Real Fit for Real Life
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A little background: I relocated here from Utah. Hiking in Utah is very different. It lacks the lushness of CT woods, the mystery of trees upon trees creaking in the wind. But instead, it offers vastness and height and plenty of climbing and switchbacks. So I searched online to find a nearby short hike that offered the climb of a mountain, and I finally found one. I didn't quite achieve the vistas I wanted, perhaps had I hiked farther, but I was a slave to time last Friday morning, as I had the plumber coming "sometime around 11." Of course the one time you want him to be late, he arrives 15 minutes early and you have to run down a mountain! My life. But I digress . . .
So this hike is actually just a short snippet of the 20-mile Ives Trail. You can find a few online sites that describe this long hike, but who has the time for a 20-miler?! So I had to do some research to determine a stretch of this hike that a.) had parking and b.) offered somewhat of a destination and c.) fulfilled my 2-mile requirement. I learned that Moses Mountain is the 222nd highest mountain in CT at 971 ft. I know, not that impressive, but still. It's a mountain. And it's five minutes from my house. I'll take it.
You have most likely driven past Moses Mountain many, many times without realizing-- it's on the right side of route 7 heading north into Danbury. There is a noticeable parking area off of Route 7, just past the Elks Lodge. It's a decent size, possibly 4-5 cars, and as usual, no facilities at this trailhead. Quick note: this is a mountain. If your kids are weaklings or whiners, they might not love this hike! The tip with kids is to stop frequently for breaks on the way up. Remind them that the way down will be very fast and easy. Use hiking sticks/poles for this one. Or leave the kiddos home & use this hike to get a workout!
Walk straight into the woods and look for the Ives Trail marking-- a cute red and yellow sign with a music note for the trail's namesake, composer Charles Ives. They're pretty easy to find, so immediately hop on that trail heading north. Wear long pants, as you might have some thorny foliage to walk through to get on trail. Obviously you will get a lot of traffic noise here as well as gunshots from the nearby Wooster Mountain shooting range, which can be mildly terrifying. You might also get planes overhead flying into Danbury airport. So it's not the quietest hike I've been on, but still, it's worth it for the climb :)
You will quickly cross a stream and see a very pretty meandering waterfall. Cross carefully! I came the morning after a good, heavy rainfall, so the waters were probably deeper than usual! The key to water crossings is searching for some sturdy large stepping rocks. I found some a little higher up from the trail and crossed fairly easily. Take some photos here-- it's really beautiful. And to think that I drive by that almost everyday and never knew there was a waterfall there!
Again, this is a mountain, which means good incline and it starts right away! Be cautious when the ground is covered with wet leaves. I knew that for the hike down, with these wet leaves, I should find a decent walking stick, so when I came upon one alongside the trail, I grabbed it, stripped some of the bark, and it was perfect! Finally, a hike with switchbacks, just like my favorite hikes back in Utah. At .28 it veers to the left, so watch for the trail markings. At .62 the trail begins to descend some. So it's not all uphill!
In mid-November the ground is so covered in leaves, if it weren't for the trail markings you could easily get lost. Whenever it gets steep on the down, I just jog it. Better to go with gravity then to fight it! At .8 for you will land in what appears to be a dried up streambed. This ravine is beautiful in the morning. Take some photos here, then continue up until you see a tree with a box attached to it-- inside, you will find a visitors log that began in 2008. Of course, I added my own note, with this website and the date ;) I love that I could be a part of this time capsule marking 7 years' worth of hiking adventures! You could make this your final destination, but I continued to the 1-mile mark, hoping that there would be a scenic view. I even scrambled up some bouldery off trail, but there wasn't much of a view from there, and it was a risky move for a solo hiker. I try to be cautious when I'm all alone, following this simple rule: Don't be dumb.
So despite following the trail markings, according to my Runkeeper, I did not follow the trail map. Either my GPS was off, or the trail has changed somewhat since being published online. I wish I could've continued farther to determine if a greater destination spot lay ahead. I had to get back, so I turned around after my failed rock scramble.
For the first time in a long time, I came across fellow hikers. It was a large group of about 10 people, older people, who are part of the Appalachian Hiking Club. All I can say is, I am glad I was not popping a squat when I saw them! I also saw a giant frog or toad moving in the leaves that scared the bejeezus out of me. Even though I know these woods belong to the critters, I rarely see them! When I do, they break the silence in such a dramatic way as to startle me every time. At 1.68, keep your eyes up because the trail veers to the right and curves down and around. I know I always say a loop beats an out & back, but there is something to be said for seeing a trail in the reverse order. There are new sights to behold on the return trip-- what was first at your back is now open before you, and I find I take my Nikon out just as often, if not more frequently, on the return trip. So enjoy the hike back. It's a quick return, so engage your core, land softly and watch your knees. I actually prefer the uphill to the down, as uphill works the muscles and downhill jars the joints.
I plan to return to this one, journey a bit farther, and also find other stretches of Ives Trail to share with you! Enjoy!
Saugatuck has been on my To Hike list for awhile, but it got bumped up in priority after I saw my friend's Instagram pics from a weekend hike there. I knew I had to go ASAP! Even the drive there was pleasant-- from Simpaug Turnpike to Marchant to 53, I passed an old one-room schoolhouse and a few quaint farms. I had read it's best to park at John Read Middle School across the street, but school was in session- I opted to park right at the entrance even though it was a small space. Luckily (as far as parking goes), I was the only visitor there this morning. Not until I left did another human come. And it was pretty much a 2-vehicle maximum. There are other entrances-- perhaps some of them have better parking. As per usual, there are no facilities at the trail head, so potty first and/or pack some toilet paper! This trail is dog-friendly and wheelchair accessible according to the sign, though it is limited how far a wheelchair can go.
The trail head is easy to spot-- there is a sign and a map. I immediately took a picture of the map, since I had not found one online beforehand. I decided I'd try a loop this morning, so I mapped out a plan to take the Falls Trail to the Power Line Trail to the Oak Trail to the Hemlock Trail and back toward the entrance. A loop offers double the eye candy, double the adventure, double the variety than an out & back.
The entrance trail takes you past some educational signs-- I'm sure the middle school makes great use of this area-- that are great for the kiddos and adults alike. Also, to the right, I noticed a large square slab that seemed to be a closed up well. If your kids are anything like mine, they might hop on top and use it as a little stage. I know I wanted to perform a monologue, but I stayed focused and continued. You will arrive at a good-sized wooden bridge that spans the Saugatuck River. Both sides are quite scenic. From here, take the Falls Trail, which is marked white. This is a nice flat trail and would be easy for trail running, but very short!
You'll turn right around .2-- at this juncture you will hike past a small meadow and there's a sign about bird-watching. You will cross a small wooden bridge right before you see the sign for Hemlock Trail. Keep going straight because we are hiking first to the falls. The meadow might seem boring, but do look out for birds. After you pass the meadow, here is where the beautyand excitement begins. On your left you will see some high rocky ridges covered with moss and bejeweled in ferns and trees. I caught sight of at least four different bird varieties within one minute or entering this haven. There is some traffic noise here, & that's a shame, because it might make you miss all the birdsong.
Around .5 you will see more of the Saugatuck on your right-- it looks more like a pond. The cool thing about the traffic, despite it being loud, is that it vibrates this little pond, creating a magical shimmery surface. I stopped for and excessive amount of photos! It goes without saying, but I will mention it anyway, be cautious hiking along the water with little ones! Obviously a hike can be ruined if a kid falls in!
At about .82 you will be able to hear some waterfall. This inlet of water flanked by gorgeous trees and rocks is epic beauty! Everything is covered in moss, adding to the magic. The terrain is very technical here, so watch those little ones and go slow. The trail here is more like a scramble over large boulders. I would not go on a rainy day as the rocks might be slick! One mile in is where you will come across the falls, and it requires climbing to get there. It's totally worth it! Between the beauty of the falls and the moss covered rocks and trees behind you, you will be surrounded 360° by sheer majesty. Stop here to take photos, picnic, meditate. The sound of the waterfall is so calming. But be warned, it may lead to the urgent need to pee. (No problemo if you're prepared, ladies!) Now, you could opt to simply do an out and back and return from whence you came. Just be careful climbing down those rocks! I opted to explore a little more. Like I said, a loop trail provides more variety than an out and back, and if I can get a 2-mile loop, I'll take it.
If you opt to do the loop, you will go a bit beyond the falls, then you'll go hard left to stay on white around 1.1. Hop on the Power Line trail to your left. You'll have a good climb that'll get your heart rate up, but it's short. As soon as you come to the sign for Oak Trail, hop on that one. It will be on your left. Oak Trail is marked blue, and in the fall, inches deep in oak leaves. So follow the blue marked trees. This trail is meandering with gentle climbs.
At about 1.6, you will hit a fork with Knapp Trail to your right and the sign for Oak Trail on your left-- veer left. Technically that becomes Knapp trail, so you are back on white. You will stay on this stretch for a short distance, and it is a gentle descent. But watch your step. There's a lot of acorns in the fall that you can easily roll on and biff it! Of course, I paint these worst-case scenarios that never actually happen, but in the event that you, dear reader, are a clutz, it could happen, and you've been warned. Being a transplant here myself and used to Utah desert, I am still shocked by the copious amounts of acorns and leaves here!
As soon as you see the sign, hop onto Hemlock on your left. Hemlock Trail is also mostly a decline through tall hemlocks. This is a pretty stretch. Look for the dried up stream bed on your right with, you guessed it, moss-covered rocks. (Again, the moss is still a stunning novelty to me! I'm sure I mention it all too often, but at least I remind you to recognize the beauty you might take for granted.) You might even see a little bit of water if it's been rainy. At about mile 2, you will return to that small wooden bridge you crossed near the beginning. Simply follow it back out to the main entrance, and you got an epic hike with a variety of terrain, scenery, and wildlife. Admittedly, I got very little wildlife-- but isn't that a relief when you're all alone in the woods??
Please be sure to do this hike soon! It is incredible!
I've hiked Seth Low quite a few times from the main entrance by Lake Naraneka, so I wanted to explore this state park reserve from a new angle. If you use the hiking map from the website, you'll notice there's a northwest parking spot. That's where I set my sights this morning for a little solo hike without the kiddos, who have the misfortune of having to be in school on such a beautiful fall day!
You'll drive right past the usual entrance and go to Twixt Hill Road. You will soon arrive at a teeny parking lot at the junction of Twixt Hill & Knollwood, 1-2 car capacity, so park politely! Despite the miniscule size of the parking lot, there is a large sign for the park, & you will immediately see a tree with white markings on the right side, red on the left, designating the trail heads. This hike is the white trail, possibly to the blue if you're up for it, short & sweet out & back to a nice clearing with a view or to the official lookout point. I came on a November day, trail covered in leaves, so I had to really watch for trail markings!
This hike begins with a field of marshgrass on your right and nice little downslope with rocky terrain that leads to a little wooden bridge. (So giddy when I get my wooden bridge right off the bat!) I was gifted right away with the biggest bluejay I've ever seen, sending it's call through the leafless trees. I love when the wildlife comes to welcome you :)
Now, before the bridge, stop and look to your left. You will see a very interesting man-made cave. I decided to wander off trail to check it out-- inside were a couple old folding beach chairs! Brilliant spot for kids to have a magical picnic! Obviously it's always wise for parents to scope out sights like this first, to make sure it isn't littered with anything, ahem, distasteful. Or dead. Or alive. Or gross. But today, it passed inspection, and I know had my daughters been with me, we would've spent quite some time playing and imagining all sorts of cave-set scenarios.
After enjoying a little playtime at the cave, return to the trail to take a picture of the wooden bridge. Follow the white trail markings. It's a gentle climb that will give you enough of a workout but is doable for the kids! Somehow I lost the trail & ended up on yellow. Leaves get me every time! My mileage was off because of backtracking to relocate the white trail! I realized my mistake-- white veers off to the left, & I had stayed straight. So here's a tip for you late-fall hikers: watch for the tree with 3 white marks. Go left there! You will know if you've lost the trail when you find yourself in the middle of the woods and cannot find any more marked trees! Also if you're standing in the middle of thorny bushes, you have lost the trail! But do not freak out. Always backtrack to where you came from to the last marked tree you remember. Then you will be able to find the trail again!
If you were smart, followed my tips, and did not get lost, you will come to an intersection at .14 for the yellow, red, & white (note: your mileage will be off if you spent time off-trail playing at the cave). A well-marked trail will have three stripes rather than just one anytime you have reached a crossroads. So look around and see what your options are, and check your map to be sure you choose the trail you intend to hike. I love this Choose Your Own Adventure aspect to hiking-- there is no wrong. But if you've set out with a plan, you want to follow it, simply because you have estimated mileage, difficulty of terrain, time it will take, etc.-- all vital details when hiking with kids!
So for this hike, stay on white for now! You will get some good incline the closer you get towards the top of the hill. On the day I went, a large chunk of tree had fallen across the white trail so I had to work my way around it. It was easy to get over, but on the return trip, I noticed an off-shoot trail that would've helped me bypass it altogether! Oops ;) Going to be honest, once it starts getting steep and the trail is covered in leave,s it can be tricky to navigate especially with young kids. So if you begin to lose confidence, just go back and play in the cave a little longer :-) But if you continue, you'll be rewarded with some cool sights.
The white markers can be tricky to locate up the hill, but follow the rocky path & you'll be okay. You'll see a sort of lean to on your left at the top of the hill at .4 mile. This is a fun spot for a water break. Soon the white trail turns sharp right. Follow it but first take some pics at this high view area. The white will take you straight to blue, or you could turn right again to follow white at this clearing. But stay on blue another .3 to get to the lookout. The blue is a more challenging stretch, dropping down a ravine before climbing back up to the lookout. Only venture this with older kids and consider using hiking poles. For a shorter hike, stop in this clearing at the top of the ravine to picnic & watch airplanes.
With how leafy and precarious it was going down the ravine alone, and because I had to pee and hadn't brought toilet paper (bad hiker preparation!), I opted to rest for a bit, take photos, talk to a chipmunk, then head back the white trail. Solo hiking requires erring on the side of caution! It was a gorgeous morning, so it was nice to just sit in the sunshine and take it all in.
The return trip is always faster, but with stopping to enjoy the cave, the lean-to, and the wildlife, this hike can easily take over an hour, despite its somewhat short total distance. I say this every week, but this may be my new favorite hike for kids ;)
As always, let me know if you do this hike and how it goes!
Mother of 3. Fit-philosopher. Showing my kids how to be fit via living life to the max. Newbie photographer. Simplistic cook who shares easy, healthy meals. Lover of kid-friendly hikes & getting outdoors & unplugged.