Hartford to the Massachusetts state line in Hartland.  After hiking in the densely populated Connecticut Valley all winter and spring along the New England Trail (NET), the Tunxis offered quite a contrast.  

Red Eft (Eastern Newt)

Just driving there was an experience. We passed a dead porcupine on the road.  A porcupine! Another time a turkey ran out in front of my car and just as I was about to hit it, the turkey jumped straight up and took flight, my front window just barely sliding under the awkwardly flapping giant bird. Nearly had a stroke. 

Painted Trillium
Some of the plants up here are more typical of Northern New England.  Normally I see Red Trillium in Connecticut, but the Tunxis was home to several Painted Trilliums, a more northern species. Striped maple and hobblebush abound here, but are only occasionally seen in other parts of the state. Clintonia I associate with the White Mountains, not Connecticut. Foamflower grew in several places along the trail. This is an attractive native plant for landscaping, growing in dry or wet shade, and available in specialty nurseries. The only other place I've seen  it growing wild is on top of Shenandoah Mountain in Virginia.

Indian Council Caves
The most unique attraction along the trail is the Indian Council Caves, formed by an unusual pile of house-sized boulders. In the photo above, look for my dog in the lower center for scale. Yup, and that's just one of the boulders. It's even more surprising because there is nothing like this in the woods leading up to the cave. It's not particularly rocky for Connecticut, and you don't notice many boulders. Then there they all are right on top of each other. It's like a giant was cleaning up his field and threw all the rocks in a corner. 

Pink Lady Slippers
The funniest moment of the trail was when my dog and I startled a bobcat near the trail. The cat was substantially bigger than my dog but, you know, if it runs, chase it.  The bobcat was the fastest ball of fur I've ever seen. I didn't really even notice it's head or feet, and it didn't have a tail to speak of, it was just a streaking ball of fur doing one of those crazy mad cat scrambles. And my little 17-pound terrier was in hot pursuit because she's an idiot. Fortunately for her, she responded to my call and turned around, because that  would not have ended well if the cat had come to its senses, stopped running, and turned on my dog.
And so the next three pictures will have my dog in them.  

Biscuit on some old ruins at a pond near the caves.  

Biscuit and some Pinxter Azalea. 

Biscuit, the goat 
Finishing up the Tunxis was a real pleasure. I started back in October 2011 and promptly broke my ankle on the first part. That's why I have trekking poles now.  The trail has some smooth dark patches of rock that you barely notice, but be careful, because if they are slightly damp you can really slip.  Almost like black ice.  That's what happened to me last October.
Massachusetts State Line Monument. The End. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

My New Blog

I've just started a new blog called "Along the New England Trail."  Why would I do that? Because this "In the Field" blog started out as a very local blog of random stuff I saw while out in Shelton's open space, working for the City as the Conservation Agent.    Over the past few years, however, many of my posts were more about what I saw while letterboxing all over the state.  So the blog has lost it's focus.

This year I've decided to start focusing my letterboxing trips on the New England Trail rather than random locations around Connecticut.  Boxing this trail will take years, no doubt. Rather than have "In the Field" turn into a series of posts about the New England Trail, I thought I'd just start a new blog for these trips.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New England Trail (NET)

I was planning to start hiking the new "New England Trail" next spring, but it was 50 degrees on January 1, and that simply cannot go unhiked.  So here I am in Guilford, at the so-called Bluff Head parking area on Route 77.   In Connecticut, the New England Trail is mostly made up of the blue-blazed Mattabesett and Metacomet Trails, but a new trail under construction in Guilford is supposed to extend the trail down to the Sound.  It doesn't yet, but it's about half way there, so I thought I'd go check it out the part that's done. It's called the Menunkatuck Trail, and to find the northern terminus you have to take the Mattabesett for 1.3 miles. 

The Mattabesett rises quickly above the highway, and before long road noise is banished for the remainder of the hike.   The first 1.3 mile took a lot longer than I expected and at one point I was convinced I had missed the turnoff for the Menunkatuck.  In retrospect, the trail goes due east across a series of rocky features trending north-south, so it's just slow going. Especially for me, since I rebroke an ankle in October hiking the Tunxis and am a little touchy about walking on slick wet leaves over wet mossy rocks. Slow was the word. 

Green.  Winter greenery is always welcome, but it was really vivid on this hike.  All the warm weather we've had this winter has done wonders for our evergreen plants. Even the vernal pool was green. A tiny salamander larvae floated up out of the algae at one point. 

So, I haven't been posting much this year due to a couple injuries that left me unable to carry my heavy camera and then unable to even hike for a spell.  Excuse the photos today, they were taken with my Droid. 

More green! 

Here's some trail art. Big chunk of white quartz set on a green mossy rock. There was a fair amount of trail art on the Mattabesett.   

And finally I'm at the Menunkatuck!  I love that name.  Menunkatuck. It took me about an hour to walk 1.3 miles. But the Menunkatuck proves to be a much easier path, mostly following old woods roads. I suppose this is because it's heading south and isn't going against the geology of the area. 

Very shortly there's a kiosk for Broomstick Ledges, which I'm completely unfamiliar with. There's a sign for both the Town of Guilford and the Guilford Land Trust, leaving me wondering which one of them owns the property.

Good thing there is no hunting allowed on Sunday, because I'm not wearing blaze orange!  Although I'm not crazy about hiking past hunters, I am happy that deer are kept in check so all the animals can live there, not just the most adorable ones.  Forests completely stripped by deer are tragic. 

Heading back to my car on the Mattabesett, the trail is again more rugged, and perhaps more scenic, winding up and around linear pools and rocky ledges, with a glimpse of distance hills through the trees.