Thanksgiving 2014: Connecticut Peak Bagging

Thanksgiving morning I headed for the airport bright and early. After grabbing a spot in the second to the last row of the economy parking, I watched the sunrise from inside the DIA terminal and let myself feel a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with some coffee and Bailey’s. All things considered, I was super excited to be headed to see Lucy and Franz get married and have a bit of an adventure.

DIA sunrise

Adventure? In Connecticut?

Yeah, I’d decided since I was spending all the money on a plane ticket and rental car that I might as well create a bit of a challenge for myself. I decided that I would try to hit all eight Connecticut pseudo-county highpoints along with the wedding in the 48 hours I’d be in the state. (They’re pseudo-counties because Connecticut dissolved them as governing bodies in 1960.)

After landing at Bradley, I got my rental car and immediately headed for South Johnson Hill, the highpoint of Hartford county. I arrived at the trailhead around 6pm, donned my headlamp, put on my snowpants, and headed out for a dark and snowy walk. The quiet and peacefulness was really appreciated after a long day of travel. (Seriously, this post can be summarized as “snowy selfies.”)

Summit of South Johnson Hill

I’d been pretty lucky with my travel plans as the state had gotten pretty hammered with a big winter storm the day before. The storm had left a lot of people without power as trees lost branches. As I walked back to my car, I saw flashing lights near the trailhead. Initially, I was pretty sure that I was going to be ticketed for parking at the end of the road even though it was clearly plowed out as a trailhead parking area. Turns out it was just a power company truck fixing some lines.

As I drove towards the trailhead for Mt. Frissell, I started looking for food. At about 7pm on Thanksgiving night in rural Connecticut (and Massachusetts) I wasn’t really sure what I would find. Fortunately, I located a Dunkin’ Donuts and snacked on a bagel and cream cheese as I continued out to the trailhead. It occurred to me that there was a good chance that the snow would be more than I wanted to tackle without boots or snowshoes but I put the decision off until morning. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I crawled into the back of my rental car and got to sleep.

 

Car sleeping

In the morning, I got out of the car to investigate the conditions. It was a really hard decision to make but faced with four mile postholing hike without appropriate footwear when I had a wedding that promised a fair amount of awesome dancing coming up that night I decided it was best if I put aside my adventure goals to be sure I was more fresh for the real point of the trip: the wedding.

Deep snow

 

I headed out for the next high point in Fairfield County. The drive took me into New York State and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bright, bluebird winter day and cruising around and seeing the small towns was making me so happy.

Welcome to New York?

Winter driving The Fairfield County Highpoint:

Fairfield County Highpoint

From there it was off to the Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills of New Haven County:

Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills

 

After that quick jaunt, I decided I had time to squeeze in Middlesex County’s Bald Hill Range. It created a little backtracking for the next day but I was worried about time before catching my plane. I’m so glad I did. Friday had better weather than Saturday and it was a gorgeous walk through the woods!

Trail to Bald Hill Range

Bald Hill Range

Then it was wedding time! After a quick sponge bath in a McDonalds bathroom (seriously, I guess I’m still a dirtbag at heart), I made myself presentable and headed out to celebrate with my friends. Congratulations you two. You’re an adorable, awesome couple. And you threw one heck of a dance party.

Franz & Lucy Wedding

I got a late start the next morning. Since I’d already blown the goal of hitting all the highpoints for the weekend, I figured it was way more important to spend some more time relaxing at Lucy’s parents with the newlyweds and their families. After a leisurely morning, I drove off to Gates Hill, a rather unimpressive roadside stop:

Gates Hill

I reasoned I had time for one last stop, Windham County’s Snow  Hill. I wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be like and if I’d be able to drive my rental car up near the summit. As it turned out I had to park near the highway and hike a mile each way. I start to get antsy on days that I’m flying about getting to the airport on time and it was reaching that point. I started up the rutted icy road fretting a bit about making this happen. I decided that my mood would be drastically improved if I turned it into a bit of a run. I was wearing my TurboDown so I’m sure that my plane-mates for the rest of the day didn’t really appreciate it but sometimes you just need to go for it!

Snow Hill

All in all, I made it to the wedding, danced my face off, and got 6 of 8 county highpoints. I’ll be back for that slope point on Mt. Frissell and also for little Burley Hill!

Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range Tour

Last Thursday, Forrest and I were invited out on a tour of the Barry M. Goldwater Range. We were taken out to Range 1 just to the north of Ajo and got to watch some F-16s and A-10s do some practice bombing and strafing runs.

Range 1 Entrance

F-16

F-16

I wasn’t quite fast enough with the camera, but I did barely capture this shot of the F-16’s afterburner.

Afterburner

Beyond the tower for Range 1 is the road to some of the Barry M. Goldwater tactical ranges. The range is closed to the public (except for a few small areas) so this is off limits.

Road to tactical ranges

After the speed of the F-16s, the A-10s threatened to be a bit of a disappointment, however it was still really amazing to see them up so close! (And it’s a bit easier to take pictures of them!)

A-10

A-10

A-10

A-10

A-10

A-10

Hi pilot!

A-10

Slab City: Riding in a Kit Fox

One afternoon we were relaxing near the van when a “strange” airplane flew overhead. Forrest watched it awhile and noticed that it seemed to be landing in the Slabs somewhere. Later that afternoon when we went for a walk we found Jack and his Kit Fox taxing back down the road to his RV.

Since I’d never been in a plane smaller than a commercial jet, we decided that now was as good a time as any. I was a little unsure about the whole thing but Forrest insisted that I go for it. I’m so glad I did! What a crazy experience taxing down the rutted pavement of Slab City then getting up in the air to see the Salton Sea, some of the Chocolate Mountain firing range, and of course The Slabs.

An airplane in the Slabs?
An airplane in the Slabs?
Who? Me? Ride?
Who? Me? Ride?
Getting ready for takeoff
Getting ready for takeoff
Preparing to taxi...
Preparing to taxi…
...down the street.
…down the street.
Coming in for a landing. Watch out cars!
Coming in for a landing. Watch out cars!

Interstates are like McDonalds…

“Interstates are like food at McDonalds. Not so much a meal as a solution to a problem.” -Glasseye, Sprinter Forum

Unfortunately for us, this weekend will be heavy on both the Interstate and McDonald’s solutions but despite the frantic pace, I’m super excited to be hitting the road with Forrest again for a few days. (Sprocket, we miss you!)

I’m flying to Florida this morning with Forrest to pick up this sweet ride:

We land in Ft. Lauderdale at 8:30pm and have to be back in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho for class at 6pm on Monday.

I’m going to be blogging as much as I can (no smartphone for Team 3Up)…mostly from McDonalds.