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“Early Mornings, Extraterrestrials, and the Appalachian Trail”
This week Trail Tuesdays is taking you to:
Appalachian Trail in Southern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut
Including the State/National Parks of:
The entire trail was a section of the Appalachian Trail. It crossed through the following areas.
Jug End State Reserve
Mount Everett State Reservation (MA)
Mount Riga State Park (CT)
Nearest Metro area(s):
Springfield MA, Albany, Hartford
On your personal toughness scale of 1-10? Feel free to explain..
Overall I would give it a 5. There were a few sections with pretty good elevation gain that made you work. The rock scramble at the top of Bear Mountain was probably the toughest part and I'd say that was a 6.5. There were also a number of flat sections or sections w/ gradual inclines. The South side of Everett was really rocky and steep. Rough on the joints. I imagine going up would be difficult (we went down).
See any wildlife?
Outside of a few chipmunks the most prevalent wildlife were small toads (frogs?) that were crossing over the trail as the sun went down. I don't know what kind, but they were tiny and everywhere! On the drive back 2 beautiful deer crossed the road in front of my car, but they probably don't count.
Would you recommend? (1-10) 1 being heck no and 10 being this is your new secret spot..
Yes. I would honestly give this an 8 or 9. There are certainly hikes that I enjoy more but it offers an awful lot. Every 2 to 3
miles you come to a notable vista, or ravine. It was certainly the best stretch of the AT I've seen in MA / CT (so far).
Beginning at Jugs End Road (Curtis Road) in South Western Massachusetts and hiking 16.9 miles South Bound on the Appalachian Trail to Under Mountain Road in Salisbury CT. Day 1 includes the bulk of the hike, traveling 13.5 miles to the Riga Shelter, leaving just 3.4 miles back to the car on day 2.
Trip Overview: At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to complete the entire Connecticut and Massachusetts section of the Appalachian Trail. At just over 140 total miles (CT: 52 miles, MA: 90 Miles) that goal may seem pedestrian to some. Unfortunately, “real-life” dictates opportunity and my opportunities have been reduced dramatically in the last year. In October, my wife and I welcomed our first child to the world. Now 10 months old, Nathan has become the center of our universe. While my passion for hiking hasn’t dwindled, the opportunity to hike certainly has. I look forward to the days of long backpacking trips with my son, but for now, you have to learn to walk before you can hike.
Despite this, I’m on track to complete my walk from the New York/CT boarder to MA/Vermont border all in 2013. This section is one I have been looking forward to for a long time. I grew up in Connecticut and have heard about Race Mountain and Sage’s Ravine for many years, I just never had the chance to hike them! I did hike Bear Mountain with some
friends a few years ago and had at least some sense for what I was getting into.
My father and I have done every foot of the Connecticut Appalachian Trail together. He started hiking later in life and in the last few years I have dragged him all over the country on different adventures! He doesn’t have the desire to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, but finishing the state of Connecticut is important to him and this hike brought us closer to that goal.
I live North of Boston in Eastern Massachusetts. The plan was to rise early (1:45AM) and drive 160 miles to Salisbury Connecticut where I would meet my father at 5:30AM. We would leave one car in Salisbury, and then drive North over the Massachusetts boarder to Jugs End Road (Curtis Road) and begin our hike South bound.
Why so early? Besides the obvious reason of wanting to be on the trail early, one of my guilty pleasures is listening to the late night radio show “AM Coast to Coast”. If you’ve never heard the show, essentially it’s a somewhat normal sounding guy who takes calls from people all around the country who believe in ghost, aliens, and conspiracy theories. Now look, I don’t judge anyone for what they believe in, but some of these people concoct some pretty wild tales. It’s not always the best idea to listen to this stuff before spending a night alone in the woods… but I do every freaking time! Then I usually lay awake in my tent all night scared out of my mind and listening for aliens!
At 3:30AM, life was good! I was cruising down the Mass pike and getting spooked out by a man who truly believed he could travel through time. I pulled off at a truck stop to get gas when the overhead lights at the gas station allowed me to
look around my car for the first time. I realized a horror much worse than the Alien stories coming out of my radio had taken place!
In my haste to hit the road early, I was fumbling around in the dark trying to find my hiking boots. Apparently I grabbed one of my boots and one of my wife’s! I was 50 miles from home with one men’s size 13 boot and one women’s size 6
After firing off a series of curse laden text messages letting my father know I was going to be late, I turned around to retrieve my other hiking boot. My 160 mile drive one way turned into a 254 mile drive!
On the trail: After my boot debacle, I met my father at the parking lot on Under Mountain Road in Salisbury CT at 7:45AM. We dropped my car at the trail head and quickly back tracked North to Jugs End (Curtis) Road.
As we got our bags together we were greeted by another hiker and his dog Everett. Everett was named after Mount Everett which, at 2,602 feet, would be the highest elevation on this trip.
The trail from Jugs End Road to Jugs End is fairly steep gaining 800’ of elevation in 9/10ths of a mile. The views at
Jugs End however, are well worth the work. For a quick and relatively easy hike I would highly recommend doing this as a quick out and back.
