Schaghticoke Ridge

Abstract expressionist leaves and ice

Abstract expressionist leaves and ice

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

We haven’t gotten out all that much recently so we took a relatively short hike up onto Schaghticoke Ridge, which I maintain for the Connecticut AMC.

The snow is gone and there are pockets of ice in low and shady spots. Ice and leaves always makes for interesting photography so I tried a few shots.

Star moss with grass and more

Star moss with grass and more

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

Did a short hike to check on a section of the AT I maintain that had a recent fire on it (250 acres burned). It was mostly a leaf fire and burnt the understory but most of the trees were spared. And, now, a few summer months later, things are growing back.

This star moss was right on the edge of the fire and somehow survived.

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.