Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Storm Status of Shelton's Trails

Tropical Storm Isaias has made a mess of everything, including the trails. Here's a running status of our 30-mile trail system that will be updated as new information comes in or conditions change. If you have been on any of the "unknown" sections, let us know what you found in the comments section or email conservation@cityofshelton.org. 

Status At Shelton Lakes:
Rec Path: The entire 4-mile Rec Path has been cleared and most of the sticks and leaves removed.
Paugussett at Shelton Lakes: Cleared from Buddington Rd to Shelton Ave.
Nells Rock Trail: Cleared (we think). Possible 10" popple log across the trail at the tri-corner junction with the Paugussett? (may have been cleared.) Need verification on this trail.
Oak Valley Trail: Cleared and raked.
Turkey Trot Trail: Cleared. Note: Broken boards on small bridge from blowdown. 
Dog Paw Path: Cleared
Basil Brook Bypass: Cleared

At Indian Well: 
All the blazed trails at Indian Well, including Tahmore Trail, have been cleared of major blowdowns. Tahmore Trail was tidied up with a leaf blower. Exception: There is a large oak "limbo log" on the Paugussett Trail heading toward Birchbank (just past "Blowdown Brook"). Crawl under or climb over.

Paugussett Trail ("blue dot"): 
All cleared except for: 1. a HUGE hickory at the Maybeck Wall between Const. Blvd and Meadow St. (crawl through it) 2. a large double log across the trail just below Sinsabaugh Heights (passable, low priority); 3. A large oak "limbo log" at Indian Well just after Blowdown Brook; 4. A large step-over log just north of the chimney at Birchbank (low priority).  5. Three logs across the north half of the Poet Path. Unknown from Thoreau Drive to the Monroe border. (Monroe sections are maintained by a different CFPA Trail Manager).  

Nicholdale Farm/Willis Woods:
Nichols Trail: Work in progress. Some blowdowns cleared, but several step-over logs require a chainsaw. "Mostly walkable." Parking area cleared of several blowdowns. 
Pearmain Path: Unknown
Willis Trail: Unknown
Stockmal Trail: Unknown

Other trails: 
Boehm Pond Trails: All trails cleared and hit with a leaf blower.
Gristmill Trail: Good. 
Little Pond Trail: Cleared
Bluff Walk at Riverview Park: Unknown

How to help: If you are walking the trails, please consider removing some of the sticks as you go. Save your back by using a trekking pole or walking stick to knock the sticks off of the trail rather than bending over to pick them up. And if you know the condition of a section of trail we have listed as "unknown," send your status to conservation@cityofshelton.org. 

Covid Hikers Leave Mark at Birchbank Trail Register

The Birchbank Overlook

The Paugussett Trail register at the Birchbank overlook has become a bit of a time capsule as the Covid pandemic continues.  Even though many people likely are not touching it (because it could be contaminated by other hikers), there are still many more entries than in the past. 


Trail Register near the overlook

The register box is getting more attention from trail users as well. There's been some graffiti scratched into the boards. And someone left a hand-carved mini-totem pole from Alaska. The style goes with the coyote wood burning on the box, so it was temporarily removed with the idea of replacing it later with improvements to keep it safer from the elements and hikers. 

A page in the trail register from March 2020

The register book starts out with sporadic entries from winter and early March, and then suddenly there is a surge in entries as the state shutdown began and the only way to get out of the house was to go for a walk. The trails were mobbed. Here are some select entries from March to August. Click on the photos to enlarge if necessary. 


Future generations might not understand

42 miles! Why not?

 

And it's only April 7. 


Our family starting watching the The Walking Dead, too.

And then painted rocks became a thing in Shelton

This spot was one of the pandemic
"Out and About" challenge sites in Shelton

The Paugussett can be backpacked, with camping at Webb Mtn.

Some people still get lost without even trying.

Young, but wise. 

That pretty much sums up summer hiking.

The summer of our discontent... 

Must have come in via Indian Well over Burritt's Rocks

That's some serious mushrooming


And then Storm Isaias struck...

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Busy Weekend on the RecPath

It was another busy weekend on the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path.   2020 is turning into a record year for use by hikers, joggers, bikers, strollers, dog walkers, and families out in search of some fresh air and exercise in Shelton's open spaces.

This family was enjoying a stroll over near Basil Brook.

Butterflies were feeding on some of the Sweetpepperbush along Oak Valley Road.  There were many dense stands of the shrub with the distinctive white flowers lining the edges of wetlands along the RecPath.

Maggie and Bailey were some of the many 4-legged customers taking their families out for a walk this weekend.

