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Sunday, July 17th 2016

5:03 PM

Middle Mountain VT 6/25/16

     In the Green Mountain Club's fall of 2015 magazine they reported a new trail to the summit of Middle Mtn (2947') which is north of Island Pond and not far south of Canada.  There is a map online.

     My friend Gary and I decided to try out this trail and started hiking at 10:00 AM.  The trail is 3.3 miles one way and about 1700 feet up.  There were tons of moose droppings all along the trail but we didn't see any moose.  We did see an area of pretty flowering irises and many flowering bunchberries, along with a few flowering pink ladyslippers and star flowers.  I also saw culver's root and slender blue eyed grass.

     About 2 miles of the trail goes over a lumpy plateau.  We saw a spruce grouse here.  We crossed the summit of an unnamed mountain and then an unnamed knoll.  After that the trail climbed into a spruce forest and we reached the summit at 1:14 PM.

     There was no lookout on the wooded summit.  There were two areas which could be great lookouts with some clearing.  There were a lot of flies and no breeze to keep them at bay.  I got a good photo here of a white throated sparrow.  We were back out at 4:35 PM.

     Unless and until they clear a lookout at the summit, hikers have little reason to visit this trail, and it will become overgrown and lost.  I did send an email to the trail creators about this, but did not get a response.

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Sunday, July 17th 2016

4:47 PM

Stratton Mtn VT 6/19/16

     The last time I climbed Stratton Mtn (3936') was in October 1990 with my family.  It was time for a return.  The Long Trail guide says the trail is 3.8 miles one way, but the sign at the trailhead says 3.4 miles.

     The weather forecast was sunny, 81 degrees.  The parking area was full and I parked out along the dirt road.  I started hiking at 10:50 AM.  At first the trail goes through a swampy area with ups and downs and various rocks and boulders.  It crosses a few streams and near the largest of these I saw some flowering wild azaleas.  There was also a pink ladyslipper flowering in this area. At 11:33, I crossed the IP road which was all dirt in 1990 but today it was overgrown with grass and had two ruts in it.  As the trail ascended, I was passed by a pretty brunette AT thru hiker with the trail name of Rigby.   She said that she, like many others, avoided the mob of thru hikers all starting together in Georgia in March by instead starting in West Virginia, then going back south to finish that part second.

     The trail was in good shape.  There were some flowering bunchberries.  Gnats were not a problem, but flies were.  Eventually at 12:50 PM I came to a lookout which was excellent in 1990 but now was 90% overgrown. I didn't stay long.  I met many hikers on the final stretch.

     At 1:40 PM I reached the summit.  The only views here are up in the firetower.  It was wonderful up in the tower.  There was a slight breeze which was very pleasant and cooling.  To the south was a great view of Mt Snow and Somerset Lake.  To the west I could see Stratton Pond, Bourn Pond, and Mt Equinox.  To the north I could see Killington, Bromley, Styles, and Cardigan.  I could even see Mt Greylock far off to the north.  I left the top at 2:20 PM.

     On the way down I met three more AT thru hikers.  One bearded young man was called Whiskers, and a duo were called Otis and Wings.  I was back out at 5:15 PM.   

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Sunday, July 17th 2016

4:31 PM

Mt Shaw NH 6/1/16

     I had climbed Mt Shaw (2990') and Black Snout (2803') last September and I thought it would be fun to revisit them with my friend Gary Kling.  We took the shortest, direct route from a trailhead just east of Sodom Road.  The trailhead has no signs at all.  Only one other car was there.

     We started at 9:45 AM.  The day was mostly cloudy, very humid, with no breeze and temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees.  We made good time and came to two pretty waterfalls located just off the trail.  After that the trail follows Field Brook until it reaches a place where the trail was wiped out by the stream.  The trail we took hooks around this.  If you go up a steep hill from here, you end up on a different trail, which perhaps we will take some other day.

     At the hardest stream crossing we noticed a boulder that had been enscribed with the words, "No Step".  We didn't see any step, so I guess the sign is correct.  In the steep section near the top, the large blowdown I had seen in September was still there, but the branches had been removed so that the tree was no longer an obstacle.

     We reached the Mt Shaw summit at 1:10 PM.  No other hikers were around.  The White Mtns were mostly visible from here, except that Mt Washington and Mt Adams were in clouds.  Due to the surprising lack of any breeze, there were swarms of gnats.  We moved on to Black Snout, arriving at 2:10 PM.

     Here, the lookout I had seen in 2015 had been somewhat enlarged.  There was a slight breeze, too, and far fewer gnats.  The views of Lake Winnipesaukee were mesmerizing.  We returned the way we came and were back out at 5:20 PM.  This is a wonderful place to visit and I hope to be back again.

