Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bear Mt & Mt.Frissell, CT

Riga Junction
It has been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted, and I will be trying to get some long-overdue trip reports written's one from last summer!

Our continued pursuit of state high points led us next to...Connecticut! CT is one of only two states (I believe Nevada is the other one) to have a high point located not at the geographical summit of a mountain, but on a slope of a mountain that summits in an adjacent state. The south slope of Mt. Frissell (which tops out in Massachusetts) claims the state's high point at 2,380 ft, and is marked rather unassumingly by a teensy little green-painted brass pole just a few inches high, which has been dubbed by the affectionate moniker of CT's "Green Stake". 

Pyramid at summit of Bear Mountain
While planning our hike, I figured we would throw in CT's highest summit for good measure - the more popular Bear Mountain (2,316 ft). I planned our hike based on this trail description, which claimed that it would take us 6 hours and approximately 9.6 miles (we later discovered that 9.6 miles may have been a little misleading!) to bag both peaks.

A sunny July weekend found us hiking up our packs at the Undermountain Trailhead off Rt.41 in Salisbury, CT. The initial climb from the Undermountain lot to Riga Junction where we turned north on the Appalachian Trail was a breeze, and about an hour after we hit the trail, we found ourselves clambering up the pyramid of boulders that marked the summit of Bear Mountain. The view from the top revealed rolling green hills dotted with lakes - a pleasant sight to enjoy as we munched on home-baked banana bread to fortify ourselves for the next leg of the hike. We scoffed a little as we read the informative plaque that marked the "highest ground in Connecticut" - we knew better, of course!  

View from Bear Mountain's summit
I was a little uncertain about how the trails connected over to Mt. Frissell past this point, but we chatted with a few fellow hikers who had done the loop before and they offered to show us the turn-off at the base of Bear's north side. However, they seemed surprised when I mentioned that it was supposed to be 9.6 miles for the round trip, as they seemed to remember it being closer to 12-13 miles - a warning I should have taken more seriously, I suppose!

We clambered down Bear's significantly steeper north slope together (doing fairly well at making conversation simultaneously, I must say - they were excited to meet someone from Malaysia as they had either spent significant time there or had friends from there, or something of the sort - I can't remember!), and once the trail had leveled off a bit we parted ways (with a selamat jalan!) as our unblazed/unsigned (but wide) trail came up on the left.    

Misleading plaque on Bear Mt
We followed the flat trail over a mossy and slightly swampy area, past the AMC northwest cabin and on to its intersection with Mt.Washington road. It took us a minute or two to pick up the trail across the road since there was no signage to be seen, but we started following some red blazes and soon came across another hiker coming the other way who confirmed that we were heading up the right trail. 

I suppose I must say that we were guilty of assuming that CT wouldn't stack up to the 4000-footers of NH and NY, and that our (supposedly) 10-mile day would be a breeze (especially after how easy Bear had been), but as we hit our first scramble, I finally figured out that CT did have some good uphill inclines to offer. We huffed and puffed our way up and over the summit of Round Mountain (it had seemed like such a minor detail in my trail description!), swore a little at how we were nowhere near to being done, and huffed and puffed our way up another very respectably steep portion of trail to the top of Frissell. I believe there is supposed to be a log somewhere at the summit, but we didn't find it or sign it. 

The Green Stake in all its glory
We kept going along on the trail in search of the Green Stake, and not too long after we started going downhill we came across an older couple having a snack and enjoying the view. We stopped to ask them about the stake and would you know, they were sitting right next to it! We would probably have walked right by it if they hadn't been there - yes, it's actually that tiny (that's what she said?).

View from the high point
High point photos and a breather later, we decided to keep trucking onwards to see if we could find the tri-state marker where CT, NY and MA all come together. We weren't sure how far we needed to go, but after clambering down a steep section (that I lamented we would have to climb back up later), we came across the stone pillar (I'm estimating about 1/3 miles from the high can't miss it). As many have pointed out, NY and MA have their state names well-engraved into the pillar, while CT has needed all the help that it could get from hikers with rudimentary etching skills and a sharp stick or stone.

Tri State Marker
We took more obligatory photos (while I made nerdy references to existing in 3 states simultaneously, not that I know much about triple points or physics in general) and made the walk around the marker to make sure we had actually set foot in all 3 states before turning around to embark on our return journey. At this point the summer heat was getting to me, and I was definitely somewhat exhausted and headachey on the trek back to the car - also, we were definitely agreeing with the 13-mile estimate at this point and had to embrace the fact that we were getting a little bit of a longer workout than anticipated.

Snake slough!
We did come across a cool snake slough (rare rattlesnakes are supposed to inhabit this area, although we didn't see any) on our way back up and across Frissell and Round Mountain (this stretch seemed to go on forever), and once we had crossed the dirt road and made it back to where we had turned off after Bear Mt, we kept left to loop around on Paradise Lane Trail so as not to summit Bear again. At this point,  the trail back was pretty easy and we did make it back to our car about 6 hours and change after we left. 

All in all, definitely a good day's hike that left me with legs more achy than I had anticipated...but another high point bagged is always a great feeling! I didn't take too many photos on this hike but there are a few more over on my flickr site.

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