Wanda and Pete's Additional Connecticut Letterboxes
BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
439. BOXING the NET (Part I)
A newly blazed and boxed link in the lower CT portion of the New England Trail heading from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound
Well, seems like a long time since we've gotten excited about any new trails being built anywhere around our usual US "stomping grounds", since we figure we've already hiked most of the ones we're likely to do in our lifetimes, some of them many times over. However, when we found out just this past spring that not only were several of the old trails we'd first hiked in the 1970's and 80's (Mattabesset, Metacomet-Monadnock, Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, etc.) now recently connected and repackaged as the New England Trail, but that new extensions of that "composite trail" were being built on either end, naturally our curiosity was piqued and we just had to check it out...
So, after exploring a couple of sheep-related preserves on National Trails Day and
before joining a group scouting out possibilities for the extension of the New
England trail on its last few miles south through Guilford, CT, we happened to catch
sight of a group of "old-timers" having a tail-gate picnic lunch near a trailhead
parking area on the north side of route 80 a mile or so east of route 77. They had
just finished a relatively new 6.7-mile section of the New England Trail as a shuttle
hike from the route 77 Bluff Head trailhead to the north before continuing on with
another new link to the south, so we vowed that if they could still do it, we'd have
to come back to do that hike ourselves sometime soon, too!
Our chance finally came on a buggy fall day, when a lovely Bluebird graciously flew out to meet us at the above trailhead not very far from her "nest" in CT. We shuttled up to the Bluff Head parking lot on the west side of route 77 several miles north of route 80, cautiously crossed the road and headed easterly up the combined Mattabessett/New England Trail. The first 1.3 miles of trail were "old hat" for us, but if you haven't done this part of the trail before, you might want to look out for a few other boxes along this rocky stretch before you finally reach the junction pictured above, where the Mattabessett heads left, and the new Menunkatuck/New England Trail heads right (south) 5.4 miles to the route 80 trailhead, mostly on easy old cart paths.
From this point on, we were going to keep track of the time to give a rough idea of how long it took us to walk between each of the boxes (perhaps about 15 to 20 minutes?), but we didn't keep an accurate count, so you will just have to rely on the "milestones" noted below.
For Box 1, proceed south from this blue trail junction. Pass a short trail on right which leads to a pond. Arrive at a kiosk for Broomstick Ledge. Follow trail that now has both blue and green blazes. Continue on old cart path downslope to a flat area. Take note of a yellow "Public Water Supply" sign on the left. (The yellow sign seems gone so you'll just have to continue on old cart path downslope to a flat area just before a left hand bend in the path.) See rocks on left with small tree growing up from a tilted rock. Find Box 1: MOSQUITO HEAD NET placed to the left of the tree in front of the 2nd (slightly recessed) of 3 tilted rocks.
For Box 2, continue on the blue trail crossing a stream. The blue trail turns left off the cart path and passes an "ostentatious tombstone" on your right. After a while the trail returns to the cart path at a muddy area. Pass a cart path on the left and then over an iron pipe in another wet area. Come to a junction with a red blazed trail and a large boulder in the center of the junction. With that boulder to your left look right to see a smaller boulder next to a fallen tree. Box 2: HAIR NET is at the NE side of that boulder and adjacent to the fallen tree.
For Box 3, continue to the right with the blue trail and then immediately right again on a level cart path (where the red trail forks left). Continue downhill to a cart path coming in on the left and marked with red dots. Continue a couple hundred feet and fork left with the red dots, then immediately turn right with the blue blazes onto a lightly worn trail. Follow blue uphill to the top of a rocky knoll. There is a large flat rock area to the left of the knoll. From the large oak adjacent to the left side of the trail go 4 steps east and kick up your heels to find Box 3 : FISHNET STOCKINGS in a crevice hidden by small stones.
This concludes our Part I of "Boxing the NET", but be sure to get Bluebird's "Boxing the NET (Part II)" clues to continue on the blue trail several more miles out to the NET parking lot on route 80, where hopefully your shuttle car and perhaps a nice tailgate picnic await!
