Category Archives: 50 Hikes in CT
Devil’s Hopyard, East Haddam, CT
Over this past weekend, me and Taz went on a nice hike over at Devils Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT. The park was significantly further from my house than I expected. For some reason I thought it was only about 25 minutes away, but really, it was an hour. boooo. Anyways, it was absolutely gorgeous out, about 50 degrees without a cloud in the sky. Of course, being me, I always wish for it to be warmer, but hey, at least the sun was shining.
I had some major issues with this hike, which I’m sure does not come as a surprise. I started out on the Orange trail (which for some reason in my head I thought was the Yellow trail, which could have been part of the problem), and things were going well for a while, but after I hit the scenic overlook (see pic below), things got hairy and I got lost. Must have been those devils in the hopyard. Anyways, Taz and I were hoping all over the dang yard…we kept thinking we were back on the path, but then the path would disappear again and we were basically just walking through the woods.
Eventually I came to this road, and decided to it was in my best interest to walk back on the street…We had already walked about an hour and a half to two hours and we had 2 more stops on our Sunday Funday Adventure before going home…and the way this was going, it really could have taken all day! All in all, we had a great time though, see for yourself:
Bucket List: Case Mountain
Growing up around the corner from Case Mountain, in Manchester, CT, I can easily say that I’ve hiked there hundreds of times in my life. Since this is one of the hikes on my Bucket Lists’ 50 Hikes in CT I decided this would be the perfect time to put a different spin on the hike. Those of you who live in Connecticut know that the state has been closed down for the weekend but for those of you who don’t, we got between 24 – 40 inches that got dumped on us, depending on where you live, and it has really put a damper on this weekend’s activities!
I was actually supposed to do this hike with my pops yesterday, but unfortunately the roads were still impassable, so we couldn’t go. I did go today, though, and was able to convince my seester to come with me. Let me tell you – if you’ve never been snow-shoeing, it ain’t as easy as it looks. We started out on the Carriage Trail and were the first people to pass this trail. With over 2 feet of snow on the trail, it was ridiculously hard, especially going up hill.
We took turns being “the leader”, as the leader was basically doing all the hard work and the follower was basically just stepping in the other’s footprints. When we were just about to hit the summit, we noticed that the Blue Trail, which also leads to the summitt, was packed down from fellow snow-shoe-ers. Since we had already spent over two grueling hours trudging through the deep snow, we decided to take this already-blazed trail.
Seriously, it was touch and go there for a while. At one point I even said out loud – and completely seriously – “This must be what its like to climb Mount Everest”, OK, maybe I’m a little dramatic, but seriously, It was tough. I guess it didn’t make it any easier for me that I fell more times than I’d like to admit. Take it from me, if you fall, while wearing snow shoes, into 2.5 feet of snow, it’s not so easy getting up-especially when you have a dog that is trying to “help” you. Katie didn’t have this problem, but watching me go through this process time and time again was all the motivation she needed to make sure she did not have the same fate as me.
We were ecstatic to reach the top – we didn’t die! Saa-weeettt! #bestworkoutever!
A hike that normally takes about an hour took us just over 2.5 hours, but it was an excellent workout, which is EXACTLY what we needed after been cooped up inside for the last 48 hours eating, drinking, and basically being lazy. I’m so happy that I was able to get at least one productive thing done this weekend, and another check off my bucket list! Hopefully some of you were able to do something fun through Nemo!
To top off an amazing weekend, I went on a nice hike with my oldest friend! We went to Gillette Castle, located in East Haddam, CT and walked around for a while. Unfortunately all the trails we hiked were loops that were about 5 minutes long, and we didn’t realized that there was also a bunch of other trails on the other side of the parking lot, which may or may not have been longer and more “hike-like”. It doesn’t really matter though, because we had a fantastic time! Sometimes its more about the catch-time and socialization than it really is about the hiking and exercising. We saw the castle, which overlooks the Connecticut River, and although it’s “off season” so we couldn’t go inside, the outside was amazing and we took a ton of pics.
