Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Paugussett Parade

As a last shot at a summer hike, we embarked on one of our lengthiest treks in recent years. It turned out to be a near-perfect day for a hike with 24 humans and a flock of dogs, warmer than expected, but not summer hot. The route extended nearly 5 miles, all on the Paugussett Trail (a.k.a., Blue-blaze trail). We climbed uphill, passed through woods, pasture, level ground, alongside lakes and over rugged terrain. 

Click on photos to enlarge

We met at the Indian Wells parking lot, only to find the parking lot closed off. Fortunately, there was ample street parking
Terry briefs the hikers on what to expect. The dogs aren't interested

Climbing the hill above Rt. 110

Crossing the Wiacek farm and entering a treeline
Taking a break in the Wiacek farm pasture
Plenty of pooches enjoyed walking their humans. They were all well-behaved
Terry leads us through a short distance on the power lines access road
Crossing the dam at Silent Waters on a portion of the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path
Photo op at the Silent Waters bridge
All accounted for, no bear or mountain lion bites, as we finished the hike at Buddington Road. This is the terminus of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton, at least for now!

Our next scheduled hike:

OCTOBER 8 - Saturday 10:00 AM
#11 Tahmore Trail 
Details forthcoming. Join us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sending out the Path Tags

Here's what you get if you complete 13 hikes totaling 26.2 miles by the end of the year: A custom path tag and a little card listing your achievement.  And it doesn't cost you anything! The first card is being mailed out to Gary Plude, the first person to send us a completed hike log. Congrats, Gary! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Paugussett Hike RESCHEDULED

The hike scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, has been moved to Saturday, Sept. 24, same time and locations. See our Events Page for details.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Rare Chestnut Surviving in Shelton

Near the end of this weekend's work party along the RecPath we were talking to one of the neighbors and spotted these funny looking seed pods along the Path.

It wasn't a walnut, or a hickory nut, or an orange osage.  So we all started looking at the surrounding trees a little closer and saw this.

A Chestnut Tree!  They can be identified by their long, lance-shaped leaves with the doubly sharp tips and pointed ends.  Normally these a smaller shrubs mixed in with larger beech, birch, hickory, oak and maple trees.  They normally don't get to be tree-sized because they are attacked by a blight destroys their bark and kills the tree.  The sapplings keep re-sprouting from the old roots.

There was a 6" diameter American Chestnut growing along the side of the RecPath in the City R.O.W. that was about 30' tall and was dropping the nuts.  The bark was smooth and grey, like a beech tree, but there was no sign of fissures or blight in the bark.  Normally the blight hits the sapplings way before they get this big and start producing nuts. 

The area had been disturbed about 20 years ago when Blakeman Construction built the fire access road to Lane Street as part of the Huntington Woods Subdivision.  A portion of that fire road was later used for the Recreation Path.  There was no way to tell if the sappling was growing before construction or started to grow afterwards. I must have walked past this tree a couple of hundred times and not noticed it as a larger Chestnut.

These trees were wiped out in most of the East Coast in the early 1910's by an imported fungus.  The American Chestnut were massive trees and one of the most valuable trees in the forest both for its nuts and it's lumber.   Many people have been trying to restore disease-resistant hybrids for years.  The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has had a cross-breeding program going on for decades.  

So maybe this is a lucky survivor that hasn't gotten the blight yet, or it's a disease resistant decedent, in which case it should be observed and protected. Lets hope it continues in good health.  Remember to look around when you're out hiking; some times it pays to see the trees that make up the forest.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Weed Whackin'

More than any trail in Shelton, the Rec Path requires loads of work to keep the path clear of weeds and debris and to maintain an 8 foot width for its entire 4 mile length. This has been difficult this past summer due to the extensive and rapid weed growth in many sections. This weekend we attempted to clear up some of the worst overgrowth, focusing on the areas closest to the road crossing on Wesley Drive.

Click on photos to enlarge
Rake in hand, Lynn finds an area that needs work

We gathered our tools and split up, covering both sides of the road where the trail crosses. Note the heavy weed growth at the bottom of the photo

Jim, Bill, Mike and Terry discuss the next move

Eva does some serious pruning, while Lynn rakes up the cut debris. The patio set on the right is there as a resting place for trail users
After cutting back tall weeds with a hedge-trimmer attachment, John rakes up the waste

     Terry fires up one of several string trimmers and power clippers used on this job

 Thanks to Trails Committee members Bill, Terry, Jim, and Richard, and volunteers Mike, Eva, Lynn, and John for spending their Saturday morning making our trails a bit better to negotiate.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nicholdale Hike - Part I, or "Life Moves Pretty Fast"

We had a great hike at the Shelton Land Conservation Trust's Nicholdale Preserve on Rt. 110 in the White Hills on Saturday.  It was one of the required hikes for the Shelton Trails Marathon Challenge, so we hope that everyone who attended is trying to complete that and earn a special trails medallion. It was particularly fitting given that this was the closing weekend of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

A lot of people view "The Challenge" as a fitness test, to see how many miles they can do, or how fast they can do the trails.  Which is fine; two guys who were on the hike Saturday plan on doing all 13 hikes this fall in one day shooting around town, which sounds crazy, but I think they'll be fine.  Whatever gets you out in the woods.  Just consider, no matter how fast you go, remember to look around and enjoy the moment.

Just like Usain Bolt; the fastest man alive.

One of the good things about these hikes on the Shelton Trails Marathon Challenge is that you get to try out new open spaces, new trails, and see things that you may not have noticed before.  On the Nicholdale Hike we got to walk around the open fields (on nicely mowed paths) and see a number of wildflowers; Joe Pye weed, Ironweed, Milk weed, and others.  Since it was mid-summer there were hundreds of butterflies, moths, bees, and other insects feeding on the wildflowers in the meadows.

We had a fold-out guide to Common Butterflies of New England which some of the kids used to identify the butterflies that they saw.  We stopped from time to time to check out each one that they identified.  It was fun having them explain to us what we were looking at.  So everybody got to get some exercise, check off a hike on the list, learn a few things, and enjoy a great summer morning out with friends and family.  It's amazing how enjoyable the trails are when you slow down and look around - and it's free.  As a Famous Philosopher once said "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it". More photos to come from this hike when our erstwhile photographer gets around to uploading them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blowdowns Vs Birchbank Deer Exclosure

Mother Nature can be so rude. We set up a deer exclosure near the Birchbank trailhead last year to show hikers the impacts of deer browsing on our native vegetation.

BEFORE: Deer exclosure installation 2015 (click to enlarge)
We were already starting to see some important differences between the two sides of the fence this summer, with a shrub called Bladdernut chewed up outside the fence and growing well inside the fence. And then BAM! a multitree blowdown crushed the deer fence and the bladdernut.

AFTER: Blowdown crushes the deer fence
There wasn't even any wind. Best we can tell, the trees were loaded with swelling grapes, with the first falling tree taking out several others. It was a mess, blocking the trail in addition to crushing the deer fence. 

This is the trail near the deer exclosure

Deer exclosure cleared out, fence back up

Time was of the essence to clear this up, before the plants beneath the blowdown died. Not sure if we entirely succeeded in saving the plants, but the deer fence is back up and the path is clear.