Friday, October 31, 2008

Toby's Rock Mtn, Beacon Falls

Ever wonder what's up on those rocky ledges overlooking Route 8 on your way up to Naugatuck? You know, the ones with all the graffitti? Turns out part of it is located within Naugatuck State Forest, a forest which is, oddly, scattered about the region in several unjoined "blocks".

I have never seen a map or description of the trails there, other than what can be found for letterboxing clues. Access is via Cold Spring Road, a gravelled series of potholes that follows the traintracks to a remote parking area. There, I found some unexpected interpretive signs at the parking lot which tell about the history of the area as a sort of amusement park. I then went back out to the gravel road and found the trailhead on the south side of Spruce Brook. Although the trail is mostly unmarked, it is generally easy to follow along the bank of the brook past a series of scenic waterfalls, chutes, and pools.

After a beautiful walk along the brook, I found a turn-off for the poorly maintained blue trail, which I followed up to the top of Toby's Rock Mountain. The view was spectacular, looking north up Route 8 through the notch where the Naugatuck River Valley constricts to its narrowest point. Turkey Vultures (the ones who are constantly circling over Route, apparently waiting for you to die) were sometimes flying below me, and migrating hawks occasionally passed overhead.

I don't know of any maps available for hikers, and the trails are not well marked or maintained, which is a shame, because the scenery there is amazing. Here are some of my photos.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pomfret Pow Wow

Here's yet another way our open space and parks are used: A Pow Wow. This one was in Pomfret, where I was letterboxing, geocaching, leaf-peaking, and meeting up with a friend (who tipped me off to the Pow Wow). There was a roped-off circle where various dancing and drumming and such was taking place, and an outer circle of vendors selling things like Buffalo Burgers, jewelry, and animal pelts. I very nearly bought an entire beaver pelt, including the tail, for $35. But I couldn't imagine what I would do with it, and settled for an amazingly soft rabbit pelt for $7 for my daughter.
There are schedules of pow wows available online, like this one for New England. In some ways my favorite part was simply hearing the drums and flute in the background as I walked through the forest approaching the pow wow, because it felt timeless.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Copperhead at Sleeping Giant

The letterboxing clues directed me to look for "a serpent's den" along the trail in Hamden. Turns out this was not just a figure of speech! This juvenile copperhead greeted me in front of the den and conveniently hung out while I fumbled in my pack for a camera, all the while trying not to tumble off the cliff just below me. When I got a little too close with the camera (that's what the macro setting is for, right?) he struck aggressively and was in no hurry to leave. The yellow-green tail tip is typical for a juvenile. After a while he finally decided he'd had enough of me and headed for the den (see video). I never did find that letterbox.

Although copperheads (and timber rattlesnakes) may be found throughout the state, it is on the traprock ridges of central Connecticut where they are most common. Still, I have never seen one until today, so this was a real treat, especially since I had the good fortune to not fall off the cliff in my excitement. I've found many snakes letterboxing and geocaching, mostly shy garter and ring-necked snakes (sometimes right on or under the box). This snake was completely different. It had an evil sort of beauty - the triangular head and the serpent eyes are very different from our more common and less dangerous snakes. It's appearence simply shouted out, "Danger!" The repeated strikes emphasized that point.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Piebald Deer

Not the best photo, but if you look closely (click to enlarge) you'll see that the back half of this deer is white with brown spots. This is called a "piebald" pattern, and the genes responsible for the coloration may also result in bowing of the nose, short legs, and an arching spine. I saw this deer off of Isinglass Road in Shelton, near Trap Falls Reservoir.