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Sunday, July 17th 2016

4:13 PM

Lost Mine Trail, Chester VT 5/26/16

     This is a 2.2 mile loop hike that goes over an unnamed mountain.  The elevation gain is said to be about 410 feet.  Carol and I hiked it clockwise which is clearly the best way because you end up at an interesting former mine.  If you hiked it the other way, you would have a long steep uphill at the end of the hike.

     You can find a map of this hike online from the town of Chester, but the map we had showed the trail starting a bit north of where it really did start.  It starts a bit south of the parking lot if you are going clockwise.  They moved the starting point apparently.

     We started hiking at 11:30 AM.  It was partly to mostly sunny, about 80 to 82 degrees.  The pitifully small parking lot only has room for two cars, but we were the only ones there.   In the beginning the trail appeared new and well constructed.  The views of the stream were pretty, but the waterfalls were fairly small.   The trail was well marked with red blazes.

     Once we started getting away from the stream, the trail was more primitive and the dense forest all around gave us the impression that we were in the middle of nowhere, miles away from civilization.  The hike goes under many enormous trees, especially white pines.  At one point we hiked past a red pine plantation with many gigantic red pines.  There were also many old stone walls crisscrossing the forest.

     At 12:50 PM we reached a spot where there was a very narrow view of Mt Ascutney.  This would be a great resting spot if the view were cleared and a bench were installed so hikers could have a place to sit and enjoy the view.  Shortly after this spot we reached the wooded summit and had lunch.

     Beyond this the map shows a lower summit but what we saw didn't seem to correspond to the map, and we didn't recognize any lower summit.  We proceeded to the Gould Mine which was a hole in the ground surrounded by rusted mining equipment and a pole with metal ropes.  We saw soapstone but no Chesterite (which is a rock found only in Chester and in Japan).  We saw some Common Brown Cup mushrooms.  We were back out at 2:10 PM.  It's a fun loop and it could be better with some improvements to the Ascutney lookout.

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Friday, May 13th 2016

10:11 AM

Mt Cardigan NH 5/11/16

     Gary and I ascended Mt. Cardigan (3155') via the Manning trail by way of Firescrew Mtn (3064') with a loop back using the Clark trail.  This is a 5.5 mile hike and has more of an elevation gain than the route on the west side of the mountain, but climbing from the east side is worth it because of all the scenic ledges on Firescrew.

     We started hiking at 10:40 AM.  It was sunny, about 60 degrees F, but it later warmed up to 70 degrees.  No leaves were out yet.  There were gnats in the lower elevations but none after that.  There was a very pleasant and strong breeze up on the ledges.  The lower parts of the trail went through vast numbers of flowering trout lilies.  We also saw some pretty flowering red trilliums.  The trail was very quiet except for the sounds of a few watercourses and the sounds of the strong wind on the higher ledges.

     To our surprise there were areas we had to climb that were full of ice.  The ice was white and seemed to be from compacted and frozen snow.  Up on the higher ledges of Firescrew there were marvelous far-ranging views.  We could see north to Mt Lafayette and Mt Washington, east to Newfound Lake, south to Mt Monadnock, west to Killington and Pico VT, and northwest to Camel's Hump VT.

     We only met three groups of hikers all day.  When we were on the summit near the fire tower, a couple came up from the west side of the mountain and we talked with them for a while.  We had lunch on Firescrew at 1:36 PM and a snack after we reached  Cardigan at 2:42 PM.  We were back at the parking lot at 5:10 PM.  This was my sixth ascent of Cardigan.  It is one of my favorites because of the picturesque ledges.

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Sunday, May 1st 2016

2:08 PM

Todd Mtn MA 4/20/16

     Todd Mtn (1711') is located in the Mohawk Trail State Forest near Charlemont MA.  Although it is not far from my home, I had never climbed it.  Wednesday, April 20, 2016, was sunny with temperatures from 55-62 degrees F, great for hiking, and to make things even better, they don't start charging the $10 parking fee until May 5.  I spoke with a ranger before I started and he said the trail started at the end of the campground, which meant a long hike down a paved road.

     I started hiking at 12:05 PM and passed many empty campsites situated along the Cold River (which flows into the Deerfield River).  Each campsite had a large metal cabinet for storing food so that it would not be eaten by bears.  I reached the sign for the start of the trail at 12:30 PM.  I never saw any other hikers all day although the cool weather was perfect for mountain climbing.

