Some Tips on Winter Hiking

Winter Hikers

When visiting Hilltop House B&B, the area abounds with some terrific places to hike! But hiking in the winter months adds an extra level of caution to both planning and going on your hike. Prepare for the unexpected!

To make your hike safer:
Never hike alone, use the buddy system.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and when your estimated return time is. Day hikers should be prepared to spend the night in the woods if necessary, a hiker may get injured sliding on ice, or an unexpected snow storm may come up. Be sure to tell the B&B where you are heading if going out for a winter’s hike and an estimated time when you will be back.

Some essentials to bring with you:
• A trail map
• A compass
• A first aid kit
• A flashlight or headlamp
• A multi-tool like a Leatherman with a knife
• Waterproof matches
• A space blanket or two (they take up very little room)
• Hand Warming Packets
• Waterproof boots, plastic is recommended as Leather freezes in cold weather.
• Vapor barrier socks
• Food and water, your body burns more energy hiking in winter then it does during the summer
• Dress in layers
• Avoid cotton
• Sun screen and chap stick
• Bring backup chargers for your cellphone (but be cognizant of the fact you may not have cell service) most smart phone have flashlights and there are some terrific outdoor apps that can be downloaded for use such as digital compasses and colored light flashing apps that may help a rescuer find you in the snow.

Additional Tips:
Carry your canteen upside down, Water freezes from the top down, if you carry the canteen upside down, it is actually the bottom where the water will freeze, not the mouth of the canteen.

White birch bark will burn even when wet and makes some of the best emergency tinder. A small container of Vaseline with several cotton balls serves double duty, cotton balls covered with the oil make excellent fire starters and the Vaseline is also very useful for protecting against windburn and skin chapping.

Some great additional winter hiking tips can be found at:

Snow Walker Bushcraft has some great winter survival videos at:

Some additional tips if you are stuck outside on your hike unexpectedly:
• Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
• If you need to rest, try to gather tree branches and boughs to sit or lie on, so your body doesn’t make direct contact with the snow.
• Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
• Prepare a lean-to, wind-break, igloo or snow cave for protection from the cold.
• If you don’t have time to prepare anything elaborate, try at least to make a shield from the wind.
• Do not eat snow. It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first when possible.
• Make yourself visible to rescuers.
• Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep the blood circulating and to keep warm.

A really terrific list (and instructions) on building wilderness survival shelters: Many of these can be made using space blankets, ponchos and tarps.

Some additional references:
Diagnosing And Treating Frostbite In the Field

Survival Skills: How To Make Ground-To-Air Signals in Snow

Winter Hikers


A Fun and Informational Place to Visit, Institute for American Indian Studies

Native American  Tepee

Institute for American Indian Studies (About 40 minutes from the Inn)
38 Curtis Road
Washington, CT 06793

10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday
12:00 pm to 5:00 pm Sunday
(last admission at 4:30)
In the case of inclement weather please call the museum for hours of operation.
Admission Fees: $8.00 Adults, $6.00 Senior Citizens, $5.00 Children (3-12 years)
Free for Members and Free for active U.S. service members
Located in Washington, Connecticut, the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS) – formerly the American Indian Archaeological Institute (AIAI) was started in 1975, and is located in the midst of 15 acres of woodlands and trails. The Museum Shop has a wide array of Native American gifts and crafts from across North America. The Institute has created a Simulated Archaeological Site, Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens, as well as a replicated 16th century Algonkian Village. The village is based upon traditional knowledge and archaeological research and is built from local natural materials. Self-guided trails let visitors explore the world of Woodland Indian peoples.

Over the years the Institute has surveyed or excavated over 500 sites, including a 10,000-year-old camp site, the earliest known archaeological site in Connecticut. In addition to special events and workshops, the Institute also has an Education Department, dedicated to developing programs for students of all ages. Schools from throughout the region are frequent visitors to the center and families visiting the inn will find the Institute a wealth of information and activities at any time of year, including a lecture series during the winter months.

IAIS is open year-round, seven days a week (except major U.S. holidays) offering 4 exhibit galleries, a Children’s Discovery Room, replicated outdoor 16th century Algonkian village, the Four Directions Gift Shop plus outdoor gardens and trails along our 15 acres of woodland landscape.

Come explore the past, engage with the present, and embrace Mother Earth at the Institute for American Indian Studies. Walk in the footsteps of Native Americans past and present and experience Life in the Woodlands!

IAIS December Events:
Winter Indian Arts & Crafts Market
Sat Dec 10th 12:00 pm – Sun 11th 5:00 pm
Weekends of December 3 & 4, 10 & 11
Shop for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts from our local Native American crafters, jewelers, and artists at the Winter Indian Arts & Craft Market! Take advantage of this time to meet and buy directly from the artists while learning about contemporary Native American art and cultures. Stop by to purchase gourds, pottery, jewelry, rattles, artwork, flutes and more! Feature artists include: Jeff & Judy Kalin of Primitive Technologies Inc., Allan Madahbee, Janis Us, Vera Longtoe Sheehan and more. Hours: 10-4 on Saturdays, 12-4 on Sundays.

