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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pine Knob/ River Rd/ Caleb's Peak(Connecticut)

Had a free day to do some exploring, so headed down to northwest Connecticut to hike some areas near the Housatonic River.  About 1 mile north of Cornwall Bridge is a large parking lot on the west side of Route 7 where a sign indicates that this is Pine Knob Loop Trail.  The lot was, as expected on a holiday weekend, was mostly full when I arrived.
 Heading into the woods on a warm summer day.  I live for this!
 Once in the woods, you will soon arrive at a sign, indicating the start of the loop. From here, I headed clockwise, following Hatch Brook and climbing steeply up the slopes of Pine Knob.  At a small level spot on the climb up, the loop meets up with the Appalachian Trail.
A small rock ledge at the Pine Knob southern summit(elevation 1160 feet) provides very nice views to the east of Mine Mountain and Dean Hill.
The trail continues north through mostly hardwoods with a couple of smaller ups and downs on its way to the northern summit.  I passed several other parties on this section of trail.  Just before arriving at the northern summit, the loop trail breaks away from the AT.
 After a brief climb, the northern summit area offers even broader views from a rocky outlook.  Here is a great panorama to the east and south.
 From the summit, the trail drops steeply down towards Route 7 again.  The trail eventually meets back up where you started, completing a 2.6 mile loop.
My next stop was a section of the Appalachian Trail on River Road in the town of Kent.  This is a very unique section of the AT, because it is very level and follows the Housatonic River for quite a distance.  I parked along the gravel road about .9 of a mile away from the road's end, where a gate is found.  Just beyond the gate is a kiosk with AT information.  This area was extremely loud and crowded with swimmers and party goers, but the noise quickly dissipated as I headed north.
 The trail basically hugs the west shoreline of the river, offering many fine views along the way.
 A bit warm, but almost perfect conditions.  There were many others out and about on the trail enjoying the fine Labor Day weekend weather.
 A nice view upstream to the north.  There were several people out fishing along this section.
 I dropped down to water's edge on several occasions, admiring the river views.
The quiet, flowing Housatonic.
Such a peaceful place, with the only drawback being the sounds of passing traffic on the opposite shoreline.  I turned around after about 2.4 miles, when I arrived at the signs for Stewart Hollow Brook campsite.  From here, I retraced my steps back to the car.
 Still having a couple hours of daylight left, I decided to climb up the Appalachian Trail away from River Road, towards St John's Ledges and Caleb's Peak.  This is not a long hike, but a very steep and fun rock scramble up.
 The trail ascends very steeply through a large rocky area.  Pictures do not do justice to the size of some of these boulders.  There are huge rock ledges here too, which make the perfect spot for rock climbers to explore.  I was fortunate to see a couple scaling all the way up.
 After a stiff climb, you are rewarded with phenomenal east views from St. John's Ledges at about .6 of a mile from the car.
 An east facing panorama over the Housatonic valley.
 The Housatonic River can be easily seen meandering along far, far below.
 My attempt at a selfie on the ledges.  The drop off from these ledges is precipitous, so you must use extreme caution here.
 After hiking another .6 of a mile with a couple more steep sections, I arrived at Caleb's Peak.  Not the true summit, but a fantastic southerly viewpoint nonetheless.
 A great late afternoon view towards the tiny village of Kent.  From here you are far removed, however, from the hustle and bustle of the valley below.  Relaxed here for a few minutes before turning back, retracing my steps off the mountain and back down to the car. 
 Rolling peaks to the south of Fuller Mountain(front) and Mt Algo rising beyond.
The evening glow on the Housatonic as I drove back along River Road.  There were still a lot of folks out and about walking swimming and even on bicycles.  This truly is a recreational paradise.
Had a great day, hiking a total of 9.8 miles altogether. 

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