 People were out fishing by Silent Waters on Saturday.

Woodland sunflowers in bloom near Silent Waters are a pleasant surprise.

There are a number of new trail signs along the RecPath to help the public.  A number of the side trails that join with the RecPath have new signs to assist trail users and give them a chance to explore trails that they may not be familiar with.

Portions of the RecPath near the Lane Street meadow have gotten overgrown this summer.  The Trails Committee is trying to play catch up after months of no large organized work parties due to the Corona pandemic.

This adventurous hiker was having a great time running down the RecPath right before the picture was snapped.  Even though it was pretty tropical out she was having a good time with her family.

One of the other family members was having a little nap on the way home.  The RecPath, and the many trails that tie into it, are great places to explore and get outside.   Fun for the whole family.  Enjoy Shelton's open spaces. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Little Pond Trail Lives On

Little Pond Trail
Back in 2014, Luke Claire and other member of Boy Scout Troop 27 created a new trail to a small pond located off of Beech Tree Hill Road in the White Hills. This was Luke's Eagle Scout project. The trail provides neighborhood access to the little pond, which can be fished early in the season, before it's covered with lily pads. The trail is just under 0.1 mile, so it's a very quick walk to the pond.

"Out & About" challenge photo at the pond
During the 2020 pandemic, the pond has been included as one of thirty "Out and About" outdoor challenge sites located throughout Shelton, in an effort to reduce crowding at some of Shelton's better-known locations. Participants visit the sites, take a picture of an avatar they chose to represent themselves, and then email the photos to the Conservation Department.


Oops, the trailhead is really overgrown
This little trail needs someone from the neighborhood to become a Trail Monitor and let us know when the trail is overgrown or had some other issue that needs to be addressed. It was fine earlier in the season, but by mid-July it was a jungle.

Trailhead cleared out and with a new sign
It was felt that a sign at the trailhead was needed so that people in the neighborhood would know the trail was there. But the trail was never named, so what should the sign say? And the pond isn't named, either. After some back and forth, we settled on "Little Pond Trail" for the practical reason that when we referred to the trail as the little pond trail, everyone on the Committee knew which trail we were talking about. The trail is little and the pond is little.
New sign at the trailhead  letting the neighborhood know the trail is there

Closer to the pond, the trail was really overgrown and needed a haircut, just like a lot of people these days.

"Before"

"After"
Sadly, someone had scraped off some of the painted trail blazes and ripped off the Public Open Space sign. This is usually the mark of a neighbor who doesn't want strangers in the open space near their property. This has all been repaired for the moment, and of course the trail had to be cleared extra wide in case the blazes are removed again and people are trying to follow the trail to go fishing or whatever.  If it keeps up, we'll probably have to install cameras. This is another thing a new Trail Monitor can keep an eye on and let us know as soon as possible if the trail is vandalized.

Vandal removed the sign and scraped off some blazes

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

RIP Yellow Blazes at Shelton Lakes


The old yellow blazes refused to fade...
Once upon a time, the 4-mile Rec Path was but a dream. There were plans, for sure. A route had been determined. But the City didn't even own all the property that was needed. No matter. The Trails Committee optimistically created parts of the Rec Path as a simple hiking trail on the properties the City did own. Those trail sections were blazed yellow.  After the Mayflower Lane fiasco, the Committee wanted to get a trail established wherever possible before residents moved into new homes next to the trail. Because based on resident feedback, it appears that a nearby trail constructed before a home is built is a valuable asset to the neighborhood, while a nearby trail constructed after a home is built is just a conduit for bearded pedophiles to attack small children and steal big-screen TVs. The Committee scrambled to get the trail built as fast as possible, even as a simple foot-path.

Later, a portion of what is now Nells Rock Trail and Basil Brook Bypass were also painted yellow to help people along the so-called "Bridge to Bridge" route. More on that later.

...so they were covered over.
After the Rec Path was fully constructed as a multi-use path, we decided to let the old yellow blazes fade. It didn't seem necessary to mark this big, wide path with traditional hiking trail blazes. But we didn't cover them over, either, since some people were used to them.  And then we forgot about them.

This tree trunk got wider and split the blaze
You know how you stop seeing things that are in front of you all the time? It was like that. We just stopped seeing the yellow blazes. I got a call from someone referencing the "Yellow Trail" at Shelton Lakes a few weeks ago. I said we don't have a yellow trail at Shelton Lakes. Completely forgot about the old blazes. Well, we don't have a designated 'yellow trail' on the maps, and haven't for many years. But those old blazes never faded like they were supposed to, and someone not referencing a map would assume they were on the Yellow Trail.

