The Walking Posts

The posts labeled with the little “Truckin’ ” man are from my Walking Journal, which I've been keeping since January 1, 2012. What began as a simple New Year's Resolution to exercise more quickly morphed into a hiking addiction. Below are some running totals.

  MILES TIME CALORIES
January 2017 8.54 4h 37m 828
Year-to-Date 8.54 4h 37m 828
Jan. Avg. 37.26 17h 49m 3619

Blackledge Falls & Gay City SP

Posted By on January 13, 2017

Blackledge Falls & Gay City SP

5.42 miles; Glastonbury, CT

Wow, long time between hikes, what with a busy schedule and SNOW (ugh). But we have been having a January heat wave, so snow’s all gone, and my schedule cleared today, so I dashed out. Saw from the Glastonbury Town map of the Falls that there were connecting trails to Gay City, and I’ve been wanting to get back there forever, so I killed two hikes with one, uh, hike. I am a sucker for interconnected trail systems… this map was like catnip. And the reason I wanted to get back to Gay City was, well, see below.

First Stop, the Falls

There is a large parking lot and a short little trail system (approx. 1.5 miles) associated with Blackledge Falls in Glastonbury. In fact, it seemed overly blazed for such a small loop. Maybe it’s easier to miss in the summer?

According to my extensive Twitter reading, this is a much more impressive sight when the temps are below freezing. Hey, it was cold enough today, so maybe this is also good enough? Yeah. It’s fine.

From the Falls, I meandered through the trail system following the blue trail, which took a turn to the north towards Gay City State Park. I’d been to Gay City once before, but never got to see the ruins. “Ruins?” you ask. Yes, apparently this place would have been better named “Bad Luck City.” Here’s the tl;dr version from Wikipedia:

The isolated hollow on the Blackledge River was first settled by religious leader Elijah Andrus and his followers in 1796. A succession of ill-fated mills marked the town’s history—the first built around 1800 and the last burning down in 1879. Village history has also been burdened with tales of community tensions caused by the free use of alcohol during twice weekly religious services and of grisly murders gone unpunished.

Following construction of a sawmill and wool mill, the village became known as Factory Hollow and grew to about 25 families, many of whom bore the surname Gay. The wool mill’s commercial success ended with the War of 1812; the mill burned down in 1830. A paper mill revived the village’s fortunes but it too fell victim to fire, leading to the village’s ultimate demise. The property was sold to the state by one of the town’s last descendants in 1943, at which time the name Gay City was applied to the site. A year later the land became a state park, then entered the official roles as Connecticut’s 54th state park, with 680 acres, in 1946.

Last time I was here, I did a big loop around the perimeter of the park, starting and ending from Birch Mountain Road, so I never did see any of the ruins. The intermittently-blazed blue trail took me from the Blackledge Falls trail system about 8/10s of a mile to the red trail that circles Gay City SP. This time, instead of continuing around, I took the yellow-blazed trail that would take me to the center of the park and the old mill site.

Art Project

Art Project

Along the way, I came across this Art Project. At least, that’s what it said in the Guest Book.

Guest Book

Guest Book

I did notice a lot of artistically-scattered broken shards where the glass(???) ornaments blew off the tree and shattered. Hope the last part of the Art Project involves picking up the pieces.

Ruins!

Ruins!

Also along the yellow trail you can find this gorgeous old cellar hole. Not sure if this was a mill or a house or a barn, but whatever it was, it was beautifully laid. The walls are still arrow-straight and crisp. Lovely.

Mill Site

Mill Site

 

Mill Site

Mill Site

At the intersection of the yellow-blazed trail and the blue-blazed Shenipsit Trail, there is another white-blazed side trail that takes you to this amazing and HUGE old mill site. Really, this is massive. Must have been quite the operation in its day. I rather wish the lovelorn person with the can of black spray paint had not been here, however.

Hikes with Bathrooms, a Continuing Series

Hikes with Bathrooms, a Continuing Series

Not far from the mill ruins one finds a Youth Camping Area, and yes, a bathroom. A solar-powered bathroom. I mean, such luxury!

My Track (click for details)

My Track (click for details)

The map that’s pictured above is from the Open Hiking Map, and I had this to follow with me on the phone. As you can see, there is a trail to the east of the one I took, which I considered taking back to the car. Glad I didn’t, though, because it kind of looks like it veers off State property and onto private property. Hard to tell from here, but that’s what it looked like at the time, too. But it would have made a very cool complete loop, instead of a lollipop loop. You can find info on Blackledge Falls from this Town of Glastonbury site, and Gay City from the CT DEEP website.

You Don’t Have to Hike Alone

Posted By on January 4, 2017

You Don't Have to Hike Alone

Unlike me, I find a lot of folks prefer to hike with others. That’s fine, and sometimes I do, too. I had a question from a reader recently who asked where they could find other people or groups to hike with, so I thought I’d share my answer with all of you guys.

On the North-South Trail with the Providence County Hiking Club

On the North-South Trail with the Providence County Hiking Club

I’m assuming you’re all local, but if not, a lot of this probably still applies. Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Facebook.com—Search for hiking groups here. That’s how I met a lot of the folks I hike with now.
  • meetup.com—This is an excellent resource for finding hiking groups. I also find it’s a great way to find new places to hike. And it’s free.
  • Appalachian Mountain Club—This will cost you a yearly membership fee, but it’s so worth it. I get newsletters from both the AMC Narragansett Chapter in Rhode Island, and the AMC Connecticut Chapter, and there are TONS of group hikes planned every month.
  • Various Land Trusts—I know for sure that the Westerly Land Trust hosts weekly guided hikes. Joshua’s Trust in Connecticut does guided hikes as well. There may be other land trusts in the area that do something like that also. You can always just google “[insert town name] Land Trust” to find websites.
  • Avalonia Land Conservancy—Membership is only $25 and includes a quarterly newsletter with guided hike listings in southeastern Connecticut.
A Guided Avalonia Hike

Guided Avalonia Hike on Babcock Ridge in North Stonington

  • Rhode Island Wild Plant Society—Every month from April to October, this group hosts what they call “First Thursday Botanizing Walks.” Fun, free, and informative, and you don’t need to be a member. Sign up on their website.
  • The Connecticut Botanical Society—Again, a ton of free guided walks and trips where you can learn about native plants.
  • The Connecticut Forest & Park Association—These are the folks who created and maintain the 800+ miles of blue-blazed hiking trails in the state. They offer a wealth of group hiking activities.
  • Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center—This organization in Mystic, CT, also hosts guided hikes. They are generally very reasonably priced, usually $10 for non-members, with members getting a further discount.
  • The Nature Conservancy—This group also hosts guided walks and hikes. Check their state-level websites for more information.
  • Audubon Society of [insert state name here]—The Connecticut Audubon Society has tons of events scheduled, even for January. They cost a very reasonable $3 for non-members, and are free to members.
  • In Massachusetts, I’ve joined up with activities run by the Trustees of the Reservations.
With the Trustees of the Reservations

“Tri-Town Hike” With the Trustees of the Reservations

Of course, a lot of the above activity may be less frequent this time of year.
First Day Connecticut with the CT DEEP

First Day Connecticut with the CT DEEP at Osborndale SP

Ultimately, by joining up with one or more of these group hikes, you’re certain to make friends and find compatible hiking partners. Hope this helps.
With the "Take-A-Hike!" Group

With the “Take-A-Hike!” FB Group in Arcadia

Photo Credits: North-South Trail Hike by Kristen Chapian; Take-A-Hike by Patti Scotti Hanson.

Osborndale SP (First Day Hike)

Posted By on January 1, 2017

Osborndale SP (First Day Hike)

3.12 miles; Derby, CT

Today was the First Day Hike/Walking Stick Drawing sponsored by the CT DEEP and the Sky’s the Limit Challenge. It was a decent little hike—a bracing number of ups-and-downs and some nice views for such a suburban park. However, no walking sticks. There were 50 being given away, but 164 entries. BOOOO! The good news is that they’re doing the challenge again in 2017; the announcement will be made on February 2nd. We’ll get those sticks yet…

Another Group Hike

Another Group Hike

It was a clear winter day, no snow anywhere to be seen, with temps in the mid-40s. One hundred and thirty-three hikers headed out from the Kellogg Environmental Center across the street from the park. Surprisingly, I did not end up at the end of the crowd.

History

History

This was, apparently, some sort of historic house site, but with a group of 133 people strung out along the trail, it was impossible to hear the leader’s explanation.

Pretty Picnic Pavilion

Pretty Picnic Pavilion

It’s hard to see in this photo, but this picnic pavilion was at the top of a high hill with a fairly decent view.

