Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

My third-weekend hike here in New England was the best one yet. It is the ultimate prize of New England hiking if you will. We climbed the highest peak in the Presidential Range and in all of New England.  I may have left Utah but we have an ultra prominent peak right here in the northeast corner of New Hampshire.


Yep, it's the famous and challenging Mt Washington, with its sweeping views of New Hampshire.   The famous bumper sticker will not be fastened to my car because we got to the summit the hard way (on foot!).  I have to say, this was the hardest and my favorite New England hike to date and it reminded me a lot of Utah-prominent, steep and with a challenging summit of boulder hopping. This post started as a hiking guide and then it kind of evolved into an overall guide of the mountain, with where to camp, how to get to the summit, and details on my hike to the top. 

The summit of Mt Washington is known as the "most dangerous small mountain in the world".  If you are scratching your head trying to figure out why (because it's just New Hampshire, right?), grab a coffee and let's have a quick chat about the peak, the weather and its proximity to the public. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tidal River Brewing- Canton, CT

When I moved back to Connecticut I was amazed to see how many breweries had popped up all over the state. So much so that I put together a list of all the breweries and made tentative plans to visit as many as I could.  

Let me start by saying that I am not one of those girls that shies around beer and prefers a glass of wine or a fruity drink.  And I am definitely not the person who orders a Bud-lite or a Corona.  I love beer and love trying new flavors and styles (especially small scale local breweries).  My favorite beers are typically a good spiced Saison, or the citrusy bite of a west coast IPA.  I like my beers with a whole lot of funk and flavor and I love a good IPA, as long as it's not "too hoppy".  

I figured this would be the perfect winter activity, sample some of Connecticut's finest beer dressed up in my favorite sweater while the weather was crummy. Well, I started a little early on my brewery tour and after hiking Bear Mountain, I stopped at one of Connecticut's newest; Tidal River Brewing Company in Canton, Connecticut. 

First Impressions:  Awesome owner/founder running the place with a passion for beer. The beer ranged from easy to drink ales to crazy basil and chile beer. Tidal River beers are as fun and funky as their names. The spot is a low-key, unassuming place with small scale production (just a tasting room, no formal tap room... yet). It is in a commercial space with a main tasting bar and a table or two (they are not large enough to accommodate large parties). They are technically a "nano-brewery" and their license does not allow the sale of pints or flights. They are more than happy to provide samples of their beer on tap and they can fill growlers for you to take home.

Sampling beer at Tidal River Brewing in Canton, CT

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hiking Mt. Greylock - Massachusetts' tallest peak

On a whim, I decided to make September "Hike all the New England Peaks Month". When the temperatures started to drop and the bugs were gone, I headed to the mountains. Hiking hiatus is over. The first weekend of September brought my first New England hike to Connecticut's tallest mountain summit, Bear Mountain at 2,323'. The second hike (why you are here today) is to the summit of Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts's tallest peak at 3,491'. And this weekend, it was the grand slam, up to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire's tallest peak. The only three peaks remaining are Vermont and Maine, oh and the hill in Rhode Island. 

But back to Massachusetts.

Farm at the Hopper Road Trailhead 

We really enjoyed this hike. It was a great loop hike around the mountain starting at an old farm. The materials (directions, maps, etc) available for the hike were great, online and at the trailhead. The trail had a lot of signage, but there were a lot of different trails weaving throughout the forest (pay attention to trail signs).

This was a great way to hike a portion of the AT, see a few waterfalls, hike along a river, stop at a few summits, and stop at the main summit. I loved the scenic overlook at Stone Ledge Vista. The hike was steep in parts and humid, but overall the elevation was spread out well over the distance. We had a great lunch at the summit and refilled our water, although we had absolutely no views with the clouds and fog. We continued on the loop hike but by mile 11 we were a little over the hike and ready to be done. The last two miles down Haley Farm Trail were steep, and felt like they took forever. Overall, the trail was beautiful and we were glad to bag another peak, the highest in MA.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Camping at Pittsfield State Forest - Massachusetts

On a whim I decided to make September "Hike all the New England Peaks Month".   I mean, we are talking really unofficial here but when the temperatures started to drop and the bugs were gone, I headed to the mountains.

My first hike was to Connecticut's tallest mountain summit, Bear Mountain
And my second hike the following weekend up Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts' tallest peak.
And next week, it's the grand slam, up to Mt. Washington, New Hampshires tallest peak.
Three New England peaks in 3 weekends.  Vermont and Maine, I am coming for you if time allows. But back to Massachusetts.

I woke up early Friday morning (6am to be exact) just to pack my car with the needed supplies for the weekend.  Everything for camping from tents to the charcoal chimney, hiking, food for the trip, and whatever the dog needed (if you have ever been camping you know its a process).  The plan was to meet Thatcher after work in Old Lyme and head north up Route Nine to Pittsfield Massachusetts.  I chose Pittsfield as our stop because at just 20 minutes south of the mountain, it was a great place to camp before hiking in the morning.  Things got a little chaotic when Thatcher showed up without his sneakers and I refused to let him return home to get his shoes and back which would put us at 1:20 out of the way to Stonington and back (without bad traffic).  A trip to Dicks Sporting Goods and chick-fil-a solved the sneaker issue and the bad mood.  Thatcher is the proud owner of a new pair of Merrills.  

