Highpoint # 7
South Slope, Mount Frissell, 2380 feet
July 6, 2003
Fo’ sho’, my nizzles. Mt. Frissell is a bizzle. If you understand what I’m saying, then good. If not, please continue anyway. For the record, “Frissell” is indeed pronounced like “drizzle,” which makes my Snoop Doggisms ok in the world of hip-hop slang.
After 17 months or so of being official highpointers, Hoang and I finally summitted our home state. There were many firsts, lasts, and oddities surrounding this climb. This was the last time we’d be taking my junky old car with no air conditioning on any road trips. This was the first highpoint that required climbing two mountains only to descend to a highpoint. This was the first unmarked, unremarkable highpoint we’ve done. This was one of only two US highpoints not on a summit (NV being the other). This is the only highpoint that its state refuses to recognize; maintaining a highpoint marker on another, incorrect mountain. And finally, this is our first one that we’ve (sort of) tried once already.
It’s true; Hoang and I halfheartedly attempted to drive up one of the approach routes last summer, but decided against doing so in light of the very poor road conditions. This time, I drove west on the Massachusetts Turnpike and came down from the north. The road was much better using this route, and it also allowed for a short detour to Bash Bish Falls State Park near the CT-MA state line. I’d recommend this side trip for anyone going to the area. I would also advise bringing a detailed map of the area, as the roads are quite a maze…
Hoang enjoying a little bit of Bish and a little bit of Bash
The falls are quite nice and I was a bit surprised by the number of people who had made the trek here. The park is in the extreme SW corner of Massachusetts, and the road to get there coupled with the steep hike to the base of the falls must deter many daytrippers. The water was surprisingly clear and refreshingly cold – but the park rangers who stood sentry kept anyone from jumping in. If they didn’t do the trick, the ghastly park information sign surely should. Aside from a few maps of the park, there are about twenty articles from recent years chronicling the numerous injuries and deaths at the falls. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the park!
After poking around the falls a bit, it was time to get to our real destination of the day, the highpoint of Connecticut. Surprisingly, my piece of crap car performed admirably up the steep inclines and over the bumpy gravel roads. Fortunately, despite the mid-90 degree temps at home, the puffy white clouds and trees kept the temperature tolerable on the drive. We found the small parking area and proceeded to leave the car in from of a closed gate. Not smart. There is a tiny hand written sign on the gate imploring dopes like us not to park there… More on this mistake later.
We were immediately impressed with the mountain laurel in full bloom. This is supposed to happen much earlier here in CT, but due to the worst spring in history, they bloomed rather late (I think). After parking, we found the trail at the state line marker and began following the reddish/pinkish blazes through a tunnel of laurel. This first third of a mile is flat and quite nice. Just before the first incline of the hike, we came upon two older couples coming down. Hoang talked to one of the wives who lamented that their husbands dragged them out to see the tri-state (NY-CT-MA) marker about a mile up the trail. When we told them that they had also been to the highest point in Connecticut, they were nonplussed. Who, in their right minds, thinks a tri-state marker is more exciting than a highpoint?! Better yet, who in their right minds drags their 60 year old wives up and down very steep rock faces? Ask me that again in 30 years…
Just as we passed these folks, the trail went straight up Mount Round. I have to admit, we were a bit surprised at the steepness of the trail here… We had no problems at all, but still, I didn’t think we’d have to use our hands to climb up so much. (Especially after seeing those old ladies coming down!) We were rewarded at the summit with 360 degree views of the southern Berkshires, Bear Mountain (the “fake” CT highpoint), Riga and South Lakes, and just to the west of us – Mt. Frissell. We were in no hurry however, as the exposed summit was covered in blueberry bushes – full of ripened berries. The breezy respite allowed us to cool off as well. I was very impressed with the views and the solitude of the place. This is not a popular trail, as New England highpoint trails go, probably because of the fact that CT doesn’t even acknowledge it. I’d assume only tri-pointers and highpointers make the effort to get here. At any rate, it’s worth it on nice days like we had.
The trail is very steep here… But the blueberries make it worthwhile.
After picking and eating the berries, we were off to Mt. Frissell via a small col between the two mountains. The climb up Frissell was as steep as Mt. Round, but also equally short. Despite being a hundred feet or so taller than Round, the summit views on Frissell were pretty weak. We didn’t dawdle so close to our goal. A few minutes’ hiking south and west around the peak (in MA) and we came to the 3 inch brass/green stake in the ground marking CT’s true highpoint. In fact, Hoang walked right past it at first. Despite the somewhat odd location, there was still a pretty good view of the aforementioned lakes and we enjoyed a snack and a drink in a very refreshing breeze.
We chilled for about 15 minutes and retraced our steps back up Frissell, down and up to Mount Round, and picked and ate lots more blueberries. So far, this was the best smelling hike we’ve done, as the laurel and berries mixed to fill our noses with an intoxicating sweetness. Honestly, it was really pleasant. Much better than I thought this trip would be. Some Russians (or something) were up there filling up gallon containers so we asked them to take our picture. I think they were a bit confused by our “lookout” pose, but we had to maintain the tradition!
We decided we had had enough of the berries and the views and hiked our way back down to the car. As we got closer, we could hear the unmistakable “beep-beep-beep” of a truck backing up and I became quite concerned. There’s no reason a truck would be along that road in the middle of nowhere backing up unless… Unless it was towing someone. I remembered my parking spot and also reading somewhere that one shouldn’t park in front of the gate. This was unfortunate because in my haste to get back to the lot, we passed a highpointing family (they were carrying the Holmes book) and instead of stopping to chat as we’d liked to have done, we jogged right past them.
I didn’t voice my concerns to Hoang, but as we approached, I did hear someone opening the gate we were blocking. I breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing my car where we’d left it, and didn’t exactly call attention to the guy walking away from the gate down the path. I’m sure he wasn’t too happy with me… And I’m also quite sure that truck we heard was indeed towing someone else who was in the way as well. I’m convinced we got lucky.
After our nice hike in perfect weather (OK, it was a bit warm. See sweaty pictures above and below) we had a nice drive home through NW Connecticut. Several others have pointed out that Mt. Frissell’s surrounding towns are the “toniest” in the country near a highpoint. I suppose this is true, with Great Barrington, MA and Salisbury, CT nearby, but since we currently live here (in slightly less “tony” West Hartford), we didn’t really notice. Or maybe Connecticut doesn’t seem so rich to us since I’m a resident and my crappy car is covered in duct tape and the Costco we stopped at was so crowded.
Highpointizzle Badassizzles, after Mt. Frissell
Highpoint Difficulty Rating: 7.5
Hike Distance: 5.2 miles
Distance from Current Residence (West Hartford, CT): 46 miles
Here is a picture I stole from the Internet – if we’d kept hiking past the highpoint stake, we’d have seen the Catskills to the West. Cool, huh?