Make That “QuineBOG” Trail
Plainfield/Voluntown 6.4 miles (plus two 1 mile connector trails)
December 14, 2008 –
I never meant for this trail to be broken up over two hikes. As such, I don’t think the second part – not quite even a mile – warrants a separate blog post; I’ll just add on to this one when I get around to completing the trail.
If you are familiar with the cobweb of CFPA trails in this part of the state, you know that hiking them all solo presents some logistical challenges. If you are familiar with me, you know I welcome such challenges. And I had this one all worked out in my head before setting foot on the trail. Unfortunately, some potentially rogue hunters forced a change in my plans along the way. I’m a wimp like that.
The day was still successful, as I was able to hike a larger chunk of the connecting Pachaug Trail than I had originally planned.
Part 1: Northern 5.5 miles of the Quinebaug plus the 1 mile Pachaug-Quinebaug Crossover Trail
I’ll make this unnecessarily confusing of course. Normal people would hike with a partner and two cars and be done with it. I, on the other hand, wake up well before dawn, slink about the house as quiet as an ant (we’ve had mice in our attic and walls… they aren’t all that quiet), and head off alone to most efficiently hike an end-to-end trail.
But heading out early means I get to sometimes see things most others don’t – like a pretty sunrise over Route 2 for instance:
That means some creativity is in order. I hopped off of I-395 and traveled down Route 14A to Spaulding Road. I parked at the trailhead and suffered some initial confusion because the blue blazes continued across Spaulding Road. However, I just read that this is an access trail that goes to a larger parking area a short distance away.
Now why would this trail require a larger parking lot? Oh maybe because these woods – the Pachaug State Forest – is a hotbed for hunters. This being a Sunday, I wasn’t too concerned, as hunting is explicitly illegal on Sundays in Connecticut. Then again, perhaps the scene that greeted my initial steps along the trail were an omen:
Nice. At least it was frozen solid and didn’t stink. The Walk Book describes these first couple miles as potentially muddy after rains. I can confirm that is entirely true. While mostly frozen, I still had some difficulty picking my way around and over and through the frozen pools of water along the trail.
The trail is very flat and fairly unremarkable for the first 20 minutes or so; passing many dilapidated old stone walls and hunter stands. With all the hunting here, there wasn’t too much ATV damage or litter.
After a short downhill, the trail turns south to the shores of Lockes Meadow Pond. This area is said to be a great birding area but I didn’t see all that many birds of interest. Of course, that may be because I’m not a birder. (But friend of CTMQ Brownstone Birder is.) Or because I was confronted with a rather difficult situation shortly after walking the shore for a short way. And what would that be?
Hm. Interesting. Unprotected by trees to the east, this 200 yard long stretch of trail was completely underwater with only a thin layer of ice coating parts. To the left, the Pond and thick stand of bushes made it impossible to pass. To the right, a large half frozen swamp stretched as far as I could see.
I bushwhacked around the swamp, hopping from hummock to hummock but determined it would take me forever to do it and remain dry. And since I’d be returning this way in short order, it really didn’t make sense to continue.
I turned tail and retraced my steps back to my car.
After a short drive around to Hell Hollow Road to the parking lot next to Hell Hollow Pond (CTMQ’s Satan in Connecticut series visit here), I hopped back onto the trail. Actually, I hopped onto the Pachaug Trail to hook up with the Pachaug-Quinebaug Crossover Trail (not to be confused with the Quinebaug-Pachaug Crossover Trail later).
Hell Hollow Pond
The crossover trail is blazed blue and yellow and is somewhat interesting. I had to contend with a lot more ice/ponding which makes hiking much slower than I prefer. There are lots of streems here too that feed Hell Hollow Pond. Here I am on a dry section of the crossover:
Pachaug-Quinebaug Crossover: Done
Soon the trail became an old woods road and hit the Quinebaug. I veered right down a hill and was quickly at Lockes Meadow Pond again, this time approaching from the south. The land nearest the pond was still impossibly impassable here too, so I again tried to bushwhack around the frozen(ish) swampy area on the other side.