Post Hike Drawing

Post Hike Drawing

Here is a shot of the Walking Stick Drawing. Yeah, Stacy’s and my little slips of paper wound up still in the box at the end… sigh.

Track (click for details)

Track (click for details)

Click the above image for details of our track, and to download the gpx file. Trailhead: 500 Hawthorne Ave., Derby, CT. You can get a map of this park at the CT DEEP website.

Wickaboxet & Coney Brook Trails (Last Day Hike)

Posted By on December 31, 2016

Wickaboxet & Coney Brook Trails (Last Day Hike)

6.5 miles; West Greenwich, RI

The weather for this final day of 2016 was too kind not to take an opportunity for a long hike. I decided on the Coney Brook Trail at Tillinghast Pond Management Area, along with stretches of the Wickaboxet, the Flintock, and the Pond Trails in a lollipop loop. It was still pretty cold, though, and icy in places. And yay, today pushed me into double-digit hikes for December! Although, as I said in an earlier post, my mileage for this year was still WAY down from my best, in 2015, of 678 miles.

Little Bit of Snow and Ice

Little Bit of Snow and Ice

Oddly, the only spots on the trail where there was ice was where the sun hit it. The trail under the trees was bone dry. Couldn’t quite figure this out…

Coney Cascades

Coney Cascades

Another little waterfall today, the cascades of Coney Brook.

Coney Brook Flooding

Coney Brook Flooding

Don’t know if I’ve ever noticed this, but the Coney Brook through here really looks as though it’s flooding. I wonder if there’s a beaver dam downstream.

Track (click for details)

Track (click for details)

Here is my track from today. As always, click for details and to download the gpx file. Trailhead: 41.636254, -71.735952; 677 Plain Meetinghouse Road, West Greenwich, RI. You can get a map that includes most of the trails here.

Seed Starting (A Rare Non-Hiking Post)

Posted By on December 30, 2016

Seed Starting (A Rare Non-Hiking Post)

I know this blog is all about the hiking. I get that, and I have even sometimes considered myself a “recovering” gardener, but honestly, when it’s cold and snowing outside, one sure thing that can bring me out of my winter-induced funk is planning for and starting seeds for my vegetable garden. I love vegetable gardening, mostly because I like to eat. Which I guess is obvious from my photos.

I got to thinking about planting dates thanks to a Facebook post about the Rodale seed starting chart. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But I’ve been refining and adding to my own seed starting spreadsheet for lo these many years now, and if you really want to get into the “weeds,” so to speak, feel free to download the Excel file, here. Not only is it “interactive,” i.e., you can enter the last average frost date for your particular area, and it will adjust all your planting dates automatically, but I also include a sheet for Fall crops, and one for flowers and herbs. But wait, there’s more! Other sheets give viability for old seed, that is, how long each kind of seed is good, so if you have some old tomato seeds laying around, you’ll know whether or not to keep them.

My Seed-Starting Set-up

My Seed-Starting Set-up

Of course, this photo is from last year. This year I will be making my own auxiliary light stand from PVC pipe, the plans for which I found on the Interwebs. But the gardening season will officially begin for me on January 19th, when I plant my leek seeds. I CAN’T WAIT.

Groton Sheep Farm

Posted By on December 30, 2016

Groton Sheep Farm

1.3 miles; Groton, CT

Today was supposed to have been a Lantern Hill hike with some friends, but the trail was too icy-looking to take a chance on, so we ended up on this GOSA property. It’s a nice hike, but so small, it hardly seemed worth the trip. Still, a hike is a hike, and this is really a pretty place. I’ve been here before—it was one of my Top Ten Favorite Hikes of 2014.

Icy

Icy

It was still awfully icy walking around today, but the trails were covered with leaves and not too bad.

Stream

Stream

According to the signage and the maps, this little stream that runs through the property, Fort Hill Brook, powered a couple of mills. This is approximately the site of a grist mill.

I would imagine, though, that this little waterfall was where the mill wheel was placed. It was mesmerizing to watch.

Track (click for details)

Groton Sheep Farm is a GOSA (Groton Open Space Association) property, and is located off route 117 in Groton, behind the Pequot Health Center on Hazelnut Hill Road. You can get a trail map from the GOSA website. Trailhead: 41.355937, -72.022820, 498 Hazelnut Hill Road, Groton, CT.