According the The DEP, Gillette Castle sits on the most southerly hill on the Seven Sisters. The land was purchased by actor William Hooker Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”, and most of the castle and grounds were designed by him personally. The castle itself is built of local fieldstone, and supported by a steel frame, and took 5 years and 20 men to build. Gillette created a system of walking trails, which are still available for people like us to walk on today. He also had an underground vegetable cellar (like the one on Alaska: The Last Frontier, for you Discovery Channel watchers), a railroad station, and a goldfish pond. The fact that the castle is still a tourist attraction and upkept for visitors would have been the wish of Gillette, who gave specific instructions to see that the property did not fall into the hands “of some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”
On our way home we stopped at The Town Tavern, in East Haddam. It was quite the interesting establishment. It was super fancy when we walked in, with long maroon curtains with gold silk overlays. The funny part was, it was not a fancy place. It was just a regular bar with regular bar food. It was basically like the Holiday Inn trying to be the Ritz-Carlton. It wasn’t a bad place though! The food was delicious! I had a BLT, which you can’t really mess up, unless you get it at Hanifan’s in Glastonbury, CT. I got one there once and in addition to it not being a B (Bacon) L (Lettuce) T (Tomato), was just horrible all the way around. But I digress, like I said, the Town Tavern, while a very nice place to eat, seemed a little too fancy for it’s own britches. This was especially evident by the time we left, if by nothing else, by the clientele. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but by the time we left the bar area was crowded with multiple mechanics, landscapers, and even what looked like a set of grandparents with their teenage grandson…in pajama pants. haha.
Walks and Wines
This weekend has been absolutely GORGEOUS! This is unusual for me to say in the middle of January, since it’s cold and I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything under 50 degrees, but I was definitely able to see the bright side this weekend as I did lots of walks, hikes, and wine tastes! Yesterday was an all-out adventure day for me and Taz and we had a fabulous time! We decided to knock of some Bucket List tasks, and I thought I could use some alone time. With the holidays, traveling and working a ton I don’t get too much of it. Trust me, I’m not complaining in the least – I LOVE being around people, but sometimes it’s nice to have a day for yourself!
We started out at Mount Tom, in New Preston, CT. This is, obviously, one of the hikes in my “50 Hikes in Connecticut” book, and I haven’t been there yet mainly because it’s about an hour and a half from where I live. I got there, and was shocked that I was the only one there (come on people! get off your couch and enjoy the wilderness!)! The trails were covered in snow and there wasn’t great markings on the trees, so after taking one trail to a dead ends, I decided to roll the dice and follow the path that had footsteps on it in the snow, hoping that it would lead to the famous tower at the top of the mountain. Though this hike was very short (just over a mile long) I thought it was great because of the 35 ft tower at the top that is open for people to climb and see amazing views of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York! As can you can (kind of ) see from my picture below, the wooden steps inside the tower are narrow and extremely steep. Taz, who was not on a leash hung out at the bottom while I climbed to the top to snap a few pics, but got impatient quickly and climbed his way to the top as well…big mistake. Once he got to the top, he was terrified to try to go back down, and I can’t really say I blame him. I’m afraid of heights and wasn’t crazy about the idea myself. The top 4 steps are exposed and in addition to being very steep, they were also covered with about an inch of packed down snow and ice. After about 15 minutes of a pep talk, he finally agreed to carefully make his way down the steps. He was very brave. In addition to the actual hike, there is also a pond on the premise, Mt Tom Pond, where there was an ice fishing derby going on! I’m not an avid ice fisher or anything, but I have been ice fishing a couple times with my bestie Stef and her crew in VT and I got excited seeing this derby because I know just how fun ice fishing can be!
Hopkins Vineyard Winery:
From Mount Tom, our next stop was Hopkins Vineyard Winery. This was a predetermined stop because both this winery and Mount Tom are close to each other, but not near anything else…literally. I figured, while I’m out in the boonies I mineaswell kill two birds with one stone, right?
