Hiking 102

A beginner's hike at Sleeping Giant State Park.


The weather was overcast with a chance of sunshine. Twenty-five folks met at Sleeping Giant this past Sunday, October 14, to learn hiking basics and to venture onto some (for them) untried trails.

Chuck Schall, Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) president and hike leader, re-iterated a saying we have about the Park: it may be a park, but it’s not a “walk in the park.” The 32 miles of trails are rated as to level of overall difficulty, but there is no trail that does not afford some challenge. All trails are rocky, require some ascent/descent, and can be slippery. There are trails with nice, flat, cleared sections, but, as the saying goes, “you can’t get there from here.”

With this in mind, Chuck spoke about preparedness: proper footwear for good traction, protection, and support; use of hiking staff/trekking poles to assist with balance on tricky sections; dressing in layers for whimsical New England weather; and bringing water and snacks for hydration and energy. He also mentioned some common-sense precautions that are often overlooked or forgotten: plan your hike; carry a map; bring a cell phone; don’t hike alone; and let someone know your route, especially if you decide to head out by yourself. Many hikers are concerned about ticks, especially those carrying Lyme disease. Precautions against them include: staying towards the center of the cleared trails, wearing long-sleeve shirts, tucking pants into your socks, wearing a hat, wearing light-colored clothing, using insect repellent on legs and/or clothing, and showering after a hike.  Of the snakes that are found on the Giant, only copperheads are poisonous. The copperhead, however, is uninterested in us, unless threatened. While there have been no reported incidences of copperhead bites at Sleeping Giant, most people who are bitten, are bitten on the hand. Since snakes may be sunning themselves on rocks on warm, sunny days, you should watch where you step or where you place your hands while hiking.

After supplying attendees with water and snack bars, we set out along the picnic grove. Chuck explained the trail system: 6 east-west trails, 5 north-south trails (the Reds), a Nature Trail, and the Tower Path. He pointed out that two blazes, one above and slightly to the left or right of the other, indicates a change in trail direction. In the interest of environmental responsibility/preservation, he reminded folks to stay on the blazed trails; striking out on one’s own can lead to slope erosion, destruction of fragile plants and/or ecosystems, and potentially dangerous situations for others who may follow a path less taken.

At the end of the picnic grove, we headed up White, encountering a rather tricky talus slope not long into the hike. Smart to get the hardest part out of the way early … also good for ‘newbies’ to encounter the tricky parts with company for encouragement and assistance. The White trail continues right up to the second ridge, aka the Chest, with fantastic views all the way to Long Island. We picked up the Green trail where it begins just off the Chest, and continued along what I consider its prettiest part until we reached the Red Triangle Trail. We turned north to connect to the Tower Path, at which point some folks headed back to the parking lot. The rest of us continued down the Red Triangle to the Violet, noting that the sun had indeed emerged, with a delightful breeze, and dry air. Turning west we hiked along one of those fairly flat, relatively rock and root free sections of trail until we reached the Quarry floor. Turning onto the Red Diamond, the group then made its way back to the parking lot. We were out for about three-and-a-half hours; time well spent…it was a spectacular day!

Our next hike, the Fall Foliage Hike, is planned for Sunday, October 28th at 1:30 pm, following the Annual Membership meeting (noon). You can check out other hikes at sgpa.org or follow us on Facebook.

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