Artifact Identification Day
Sun Dec 11th 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Join the conversation as Director of Research & Collections, Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D., identifies and provides interesting commentary about your local stone objects and Native American cultural items. While we can’t appraise or speculate about the value of an object, we can certainly talk about who, what, when, where and how of your mystery items! Included in regular museum admission of: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors; $5 Children; IAIS Members Free

Native American Pots


St. John’s Cliffs, a perfect area to experience Fall Foliage in the valley

Man climbing CliffSt. John’s Cliffs (Less than 30 minutes from the B&B)
Map from the Inn to the Cliffs

St. John’s Cliffs (also known as St. John’s Ledges) are rock formations near the border of Kent and Cornwall, CT. The Appalachian Trail goes along the base of the cliffs and then up around them with some of the most challenging trails in the state. If you are traveling northbound on RT. 9 and look to your left you can see the ledges right across the Housatonic River.

The cliffs were named after Timothy St. Johns, who originally owned the property in the 1800’s, the land is now owned by the National Park Service. If you are coming for the climbing, it’s mostly top-rope and traditional climbing, and consists of two separate climbing areas. The elevation is 950 ft.

If coming for a day hike, you can climb to the top which takes you past the cliffs themselves. It is a steep climb, but has always been well maintained. A word of warning, there are some steep drop-offs, so if you do not do well with heights, it may be wise to skip the trail up. If you are up to the challenge, a gorgeous scenic view of the valley awaits, and you can climb further up to Caleb’s Peak for an even better view of the surrounding area.

The ledges are a hot spot for local climbers because it’s known for having some of the best long slab climbing in Connecticut, so if hiking or climbing isn’t your cup of tea, pack a lunch and come and watch local climbers challenge the faces. For the hikers that would like a little more scenery and less of a step challenge, there is a dirt road that follows the Housatonic River for several miles with some lovely views of the river, and several small trail offshoots to check out.

The ledges are a beautiful place to check out in the fall as the views from up top are incredible during foliage season. Be sure to bring a camera (or your smart phone) to catch some terrific pictures.

Check out this Youtube video taken at the Ledges:

If hiking the Appalachian Trail from Kent (a 3.5 – 4.5 hour hike), visit for a trail map.

If you are a climber, visit and for some climbing tips/points on the ledges.

And check out some great photos of the area and views from the top at

Man climbing cliffDirections to the cliffs:
From Kent center, head west on Route 341 and over the bridge. Immediately after the bridge make a right onto Skiff Mountain Road. After approximately a mile bear right onto River Road. Which is a dirt road. Go 1.6 miles until you reach the parking area on the left. Follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail from parking area. To reach the lower climbing area look for a trail, on the left, 35 feet past the trail mapbox. To reach the upper climbing area, stay on the Appalachian Trail until it passes directly by the bottom of the cliff.

Local events:
Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16, 2016
The Sheep & Wool Festival
The Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Growers Association, 501(c)3 promotes year round events that focus on farming fiber and food. Their premier event is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

Sunday, October 30, 2016
Family Fun @ the Kent Pumpkin Run Dotted Line
Kent Connecticut, the #1 town in New England for fall foliage is hosting the 40th annual Pumpkin Run on October 30. Entertaining for participants and spectators alike, the fun begins at 11:15 with a kids “Fun Run” that is followed by a 5 mile run at noon. In the Halloween spirit, many prizes are awarded for costumes as well as for finishing times. The gorgeous course has its own reward at the end as all are invited to the Post-race Party with great food, face painting for the kids and gift certificates from Kent’s charming shops.


Cathedral of the Pines, New England’s Largest Old-Growth Pine Forest

Giant White PinesThe Cathedral of the Pines or Cathedral Pines as it is also known, is a little known hiking spot located less than 30 minutes from the Bed and Breakfast. The Pine stand covers over 42 acres, and while devastated by three tornadoes in July of 1989, the remaining trail still covers the intact portion of the stand, and is well worth the visit.

Cathedral Pines was New England’s largest stand of old-growth white pine, hemlock trees and northern hardwoods, and while the tornadoes did substantial damage, many of the trees survive and you can still experience the size and beauty while walking under the canopy of trees. One of the reasons to take this hike is to see the after effects of Mother Nature at work, and to see the stand itself slowing recovering from the devastation. White pines are unusual to see in this part of Connecticut, and most of them are 200 years old with some being at least 300 hundred years.

The Cathedral Pines forest itself was established between 1770 and 1800. It was part of a thousand-acre farm inherited by Major Seth Pierce (1785-1881), Following Pierce’s death in 1881, Frederick Kellogg sold the Pines to John Calhoun, who vowed to preserve the majestic forest. The Pines at different time periods were also called Calhoun’s Pines and the Calhoun Grove.

In 1967, the children of John Calhoun deeded the 42-acre Cathedral Pines to the Nature Conservancy, which established the forest as a research area protected from human influence in its development. Rather than harvest high quality lumber from felled trees, the Nature Conservancy allows them to decay naturally. Cathedral Pines was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1982. The Nature Conservancy while studying the Pine Stand observed that the pines were being slowly replaced by hemlock trees. The slow transformation of the forest from pine to hemlock was sped up dramatically in 1989 by the devastating tornadoes.

While visiting the Pine Stand listen for woodpeckers and owls at dusk, bring bug spray and good hiking shoes. While the trail is an easy one, there are quite a few downed branches and dried pine needles that make walking in sandals quite uncomfortable.

Essex Hill Road, Cornwall, CT
Google Map Link