Thursday, February 23, 2017

Old Kings Highway, Buddington to Mill Street

Junction Old Town Road and Buddington
The "Old Kings Highway" between Buddington Road and Mill Street is unmarked but easy enough to follow. The entire route is public property, and the old road certainly dates back to the 1700's if not earlier. There is no designated parking, so it's mostly neighbors who hike it. Old Town Road, a dead end, does link up with other nearby open space and we have the potential for linkage with the Rec Path someday in the future.
View of Old Kings Highway from Old Town Road
From Buddington Road, the Old King's Highway isn't super obvious, but you can find it going straight across from Old Town Road (the name "Old Town Road" suggests this is an old intersection). The Paugussett Trail used to go down Old Town Road in the 1960s, and then follow Old Kings Highway.  Look at the really big oak in the middle of the photo above. If you look really closely at the big oak, you should a couple of small flecks of blue paint.

Remnants of a really, really old blue blaze
That's an old blue blaze from several decades ago. Back when they probably had long-lasting lead in the paint!

The trace of the old road with a modern paved drive to the left
From Buddington, the old road bed squeezes between homes and private property, but the road itself is owned by the city.

That "posted" sign is facing the wrong way. The road is public property. 
Before long, you're completely in the woods. Probably not for long though, because the property on the left is part of the Shelter Ridge site slated for development. There was bright orange survey flagging along the border, and blue wetlands flagging as well.

Clubmoss (lycopodium)
The area around the stream crossing is scenic. If the season is right, you can hear the water cascading down the slope below. There are interesting rock formations and the beginning of the long stone walls.

Near the stream crossing

Old Kings Highway fords a small stream
The old road goes right through a stream, and it's helpful to have waterproof boots and a walking stick to get across. To the left, the stream moves slowly through a vernal pool. To the right, it falls sharply down the slope through an open space property called the "Old Kings Highway Open Space."

The stream plunges down the slope . 
It's possible the old Paugussett Trail diverged from Old Kings Highway at this point and followed what is now an unmarked trail or old road. We don't really know.

Road junction
Right after crossing the street, there is a junction with some old farm roads that come out of the Wells property known as Shelter Ridge. The Wells property isn't posted, so it's still possible to follow the farm roads, now completely wooded and lined by stone walls, to the distinctive remains of some old building.

Old foundation

Back to Old Kings Highway, continuing south towards Mill Street, the road runs through the most scenic stretch, line with old stone walls. Imagine old stagecoaches and farm wagons heading down this road during the Revolutionary War.

Tragically, some heartless mason has been stealing rock from this historic wall. The theft has been reported to the police and we were told that it constitutes larceny. Weathered stone like this has economic value.

Most of the rock in this wall has been stolen recently. 
We believe the thief is a professional mason because some of the rock was chiseled and trimmed as only an experienced mason would do. This occurred late fall through winter. If anyone has any tips, please let us know.

The stone wall used to be much larger
The old road descends and suddenly becomes a narrow paved road that is often confused for a common drive. There are a few homes on either side before you get to Mill Street. A wrack of mail boxes on Mill Street marks the spot. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Indian Well Reroute Planning

Unmarked trail to the falls. 
For years there have been discussions about rerouting the Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park near the famous falls. It's been rerouted before. In the photo above, the big wide trail that leads to the falls might actually be the original Paugussett Trail, as shown in some older maps and even the state park map.

The falls
For years, however, the Paugussett Trail has followed the road instead, crossing Indian Hole Brook via the roadway before hopping over the guardrail and heading up the hill. 

Reroute alternatives in pink.
The current route has three bad spots. First is the hazardous road walk, where pedestrian are squeezed between the walls of a bridge and passing cars. Second is short steep section that is eroding and that is slick in the fall if you're heading downhill on fresh leaves. 

Hikers follow the pavement across the bridge
And third is the butt slide near the top. It's a steep, eroded section of bare rock and tree roots that tends to collect leaves in the fall. It's so slick that some hikers either bushwhack into the surrounding hillside to descend at an angle or just slide down on their butts, especially in the fall. 