With the delays, we arrived at Pittsfield State Park at about 9 pm, of course after the sun had set.  We found the park without an issue, and arrived at the front desk to check in.  The staff is there until 10pm and there were plenty of sites available when we checked in.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Everything Autumn - Foliage Prediction Map

It's almost here. Leaf peeping season is almost here.
The days are still warm, but the nights are starting to cool off. The bugs are virtually out of sight, the humidity is starting to drop, and a cool breeze is reminding us that fall is around the corner. Mums are for sale at every store and pumpkin spice late is starting to take over the world again. I am even sad to say Christmas is already making its way on the shelves of some stores (gasp!).

The equinox is the date twice a year where the center of the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator. When this happens, day and night are the same lengths all over the globe. This year, those dates fall of September 22nd, and March 20th. The autumnal equinox, September 22nd this year ,marks the first day of autumn. In contrast, solstices are the point in the calendar year when the sun reaches the center of the sun reaches the highest or lowest point. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year (June) while the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year (December).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bear Mountain, Salisbury - Hiking Connecticut's Tallest Mountain Summit

Saturday's weather was about as good as it gets for a day out on the hiking trails.  70 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze, 0% chance of rain and not a single bug.  Thank you hiking gods for granting me beautiful weather after I drove 2:15  hours (one way) just for this hike.  

I am embarrassed to admit that since I moved back East I have been on zero hikes.  This is a really sad statistic considering I was hiking twice a week (on average) while living in Utah.  The summer was hot and I basically spent all my time at work, underwater, or on my horse.  Well, the first weekend that the temperatures dipped below 80 I grabbed my day pack and headed to the northwest corner of the state.  Most of Connecticut's hikes are a leisurely walk through the woods compared to hiking Utah's mountains.  While there are no peaks over 10,000', I was determined to find some elevation and enjoy Connecticut's hiking.  I did some research and decided a good first start for New England hiking was Connecticut's tallest peak, Bear Mountain in Salisbury Connecticut.

When you are driving to this corner of the state and looking at the map, you will notice that it is barely even in the State of Connecticut.  The peak lies within the Town of Salisbury in the Taconic Mountains.  Shortly after leaving the summit the trail crosses over into the Massachusetts border. Whats also interesting is that this peak is technically not the highest point in the state.  That designation goes to Mt Frissell which is the highest POINT in the state.   Instead, Bear Mountain is the Highest Mountain Summit.

Bear Mountain - Highest Summit:  2,323'
Mount Frissell - Highest Point:  2,379' 

Now that we are squared away on the differences, let's talk about the trail. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

West Cornwall Bridge - Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

I lived in Connecticut for over a decade and never visited the northwestern corner of the state. If I am being honest, I never even made it past Waterbury and that was maybe once. That far upper left corner of the state known as the Litchfield Hills, and also the "Quiet Corner" of the state, is the foothills to the Berkshire Mountains on the Massachusetts border.  The area is known for it's old inns, quaint restaurants, expanse farm land and mountains.  The Housatonic River and the Farmington River along with various lakes attract outdoor enthusiasts looking to raft and fish in this quiet section of the state. There are various state parks and antique shops bordering the old backroads through this part of the state.  Its a beautiful part of the state that I can only summarize as quaint.  So why have I waited this long to visit?  Living on the shoreline, you seldom find a reason to leave and it always seemed so far.  After living in Utah, barely batting an eye at a 4 hour drive to Moab for a weekend in the dessert, I promised myself to venture out further and treat New England like its own adventure.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Tips for Beginner Mountain Bikers

I developed such a love/hate relationship with mountain biking while living in Utah.  I love the feeling of accomplishment, the beautiful places my bike can take me, and calories burned at the end of a long ride.  I hate the large boulders that are often in my way, the way my legs and lungs BURN, and the hairy turns and cliff edges I face along my ride.  I have to admit, when I first started there was a lot of hate and very little love for my mountain bike and the trails.  But after a lot of trial and error, a few hard lessons, and some endurance and tolerance built up over time, the scales switched.  I started to log more miles, ride more challenging terrain, and get excited for an after work ride in beautiful Utah.  

Mountain biking is a hard sport to get into because many people are intimidated by the sport, especially women.  The idea of throwing yourself down a rocky mountain on two wheels, or propelling you and your bike up a mountain just isn't very welcoming.  We all have the mental image of flipping over our handlebars or ditching our bike mid-mountain.
  During my first few rides up the mountain, I started to daydream about throwing my bike off the mountain and walking the rest of the way up, unsure why anyone rode bikes up mountains for fun.  I soon learned that Mountain Biking was  like snowboarding (according to all the successful snowboarders out there), you were going to hate it the first 3 times but once you got to ride number four or rive, your feelings would change.  Sadly, I didn't stick with snowboarding long enough to learn that lesson, but with Mountain Biking I did.  Thankfully, I stuck with it and with a few helpful tricks and tips, a new expensive hobby was added onto my list.