     The blue-blazed so-called Indian trail was very steep and full of oak leaves in spots, enhancing the hazard of falling.  Through the bare red oaks I could see the steep slopes of Hawk Mtn on the other side of the Cold River gorge.  By 1:20 PM I reached the T intersection with the Metacomet trail.  I turned right to go to Todd Mtn.  To the right is Clark Mtn, but I am told that Clark does not have much if any views nowadays.  Not far from the intersection, at 1:30 PM I came to a false summit which had some views across to Hawk Mtn plus a number of interesting boulders and areas of white lichen and green moss to explore.

     Finally at 1:42 PM I reached the true summit and its lookout.  There were sloping boulders and a flat place to stand.  I could see a panorama of Hawk Mtn across the gorge.  I could see the stream coming down off Hawk Mtn.  Off to the right I could see Borden Mtn with a tower on it.   From a nearby, more overgrown lookout I could see Mt Institute, the home of the Berkshire East ski area, which now only had small dots of snow on its slopes.  I had lunch at the main lookout which was a bit windy and chilly.    While on Todd Mtn I saw a few turkey vultures fly by.  I left the summit at 2:23 PM and reached the trail junction at 2:50 PM.  Some day it would be interesting to ascend Todd Mtn from the west, taking the Metacomet trail over Clark Mtn.  However, that was for another day.  I proceeded down the same steep Indian trail that I came up on, and I was extra careful not to slip on the slippery piles of red oak leaves in parts of the steep trail.

      Not far from the junction I was some flowers and later indentified this as trailing arbutus.  That was a first sighting for me.  At 3:25 I was back at the road and at 4 PM I was back at my car.  All in all it was a fun hike and made me want to come back and try it from the west some day via Clark Mountain.

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Saturday, April 30th 2016

4:35 PM

Flagg Mountain MA 4/16/16

     I have a map of MA, and when I notice mountains on it, I look them up online to see if I can find any trails.  Flagg Mtn (1402') appeared on the website of a geocaching enthusiast who described the trail as starting at the north end of N. Warger Road, Conway MA near Shelburne Falls.

     I arrived here at 12:05 and parked at a tiny space south of a house.  You can actually go beyond the house and park where the dirt road is gated.  The dirt road has no blazes but there is a big elaborate "Flagg Mountain" sign at the start of the trail.  A sign says : " No motorized vehicles, no trail bikes.  Hunting and fishing allowed."  I doubt you could find many fish at the top of the mountain, but if you did, feel free to reel them in.

     The gravel road must have cost a fortune to build because it is very well constructed with numerous zigzags.  Near the top there is a grassy, wide former jeep trail off to the left going uphill to the summit.  Taking this trail, I arrived at a very beautiful panoramic lookout.  I sat on the boulders and had lunch at 12:50 PM.

     Straight ahead was a double-humped mountain which I think is Ridge Mountain. I saw two unidentified pointy hills and a lake that I believe is Ashfield Pond.  I think this lookout is facing the southwest.

     After lunch I wandered around the summit.  I took the main gravel road to its end at a loop where there is a completely overgrown lookout.  I didn't see any cabins or remnants of them but I assume there must have been one or more cabins up here once to justify the road.  I found a lower lookout which faces northeast and has views of Mt Monadnock as well as Massamett Mtn and the town of Shelburne Falls.  However, these views were through bare trees and would be much more limited once the leaves come out.

     As I was descending the gravel road I heard the noise a hawk makes.  Looking up to the sky, I saw three red-tailed hawks flying not too far above me.   I also saw a number of mourning cloak butterflies.I was back out at 2:20 PM.  It was fun exploring a new mountain but the road walking is not as enjoyable as a regular trail in the woods. 

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Saturday, April 30th 2016

4:20 PM

Enders Falls CT 4/13/16

     On Wednesday April 13, 2016, I combined two short hikes in CT that I had never done before.  Since it had rained Monday into Tuesday, I thought it would be nice to visit some waterfalls.  I arrived at the parking area to Enders Falls at 12:10 PM.  It was about 51 degrees F but later warmed up to about 56 degrees.

     The trail goes downhill to a T intersection, and the main waterfalls are off to the left.  The trail contained many blowdowns and trees blocking the view.  Also the trail was slippery and muddy in spots as one clambers over boulders to follow the Salmon Brook downstream.  There were a number of other hikers out exploring the falls.

     I had lunch at the second of the three largest waterfalls at 12:49 PM.  I saw various birds today which seemed to me to be a thrush, phoebe, downy woodpecker and nuthatches.  By 1:30 PM I had viewed the falls and wanted to turn back.  Rather than retrace my steps I bushwhacked uphill to a wide flat trail that parallels the river.

