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
October 2017 26.49 14h 7m 3896
Year-to-Date 466.67 228h 45m 50210
October Avg. 56.14 29h 3m 5387
FINAL BCT Mileage 222.73

Unnamed Parcel, N. Stonington

Posted By on September 21, 2017

Unnamed Parcel, N. Stonington

5 miles; North Stonington, Griswold, and Preston, CT

Some Garden Club friends who are also members of Avalonia Land Conservancy invited me along to view a parcel they’re trying to get the money together to purchase in North Stonington. It is a huge, 400-acre property which abuts some Nature Conservancy parcels and other Avalonia land, and is flat-out wonderful—Native American stonework everywhere, old colonial-era foundations, three 500+ foot mountains (okay, big hills)… So fantastic! Hope the $ comes through soon.

Corn Drill Holes

Corn Drill Holes

When it comes to Native American stonework, I am firmly in the “sometimes a pile of rocks is, in fact, just a pile of rocks” camp. But the folks I was hiking with today may have made a believer of me. Firstly, we came to a spot in the woods that looked like a perfect spot for an encampment—kind of a box canyon area, and up on the hillside there were these two corn drilling holes. And for another thing, this property was absolutely full of those funny little stone walls that seem to go nowhere and enclose nothing that are sometimes characterized as “Serpent Effigy Walls.” From the Palisades Newsletter:

The New England Antiquities Research Association makes a forceful argument for the existence of stone wall construction by native Americans in the northeast, one at least having been dated to 4700 BC.

They assert that a significant number of stone rows commonly thought to have been built by colonists do not conform to colonial practices or functions. These rows meander through the woods connecting large boulders, bedrock outcroppings with hill tops, rivers and swamps, exactly as does the Storm King Wall. Some of these rows mark the rising or the setting of the sun on the solstice or the equinox, suggesting they were built to connect features of the landscape in a sacred way.

It’s a controversial subject, and I’m still not 100% sure I know where I stand.

Possible Record-Breaking Chestnut Oak

Possible Record-Breaking Chestnut Oak

The trail (and when I say trail, I actually mean a series of flags through the brush—there are no actual trails here, just a few old woods roads) meandered through a chestnut oak forest which included two massive old trees that may qualify as “Notable” or “Champion” trees, that is, trees that are very old and very large.

Quarry

Quarry

We came upon an old, but not really terribly old, quarry site. This rock shows drill holes for dynamite.

Cairn

Cairn

We saw many of these rock cairns we’re all so familiar with. Prayer mound or pile of rocks? I report, you decide.

Perfect Pileated Hole

Perfect Pileated Hole

There was also plenty of flora and fauna. Although we never saw the bird, we all concluded that this particular Pileated Woodpecker must be a genius engineer. This rectangular drill hole was so perfect!

Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle

And one member of our expedition was practically standing on this guy when I noticed him. Look at that color! I read in Wikipedia (so it MUST be true) that the eyes of the males have red irises while the females’ eyes are brown. So I’m guessing this is a male. The Eastern Box Turtle is a listed species, and is considered Vulnerable.

Colonial Era Cellarhole

Colonial Era Cellar Hole

Front Steps

Front Steps

Another member of our group was a descendant of the family that probably built this house. It was a beautiful example of a large center-hearth foundation. Really lovely spot.

Creepy Plant

Creepy Plant

And finally, there was a wealth of interesting plants. This is Dolls Eyes, Actaea pachypoda. And besides being creepy, it’s also quite poisonous, in that ingesting any part of the plant, but especially the berries, can lead to rapid cardiac arrest and death.

I am not posting a Gaia GPS track for this hike, as it is still technically private property, although Avalonia has been given permission to lead hikes on it for fundraising purposes. I will totally let you know when, or if, it becomes public property. It’s a real gem.

Bay Circuit Trail Section 22

Posted By on September 18, 2017

6.68 miles; West Bridgewater, Bridgewater, & East Bridgewater, MA

Worst section yet, I think. First, it was icky out, misty and cool. Second, all but the last 9/10s of a mile was roads. Third, did I mention it was almost entirely on the roads? Fourth, part of it wasn’t even the BCT—today’s section included a “trail gap.” Yuck. However, the last bit that was in the woods looked familiar… yes, on researching it, it was the bit I’d done with my friend Jo-Ann back in November of 2013. So that’s how long I’ve been wanting to hike the Bay Circuit Trail and thinking about it.

