Schaghticoke Ridge

Leaf carpet

Leaf carpet

Schaghticoke Ridge, Kent, Connecticut.

Post winter, the Appalachian Trail is, in places, covered with leaves that have remained in place since last fall through the winter. Once it snows on them and then melts, they get matted and almost stuck in place.

They’ve been walked on and broken up but not much, the trail doesn’t get as much use in winter as it does in summer. In the next three months thousands of people will walk over the 5 mile section of trail that I maintain in Connecticut (I maintain another 5 miles in Massachusetts) and the leaves will be gone; pushed off the side to continue decomposing in the woods.

Then fall will come and we’ll start all over again.

Two tulip trees

Two tulip trees

Appalachian Trail near Kent, Connecticut. This is a repeat of a group of trees I’ve photographed a lot as they’re quite spectacular. I wanted to try them with the Fuji X70 and that’s what’s used here.

There are two groups of tulip trees in this area and this is two separate trees close together. I’ve also shot another single tree with three trunks that’s about 20 feet to my right as this picture is taken.

The Fuji X70 makes this kind of shot easy and fun with its articulating LCD screen. I continue to be very pleased with the camera. I updated my copy of Lightroom so it can read X70 RAW files and this is a converted RAW file. Frankly, the Fuji X70’s JPEGs are of such high quality I probably won’t shoot RAW all that much unless I know I’ll be in an artificial light situation where I’ll need to adjust white balance.

Trees and leaves

Trees and leaves

Appalachian Trail, between Bull’s Bridge and Kent, Connecticut.

We hiked Schaghticoke Ridge yesterday to remove two trees (blowdowns) that had fallen across the trail. My next piece of work will be to re-blaze the inner section of this ridge (3 miles) . AT blazes are white paint, 2″ wide by 6″ tall.

This brook was completely dry most of this past winter which is unusual, it’s usually the source of lots of ice photography. Because we’ve had such a weird winter with little rain, there is an abundance of leaves everywhere: on the trail and in streams. I shot about ten reflection images from different vantage points in two pools on this stream and while I’d usually attempt to just catch the surface (pure trees) it seemed like it might be nice to get leaves in the shot which give the reflection another dimension.

I have to say, all of my images taken this day with the Fuji X70 turned out extremely well. I like the richness of the Fuji files and I’m shooting JPEG only as I don’t have a RAW converter yet for the camera. The camera’s controls, like the Ricoh GR’s are completely useable with thin gloves on and it feels like a very well made, sturdy tool in my hands.

Naked tulip tree

Naked tulip tree

Kent, Connecticut.

Gary and I hiked south on the Appalachian Trail along Schaghticoke Ridge to just beyond Thayer Brook and we stopped at the big tulip tree with three trunks to pay our respects.

All the leaves are down now and this makes for interesting shots looking up at the bare branches. It also makes for difficult hiking through piles of leaves, hiding roots and rocks and all sorts of things to trip over. We had planned to hike the entire ridge but we were moving so slowly in the leaves we turned back about a third of the way down the ridge.

Old birch tree

Old birch tree

Schaghticoke Ridge, Appalachian Trail, Bull’s Bridge, Connecticut.

I went on a work-hike with the head of trails for the Connecticut AMC. Our job was to re-flag a re-route of a two mile section of this seven mile section of trail.

Why are we doing this?

It seems that two miles of the current trail runs a bit too close to the Schaghticoke indian reservation and it would be easier to move the trail within its corridor than deal with the politics. Also, the current trail has a number of tough to maintain spots in that section: heavy erosion, a bit too steep a climb in places.

Finding a new place for the trail to go on rugged terrain is a big job and there are politics here too: this area is loaded with historic sites and if the trail gets too close to them it will mean thousands of people having access to those sites… you get the drift.

Just as important as the politics is walkability and how easy it will be to maintain the section. Day and thru hikers will be using this and we want it to be challenging, safe, and enjoyable. And, given that Connecticut is known for its mosquitoes and other delights of summer, it ought not be too wet, not to mention drainage, mud, slippery rocks, etc.

Scouting out and building a new trail is a very big job and given that I’ve only done shorter re-routing work, I wanted to get in on it.

The initial surveying was done a year ago and this was the third time Jim, my partner for the day had hiked it. I was honored that he asked for and at times used my opinions on various things. For example, both of us prefer switchbacks to too steep a climb. Switchbacks are more work to put in but in the end, they’re easier to walk and easier to maintain. We also like walking on rock, as long as it’s not too steep. Both of us hike this section in winter and glazed rock can be dangerous if one doesn’t have spikes or snowshoes on.