Address: 25 Hopkins Road Warren, CT 06777 (860) 868-7954
Cost for a tasting: $7.50 for a regular tasting of 7 wines (6 are already chosen, and you get to choose you’re 7th), then for an additional $2.50, you can sample their “ice wine”. (this also includes their signature glass).
Ranking: 8 (in addition to the tasting room, there is also outdoor seating and an “wine bar” upstairs from the vineyard! Awesome!
I really enjoyed this vineyard. The inside is very nice, and the staff was extremely nice and knowledgable. Most of their wines are “Estate Bottled” which means that the grapes are grown on the premise and the entire wine making process happens there! The one wine that I loved was “Peach Wine”. The wine itself was made from fermented peaches, whereas most wines are made from grapes. I thought this was really interesting…and even more delicious! And, at $13.50, I thought it was only right to buy a bottle for a later date! As far as my tasting, of course I had upgraded to the “ice wine”. I’ve never had it before, and since this specific ice wine has won multiple international medals, including the “Finger Lakes International Wine Competition” (the Finger Lakes area has a HUGE wine country, so this is a big deal), I thought I better cover my bases and try it. My wine connoisseur also had me try a sip of their “Night Owl Dessert Wine”. It was probably because he was bored because no one else was there, but hey, I’ll take it. While we were talking, he mentioned to me the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail. Its similar to the Wine Passport Program, but there is only 6 vineyards on it and it has to be completed between December 1 – April 1. Cool, I’m sold on the idea! After the tasting, Taz and I took a nice long walk around the vineyard. It was a gorgeous day, and the vineyard was beautiful, so we walked around their 38 acres for about and hour and took in the fresh air and magnificent views.
After Hopkins, we were on our way home, when I saw a blue “CT Wine Trail” sign. I thought to myself…I would be stupid NOT to stop. Afterall, it was only about 3:30PM and I had no immediate plans to tend to! So I followed the sign, not knowing where it would take me, and before I knew it I landed at Haight-Brown Vineyard.
Address: 29 Chestnut Hill Rd Litchfield, CT 06759 (860) 567-4045
Cost for a tasting: $9, which includes 9 wines and a signature glass.
Ranking: 6.5 (this vineyard was overly crowded and does not allow outside food to come in.)
I walked into the vineyard and was initally turned off. To be honest, I almost walked right back out. It was very pretty insides, but it was so packed you couldn’t even more. In fact, I had to put my name on the waiting list!! Since I was alone, they were able to squeeze me in at the counter pretty quickly, but sheesh! Once the tasting started, my wine connoisseur was telling me about the wines and about the vineyard itself. Haight-Brown, founded in 1976 is actually the first vineyard/winery in Connecticut, and the ONLY one that has stools to sit on while you do the tasting. The reason for this is that they got grandfathered in with the stools. Other wineries cannot have them because it changes the winery from a “wine tasting” to a “bar”…details, details. As I started observing my surroundings, I noticed something that caught my eye, the “Honey Nut Apple” wine. Over the summer one of my best friends went to the vineyard and brought this bottle home and we drank it together as a regular white wine, where it really should be drank in small quantities as a dessert wine…whoops! haha. I enjoyed the wine here, but more than that I enjoyed the people I met! Carol and David, who found this winery the same way I did, were from New York and were probably in their late 50’s. They were super nice and we chatted for about an hour, until I was ready to go. Again after this vineyard, Taz and I took a walk around their beautiful property (which included plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer wether, and enjoyed the last bit of daylight before our trek home.