Train in the Crossing

Train in the Crossing

Wow, first time I’ve managed to catch an actual train at one of these track crossings! I actually crossed this same railroad line 3x during this hike.

Strangely, this section of the BCT included a trail gap that was basically the town (city?) of Bridgewater. It was weird. The only thing I can think of is that the municipal government refused to cooperate in any way with the Bay Circuit Trail Alliance, not even allowing any blazing or route guidance. The Guide for this section suggested a route, but when I checked the mileage for their suggested route against one I figured out on my own, it was about 1/2 mile longer. So since this was only a suggestion and not the actual BCT, I went my own way.

Old Bridge Ironwork

Old Bridge Ironwork

There aren’t many photos of today’s hike because it was soooo boring. I mean seriously boring. Although I did find something compelling about the old ironwork on this 1940s-era bridge over the Medfield River.

You can read more about the Bay Circuit Trail here. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this section and to download the GPS track.

Retreat Trails, Brattleboro

Posted By on September 16, 2017

Retreat Trails, Brattleboro

7.17 miles; Brattleboro, VT

The hubs and I took a short, 2-night trip up to Brattleboro, Vermont, to do some recreating and eat at our favorite restaurant, TJ Buckley’s. The B&B we stayed in, 1868 Crosby House, backed onto a big property called The Retreat Farm, and it had 9 miles of hiking trails. Sold! I saw some pretty cool stuff, bought some cheese, and climbed UP a 90-meter ski jump.

Morning Fog from the Top of the Ski Jump

Morning Fog from the Top of the Ski Jump

The first amazing sight was the Vermont hills shrouded in morning fog from atop the Harris Hill Ski Jump, which was at the end of the Lower Woodland Trail from our B&B. It was beautiful. And this is not the last you will be hearing about the ski jump.

Mushrooms!

Mushrooms!

Slugs and Puffballs

Slugs and Puffballs

Slime Mold (I Think)

Slime Mold (I Think Toothpaste Slime or Wolf’s Milk Slime)

Amazing sight #2, there were so many mushrooms! I mean, so many different kinds. I did come across a few varieties that I knew to be edible, like golden chanterelles and puffballs, but decided to leave them in place. And did you know that slime molds have a kind of rudimentary intelligence? Seriously.

Enormous Hayfield

Enormous Hayfield

Because I’m that person, I decided to get as much mileage as possible out of this hike, so I went all the way to the northern terminus of the trailhead. I’m very glad I did, as the very end of the trail circles around an enormous hayfield, and as I hiked I counted probably a dozen Monarch butterflies, which made me very happy. I wish there were more, but I’ll take what I can get. Sorry that I’m not a skilled enough photographer to get photos of the butterflies.

Stone Tower

Stone Tower

After returning down the trail I decided to visit the Retreat Farm. I had been told there was a cheese shop. Like, you were so NOT going to stop me visiting the Retreat Farm after I heard that. The Grafton Village Cheese shop was, dare I say, orgasmic. They were holding a cheese tasting, so every variety sold was set out on little trays with toothpicks for sampling. There is a long gap in my trail history at this point. You will see lots of circling around. Can’t miss it. I tried a bunch of stuff and it was all wonderful, but I came away with a piece of the clothbound cheddar. Amazing finish!

Enough said about cheese (but really, can there ever be enough said about cheese?). I finally tore myself away from the trays filled with tiny cheese samples and continued my hike. I really wanted to see the trails on the other side of the Retreat property (see map, link below), which included a stone tower that was built by people who were staying at what was at the time an asylum, built in 1888. It was quite spectacular. Unfortunately, it was also quite locked up. Sorry, no view from the top.

Artwork

Artwork

I meandered a bit more around the trails on this side, where I saw this nifty little painting of woods on wood, but finally figured that it was about time to head back to the inn and get changed for dinner. I brilliantly chose to get back to the main trail system by going up the ski jump. Yeah, that’s what I said. I climbed UP the ski jump. Not literally, there were stairs… but still, so. many. stairs.

Up there. I climbed up there.

Up there. I climbed up there.