After leaving Jugs End, the trail continues to gradually climb. We we’re able to make good time as we reached the side trail to the Glen Brook Shelter. We stopped briefly to snack and we could hear what sounded like a group of kids laughing and talking at the Shelter. After studying the map, I realized there was a trail leading from the “The Berkshire School” directly to the Glen Brook Shelter. The trail only looked to be about a mile and I assume the kids come and go as they please. In fairness, we didn’t take the quarter mile detour to investigate the shelter, but I imagine if Glen Brook is being heavily used by kids, it may not be the best option to spend the night (The Hemlock Shelter is a very close alternative).
From the Glen Brook Shelter we passed over the Guilder Pond picnic area. At the picnic area we met a woman who was setting up dozens of gallon water jugs on a picnic table. She was performing trail magic for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. From June through August, as the thru-hikers pass through Massachusetts, she sets up jugs of water every single day before work. She had attempted an Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2008, but had to stop in the Smokies due to an illness.
If there is one unique and truly wonderful thing about the Appalachian Trail it is the trail culture that has developed. Trail Angels pop up all along the 2,174 miles of the AT. These people ask for nothing and spend their own time and money to make the experience better for perfect strangers.
After the Guilder Pond Picnic area, the elevation begins to pick up as you climb 700 feet in 7/10ths of a mile to the summit of Mount Everett. The summit of Mount Everett isn’t all that impressive. I understand there is a nice over look you can drive to that is below the summit, but the Summit itself doesn’t offer much in terms of views.
After Everett, the trail rapidly descends over bone grinding rocks, before leveling off and beginning to climb back up Race Mountain.
Race Mountain arguably offers the best views on this section of the AT. The trail weaves its way around the perimeter of the mountain summit giving you 360 degree views.
From Race Mountain, the trail gradually descends. After the bone jarring descent from Everett, I was happy to see some smoother sections of trail. We reached an underground spring, and where we both filtered water and refilled our 3L water bladders. The water was cold and tasted amazing!
From the spring, it was a short and easy walk to Sages Ravine. The Ravine is named after Simeon Sage, a 19th century iron worker who founded Sage Iron Company along the Connecticut border.
We stopped for lunch just after crossing into CT and discussed our options for the night. It was 3:30PM and we had 10.2 miles behind us. We had originally planned to camp at Riga Shelter, which was only 3.3 miles ahead. Despite our late start we had made relatively good time and my father started pushing the idea of hiking the 6.7 miles back to the car.
We knew there was one more climb over Bear Mountain, but the 6 miles following that was a fairly gradual descent. We both felt strong and we’re up for the challenge.
We finished lunch and by 4PM we were back on the trail. The sun set at 7:45 so we were confident we would reach the car in time. Then came Bear Mountain.
Bear Mountain is the tallest Mountain summit in Connecticut at 2,316’. While the elevation is unimpressive compared to most other parts of the country, Bear Mountain presents its own set of challenges. Mainly, a steep but short rock scramble beginning a quarter mile from the summit.
I had hiked Bear Mountain a few years ago with two friends. We came up the South Side and went down the rock
scramble. I remembered it being slow going, but it didn’t stand out as particularly daunting. Now, standing on the North side of the mountain and looking up at the summit I began to appreciate the task at hand. From Sages Ravine to Bear Mountain you gain just under 800’ of elevation in 7/10ths of a mile. I’m willing to wager that 300’ of that elevation occur on this scramble.
The Bear Mountain rock scramble is one I will always remember. Looking back at it two days later, I would describe it as fun and worthwhile. At the time, I probably would have used other adjectives. In any event, the 7/10ths of a mile from Sages Ravine to the summit of Bear Mountain took over an hour. If we wanted to make it to our car before the sun set, we now needed to hike 6 miles in 2 and half hours.
As the afternoon turned to evening the number of people we saw shrunk until there were only thru-hikers trying to
squeeze out a few more miles. The sun soon disappeared behind the surrounding mountains. Although we still had an
hour before sunset, the woods were surprisingly dark and quite. We continued our push, but agreed if it got much darker we would abandon our quest and stealth camp somewhere just off the trail.
We ended up making it to the car by 7:15PM. We did the final 6 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is a strong time for me, especially considering we wearing full packs and had already done 10.9 miles.
After dropping off my father at his car, the day started to catch up to me and I was getting increasingly tired. I had been up since 1:45AM driven 254 miles and then hiked 16.9 miles more. Now I was facing 160 mile drive home. After getting back to the Mass Pike, I stopped at the Brandford rest stop, parked my car, locked the doors, turned on the Patriots pre-season game and feel asleep to the sounds of Scott Zolak complaining about Tim Tebow’s throwing motion.
I have now completed 97 of the 142 miles that make up the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts and Connecticut. While I haven’t done the Mount Greylock area of Massachusetts yet, I would say this section was my favorite so far. There are several points of interests and dramatic views. Though the elevation isn’t remarkable, the rocky terrain and lack of switch backs made for a great challenge!
And now for a little bit about our contributor, Kevin Orcutt:
I grew up in Connecticut and moved with my then fiancé (now wife) to the North Shore of Boston about 5 years ago. I have always loved the outdoors and have had a tremendous desire for adventure. Since the age of 18, I have taken 7 different road trips cross country and have backpacked all over the United States including the Rockies, Canyonlands and The Grand Canyon. In College, I spent 2 months backpacking Europe and took several long hikes in the Swiss Alps.
We recently welcomed our first son in into the world. His name is Nathan and he's a happy, healthy, energetic 10 month