We tied bright orange tape flags to small trees, keeping in mind how they hung so they’re visible when the trees leaf out again. We put two tapes around trees to designate turns, similar to the AT convention of two blazes on trees.

What would normally take us about an hour on a trail took us three hours through the woods. But, it was a beautiful hike and just before we stopped in a small but very steep and beautiful ravine for lunch, I found this old birch tree and decided to add to my collection of old, decaying trees. This was the only photograph I took all day, my hands were full with tape and tools and we were working against the clock.

And, here’s the great piece of this: this section of trail will be mine to maintain. I’ll be involved with building the trail as well as maintaining it. I can see a number of future photo essays on this.

Chestnut oak leaves turning

Chestnut oak leaves turning

Schaghticoke Ridge, Appalachian Trail. Kent, Connecticut.

There were lots of baby chestnut oak trees with great leaf patterns along the trail. Shooting them would seem like a simple matter but in fact I found it challenging.

First, one needs a decent grouping of them with enough leaves on the same level so decent focus can be achieved at a wide enough aperture to blur the ground which is close below. Then there’s the light and how it’s illuminating the inner pattern of the leaf. And, let’s not forget the wind, which, if it’s gusting makes these little trees move.

Lastly, the grouping might be more interesting if one or more of the leaves is broken or distressed, introducing the element of wabi sabi (imperfection).

Good thing I was hiking alone, I’d have driven anyone with me crazy.

Looking east from Schaghticoke Ridge

Looking east from Schaghticoke Ridge

Schaghticoke Ridge, Appalachian Trail. Kent, Connecticut.

Hiked from Bull’s Bridge to Rt. 341 along the AT.

This is the view from the ridge looking east toward Warren (my town). You can see the Housatonic River below (Rt. 7 on the far side of it).

Fall color has peaked around here and last night the temperature got down to 30F which will let the trees know it’s time to shed more leaves. We’ve been making fires in our wood stove in the morning for a week now. I’ll be on leaf duty around our house today, both blowers will be making a huge racket and this is just the beginning, the oaks have yet to turn and let their leaves go yet (this is mostly maple, ash, and birch color).

Left my truck at Bull’s Bridge and didn’t expect to do this entire hike as I had no car at the north end to drive me back to the truck but the upside of doing this hike on a weekend was that there were other folks doing the same thing. I met up with three very nice people who I did over half the hike with who gave me a ride back to the truck. Hope to hike with them again, they were great hiking companions.

Tulip with flare

Tulip with flare

Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut. I hiked from Bull’s Bridge to Kent on Schaghticoke Ridge and took a break at Thayer Brook and the giant tulip tree next to it.

I can’t pass this place without taking yet another photograph of this magnificent single tree with three trunks. My instinct is to position myself to keep the sun hidden behind other trees to avoid flare but a lightbulb went off: why not attempt to get both the trees and flare.

As some reading this know, it’s tough to know how flare will look until you get back to a larger screen so I did ten shots with different meter settings and slightly different positions hoping one might work out. In the end, they all worked out and it was tough to choose.

Beech leaves

Beech leaves

Appalachian Trail north of Bull’s Bridge, Connecticut.

I hiked Schaghticoke Ridge again from Rt. 341 in Kent south to Bull’s Bridge and again didn’t find a lot to shoot (or just didn’t feel like shooting).

While on a water break near the end of the hike I looked up and found that I was in a small grove of beech trees. I attempted some shots looking up at their smooth trunks but they didn’t work out. Small groups of leaves overhead were making interesting patterns as light passed through their overlapping layers and I took a few pictures as place markers as this type of shot needs more experimentation.

This is the high contrast black and white JPEG almost straight out of the Ricoh GR with the added grain. This in-camera processing gives small bits of contrast like the leaf veins a bit more contrast, which I like.

Salt Stick

An aside: I’ve had a few leg cramps in the evening after big hikes like this and they were bad enough so that I did a bit of research on why I might be having them. It seems dehydration can cause cramps and while I drink enough water to “pee clear” I decided to try an electrolyte replacement called “Salt Stick.”

I’m not a serious athlete (any more) but doing long hikes in the heat and humidity of summer can dehydrate anyone.

Bottom line: it really works. It’s a gel-cap that’s got sodium and potassium and a few other things in it but it’s not Gatorade (ugh) and it doesn’t need to be mixed with water, just swallowed. I took one each hour on the hike with plenty of water and there is no doubt that I felt better throughout the hike and afterwards. Less heavy legs, no cramps and I had more left at the end. If this is something you might be interested in, look up “Salt Stick” on Amazon.