It doesn’t look too bad from the photo, does it? Trust me, it’s really a TON of stairs. There are many more flights of stairs than pictured. It occurred to me that I could have a heart attack. But no, I survived.

You can find out more about the Retreat Farm from their website, link above, and trail map here. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this section and to download the GPS track.

Bay Circuit Trail Section 21

Posted By on September 14, 2017

7.21 miles; Easton and West Bridgewater, MA

This section was part pretty cool and part confusing and part boring. The cool part was the Hockomock Swamp Wildlife Management Area. The confusing part was the contradiction between the trail Guide and the blazing, and the boring part was nearly 3-3/4 miles of road walking.

The Trail

The Trail

This section started off at a power line cut, and at first it was pretty easy going, as you can see from the photo. The cut goes right through the Hockomock Swamp Wildlife Management Area, and it’s said to be inhabited by small hairy sprites called Pukwudgies. From the website Paranormal Encounters:

A Pukwudgie is a 2-or-3-foot-tall (0.61 or 0.91 m) troll-like being from the Wampanoag folklore. Pukwudgies’ features resemble those of a human, but with enlarged noses, fingers and ears. Their skin is described as being a smooth grey, and at times has been known to glow.

In Native American lore, Pukwudgies have the following traits and abilities;

they can appear and disappear at will
they can transform into a walking porcupine (it looks like a porcupine from the back, and the front is half-troll, half-human and walks upright)
they can attack people and lure them to their deaths
they are able to use magic
they have poison arrows
they can create fire at will
Pukwudgies control Tei-Pai-Wankas which are believed to be the souls of Native Americans they have killed.

Yeah, there’s a lot more at the link. Hockomock Swamp, which is in the heart of the famed Bridgewater Triangle, is supposed to be a

WHAT WAS THAT...???

WAIT, WHAT WAS THAT…???

hotbed of Pukwudgies. I didn’t actually see anything unusual…

Elderberries

Elderberries

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive

I did see lots of berries, and probably not coincidentally, lots of birds. Besides the ones pictured, I saw Winterberries, Choke Cherries, Viburnum, and a lot I couldn’t identify off-hand.

Uneven Walking

Uneven Walking

After about a mile or so, the power line cut is intersected by an old railroad bed—no tracks, just the road bed. After that, the walking became more difficult, because they used these large angular rocks to fill in the wet parts, and boy was it a tough walking surface. I finally figured out that if I just locked my knees and did a stiff-legged, rocking gait, like a robot learning to walk, it went easier. Good thing, too, because I had to walk on this stuff intermittently for another 2-1/2 miles.

Gigantic Log Pile

Gigantic Log Pile

After 3-1/2 miles, I came out on the road. This gigantic log pile was in front of me. Lotta roads… and here’s where things got kind of confusing for me. Immediately after the Route 24 underpass (another milestone!), the Map 12 Guide says

Turn right onto Scotland St after crossing under Rt. 24. Walk 0.9 miles (currently unmarked as of early 2015). Hikers should walk on the left edge of the road to face oncoming traffic. 2.7 Turn Left off of Scotland St at a small gravel pull-off (room for ~2 cars). The trail runs parallel to the Town River. 3.0 Continue straight, passing the landmark Skim Milk Bridge on the right. 3.3 At the trail junction take a sharp right down a short slope. Continue through the wooded MassWildlife property until you emerge at the edge of an open residential backyard. Stay straight to follow the edge of the brush on MFW property towards Clinton Road.

Um, okay, I got that, but when I actually came out from under Route 24, the blazes said turn left, not right. I stood there for a while debating with myself, but finally decided that if the Guide was written in 2015, the blazes were probably more recent, and probably should be followed, so I did. I’m still not sure that was the right decision.

At any rate, I never got back into the woods, and spent the next 3-3/4 miles on roads. However, had I actually followed the guide, my total mileage would have been over 8-1/2 miles, and I didn’t even get to 7-1/4 total, so I did manage to save myself an extra mile and a quarter.

Let me guess. You hunt, right?

Let me guess. You hunt, right?

Bridge over the Town River

Bridge over the Town River

And road-walking isn’t all bad. You do occasionally see some interesting or lovely sights, even from the road.

You can read more about the Bay Circuit Trail here. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this section and to download the GPS track.

