Connecticut – Mount Frissell

Spanky At The Highpoint of Connecticut

Spanky just loves camping in the Catskills! The campground we are staying in is totally awesome. The sites are nestled in thick forest providing us with ample shade from the hot, almost summer, sun. Saugerties KOA sits on 40 acres of Catskill real estate so there is plenty of room to take the little man into the woods, take him off leash, and let him run around, chase critters – real and imagined, and just generally have a blast. It’s great for the old man also. I prefer being in the woods and in the mountains to most other places in the world. And, as an extra added bonus, there are very few campers here so we virtually have the run of the place.

Spanky was a big hit as soon as we arrived. A lady and her husband immediately came over to our site and told me, “You won’t believe this, we have the same dog back home.” About an hour later the lady came to show me pics of their dog – the spittin image of the Spankster. It’s a 6 month old female that they got from a shelter. I don’t know Spanks, you may have lot’s of close relatives out there.

Despite his slightly annoying tendency to bark when I leave him alone for a short while, the owners of the campground, Gail, Wayne and their son have taken a real liking to Spanks. They each come by several times a day to pet and play with him. As a matter of fact….Spanks had the high honor of being the first dog, ever, to test their just completed today, fenced in dog play area. He gave it high marks. It gets the official Spanky Seal of Approval – recognized world wide as a mark of distinction, ranks up there with the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is unbelievable. As I’m writing this, a squirrel has approached to within a few feet of Spanky. The squirrel is obviously trying to make his way to Spanky’s food bowl. I’ve seen bold squirrels before – they get used to people eventually. But…..I’ve never seen one come that close to a dog, certainly never seen Spanky just calmly sitting and looking at one encroaching on his turg. Oops, spoke too soon. I didn’t give Spanky enough credit. He was just lulling the furry little rodent into a false sense of confidence. Spanky sprang like a tightly wound spring at the last second. The squirrel scrambled up a tree in the nick of time. I’m sure there will be more episodes of the squirrels vs Spanky.

Again, we cross the mighty Hudson to get to Connecticut’s Mount Frissell. Our route takes us over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. We pass through the smartest looking, most attractive Toll Booths I’ve seen in my life. The tolls are a 2 story brick, kind of English tudor affair. Hell, I wouldn’t mind living in the place.

The Hudson Valley is home to some well known mythology and legend. Of course Rip Van Winkle, the dude that got drunk and then slept for 20 years. Then there is Ichabod Crane, you know, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the guy that got the crap scared out of him by the Headless Horseman. Both these legends are courtesy of writer Washington Irving.

The river itself played a pivotal role in the history of American commerce and industry. The Hudson is navigable upriver for an extremely long distance. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed, connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson, facilitating shipment of goods from the Great Lakes across the Atlantic to Europe. The ample supply of water, ease of transportation by water and by railroad, attracted all kinds of industry to the valley.

With time things change (as they always do). Primarily due to the advent of the interstate highway system and long haul trucking, industry no longer relied on water and railroads for transportation. Industry along the Hudson went into a long period of decline, it’s major legacy being some pretty damned bad water pollution. Fortunately, things are turning around. Fish are returning, swimming is allowed in some places up river, the river views are no longer spoiled by smokestacks spewing black smoke or by a witches brew of toxic effluents spilling out of the end of huge pipes.

Connecticut’s highpoint, Mount Frissell sits in the northwest corner of Connecticut in the Berkshire Mountains. The Berkshires run up the west side of Connecticut and Massachusetts and are technically considered part of the Appalachians. The final, maybe 10 miles of our drive takes us up and down, back and forth, on gravel and dirt roads bringing us to the Connecticut, Massachusetts border and the trailhead to Mount Frissell.

On previous trips, our search for trails, the summit itself, the road to the trail, etc. was, at times, half assed at best. No more! One of our readers, Doug, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin, who is doing the state highpoint thing with his son gave us a great book recommendation. “Highpoints of the United States” by Don W Holmes. Without it, we would have been sunk for Mount Frissell. The book clearly states to head up the trail (which is unmarked so we would not have easily found it) across the dirt road from the circa 1906 concrete Conn/Mass state line marker. Then proceed a few hundred yards to the red blazed trail to the left – the official Mount Frissell trail. Thank you Doug!!

