More FKT’s: Pachaug & Naugatuck Trails

2020 is definitely the year of the FKT (Fastest Known Time). I’ve been reading about them all year long, I’ve been listening about them (podcasts) all year long, I’ve been writing about them all year long, and I’ve been doing them all year long.

My partner in crime for many of these adventures has been Debbie. She returned to the FKT game last week with a record on the Pachaug Trail. She made it a complete loop by also setting a Pachaug Duathlon “first known time.” I wasn’t there, so you will have to rely on her report. She hasn’t submitted her duathlon entry yet, but it’s in the works. Her run was 23.5 miles in 4h 33m 39s. The bike ride back to the start was a little over seven miles of mixed road and gravel, and it took her about 40 minutes. She was pleased with her solo effort on this moderately challenging trail. There isn’t a lot of elevation gain given it’s location in eastern Connecticut on the Rhode Island border, but it still isn’t flat.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association description is concise:

Towns: Voluntown, Sterling, Griswold

Trail Overview: Primarily a woodland trail, the Pachaug Trail extends from Green Fall Pond in Voluntown to Pachaug Pond in Griswold. It passes ponds, streams, rock formations, travels through stands of conifers and hardwoods, and features a rhododendron sanctuary. It is almost entirely within Pachaug State Forest. There are side trails, connecting trails, and crossover trails that provide many options for further exploration. The crossover trails connect the Pachaug Trail to the Nehantic, Quinebaug, and Narragansett Trails allowing for great loop hiking opportunities.

Longer backpacking trips can be achieved by linking the Quinebaug, Pachaug, Nehantic, and Narragansett Trails. Four overnight shelters in the State Forest can be used by backpackers on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more info on the backcountry shelters and to reserve a space, click here.

She has been running super strong all year and especially since her smashing effort at The Blue 2 Blue Challenge last month. You can learn all about it on the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. She was a guest on a post-race episode along with four of the other top finishers. She had the itch this week to do another FKT and recruited me for a team effort. With the likely abrupt end of the cyclocross season after the COVID-19 related cancellations of Mystic CX (yesterday) and Cheshire CX (today), I was game for some competition. So, after last night’s low key Halloween festivities with the kids, we all went to her parents’ house in Prospect around mid-morning. We had the benefit of the extra hour of rest since we set the clocks back last night. This gave me a little extra daylight in the morning, so I did one of my favorite bike loops that includes a few of my favorite roads. This 15 mile jaunt was a warmup for what was to come.

She selected the Naugatuck Trail which is very close to where she grew up in Prospect. CFPA’s description is short:

Towns: Bethany, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck

Trail Overview: The Naugatuck Trail is located within the Eastern Block of Naugatuck State Forest along an uneven east-west ridge.  To the east, the trail winds narrowly through laurel groves along contour lines with the occasional natural trailside rock bench upholstered in moss.  Several balds throughout feature seasonal wildflowers. Westward beyond a gorge, there are straighter, flatter sections through open forest with ephemeral ponds. The steepest elevation change is along Egypt Brook near Route 8 and marks the eastern slope of the Naugatuck River Valley.

A better summary of the trail and what it has to offer can be found on Lee-Stuart Evans’ site. We used that as our guide. The trail is about 5.6 miles including the out and back to the summit of Beacon Cap. Debbie got 10.4 for her round trip and I was 10.55 thanks to a wrong turn that I made (while leading her). I recovered to catch up, but I had to climb an extra bit as well since my missed turn sent me down into a “hole.” I got 1,923 feet of elevation gain which is stout for a short run. There was a lot of up and down. The trail was rugged in most spots with lots of loose and wet leaves that had recently fallen. They were still falling! They hid lots of rocks and roots, making for some tricky footing.

I had two epic falls. The first came when I was chasing Debbie on a downhill. Thank goodness the trail was smooth in that spot because I plowed all the leaves off it with my chest. A rake would have worked better. I did a total Superman and slid about 10 feet. I was lucky to get up after that one. I yelled, “keep going,” but apparently, she had no idea I had fallen and didn’t hear me clearly. Regardless, she kept going and I had to catch up over the next 1/2 mile.

The second fall came about 1/3rd of a mile from the finish when she was absolutely hammering the gradual descent to the trailhead along Route 8. I tried to come up on her left with the intention of leading the final stretch, but I got into some overgrowth that caught my left foot. I went down in a heap and that one hurt. I cut up my left knee and left hand. I’ll be sore tomorrow. I was able to gather myself and catch up to her right before the finish. We had not been tracking our time, and we got a bit of a surprise after we hit the gate marking the start/end of the trail.

The big bummer for us was that we came up 18 seconds short on the out and back FKT. Jeff Grant and Mary-Louise Timmermans ran 1h 46m 4s. We stopped our watches at 1h 46m 22s. They did their FKT from the opposite direction. They ran east to west from the Route 42 trailhead. They tackled the Beacon Cap Trail spur to the summit first, then ran to the Route 8 trailhead, and back. We did the reverse. We started at Route 8, in the west, and ran east. We did the Beacon Cap Trail spur out and back, then ran to the Route 42 trailhead, and then ran back to Route 8. The FKT only required one out and back to the top of Beacon Cap. On the return, we bypassed it. We hit the turnaround in 58m 29s. That was for 5.59 miles or so. Then, my Garmin Fenix 6s measured the “straight shot” return at 4.96 miles.

I could study Jeff and Mary-Louise’s data a bit closer to see where we lost the 18 seconds, but since they went a different direction and ran in March of this year, the trail conditions were likely different. I won’t surmise how different. The point of these FKT’s is to go faster and we didn’t. I’m cool with that. We will try again next year with the goal of doing it on a day where there are less leaves and drier conditions. We saw very little snow on the trail, but that area got several inches a few days ago, and nearly all of it had melted.

Good job to Jeff and Mary-Louise. We were pushing very hard, so I know they must have been too. If we went any faster on the last descent, there surely would have been another fall for me, and after 10+ miles, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up. I know my limits, especially when chasing Debbie on terrain like that. You plunge nearly 400 feet in a half a mile and it is all loose rocks, leaves, and gravel. As it is, when we got to the flatter section along the highway, I hit the ground anyway.

This was a lovely trail and would make for a great hiking route to do with the kids. We were pretty knackered after this one and Mrs. Schieffer had a nice lunch for us when we got back to the house. It was great to spend time with the kids and their grandparents. When we pulled up the driveway, our son was driving the tractor, which he enjoys very much. Our daughter also contributed by helping with various chores. Just as we got to the house, the skies opened up and the deluge began. It’s still raining hard now, but we are home for good and putting the final touches on a nice weekend. With November here and two months left in this crazy year, we still have some adventure left in our legs.

Debbie’s FKT’s

Scott’s FKT’s

1 Response to “More FKT’s: Pachaug & Naugatuck Trails”

  1. 1 Colorful Sisters 5 November 2020 at 1:57 am

    This post is great! Keep up the good work!

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