I have a new tradition of planning epic trail adventures when Boj is in town. I recently had purchased a Pachaug State Forest trail map, and upon studying it, I remembered a section of the forest Sarah and I had hiked probably 15 years ago. I found the old hiking book that described it, and knew I had to include it in the next epic run. Boj and I had a plan to meet up yesterday at 3PM, and he was able to convince his friend Matty P to join us. I was a little nervous about this development. First, I know Matty P as a ridiculously fast road runner. Second, Boj warned me that he is coming off 2 years of injury and he isn't used to trails. Yikes. I just found the most technical trail in southern New England.
The day was sunny and warm with a slight breeze. However, when I reached the Beach Pond parking lot, I was greeted with white caps and a wind that shook my car. It was miserable! Boj and Matty P pulled in a couple of minutes later, and we couldn't get in the woods fast enough. The plan was to follow the blue blazed Pachaug Trail for a few miles and then assess what we wanted to do from there. This section of the very long Pachaug Trail is amazing. It consists of technical ups and downs with numerous rock garden stream crossings. A couple of miles in, the trails scales a rock face wall and then runs along a very narrow ledge about halfway up it. Boj kept saying that the trail reminded him of Seven Sisters. The scenery was probably awesome, but I was too busy staring at my feet. I do recollect this rocky area had lots of hemlock and mountain laurel.
About a mile after passing through the Beach Pond boat launch parking area, we encountered our first headless carcass. I did notice the skull a minute later as we were trying to find the blue blazes. This was also the first time we had trouble staying on trail. There was no evidence of any other hikers/runners or mtn bikers on the trail, and it looked like the trail hadn't been maintained for years (overgrown). The trail continued to be challenging, until we reached the intersection with the (very faint) white dot Canonicus Trail. We had the choice of continuing on the Pachaug Trail and then turn around, or take Canonicus and make a loop. For some reason, this was the most difficult decision of our lives.
We eventually agreed to do the loop. I knew this would be easier to run, as the Canonicus Trail follows old dirt roads until it reaches Escoheag Hill Road. I didn't know that we would be running by a killing field(?) two minutes in. There were quite a few discarded carcasses and we began to feel this wasn't a place for us to be. Unfortunately, the faded white dots were hard to follow. I think my outdated hiking book referred to the blazes to be fading back in 1985, and I guess they hadn't been repainted for a few decades. We stumbled upon a creepy campsite and had to turn around. There were old roads and unmarked trails everywhere that weren't on the map. Boj and Matty P were picking up the pace, and I felt slow. We joked(?) about mountain lions, sasquatch, or hillbillies chasing us. I was falling a few steps behind - not the position to be in these situations. The trail began to climb steeply, which I welcomed, knowing that the end of the trail was near.
It felt good to reach the pavement of Escoheag Hill Road, and quickly we reached the trailhead of the Tippecansett Trail. After chasing hidden white dots, I was happy to see that this trail had a new looking sign and bright yellow blazes. We were so giddy to get off of Canonicus Trail that the joke of "Tip A Gansett" Trail made us laugh. It also was single track, and like the Pachaug Trail, looked unused. Mostly downhill, we were making quick work, until we reached scarred earth. It appeared that there was logging activity in the past couple of years here. In addition to knocking down large trees, it seemed as though all trees with yellow blazes were targeted. The three of us spread out, trying to find the trail. After numerous deads end, we settled on a direction and when that fizzled out, I considered bushwacking. Common sense prevailed, and we backtracked to the last yellow blaze. I wandered in a different direction and found a yellow dot! I was so happy. We were still miles from our cars, and I didn't feel like getting lost or figuring out a longer way back. My legs were scratched and cut in a hundred places. I wanted to slap the "Epic" tag on this adventure, but Boj called it semi-epic, and he is the authority on such things.
After a couple more confusing off-trail moments, we followed the Tippecansett Trail around Tippecansett Pond on decently technical single track. The trail then runs along an old dirt road most of the way back to Beach Pond. Matty P and Boj again picked up the pace and I fell slightly back. We were cruising at a nice speed, and reached our cars after an hour and forty minutes of running and about thirty minutes of confusion and indecision. Thirteen miles of semi-epicness.
This course could easily be extended in any number of directions: continuing north on the Pauchaug Trail, heading east into Arcadia near Stepstone Falls, and/or heading south of Rte 165 on Deep Pond Trail. After getting home, I did a little online research and found out this information about the Tippecansett Trail: "The trail used to reenter the forest at the tower, but by 2009 an unannounced relocation was made -lengthening the trail by 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers). The yellow-blazed Tippecansett Trail now overlaps a portion of the white-blazed Canonicus Trail. Look for both blazes on utility poles while descending west on Escoheag Hill Road." Oops! I do remember parts of the Canonicus Trail also having yellow blazes. Next time I won't rely on a map and a twenty-five year old book!