448. BOXING the NET (Part III)
||A continuation of the New England Trail south of Route 80 in Guilford, CT, which can be hiked as a slightly over 2-mile "in-and-out", a 2-mile shuttle to Pepperbush Lane, or a 6-mile shuttle, combined with Bluebird's Boxing the NET (Part IV), to Sullivan Drive.|
Starting from where we left off after Parts I and II of Boxing the NET, in the big
parking lot on the north side of route 80, carefully cross the highway to head south,
noting the little trail map kiosk just up the bank. Enjoy about a 10-minute stroll
along the blue-blazed trail until you see a marked and blazed chokecherry tree on the
left just before a stone wall. Take a dozen or so steps left here, before the wall,
and look at the base of a tree with a stone for Box #1: Badminton NET.
Continue another 10 minutes or so along the trail until you reach some prominent rock ledges on the right with more ledges just up ahead on the left. Stop here at a yellow-blazed tree with a hole on your left, then take 10 steps off trail left and look behind a flat-sided triangular rock on the right side of a low-lying ledge for Box #2: Volleyball NET.
Now take some time just to enjoy the trail as you curve around a scenic lake and river with some pretty little waterfalls. When the trail takes a major turn left (east) and reaches a junction, note the medium-sized tree with 4 blue blazes and 2 white ones on the left. Take 6 steps left here off trail and look under a small stone behind a 4-trunk tree for Box #3: Tennis NET.
Now you can either turn back to return to route 80, or continue out to the next road, North Madison Road, where you could possibly spot a car just a bit to the east on Pepperbush Lane, or proceed with the clues for Boxing the NET(Part IV), if you have arranged a shuttle to the Sullivan Drive access or would like a longer hike!
529. Brrr Rabbit North (aka "Doin' the Tri-State BunnyHop")
||Just a hop, skip and a jump over the MA/CT border for this little "quick-carve critter"|
Checked 10 May 2016
On our last trip to Texas in Feb/March 2014, we happened to have a few extra traveling' light rock stamps with us in case we found someplace we felt like leaving something behind. One was a stamp of bunny with a scarf based on our 2013 Christnmas cards that we had stuck onto the back of a beige rabbit-ear-shaped stone. We planted it as "Brrr Rabbit South" at the tail end of the 20-mile Four C Trail in the piney woods of East Texas when the weather suddenly dropped from 78 to 22 degrees in a single day - and stayed below freezing for almost a week, something practically unheard of in those parts!
Well, almost the same thing happened here in New England in mid/late April after we got back and temps suddenly dropped from the 70's one day to 30's the next. So, naturally we decided to plant another similar rabbit-ear rock the next time we went up for a "tri-state bunny hop". It seems we've been making that 150+ mile "rabbit-ear loop" drive from southwestern RI, north up through eastern CT to central MA, and back down southeasterly and southwesterly through RI quite often lately, since it doesn't seem to take long in these parts for a couple dozen new boxes to build up to justify another trip - especially since we always combine boxing with other things like dancing, shopping, museums, medical stuff or whatever!
Anyway, our "spring loop" though came just after the last snow/frost of the season and just before Easter, so we decided to leave this bunny near the top of the "rabbit-ear loop", hunkered down by a quaint bridge over the SNETT rail trail quite close to the tri-state borders. MA folks will probably want to use gate 19 off SW Main St in Douglas, MA, while CT folks might want to come in from East Thompson, CT. However you go, make your way to the rather scenic, rickety wooden bridge with green moss and tiny white pines growing on it that crosses high over the rail trail. Go to its SE side and carefully climb up the embankment (via the ATV path) to take a peak at the bridge from above.
Then hop back down just a bit to find the bunny hunkered down in a dark green artificial log (plastic peanut cylinder) deep within the dark lair under the third level of rock blocks from the the top - or 2nd up from the bottom. The crudely-carved critter is on the back of a rabbit ear shaped stone, which normally we would have left out by itself as a "traveling' light". However, because we were in a hurry to have the bunny hop over briefly to make an appearance at Evergreen Woods in North Branford, CT the week before, we used what we had available for that "quick-carve" morning - namely crumblier carving stuff and Elmer's blue (instead of the usual pink stuff and Gorilla Glue). So, since this particular bunny would probably not have been able to stand up to the elements, we've secured him in his own private dark green "log". Hope he stays warm and well tucked in there in his rabbit hole!
607. Tick on the Woodtick
||A loop through the woods of central CT for this little "tweezer carving"|
To find this tick, simply get yourself to the junction of the Mainline Tunxis and the Woodtick Trail near the border of Southington and Woodbury by any route you wish to take. (The CT Walk Book or other resources may help.) Standing between the boulders at that junction and looking west, you should see a trail sign on a tree on your right. The next tree on the right after that one has a blue blaze with a black spot on it like a tick. At the front eastern base of this tree under a small stone hiding in the creeping jenny in its little camp pouch is where this tiny tick may be spotted. Remove carefully and replace as found!