I guess all in all you can say it was a successful day! Not only did I cross THREE items off my bucket list, but I also spent a beautiful day outside enjoying the nice weather, with my dog, and got to try some amazing wine while I was at it! I’m pretty sure Taz had a great time too, minus the heart attack at the top of the Mount Tom Tower, because when I was ready to leave my parent’s house last night, he was sitting outside in the dark cold next to my car hoping I’d bring him home with me! 🙂
Sunday Hike: Gay City State Park
So as usual, this week was busy for Ben and I. I haven’t even posted anything other than a quick picture in a couple weeks…it’s getting depressing! Anyways, since Sunday was our only day to really hang out and do something together we made the most of it. We started out with was supposed to be breakfast at Pastrami on Wry, but since we got there WELL after breakfast hours we had a delicious lunch instead. Then we headed over to Gay City State Park in Hebron, CT, which is also part of our 2012 Bucket List! Gay City is interesting and has a quite a bit of history behind it. It’s an old abandoned mill town from the 18th century and gets its’ name from the surname of the majority of the small town’s 25 families, the Gay Family.
Despite it’s interesting name, Gay City has tons of things to do for everyone! There is a pond for swimming and fishing, tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking, a small beach, picnic areas which are fully equipped with charcoal grills, and lots of open space for stuff like wiffle ball or frisbee. Gay City also allows dogs, which is great! I can’t wait to go back and bring Tazzy! Jake may enjoy it too if we were just going to hang out, but I know Taz would love to hike or mountain bike with us (of course he would only run while we bike!).
We had a wonderful time hiking the blue trail, on to the red/white and then finished on the red. We thought it would nice to go back next weekend with my aunt and uncle, but we’ll have to wait to see what the weekend brings!
We saw a cool bird’s nest that was stuck up on a shed with mud…very cool!k We also saw tons of bull frogs and even cooler, tadpoles! They were on their very last step before being full fledged froggies! most of them had back legs grown already, and were about 4 inches long! very cool! We are going to get some nets and a bucket so we can start catching some of these creatures…of course we will release them though!
Loving Life: Greenwich Audubon Society, Collins P. Huntington State Park, & Larsen Sanctuary
I personally love being active. I love enjoying my health and world around me, and I LOVE living life. Who knows, I could die tomorrow, and if that is the case, I could honestly say that I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to and could up until this point. Don’t get me wrong – there is still SO much more I want to do, but my life isn’t ready for it yet. My boyfriend has the same energy level as me lately and since we haven’t been able to do anything together all week because of our busy schedules we decided to plan an awesome day together. If you follow me on instagram (mackadoo3314), you have already seen a sneak peek of our day, but here’s the real deal:
7:00AM: Up and at ’em! we got up nice and early on our Saturday to ensure that we could get the most out of our “only day off” so to speak. Breakfast sandwiches, coffee/redbull, and rain…lots and lots of rain. But that didn’t stop us. We’re a “whatever it takes” type of pair, and contrary to what some may thing, I’m NOT the Wicked Witch of the West and won’t melt under water.
8:00AM: As you may know by now, Ben is somewhat of a lumberjack by trade, and he loves it. He knows more about trees than almost anyone I know (My Uncle is also an arborist, and has a few years on Ben, so he may have him there 🙂 ). Anyways since Ben loves wood so much, he always jumps at the opportunity to tell me about what he does – so, that being said, first stop: Beaver Brook Saw Shop in Scotland, CT. Ben had to grab some equipment for his men, and I got to peruse the store…who knows I might need a chainsaw someday.
9:30AM: We started out trek down to Greenwich to go to the Greenwich Audubon Society. I didn’t want to be negative, so I didn’t point out the obvious: it was POURING…and as we drove, the rain seemed to get heavier and heavier. It was even hard to see out the window at some points. But, like I said, we were in it for whatever it takes…a little rain never hurt anyone! 2.5 hours later when we finally made to the Audubon Society, something amazing happened…the rain stopped. It didn’t “let up” or “slow to a drizzle”, it straight up STOPPED! It was like God knew we were on a mission and since we hadn’t given up yet he threw us a bone! Greenwich Audubon Society welcomed us with a gorgeous building where they had a gift shop (although the only thing we could afford in there was a deck of cards or a post card), an art gallery, and other various maps, etc. Then we started out first hike…It was a bit different than I expected. Mainly because we were at an Audubon and we didn’t see one single bird! We did see some other cool wildlife though! Additionally, most other audubons that I have been to, which admittedly is only about 2 have been more in marshy areas with lots of bird houses and less in the woods.