Lockes Meadow Pond (Take two)
I did this for about 10 minutes and gave up. I wasn’t going to make it to where I turned around earlier and really, who cares. I can’t think of too many people that would have made the effort I just did, so I turned back south and was pleased with my attempt.
Just past the crossover trail I had just hiked, on the left hand side of the trail, is Devil’s Den. It’s a bit further along than the Walk Book map shows, but it’s pretty easy to spot from the trail. I was a little underwhelmed by this particular den of the Devil, but you can Read another of my Satan in Connecticut posts about the evil spot.
Once back on the trail, I thought the thin frozen layer of ice over the exposed rock trail was cooler than the rock pile of Devil’s Den. See, look:
Of course, this made the walking somewhat treacherous, but I survived. Survived to get to the only true viewpoint of the day, which was nothing more than a rock overlook, but it was a nice diversion.
Back on the trail, which now continued along the exposed rock “road” which was pretty cool from a geologic standpoint.
This section of rock is an extension of sorts of Flat Rock Road up a pace – gee, I wonder where that road got its name? Once I reached the drivable portion of the road, I hiked very near a rather camouflaged house. Can you see it in this picture?
Okay, but will you be able to see it come summer? Just past the house, more geologic fun!
A good old-fashioned split piece of rock.
A short descent, a quick ascent, and then some good flat hiking… along another ponded/iced-covered length of trail:
That picture really isn’t all too bad; but I’d entered the true portion of the woods known as Hell Hollow! I wonder if there would be spooky demon-haunted cellar holes?
I contined along heading towards Hell Hollow Road and had just become comfortable discerning frozen/walkable stuff versus frozen/not-walkable stuff when I crunched over a ponded area covered with leaves and…
Yeah, those four large, deep holes are my footprints.
Sigh. That was lame. Ice cold mud in my shoes with miles to go. I hit the road shortly thereafter and my fear of its name can be seen on my face:
The trail quickly dives back into the woods, which were now decidedly white pine. I love hiking through pine and hemlock. It smells better, it sounds better, and I think it looks better too. Of course, it’s also much darker at nighttime than a deciduous forest – hence the silly “haunted” rumors of this area.
(Sadly, three weeks later some guy murdered his mom and dumped her body here, then went to blow up his house in order to kill himself but only succeeded in blowing himself out into the yard.)
The trail circles around a hill and then dives through a lot of young pines just before crossing into THE Hell Hollow. Here I am, terrified of the ghosts and goblins about to get me:
In truth, I was scared in this area. I’d been hearing gunshots louder and louder as I hiked south. Of course, repeated blasts meant I was near a shooting range – no big deal. Then I heard what I swore was a much closer gunshot but convinced myself I heard incorrectly.
The trail parallels very near an open forest road. At one point, two guys in full camo and road up the road on an ATV. They were too far away to see if they actually had guns, and I’ve been told hunters like to scout the area to plan a future hunt. That very well may have been the case, but I was sufficiently spooked – even if it was Sunday.
I was very uncomfortable to say the least. I checked my maps and felt the best decision was to cut over to the Pachaug Trail (via the Quinebaug-Pachaug Connector, of course) and head back up north to my car. It made me feel better to walk away from the gunshots.
So that’s exactly what I did. This left a 0.9 mile last bit of the Quinebaug left to do, which I can do as a loop in the Spring. (At which point I’ll add on Part 2 to this post.)
The crossover trail was completely uninteresting, except for Phillips Pond picnic area and the fact that there are apparently now two crossover options to the Pachaug – a northern one and a southern one.
I ended up hiking a lot more of the Pachaug then planned, which you can read about here. Also note that my hike ended with animal bones too, which sort of completed my day after the dead deer at the beginning.
Quinebaug Trail Approximate Breakdown:
0.0 Miles: Spaulding Road
1.4 Miles: Lockes Meadow Pond
1.9 Miles: Unpaved Flat Rock Road
2.0 Miles: Devil’s Den
2.3 Miles: Scenic Overlook
4.2 Miles: Hell Hollow Road
5.2 Miles: THE Hell Hollow
5.5 Miles: Phillips Pond
6.4 Miles: Breakneck Hill Road