624. What Did I Plant?
||Just a little something to show how my mind is going…|
Yup, this isn't the first time I've planted something and forgotten what I've
planted or where I planted it. There are probably quite a few boxes I've planted
around the country that I completely forgot about before ever even writing up
the clues. And there are certainly many more for which I either lost the notes I
had hastily scribbled or did manage to actually write up the clues before
forgetting them, but only got as far as having Pete list them on our own
website, so that many of them have never been found, especially some of the
semi-mystery ones. Which is why after about 500 traditional plants, I've
basically decided to just leave behind what I call "travelin' lights", rocks
with stamps glued to the back, so that I don't have to trouble my head anymore
about what's gotten lost or forgotten.
In this particular case, however, I have a pretty clear recollection of where I left something, but I just can't remember what it was. It was during a major downpour on the day I was finishing all the Sky 2016 and horse boxes in western CT, and I had just one left to do along the Windsor Canal off Canal St. on the west bank of the Connecticut River in Suffield. A heavy rain storm had started almost as soon as I set out across the bridge at the north end of the canal, but since it was my last search of the day, I figured I might as well get drenched doing the 5-mile flat round trip "trek", which could have been done much faster on a bicycle, if I'd had one, and even much faster still had I known that the clues had been changed soon after I collected them to make getting to the current box location a mere "stroll".
At any rate, after reaching the spot just past the lock where the box had previously been, I was disappointed to find no box there behind the rocks, just a whole lot of poison ivy. So that others wouldn't be disappointed as I was in going the distance in the pouring rain and not finding the box, I thought I'd leave something behind nearby but hopefully not in poison ivy. I remember reaching into the front of my pack to pull out either one of the little generic "rock stamps" that can sometimes be found hanging out in there, or perhaps a hitcher if I had nothing else with me at the time as had happened once several years before, and tucking it into the grass by the right front leg of the nearby bench. Of course, once I found out that the original box had been transplanted, I completely forgot about it. However, now that I'm thinking it might have been a hitcher, I'm hoping someone might be willing take a spin out that way and check. If it's a hitcher, please move it along. If it's a rock stamp, please tell me what image is on it - probably a butterfly or flower. And if it's gone, it's gone…that has certainly happened to many of our boxes over the years in far less public places than this one!
|648. Christmas Joy on Mt. Misery(3)||A joyful walk up one of our favorite local hills in Pachaug State Forest in eastern CT|
Looking for a nearby place to take a walk after our annual DCCP Christmas dinner
and wanting to recycle some Christmas stamps once used many years ago for a XC
ski-box series for which we now rarely seem to get enough snow in RI to ski on,
we naturally thought of Mt. Misery in Voluntown, CT as the logical place to go.
After all, although there may occasionally be miserable conditions here, for us
Mt. Misery has always been associated with joyful times, from XC skiing to the
top on one of our early 2001 letterbox quests to celebrating 25,000 traditional
letterbox finds there in 2009 and recently doubling that to reach F 50,000! So,
yes, Mt. Misery definitely seemed to fit the bill for some 2016 Christmas Joy!
To reach the starting point for this walk, take route 49 north just a bit over half a mile from its eastern junction with route 138 in Voluntown, CT, and turn left into Pachaug State Forest. At first bear right, but then stay left to wind your way through the pines, pass a picnic table near the water on your right where the road turns to dirt, and park anywhere near the far end of the open field where sled dogs sometimes train in the winter. Continue walking up the dirt road with blue blazes on the trees to let you know that you are indeed following the Pachaug Trail. The trail turns left with a double blue blaze marker just past a yellow "Hikers Be Careful" sign with a little mossy wooden roof. About 50 steps in from the road (diagonally across from the next single blue blaze on the right), spot the huge 3-4' mossy stump several steps into the woods on your left. Gently lift a small piece of bark and a few sticks and leaves on top of the stump to reveal the "Christmas Tree Box" with the logbook and an ink square to carry along for the rest of the series, if you didn't bring any ink of your own.
