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Author Topic: Long Overdue TR of a Long Dayhike on the South Taconic  (Read 1228 times)
p1fiend
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« on: December 16, 2010, 09:31:46 PM »

I was originally planning on doing this hike next year, as part of a start to long(er) distance hiking, in the hopes of building up to a possible attempt at Pemi in a Day.  The opportunity arose, and I ended up doing this hike a couple months ago, accomplishing my first +20 mile dayhike.

This trip report is long overdue, but I really wanted to write-up my weekend as a whole because it was so enjoyable.  IÂ’ve been drafting this in my head over and over again but just havenÂ’t been able to get to a computer when needed.  When I do sit down to type I just couldnÂ’t get it out the way I wanted to.  Anyways, after more than two months, hereÂ’s my go at it.  No more, no less.

For the hike itself, skip down below.  No cliffs notes for the pre-hike stuff  Tongue.

Pre-game

Going into the weekend of October 2-3, I had plans of working away the Saturday and after failing to convince a friend to go hiking, I had decided to spend Sunday doing some car work and shopping/errands.
As luck would have it, I ended up being woken up by work Saturday morning, being told to stay home, leaving me with a free day with no plans.
So finally having the opportunity to get to bed early on a Saturday night (I usually work until 9 and by the time I get home, eat, get a second wind, and finally hit the sack itÂ’s usually 1-2am), I decided IÂ’d do all my car work and gallivanting Saturday and go for broke with one last long dayhike hitting up the Southern Taconic Trail for a route IÂ’ve been tossing around in my head for quite some time.
So I started off Saturday by getting a “fresh” haircut.  I told the barber to go short and boy did he ever!  I then braved Walmart for some fresh dino oil and then proceeded to hit the cold concrete and give my car a much deserved oil change.  Having a car with fresh oil and a full tank of gas, what else could I do but cruise the state looking for old 70-80Â’s records from an old Italian singer?  I hit up a store in Wallingford where there just so happened to be the “Taste of Wallingford” underway (provided some enjoyment finding parking) then headed down to Brass City Records in Waterbury.  After a grand tour of the building including the upstairs (not sure how that building is still standing!), I walked out empty handed, defeated in my search.  However, I do have to admit that browsing thru old record covers sure does provide quite a bit of amusement.  On the way home I made a detour to NardelliÂ’s in Waterbury off of 84 (highly recommended if you are ever in the area) for a grinder (hot sauce on the side – gotta watch the spices before a hike lol) to go.  After gobbling down the sandwich at home I packed everything up for the next day and layed out my clothes for the morning.  All set and prepped, I hit the couch and relaxed watching Rocky II.
Now as an aside (to an aside I guess), the Italian singer whose records I was searching for, well the story of how I found and got into this guy is another thread in and of itself, but the first time I sat down with one of his albums I just happened to be watching Rocky I for the first time (never bothered to watch those films).  From start to finish I watched Rocky I, volume on low, closed-captions on, while I spun that Italian guys album a good 4 times.
So just my luck that Rocky II was playing the day I had been out searching for the albums.  After Rocky defeated Apollo Creed in the rematch of the century, I hit the sack, out by 930, just as Ivan DragoÂ’s manager was explaining that “whatever he hits, he destroys” in Rocky III.

Hike

After what was probably one of the best nights sleep IÂ’ve ever had, I was up at 4am to have a breakfast of 2 hardboiled eggs, wheat toast, and a wheat eggo with pb&j, and out the door by 5am. 
I had a nice quiet ride all the way along Rt.44 cruising to the tunes of the aforementioned Italian singer.  After one close run in with a fox just as the sun was rising, I crossed over into NY and turned north onto Rt. 22.  Rt.22 parallels the Southern Taconic ridge, and I could see what lied into store for me as I was driving to the trailhead in Millerton, NY.
The trailhead is situated on Quarry Hill Road, directly across the street from a couple of houses and adjacent to a cleared lot, but dives into the woods quite quickly.  Even before getting out of the car, I could feel the wind sweeping down the mountain side into the valley smacking my car.
First thing I thought as I got out of the car was “Damn, I really regret getting a haircut the day before!”, and then another “Damn!”, followed by “I didnÂ’t bring any hat besides my baseball cap!!!”.  As I was driving thru Canaan on my way up that morning I had seen a temp of 38°F (as much as I want cold weather, I didnÂ’t expect it to be that chilly back then).  Luckily, besides bringing a fleece for up top, I had decided at the last minute to throw in a hooded windbreaker.  I tossed it on over a long sleeve shirt, sinched down the hood and laced up my boots.
I hit the trail at exactly 7AM, intent on not looking back until the return trip. “Gonna fly now” indeed.  After a fantastic hike last year over the CT high point to the tri-state marker then over to Brace and Alander (my longest hike at that time), along with my first snowshoe trek this past February, and after finally getting a couple of great maps of the area, I decided to tackle a hike I was thinking of saving for 2011.  I had the idea of starting at the southern terminus of the South Taconic (ST) and heading north to Bash-Bish Falls and then back down: a simple out and back, but more miles than IÂ’ve tried before in a day.  Since I also wanted to check out a trailhead in between, I tacked on a nice detour loop in the middle of the hike.  Since this would add even more miles, and daylight was fast becoming more and more of a premium before daylight savings, I was a little concerned if I could fit it all in while the sun was still high.




   The ST starts off easily; gradually rising for the first few minutes then quickly turning into a nice climb, bordering a scramble in some spots up to the main ridge.  As the trail climbs up it affords a few different routes up and over boulders with some really nice challenging sections, easily making it one of my favorite trails in the area.  Along the way the trail borders the left side of a stream coming down from high in several waterfall sections with some great views.

 About Âľ of the way up the trees open up and you get the first view looking back into the valley below.




After a short bit more, the trail joins the main ridge and levels out, rolling up and down, over South Brace Mt., until you arrive atop Brace Mountain.  Brace has a ridiculous rock pile cairn atop the grassy summit, with a pole flying a wind sock dead center.
 
Off to the left (west) there is a nice panorama of the Catskills


, while due north lies Alander
 

and off in the distance is the whaleback of Mt.Greylock.

I hit the summit of Brace at exactly 8AM, dwelled long enough to pose for the self timer

 and then set off down the ST.  From here to where it joins with the Alander trails (Loop and Brook), it is basically a woods road.  The portion below the ST/Mt.Frissell trail junction is always a running brook and this time it was no less after a recent rainfall.


I made my way down the ST, snacking on an original powerbar, to the junction of the Robert Brook trail at around 9AM and hung a left onto it.  The RB trail crosses two MA/NY markers

 close by each other as it follows the state line before turning sharply and dropping down 1,050 ft (with a ravine to the left) to its trailhead shared with the Alander Brook Trail.  The descent down the RR trail turned out to be the hardest section of the whole hike, due to a nice layer of wet leaves covering the trail.

  I found two downed dead branches, cleared off the twigs, and fashioned two extremely helpful hiking poles.  Once at the bottom, I was glad to be off the slippery trail, but knew that due to the detour descent, IÂ’d now be in store for a decent hike back up the Alander Brook Trail to regain the elevation.  The start of the Alander Brook Trail is flat and borders a nice grassy plain.


Some neat pics of the trees taking over old signs:



 It slowly dives back into the woods, rolling over a few small hills before making a sharp right and starting a very nice ascent back up to the ST bordering a ravine to oneÂ’s right.  After a nice bit, the trail hits the junction of the ST, and after taking the 90° left onto it, continues up the western side of Alander.
Further up the ST, the trees and shrubs give a little, and the “summit” appears while an awesome view can be seen over ones shoulder.  A short distance from the top I saw my first hiker of the day and was up alongside him chatting as we hit the open clearing area around 10AM.  (The true summit is tucked in the bushes along the eastern side with not much for views).  The fellow hiker had started from the Alander Brook Loop trailhead and was heading down to BashBish. I was glad to finally meet someone and have a chat to distract myself: the previous dayÂ’s search, along with listening to that Italian singerÂ’s album on the ride up left me repeating the same verse
“voli imprevedibili ed ascese velocissime
traiettorie impercettibili
codici di geometria esistenzial”

 over and over again on the trail from the moment I stepped off Brace.  I stopped for a lunchbreak up top and he continued on.  After a short but well deserved pit stop I continued on.  The next 2-3 miles flew by in a flash as the trail rolls gently thru the woods.  Just past the middle of this section I caught up with the gentleman from before and we chatted again. He happened to ask if I carried a “Spot” device and was surprised to find out I did notÂ….oh well.  After saying farewell for the final time, I headed off and came to the following sign and junction around 11AM.


 On the map, left heads to Rt. 344 and the entrance to Bash Bish, but seems to head away from the falls.  To the right, it appears to head down to the falls, so I elected to head down that route.  I had originally planned that no matter how far I went out, my turn around time to head back would be noon, so I was doing pretty well.
The trail dropped pretty quickly but footing was easier than the leaf covered RR trail.  After going down a bit, the trail meets perpendicular in a T to a ledge where to the left and right it is lined by a steel cable fence along with signs warning not to cross over the fence due to the steep drop awaiting.
 

  From that point I went to the right and the trail really starts to drop off.


 I followed the cable down, using it on my left as a railing to control the descent, while looking for views of the falls which should be to my left.


 After a few small glimpses the trail levels out on top of the falls in a nice almost secluded neat little sandy beach/shallow pool area. 


Veering to the right, the trail then goes upstream and appears to cross over the stream.  I ventured about ÂĽ of the way over the stream across downed trees and rocks but being alone and seeing as how the water was moving at a decent clip, I tucked my tail between my legs and turned around. (After the hike I picked up a NY Hiking book that makes mention of the trail down and stream as follows “ Hikers should avoid the blue –blazed trail to the right leading steeply down to BashBish Brook, which is not fordable most of the year, even upstream.  The only safe option for hikers who end up at the brook is the grinding walk back up the blue-blazed trail” – Doh!)  Heading back up, scratching my head wondering how to see the falls, I climbed back up to the T junction and realized that the trail also continues up and over (then down) from that point and I should have gone left initially.  So now the trail dropped off yet again, this time even more steeply and I followed the cable down with my right hand this time.  As I dropped further and further down, the falls started to appear to my right at several points until I came down a landing at basically the end of that trail and a nice open view of the falls.


  At this point I was basically on the opposite side of the stream where there were a whole bunch of people, who had come from the Rt.344 entrance, viewing the stream/falls.  I swear they were all looking at me with the expression of where did he come from and how did he get there?


I hung around for a couple of minutes enjoying the view on my silent side across from the people, then started the climb back up.


 I gave my legs a nice break and used the cable the whole way up, pulling myself up arm over arm.  I finally got back up to the trail sign/warning junction from before around 12 noon to start the return hike.
I sailed over the next couple of miles only to have right thigh cramp horribly right before hitting Alander.  I stood for a couple of minutes with my right foot off the ground, knee bent, thigh super cramped, and finally decided I just had to straighten it and press on.  I had some nice pain and a limp that gradually faded back to normal after about 10 minutes or so.  I continued over the actual Alander summit taking the Alander Loop thru the claustrophobic scrub oak that blankets the summit.  On the way down to rejoin the ST I ran into two separate couples on their way up.  The first was a middle aged couple, well prepared and we discussed their remaining hike up.  The second couple was wondering how much further and where the summit was.  They had no map so I did my best to describe the remainder of the hike.  At that point they were going to turn back, but after asking if they had water and seeing they had plenty, I convinced them to finish what they started.
The gradual ascent back up to Brace via the ST was uneventful, but plagued by another verse from the Italian singer,
Cerco un centro di gravita permanente
che non mi faccia mai cambiare idea sulle cose sulla gente
avrei bisogno di...
over and over again...   

Since I donÂ’t know Italian, what was playing in my head was a convulted mess of the above, but my god it was maddening.
As I passed the junction of the ST/Mt.Frissell trail, I saw two women lying in the grass of the saddle admiring the view out.  A short distance past them on the way up to the ridge to Brace I met two guys and we discussed the maps of the area, the surrounding hills, and Greylock.  I went off ahead to Brace, where I took a nice long break, soaking in the sun and having some food and water.  I was soon joined by the two guys and then the two women.  They volunteered me the summit photographer and I took pictures for both groups on their cameras.  After saying farewell, I finally set off for the final descent back down to the car.
Everything was great and I even ran into my first green snake.


Sorry no macro


Stopped by the waterfall for another shot


 My left knee really started to bother me on this downhill section, but slowly got better about 0.5 miles from the car.  The closer to the car, the more of an extra boost I got .
I finally returned to the car at exactly 3:30PM for a grand total of, by my calcs and best estimates, right about 21 miles in exactly 8 hrs 30 minutes, including all my breaks.
I was totally stoked and surprised with my time.  There was still plenty of sunshine left and I felt absolutely awesome, like a million bucks they say.  I surprising wasnÂ’t hungry at all, so I didnÂ’t stop anywhere for food on the ride home and even once home, I basically made myself eat a small dinner of some chicken breast, pasta shells and broccoli.
Two shots of the Southern Taconics from Rt.22 on the way home



Looking back at the hike (on the day of) I was pretty surprised by how I felt that day.  I had tons of energy and never felt tired thru the whole hike (admittedly it wasnÂ’t the most challenging terrain).  I had been periodically drinking Gatorade I had in a bottle, while sipping constantly on h20 from my bladder the whole day.  Physically, that day was the best IÂ’ve ever felt before, during, and after a hike.  Mentally, though, it was a weird experience for me.  Usually my mind is clear and I zone out, but those damn songs just wouldnÂ’t let me be.  Also, I have to admit, for the first time on a solo hike, I actually felt somewhat lonely. Meeting and talking to other people on the trail was very welcome and enjoyable.  Towards the end, I realized that the pace I had set and my worries about time kind of took the fun out of the hike.  On the ride home, I was questioning my desire to continue to try long and even longer dayhikes, such as a the Pemi in a day marathon. 
But slowly over the following days, I grew more proud and fond of the hike and really enjoyed the experience.  I started to think if I had been camping somewhere, making a b-line for camp for the night, and not out and back, how much further could I have gone in the remaining light and even into the night time?
So, now, looking back over 2 months ago, I can say that once again the South Taconic area has provided me with yet another enjoyable first, this time my first +20 mile dayhike.
IÂ’ll definitely be repeating the hike next year, and already have another hike planned across MA, CT, and NY that IÂ’ll be sizing up in my head until the time is right.
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2010, 08:43:56 AM »

Loved the pics, as much as I love winter its nice to see some color outside.  Loved the peeking snake shot.
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