     Next I drove to the Marion K. Wilcox Park in Bloomfield CT.  The entrance was very obscure because there were no signs.  I started hiking here at 2:25 PM, taking the yellow blazed Cliff Trail.  After going up two ridges the trail came out at a very pleasant lookout on the Metacomet trail.  Here there were views across the valley to West Mountain.  You could also look south to see "The Pinnacle" at Penwood State Park.

     After a snack here I marched north to the site of a chimney which is called Bartlett's Tower after a former 70 foot observation tower from 1889.  Near the chimney I saw a pileated woodpecker up in the trees, but he flew away before I could snap his picture.  I arrived at the chimney at 3:20 PM and then took the shortcut back to the parking area, arriving at 3:45 PM.  This was a pleasant loop hike, and an even longer loop is available if you continue north from the chimney.

     All in all these were two scenic hikes and combining them gave me a pleasant afternoon's outing.

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Saturday, April 30th 2016

3:56 PM

Spruce Mtn Monroe MA 3/26/16

     When I started this hike at 12:20 PM, it was 37 degrees F but when I finished the hike at 3:44 PM it had warmed up to 52 degrees.  It was bright and sunny all day with no noticeable wind.

     You can climb Spruce Mtn (2730') from the north where there is a kiosk on Main Road and a small area for parking.  I climbed it from the south.  I drove a long way up Monroe Road to a spot where it meets the not-so-passable Raycroft Road.  I parked here in the triangle next to the two roads where there is room for only one car.  I don't recommend this as an access because the parking is so limited, but some people with Jeeps apparently do travel east on Raycroft to a parking area.

     From my parking spot I could walk east to the Raycroft lookout or west to Spruce Mtn.  First, I hiked east down the dirt road a short distanceto the Raycroft lookout.  Here, perched above a reservoir in the Deerfield River was a kind of small semicircular fort with stone walls about 3 to 4 feet high.  I had lunch here enjoying the view of the steep gorge, the river down below, and Bear Swamp Lake up in the higher elevations above the gorge.  I saw a couple of crows, a hawk and a chickadee.  Then I hoofed it back to my car arriving at 1:17. 

     Here I met a group of 3 hikers who had come in from the north and gone down Raycroft Road.  Like me, they were now going to head west up the trail to Spruce Mtn.  They were all wearing jackets but I found a wool sweater to be adequate since the hiking in  the sunshine warmed me up.  Then started out and I waited until 1:21 to start so I wouldn't be walking right on their heels.  There were no trail signs, only a series of faded blue blazes.

     The trail was gradual through a beech forest with some birches and hemlocks.  There was a viewless false peak which I reached at 2:04.  Continuing on, I reached the summit lookout at 2:04 PM where the other three hikers were resting and enjoying the view.  From this lofty lookout there was a great view of Bear Swamp Lake and the Berkshire East ski area far in the distance on Mt Institute.  The lookout is not naturally formed but was created when someone cleared the trees below.  If the trees are not periodically trimmed, the lookout will be overgrown and blocked.

     At 2:55 I left the summit and arrived back at my car at 3:44 PM.  I enjoyed this mountain and plan to hike it from the north to see how that works out, in view of the lack of parking area at the south end.


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Friday, April 22nd 2016

6:50 PM

Western Barndoor Hill CT 3/12/16

   When hiking McLean Game Refuge in Granby CT in 2010, I saw Western Barndoor Hill from the summit of Eastern Barndoor Hill.  I wanted to climb Western Barndoor Hill, but it seemed to be too short a hike to justify the time driving here from CT.  I solved this problem on 3/12/16, by first climbing Western Barndoor Hill and then hiking in the nearby Mary Edwards Mountain Property.

   Western Barndoor Hill is 671' high.  The lookout is past the summit and a little bit downhill  The view here was worth the visit.  There was a closeup view of the Eastern Barndoor Hill, and a view of the horse farm below the lookout.  In the distance were two mountains, possibly South Mountain and Sodom Mountain MA.

     On my way back downhill, I saw two bluebirds.  The whole hike took me an hour and a half, including a leisurely lunch on the top.

     Next I went to the Mary Edwards Mountain Property and followed the yellow trail clockwise.  In retrospective I think it works better to go counterclockwise because that way you would be facing the many pretty waterfalls in Ring Brook.  Spring was a great time to visit because the many small waterfalls were gushing with great vigor.  The loop took me an hour and a half.  A warning:  do not take the blue trail (which I didn't) because it would bypass all the scenic waterfalls.

     Combining these two hikes made for an enjoyable visit to CT.  Besides the bluebirds, I saw quite a few mourning cloak butterflies.

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