We saw a bull frog, a green frog, a painted turtle, a snapping turtle, and another bright green frog that I thought was maybe a bull frog as well but it was super bright green. The best part of this hike? The Greenwich Land Trust was having a guided hike, and invited us to join in on it. Though we chose to do our own thing, they did still give us some trail maps for this hike and others around the state, and an AWESOME heavy weight frisbee! Score!
1:30PM: Lunchtime! Whenever we go hiking we go prepared with lots of PBJs, water, and other snacks. We scarfed down our first round of sandwiches and hit the road! Off to Redding to the Collins P. Huntington State Park. It took us about an hour to get there from Greenwich, which was a perfect break in between hikes. We LOVED this park and are definitely planning on bringing out mountain bikes down here. In the 700 acres of property gifted to the state by Archer Huntington (Collins’ stepson) there are hundreds of trails. We were only able to stay for a couple hours, but let me tell you…we really could have meandered on these trails all day long. If you do ever want to go down there, just be forewarned that the growth on either side of the trail is EXTREMELY heavy. There is poison ivy and other things like that, so be careful! Some of the trails on the map are impassable (unless you regularly carry a machete with you).
We saw TONS of wildlife here! It was awesome! We saw what I believe is a Red Winged Black Bird, a black bird with a white tail and yellow head (which I’m having a really tough time identifying), a red fox, a white-tailed deer, a tree snake, and 3 water moccasins.
4:00PM Snack time again! Another PBJ and some crackers and we were ready to go to our 3rd and final hike of the day: Larsen Sanctuary in Fairfield, CT. It only took about 15 minutes to get to Larsen Sanctuary from Huntington State Park, in fact its right down the street! This place was AWESOME! all the trails were well marked- this would be a GREAT hike to bring small children on. It’s completely flat, well marked and there are tons of short trails. So you can really go for as long or short of a hike as you want. It is apparent that a Boy Scout troop is actually doing a project there, so everything was super pristine. We only saw some regular stuff there like chipmunks and squirrels, but towards the end of the hike we saw a HUGE red-tailed hawk! It was awesome! This peaked our interest on birds of prey, which lead to Ben “getting into” the bird sanctuary to sneak some pictures. Don’t worry, we left a donation to aid the “high price of food/care for these birds”. Take a look!
6:00PM: Last stop: FOOD!! thank god! we were famished from all the walking/hiking we did all day. My sister told me about this pizza joint in Fairfield called Colony Grill. I’m a fancy myself a pizza connoisseur and have been dying to try this out for months. They have pizza and beer. That’s it. limited toppings, no extras, no salads, no wraps…this is my kind of place! We got 2 pizzas: one with pepperoni and bacon, and the other with sausage and peppers! They were both AMAZING! Thin crispy crust, light sauce, light cheese, and the perfect amount of toppings! I can’t wait to find a reason to go back…and I’m sure I wont have much trouble “finding a reason”! Especially since Ann Taylor Loft is directly across the street…shopping spree anyone??
8:00PM We started our trek home. As you can see, we had a wonderful day together! Did SO much stuff, and got some great exercise and GREAT pizza…if only every day could be so amazing!! I can’t wait to continue our mission of finishing our “50 Hikes in CT book” and look forward to many more days like this in the future!
I hope your Saturday was just as great!
Ultra CRAZY Athletes
Whoever said “running isn’t a sport” has clearly never run. These days, running isn’t just a sport, it’s a social phenomenon! If it’s not a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, or marathon, it’s the Warrior Dash, the Zombie Run, the Tough Mudder, or Color Me Rad. Then there’s the toughest of all, the Ultra Marathon. These are designed only for the nuts who wake up a few hours early in the morning to do hill sprints, train with weighted vests, and run hundreds of miles each week. I had never heard of Ultra Marathons until I was in college, and for those of you who are still in the dark, here’s the skinny. There are two kinds of Ultras: 1) Any race over 26.2 (marathon length) miles, the most common being 50K (31 mile), and 2) A race that is timed and the person who has gotten the furthest in a certain amount of time wins. And of course there are hybrids of the two.
