Natchaug Trail End-to-End Run

This morning, Debbie and I did a hard effort on the Natchaug Trail, running it end-to-end from the southern terminus at Goodwin State Forest to the northern terminus at the Nipmuck Trail junction. Then we rode back to our car on our bikes.

IMG_2830

IMG_2824

Here is an excerpt from the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s description of the trail:

The Natchaug Trail traverses the James L. Goodwin and Natchaug State Forests. Together with the Nipmuck State Forest, Yale Forest and several large private tracts, they combine to form one of the largest areas of contiguous forest in southern New England supporting a large variety of wildlife.

The trail follows a short portion of the beautiful Still River and journeys along Bigelow Brook. Meandering over relatively easy terrain, it crosses several small brooks, passes stone walls, and slips through interesting stands of trees. State foresters actively manage these forests for wildlife and timber production and the trail traverses a diverse and interesting tree mix ranging from 2 to well over 100 years old.

There are opportunities to catch sight of a variety of wildlife including turtles, beavers, and many birds along the streams and in the areas around Pine Acres Pond, Black Spruce, and Beaverdam Marshes. Active forest management has produced a variety of young, early-succession forest habitats which abound with diverse species of birds and other wildlife.

History is abundant along the trail as it passes near old CCC Camp Fernow (1933-42) and through General Nathaniel Lyon Memorial Park (first General to be killed in the Civil War). A short northern section also coincides with the Old Connecticut Path traveled in the 1630s by settlers (driving over 100 cattle) from the Boston area to the Hartford area in one of the first major inland migrations of America by European settlers.

The Natchaug Trail joins the Nipmuck Trail in Ashford and hikers can continue exploring north to Bigelow Hollow State Park and the CT/MA state line or south to Mansfield Hollow State Park.

IMG_2816

IMG_2818

The Connecticut Walk Book lists it at 17.6 miles and it goes through the towns of Hampton, Eastford, and Ashford. Our GPS’ measured it a little short at about 16.9 miles with about 2,100 feet of elevation gain. Two weeks ago, Debbie and I did a thru-run of the Nipmuck Trail. The Natchaug is the Nipmuck’s shorter sister. Both trails are maintained by NipMuck Dave Raczkowski and we thank him for it. The blazes, markers, and signage were excellent. So were the many bridges. There is still some blowdown, but some of that may be fresh from the nor’easter that blew through at the start of the weekend. We got a dusting of snow on Saturday morning that melted, and then Sunday evening snow squalls left another coating in shady spots this morning.

IMG_2820

IMG_2823

We got started early. We were at the Goodwin State Forest parking area by 6:15 A.M. It’s a 30 minute drive from the house. With no races on the schedule, we have delved into the FKT world. Yesterday, I wrote about that interesting community of adventurers in a blog post. We planned this run/bike over the last couple of days. We have to score a few more FKT’s in Connecticut before Ben Nephew (who currently leads the FKT rankingswith 58) gets out of quarantine and drives south. Once he does, it will be hard to stay at the top of the leaderboard. He will crush all the established times. The good news is that from messages I’ve exchanged with him, he is planning to attack some of these routes and bring even more positive notoriety to our great trail system.

IMG_2834

IMG_2841

To make this morning’s logistics more manageable, we drove to Iron Mine Road late on Saturday and took the kids on a Nipmuck Trail hike to Ladie’s Room Rock and Pixie Falls. At the start of our hike, we stashed our bicycles just off of the trail, which is about 1.3 miles from the Nipmuck/Natchaug junction. Our normal technique for these run/bike adventures is to find a good sized tree (out of view from the trail) and lock the bikes around the tree and together. We stash a waterproof bag with our cycling shoes, helmets,  a larger pack (for me to stuff all the running gear), and anything else that we need for the ride.

IMG_2777

IMG_2804

It was a lovely hike and Pixie Falls was a real treat. The kids loved it. We opted to return home for dinner rather than doing take out. That meant we got to bed at a normal time, and were well rested for the early wake-up this morning. Everything was packed, so we just needed to fuel up and make the drive to Hampton.

IMG_2793

IMG_2792

Debbie and I ran the Nipmuck together, but since the Natchaug is shorter, we opted to go our own pace. At a shorter distance, I’m quicker…most of the time. That was true today and I finished in 2:39:59. She finished in 2:59:48. I waited for her at the terminus since it is in the middle of the woods. She had her own cheering section as she completed the point to point route.

IMG_2847

IMG_2845

Prior to today, records show that Dan Bates had the first and fastest official time on 04/20/2020. He ran 2:46:33, which is excellent considering it was part of a larger 45 mile loop that he made with the Air Line Trail, the Natchaug Trail, and the southern section of the Nipmuck Trail (East Branch). That looks like a fun loop that we want to do.

IMG_2848

IMG_2849

This was our first extensive time on the trail. She has run sections that are part of the Goodwin Forest Trail Run, and I’ve been on the Air Line Trail, which overlaps for a short section at the start. The first five miles were pretty flat and kind of ugly, but the trail conditions improved. These state forests have been heavily logged. Once we got to the five mile mark, the climbing started and it was up and down the rest of the way. That’s typical for a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail.

IMG_2851

IMG_2854

The other typical feature was that the terrain was rough. There were copious rocks and roots. Debbie describes the rockiest sections as “rock gardens.” I’m not the best on the hard stuff, but I stayed on my feet. My only fall came on the final uphill with a quarter mile to go. I slipped and ended up in the leaves.

IMG_2857

IMG_2858

I thoroughly enjoyed the trail. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail. I only saw one hiker on the entire trail. Granted, we started early, but from what I gather, the Natchaug is a gem that doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic beyond the state forests that it passes through. It wound through various marshes and there were many beautiful streams. We also went past some lovely old foundations and chimneys. This is an historic area and you can tell that there was civilization in those woods back in the day. The old logging and forest roads were fast and they linked up with the technical singletrack sections. There were a few short road sections and those were good for making up time and stretching out the legs.

IMG_2832

As noted, it was cold enough for snow. In the morning, it was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was chilly. It warmed up into the mid-40’s. We finished around 9:30 A.M. and we jogged the 1.3 miles south on the Nipmuck to get to our bikes. We packed some dry layers and had to bundle up as it was a cold and blustery ride with intermittent sunshine. We took a scenic route that meandered through the lovely Natchaug towns that are at the edge of Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. I love riding up that way.

We were back at the car by 11:20 A.M. and home by noon. The kids were pumped to see us and after lunch, we celebrated by playing some basketball. The Livingston’s are gifted ballers with great height and we’ve got game!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




HORST Engineering Family of Companies

Cross Spikes™ by HORST Cycling

Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Categories

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 397 other followers


%d bloggers like this: