I just got back from a short section hike on the Connecticut Appalachian Trail where I finished the northern half of the state, hiking from Bear Mountain to Rt 7. Autumn is past its peak here, but hiking in the woods was quite beautiful and easy compared to my last section in Maine.
My original plan was to hike this section twice for a total of 34 miles, because I didn’t want to pay someone for a shuttle to drive me from the end back to car. That meant hiking two fairly long days, in and back, up and over Connecticut’s ridges and across its river valleys.
Bear Mountain, Highest Point in Connecticut
I started my hike just north of the town of Salisbury, off Undermountain Road (Rt 41), parking at the AT hiker lot. From there, I hiked north to the summit of Bear Mountain and back, a round trip distance of 13.6 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. I managed this in just 5 hours, despite a few stops. That’s very fast for me.
I continued south past my car, past the town cemetery and then climbed a 750 ft hill called Barak Mattiff, the north end of Watawanchu Mountain, overlooking Salisbury. I was passed there by two southbound thru-hikers, a man and woman, who were headed to Belter’s Bump that evening. They have about 1,470 miles to go to get to Georgia.
From there, the trail follows a sylvan plateau past a number of view points until it reaches an unlikely rock monolith, like something out of 2001, surrounded by tree stump seats. It’s called Giant’s Thumb and is one of many glacial erratics scattered through the woods here.
Although there were still a few hours of daylight left, I decided to call it a day and stay at the Limestone Spring Lean-to just a bit farther down the trail. I had after-all woken up at 4:30 am, driven 3.5 hours from Boston, and hiked about 17 miles.
The lean-to is about 1/2 mile down a steep side trail, that leads to a beautiful wooded hollow with a nice spring behind the shelter. I did my domestic chores and cleaned a bit of trash out of the shelter, before laying out by sleeping gear and cooking up dinner. The sun set at 6:45pm and I was fast asleep myself, by 7pm.
I woke at 6 am the next morning, well before sunrise, made some coffee and packed up my gear. By 7:20 am, I’d climbed back to the AT from the shelter and was on my way south again. My plan was to hike down to the end of the section and back, a distance of about 18 miles, before 4 pm.
From here, it’s a short walk to another Connecticut landmark called Iron Bridge. From here, the blazing gets a little sparse, and I ended up taking a wrong turn after the bridge until I was corrected by a barking pit bull who thought he owned the cul-de-sac I was walking up. He won. I fled and retraced my steps.
Back on the path, I walked past a power substation, a kayak slalom course, past railroad tracks and a regional high school, to the banks of the Housatonic River and the Rt 7 bridge, which has been under construction for most of the year. I had been dreading the detour required to skirt this spot, but it turns out the bridge had been nearly finished and I was able to walk across it on a sidewalk.
New Bridge over Housatonic River by CT 112 and 7
My section ended just on the other side of the river, so I did am about face and walked back over the bridge and by the school, where some students who waved at me and shouted hello.
It was still before noon and I was contemplating the walk back to my car, about 10 miles north. It’s an impossible hitch from where I was, but I decided to try anyway and at least get a ride back to the Iron Bridge. I stuck out my thumb and the first truck to pass me stopped.
I asked the gentleman driving it – his name was Hugh – whether I could get a ride to the Iron Bridge and he said “sure.” Then I asked if he was driving by Salisbury and he said “eventually.” I asked him what that meant and he explained that he was a volunteer with the Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club, refilling the state maps that are placed at all of the AT Trail heads! More Trail Magic! We stopped at a few trail registers to refill maps and then Hugh drove me right back to my car, sparing me a 10 mile walk. Nice guy. Nice trip.