Bay Circuit Trail Section 20

Posted By on September 8, 2017

8.75 miles; Sharon and Easton, MA

I very much liked this section, even though it had some nasty power line stretches and ended with almost 2 miles of road-walking. There were some gorgeous trails and it was a beautiful hiking day, weather-wise. I’ve been very lucky all along with the Bay Circuit Trail hikes as far as the weather has been concerned.

Borderlands Deer

Borderlands Deer

I got dropped off by my Lyft driver at 7:45 am at the gates to Borderlands State Park to start this section. Which doesn’t open until 8:00. D’oh! But a park employee came by about 5 minutes later and just said “go ahead, it only really applies to cars.” The Borderlands State Park deer, however, were not prepared, and I startled quite a few of them as I began to hike.

Ames Mansion

Ames Mansion

I’m presuming that the family that owned this mansion donated the park to the state of Massachusetts. I am told by the state website that the mansion is furnished exactly as it was in 1910, and is open to tours.

Powerlines

Powerlines

After Borderlands, the BCT enters a powerline cut. I hate these things… in the muddy or wet spots, they fill the roadway with crushed stone, which is very hard to walk on. But apparently this and the next Section of the BCT rely pretty heavily on powerline cuts. Oh joy. At least this stretch made a turn into the woods again on the Fox Mountain trail.

Beech Drops

Beech Drops

This is the time of year when you see the beech drops everywhere. Or at least you see them everywhere there are beech trees. They are like Indian Pipes; non-chlorophyll-producing plants that get their food from roots or fungus. In this case from the roots of beech trees.

Old Pond Property

Old Pond Property

After the powerlines and a bit of road-walking, I entered the Old Pond Property. The BCT Guide for this part of the trail says there is an old, overgrown earthen berm where the local foundry used to test their cannon balls. I really never saw anything that might have been this berm, ymmv. But the parking area had a lovely old corn grinding stone with a plaque that talked about the many mills and foundries that were once a defining feature of this part of Easton.

Wheaton Farm Access Road

Wheaton Farm Access Road

So a bit more road-walking brought me to this long, crushed-shell-paved access road that took me by this beautiful meadow, and then into the woods once again on a trail labelled the “100-year-old Cart Path.”

The cart path, which was a lovely, easy trail, and made me think of my friend Marjorie and her “Easy Walks,” eventually merged into the Wards Pond/Fuller Hammond Reservoir property, where there were red and blue blazed trails, although I was able to find the white blazes of the BCT as well, and managed to make my way to Bay Road, and then to Prospect Street and my car.

You can read more about the Bay Circuit Trail here. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this section and to download the GPS track.

Bradford Preserve

Posted By on September 2, 2017

Bradford Preserve

2.13 miles; Westerly, RI

As I was finishing up Parker today, I got a text from some PCHC friends who were in the area and wanted to visit a small local preserve. I joined them and was quite pleasantly surprised. I’ve driven by this huge field dozens of times, but never realized there was a sweet little hiking trail in the back, which connects to Woody Hill. It’s also another trail (besides the Orange trail on the Grills) for the Westerly Cross Country team, so it’s very well trod (trodden?).

Autumn Color (already!)

Autumn Color (already!)

There were hints of autumn color already on this small preserve, including the whatever-this-is (burning bush, maybe), and the hay-scented ferns were turning their usual golden-yellow, too. It seems too early, but then, it ALWAY seems too early every year…

Where the Streets Have No Name (or Streets)

Where the Streets Have No Name (or Streets)

Perplexingly, this trail was simply littered with street sign poles. We must have passed eight or nine of them. No streets, mind you, just, uh, street sign poles. In the woods. By the trail. Weird.

Vars Family Monument

Vars Family Monument

There was also a little short side-trail that lead to an imposing obelisk commemorating the arrival of the Vars family in the New World. As a newcomer to the Westerly area, I had no idea that the Vars family was at one time quite a big deal in town. You can read about the “The rise and fall of the Vars family pharmacies” in this Westerly Sun article. Seriously, who knew? Weird that all that’s left of their legacy is a monument in the middle of the woods.

You can find a trail map for this preserve on the Westerly Track Club’s website. My track, above, starts at the tree line. The “Run for the Pumpkins Course” is the trail that enters Woody Hill Wildlife Management Area. As always, click on the image, above, for details about this hike and to download the GPS track.

%d bloggers like this: