Hike #33: Bluff Head Ridge in North Guilford, CT

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A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

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On a sunny (but chilly) March Sunday, I decided to tackle two hikes/walks (with a reward new-to-me coffee shop in between). Since my morning was filled with errands (as Sundays are known for), I really only had the second half of the day free for outdoor time. Aching for some sunshine and exercise (but not a super long car ride) I decided to head to North Guilford, CT to do hike #33 Bluff Head Ridge, from my hike book. This seemed like a challenging hike, it’s always best to start the day with a hard hike and then end with something gentler.

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This Bluff Head Ridge hike was not crowded (1 other car in the medium sized lot) and still pretty snowy (As you can see below).

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This two mile loop is not very long, but definitely has a tough spot. In the photo above you can see there’s a path going off the photo to the left (flat terrain) and a path leading up a VERY steep hill to the right. I assumed that it would start flat and I’d end up going down the super steep section (which is covered in snow).

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So I started on the flat path, even stopping to visit a cemetery just off the path.

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I kept walking slowly down hill, until I got to this little chained off area and realized that my hike book wanted me to do this hike in reverse.. aka: I was going the wrong direction. This also means that my hike needed to start with a slippery steep uphill climb.

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I took a couple bites from my power bar and started up the hill. I have to say, the photo above does not do the steepness of the climb justice. There were times were my foot seemed nearly vertical and would slide down. I was glad to have my hiking boots on. The snow also made this more difficult, but I imagine in the summer the loose dirt would make this tricky.

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STEEP!

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But the reward of the steep never ending uphill is a sense of accomplishment, the joy of being super out of breath, and great views. While I was climbing There were definitely giant birds swirling around the sky above me… vultures? hawks? no clue, but big and loud.

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At the top, at least the hillside had more access to sunlight so some snow had melted. In the photo above, on the right side, is where the hillside is really a cliff that drops down really far. I was very aware that one slip on the ice could be trouble.

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Another part of this hike, that was more ominous than the vultures swirling above my head, were the constant gun shots that sounded like they were coming from the woods I was walking in. Now I didn’t see hunters.. or hunting signs, so I think I was safe, but it was the soundtrack to the hike.

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Up, up, up!

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So when I got close to the peak, I ended up skipping the highest section. I know this feels like a cop out, but between the gun shots, the vultures and the slippery ice for the last (as far as I know) stretch of uphill, it just didn’t feel safe given the conditions. It’s very hard to tell, but the photo above is that last steep stretch. It was steeper than it looks in the photo, and when I got closer to the start of the incline I could see that it was covered in ice. I felt like I would be okay going up this ledge, but was worried about how I would get down without slipping. The right side of the photo really is a cliff edge (misleading from the photo, but quite a drop off in person). Also no one knew where I was, and with only 1 other car in the lot, I didn’t think anyone would hear me if I needed to yell for help. From my map, I think I got pretty close to the peak, and I felt good about that. Next up was backtracking to a path that would create a loop out of this trail.

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In order to back up to the hiking loop, I had to climb back over some slippery steep rocks. It was nothing crazy, but just slippery in the snow. It’s also clearly a well walked path by the foot prints, so I hope my note about the trail above isn’t a total turnoff.

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Ahh, back on the hiking loop. Now I walked toward the gun shots. There were getting louder and louder so I imagine there must be a shooting range nearby, as they were also constantly shooting. I was brave on continued on 🙂

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I was wearing a bright purple coat, so at least I stood out amongst the trees. I also did my best to make noise on the trail. If there was a hunter out here shooting, I didn’t want to surprise them. This just meant I cleared my throat more often, and took louder steps.

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It was  pretty quick (only 2 miles) before I was back on the trail where I had mistakenly started the hike, and thereby close to the parking lot. Another one done! Since I didn’t get to make it to the absolute highest viewpoint, I’ll have to come back in a month or two when the snow is fully gone.

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After this hike, I was in North Guilford and decided to head down to Hammonasset Beach in Madison. I stopped in the center of Madison (cute little downtown with shops) and grabbed coffee from Willoughby’s.

My next stop was going to be to do my 3 mile Hammonaset hike (#46 in the book), but instead decided to check out the Shoreline Greenway Trail in Madison. Eventually all of CT will hopefully have one long shorline trail, but right now there are just chunks of Greenway trail in several towns. I had posted about the Shoreline Greenway Trail in Guilford, and was anxious to check out the Madison portion along the water. I’ll have this walk to share with you next. Happy Friday! And be sure to get outside this weekend and explore!

 

Hike #47: McKinney National Wildlife Refuge- Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook, CT

HikeBookCover.jpg

A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

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After Hike 35 (and my stop into Cilantro Specialty Foods Coffee Shop along the Guilford Green) I continued on to Westbrook to complete hike #47. It was getting late in the day so this hike was perfect timing and the right topography (easy) for this cold windy snowy day.

This hike had nice views, but was still wooded which protected me from the wind on this cold day. It was also relatively flat, so the residual snow didn’t pose much of a slippery threat.

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Given the weather, I was the only one brave enough to handle this hike around 4pm on a Saturday. A nice big parking lot with just my Mazda in it. Thankfully based on the tracks in the snow, I could tell people had been there earlier in the day.

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I won’t share the map from the book, but here’s a photo of the map hanging at the start of the hike/walk. You can see it’s pretty straightforward, basically one big loop with some water views along half of the trek.

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This walk features plaques with information about the nature and the buildings on the property. This home has had some famous visitors (Eleanor Roosevelt!).

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Based on the signs, you can tell this is a great birding walk.

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You can see the paths are wide (snowy on this Saturday) and pretty flat.

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This is a view looking back at the homestead. So pretty.

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More birding plaques as the path makes its way into the woods.

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This path gets a little more narrow as it enters the woods, and that’s when water/marsh views come into play as well as a view of the train tracks.

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What a pretty peaceful trek. Just me and the birds.

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Toward the end of the loop are the “ruins” of an old fountains and bbq pit that the owners of the property used to use. Off to the left is a bath leading down to a bird/marsh viewing platform. Don’t miss checking this out because it was a highlight of the loop.

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I didn’t see any “special” birds, but Im no expert.

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The walk loops back up…

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And meets back up with the welcoming hut. Take a look at the paperwork + information inside.

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As a woodworker, I love the close up of the “hut”. From here it was a short walk to the parking lot. This easy just-over-a-mile walk is a great outdoor loop, and a nice addition to follow up a longer earlier in the day hike.