The forest canopy is really thick at the beginning of the trail. Barely any sunlight gets through, large ferns fill the forest floor. A short way up the Frissell trail we run into a hiker coming down. He’s obviously a dog guy, allowing Spanky to jump all over him, wagging the hell out of his tail, the standard Spanky greeting. He tells us it’s really beautiful up there and makes sure that we have a good idea of where the summit is – without the book we would have been hosed on that one as well. He is in the process of hiking/climbing all the New England highpoints in one week. His next stop, Katahdin in Maine. We wish each other luck and continue.

Frissell is not all that high, 2380 feet to be exact. But……..we have 1,000 vertical feet to gain in about a mile so where the hell is the up part of the hike? OK, that explains it. The trail has about four steep, rocky/bouldery/cliffy, spots on it. Most of the vertical gain in short spurts. No, it’s not technical climbing, I call it clamoring on rocks, it gets steep enough that you have to watch your footing, pick your steps, grab a tree or a rock for that little extra bit of balance or oomph up a rock/boulder. Spanks is really slick with this stuff, he actually takes a look, figures out his next little leap and then goes for it. Just like a small version of a mountain goat (overstated parental pride).

A little bit of physical exertion is required…….. Spanks and I both break a pretty good sweat by the time we make it up. He’s panting, I have a soaked t-shirt. The foliage up top has changed notably. There is a lot of exposed rock, partially covered with mosses, mountain laurels – which just happen to be in bloom, the trees are shorter and the forest is just not as dense – no more ferns. Amazing what a difference 1000 ft makes. There are some pretty darn nice views of the Berkshires looking both north and south and of the valleys off to the east and west. Very nice! Most enjoyable!

The top of Mount Frissell is actually in Massachusetts. The highest point in Connecticut is not a mountain summit at all, it’s a tenth of mile down the trail from the actual summit, almost 200 feet lower, right on the border, marked by a brass stake border marker and a hiker built rock cairn. If I have my facts right, I believe Connecticut and Nevada are the only 2 states whose highpoint is on the state border on the slope of a mountain that goes higher in the next state.

We easily found the marker and on June 18th, 2007, Spanky and Rein pegged state highpoint number 19!

We were fairly tired campers by the time we made it back to the truck. A shaded, slightly grassy spot off the dirt road offered us a cool locale for a short period of respite. Me and Spanks rehydrated and ate the hell out of about half a pound of beef jerky.

I missed a turn in the initial stages of our return drive. A sign told me that the road leads to highway 22 – where we needed go anyhow so I stayed on the alternate route. This small twist of fate was to our benefit. Partway down the mountain we stumble across a sign proclaiming “Bash Bish” falls (my mind keeps telling me it should be Bish Bash). What the hell, Spanks and I hike down to a really cool, spectacular even, mountain waterfall. A most excellent, unplanned, diversion paid off in spades. The gods are with us.

Muchas gracias!
Me And Spanky On Top
In Between The CT Highpoint and Mount Frissell Summit
View South
View North
Mountain Laurel In Full Bloom
Brass State Border Marker - CT Highpoint
Spanky Takes A Look See On The Descent
The 1906 State Line Marker
Bash Bish Falls

3 comments:

Ken said...

This summit sounds like you had to work for it but you made it. I can't believe you didn't jump in the water and play in the falls. Congrats to you and Spanky, the mini mountain goat, for snagging number 19. Great pics!

Spanky and Rein said...

Ken,

Yep, this one was a little work but childs play compared to what is coming up.

Watdogg said...

Great write up. I'm leaving for Mount Frissell tomorrow. In case you return, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation website has trail maps for most of the state parks and higher peaks in the state. Here's the link:

http://www.mass.gov/dcr/

I look forward to reading more of your adventures when I return.

~David~

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