Now continue along the trail, ascending, leveling out, descending to cross a boardwalk, and then ascending a bit more steeply over the rocks. (Now you can see why I was so glad that snow conditions were once so good here covering the rocks that I could actually ski all the way to the top without taking off my skis!) Almost to the top on a typical non-snowy day you should see a spot where large splayed roots reach out into the trail from the left. Look across the trail here to the right to see a single smaller "stilt-root" reaching towards the trail a few steps into the woods. Under a stone tucked at the base side of the uplifted root closest to the tree is where we left a tiny baggie containing "Christmas Joy"!
A few dozen more steps along the trail should get you to the overlook with its embedded USGS survey marker nearby. Now carefully make your way down the rocks of the blue-blazed trail or its alternates heading down the other side of the mountain to reach the dirt fire road roundabout soon below. Shortly following the fire road, you will see where the road turns right as the trail continues straight into the woods. At this point, look left for the boulder that is directly left of the green-poled gate. Tucked under a small nook behind the boulder and hidden by a couple of stones is another tiny baggie with "Christmas Ornaments".
Now take the fire road you just saw turning right down the hill until it reaches a "T" junction, then right again to get back to your car. Don't forget to stop back to drop off the ink square at the first box on the stump, 50 steps down from the blue trail turnoff, if you borrowed it, and please sign in if you haven't already done so. You might also enjoy visiting the Rhododendron Sanctuary on your left as you exit towards your car - a place of beauty in any season and perhaps of some remaining letterboxes? In fact, this whole part of Pachaug has been home to dozens of letterboxes over the years, including some of our earliest roses, celebration boxes and even a few mysteries, so a bit of prior research could possibly make your trip even more joyful! ( I tend to not remember where previously found boxes are anymore -not surprising after 50,000!- but I stumbled on one of Pete's old boxes near the summit and had to laugh because it was "The Tower of Pisa", and we're actually heading back to Pisa next month for the first time in nearly 50 years, so you never know what you might find! In any case, though, have fun and stay joyful, even if you just go for the hike and no boxes at all!;-)
|727. Wanda's Wanda-rings: CT trails||Pleasant piney walk to a secluded shelter in eastern CT|
This stamp was carved by Astrii of CT several years ago to represent some of the many CT blue-blazed trails that I used as an introduction to backpacking in the early days of my recovering from a fractured spine before taking on multiple “thru-hikes” of the “big trails” - AT, PCT, CDT, etc, as can be read about here on the original
Wanda's Wanda-rings clue page.
Naturally, I had already hiked all of the CT blue trails years before the accident that had nearly killed me in 1974, but taking on long-distance backpacking after that was a real challenge for me, so I was glad to have “training grounds” like this in CT so relatively close to my home in RI. This particular trail also had special meaning to me as being one of the earliest I remember doing back then, so off Pete and I headed on a snowy day decades later to transplant this letterbox…
The somewhat secluded shelter near where this letterbox can be found in “Guahcap” (reversed) State Forest can be reached in several ways, so I suggest doing some research if you want to try to find a shorter way in and out. We made a loop starting from the forest entrance west off route 49 a short distance north of route 138, driving westerly to park by the large field near the rhododendron sanctuary, and continuing up the rather rough dirt road west, then south (left) on the old fire tower road. At the crossroads with the gate ahead, instead of curving left towards the former tower, turn right (west) on the narrower blue-blazed trail. Head down the hill and continue to follow blue blazes, turning right twice more to eventually reach the small signed side trail to the “Guahcap” Shelter on the right. Directly across from that little brown lean-to symbol on a sign tacked to a tree on the east side of the trail, look west for a tree larger than most here that appears to be hollow at the base. Behind this tree under a flat rock rests the letterbox.
You can take the letterbox back across the trail to the rocks to sign in or continue on down the side trail very briefly to the lean-to to see an example of the types of shelters I used to stay at in my earliest backpacking days along the AT, LT and such, back before I even had a tent to carry. On my first AT “thru-hike”, all I had was an old shower curtain for throwing over a log if I got caught in the pouring rain overnight between shelters, which fortunately did not happen very often. Afterwards, of course, I carried a variety of different tents over the years, since so many of the long trails that I backpacked out west didn’t have any shelters anyway, and even when I backpacked back east again, I found I preferred my tent to sleeping in a shelter with mice! However, these rustic places still hold a certain fascination, so it’s often fun to stop by. After your visit, you can head back the way you came or do as we did - continue north up the trail, turn east when you hit the main dirt road, bear right at the first junction, stay straight at the fire tower road, and soon get back to your car… Happy Trails!
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WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
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