Blaze covered over
So those blazes were finally painted over this past week with a special shade of ultra flat Behr paint called "Landmark Brown." This color seems to match most tree bark the best. If you're ever looking for paint that's the color of the average tree trunk, just go to Home Depot and ask for the Landmark Brown shade.

Old map showing the "Bridge to Bridge" route and yellow markings

Painting over the blazes meant getting off the existing Rec Path in places and traipsing through the woods, because the route that was constructed with heavy equipment wasn't always exactly where the hiking trail had been placed. The blazes were sometimes 20 or 30 feet off the existing trail, especially in the Wesley Drive neighborhood.  One old section was found to be still in use by mountain bikers.

Nells Rock Trail
In 2005, much of the Rec Path existed as either a narrow foot-path or as a newly-constructed gravel multi-use trail, but there was still a section in the middle near Oak Valley Road that was privately owned and couldn't be built. So the Trails Committee created the so-called "Bridge to Bridge" (B2B) route, using other trails to bypass the missing section. That allow people to hike from Pine Lake to Huntington Center.

Old map, "bridge to bridge" route in orange.
Times have changed. Notice no Paugussett Trail.

From Pine Lake, you could follow the Rec Path to Hope Lake, then take the orange-blazed Dominick Trail (now the blue Paugussett Trail) along the shore of Hope Lake to Nells Rock Trail at a place we call "Four Corners." At that time Nells Rock Trail was a smaller loop, and the old woods road leading through new open space out to the powerlines was not marked. That was blazed yellow to help hikers connect with the southern sections of the Rec Path. (Later, Nells Rock Trail was enlarged, with white blazes added.) Once at the powerlines, the yellow trail turned left for a bit, then took a right into the woods at what is now a short section of Basil Brook Bypass, to join was is now the existing Rec Path. The rest of the yellow-blazed route to Huntington Center was close to the existing Rec Path, usually within 20 or 30 feet.

In 2011, the last piece of property, known as "Great Ledge", was purchased. By that time the rest of the Rec Path on either side of this new property had been upgraded to a gravel multi-use path, and soon enough the two halves were connected to complete the Rec Path. The Bridge-to-Bridge Route was no longer needed to get from the north end of the Rec Path to the south end. The yellow blazes were retired and left to fade. Or not, as it turned out. But they are now covered over.

RIP yellow blazes. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

The Shelton Trails Committee re-started regular work parties Saturday after a Covid-enforced layoff of big work parties since mid-March.   Pretty poor timing for a pandemic too, since this is the time of the year when things grow a lot.   All this while Shelton, and many other towns, have being experiencing record trail use while people have been confined at home.  We've been doing some onesie-twosie work around the trails trying to keep up with the growing season, but things are getting shaggy out there.  But now that the public health measures in Connecticut have been working we're going to get back to our regular schedule of work parties. 


Well spaced out workparties that is.  With masks and kerchiefs.  We may look like bank robbers, but we're really just harmless trails volunteers.  We're Back in the Saddle Again.

We met at Shelton Intermediate School to cut back brush along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path on Saturday.  It was hot and steamy following last night's tropical storm Fay but we counted our blessings and got to work.


Bill, Jim & Bob replaced broken fence rails along RecPath at the top of the historic dam.
Part of our on-going saga with the fencing there.

Luis cleared out briars along the overlook by the bridge.  The RecPath was very busy this morning.  We got a lot of nice comments from users.  One woman said "Thanks, I was beginning to things the brush was coming to get me".  Not while Luis has a hedgetrimmer in his hands.

Val and Luis clearing out along the top of the dam.  Well-spaced and masked.  We spread out as much as possible to socially distanced while we worked.  This will probably be the program going forward this Summer and Fall for Shelton work parties.


Dan was a big help cutting thick brush along the top of the dam.

Graham was cutting back the overgrowth along the fence.

Bill, Jim & Bob were also cutting stuff along the RecPath.


We had a lot of joggers, bikers, dog walkers and various users pass us while we were working.  Everybody was having an enjoyable Saturday morning and appreciated the work being done.  Thank you.

Here's the "After" picture.  We didn't get a good group photo of everybody all sweaty and covered with poison ivy and vine spackle, but trust us we were.  Cold drinks afterwards went down quickly.

 We got a lot accomplished, and it needed it.  Thanks to everybody who came out: Mike, Bill, Jim, Luis, Dan, Graham, Bob, Val, Mark, and Terry,   Anybody who wants to help out is welcome on future work parties, just e-mail in and we'll spread ourselves out.  The Shelton Trails Committee is Back from the Shadows Again.  (with a nod to Firesign Theater).