After my race last Saturday, Ben and I went to Penwood State Park for a hike and we hiked our way right into the middle of the Traprock 50K, a 31 mile trail run though Penwood State Park. For me, it was amazing! I’ve never run 31 miles, but I have run 26, so to a certain degree I could feel the pain of these runners as they passed me and was overjoyed to be able to cheer them on and give them words of encouragement as they trotted by.
In addition to having to run 31 miles, these dedicated runners were doing it through the woods. Some of the trail was “paved”, (I put paved in quotes because it was probably a road in about 1900, but is so warped and cracked at this point, it’s just as uneven as the forest floor) but other parts were not. Some of the unpaved parts of the trail included a climb up about 150 rock steps (some of which were loose). This climb was at least 150 – 200 feet. Then on another part of the trail, the trail was only about 2.5 – 3 feet wide and on the right side of the trail was a fairly sheer cliff. It was a great view, but I’m afraid of heights and when I saw that was part of the course, I nearly fainted. All I could think was if I was running I’d be thinking “OMG, I’m going to trip and fall over the ledge, or maybe I’ll faint and fall over,” either way, if I was running I’d fall over.
Along the way there was seldom spectators, which personally I would find a bit demotivating, but Ben and I filled in the gaps and cheered better than Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On! I may be a bit biased, but i think the runners enjoyed it! Tho moral support in the form of humans was lacking, there was a great fuel station along the way. This station had everything from carbs, to sugars, to proteins, to liquids and everything in between. We were thinking of asking if we could have a snack when we passed (just kidding).
For some reason when I think of people who would run an ultra, I think of an extremely fit 25-35 year old. This race included that…and much more. I was shocked and pleased to see the array of people who were enrolled in this race. There was tall, short, young, old, athletic, skinny, and even a few chubby people trucking along on this course, and none looked any worse off than any other! In fact, I was inspired by one couple who looked like they were in their 50s, and if I saw them on the street I would never pin them for runners, or any athletes for that matter. They were walking when we saw them, and we cheered them on. Their response was cheerful, “Thanks, we’re not moving fast, but we WILL finish. We’ll be here all day if we have to. We’re getting our money’s worth!” Rock on!
While I probably will never achieve such a accomplishment in my lifetime, I am considering doing the Traprock 17K, which is held at the same day and time as the 50K, but is only one lap (the 50K is 3). The 17K is a mere 10.5 miles to the 50K’s 31, but I still think it would be an awesome thing to be a part of!
An R Rated Walk
So, as you may know from our Bucket List, Ben and I are trying to complete every hike in this book we have called “50 Hikes in Connecticut” this year. We decided to do a short hike yesterday evening in Manchester at the Oak Grove Nature Center. I have been there dozens of times in my life; there was even a trail we used to use from my street right to the back of the nature center. Last night, however, did not reflect the wholesome experiences I had there as a child.
We parked in the parking lot at the actual Nature Center on Oak Grove Street, and walked on the trail that brought us to the loop. As soon as we got onto the loop I looked down at the covered bridge, which was also part of our loop. That’s when I saw it. A bare, black ass. Yep, I did a double take, and the woman standing on the covered bridge was naked. Don’t worry though, she was being photographed by the two creepy guys with her, so it’s probably fine.
Anyways, I thought for a minute that maybe I was going nuts, but then came to the conclusion that even I’m not that crazy. I know what I saw. My theory was soon enough proven as we came upon the other side of the bridge (this walk was only about 25 minutes long). As we turned the corner, I saw the girl yanking up a skirt and tossing on a top.
Here’s the kicker: As we were passing this trio, the girl starts posing like she was there the whole time clothed getting photographed. Unfortunately for her, the situation was way past the point of this being believable for the following reasons:
- I already saw her bare bum.
- I confirmed my initial thought when I saw her franticly putting on clothing as we turned the corner.
- Her skirt was on inside out…
- …and backwards