The butt slide. It's steeper than it looks. 
Unfortunately, a lot of people on this section of the trail are not prepared for this type of hiking and are only searching for the falls, which they aren't going to find on this trail. There's no sign for the falls. We get a lot of people at Birchbank, over a mile down the road, walking down that trail looking for the falls. 

Cross the stream here?
Members of CFPA have been mulling over the rerouting options for years now. One option is to create a new stream crossing below the main bridge on Indian Well Road (a scenic WPA project from the Great Depression). This would probably be a rock-to-rock type of crossing, and during high water hikers can cross the stream via the main bridge. The Paugussett would then form a "T" into the Falls Trail, making the falls easier for people to find.

The Rock. Mossy and slick and continuous. 
The biggest challenge is finding a better way to the top of the big mossy ledge that caps the river bluff near the falls. The ledge runs for quite a ways and there is no really good route up it.

One reroute option follows the base of the ledge
The most southerly option manages to flank the Big Ledge, but in doing so approaches the boundary of the park and an ugly fence. The most northerly option is the longest, but there's some interesting views and ledge before arriving at one short but very steep section that would probably need steps. 

Northern option
Once up that steep section, though, you arrive at one of the seasonal overlooks. We hope to have this overlook cleared out so there's a view of the Housatonic River Valley even during the summer.

Friday, February 10, 2017


You probably saw this coming!
Due to the depth of the recent snow, the expected extreme cold, and the probable absence of the moonlight (which was the theme for this hike in the first place!), we find it necessary to cancel this trek for now. We do hope to try again sometime in the months to come. Sorry for the letdown, again! We are looking forward, however, to our annual Marshmallow March next month. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Tahmore Reroute

Old route in yellow, new route in purple
All it takes is one little steep section of trail where leaves collect to turn a casual walk through the woods into a trip to the ER. Tahmore Trail is notorious for difficult footing after the leaves fall, and the Trails Committee has gone in several times over the years with leaf blowers. But it's better if you don't need to remove the leaves, and so the goal of newish CFPA Trail Managers Terry & Teresa Gallagher is to try and improve a few of these spots. 

On New Years Day 2017, Teresa set out to fix a short but vexing slope located where the blue/yellow and red trails meet. About 100 feet of trail was shifted so that it climbs up the hill gradually, but the route needed serious benching. After an afternoon of hard work, she had had enough, went home from some beer and Advil, and left the rest for Terry. 

Terry completed the reroute
There was another 25 feet of bony, compacted ground to level out, so the next day Terry came armed with a heavy digging bar, McLeod, and sledgehammer and set to work. It was raining. But you know, once you're there you may as well just get the job done. The ground was thawed out in January, and it might be April before that happens again. Get it done!
All done! Old route on left, new route on right.
The blazing needs to be repaired, but that may need to wait until spring.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year on the Trails

Well 2017 has finally arrived and it's a great day to get outside.

Just like this family out enjoying the RecPath at Lane St. yesterday.  The RecPath is good for all ages and it's not just for hiking.  Just bundle up for the blustery weather. Who knows, you might spot a dinosaur.

Other folks were out biking out by Wesley Drive.  And more people were out walking their dogs, and using the Path.  One of the nice features about the RecPath is that the crushed stone surface will stay dry and stable if we have a lot of freeze-thaw conditions.  And once the snow hits it's good for cross country skiing and snowshoes.

We have our first mid-winter moonlight hike scheduled for January 12, 2017.  Check the events page for upcoming information.  Enjoy the New Year and see you in the open spaces.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

We Have a McLeod

The Shelton Trails Committee recently obtained a McLeod.

No,  no, not this McLeod.  Although a marshal with a horse might be helpful for keeping ATVs off trails.  We were looking for a more cutting edge McLeod.

No, not that McLeod either.  Even though the Highlander does have a cutting edge, that's not the one we're looking for.  There can be only one.

That's the beastie.  It's got big teeth on one side and large hoe-like blade on the other.  One's good for ripping up roots and duff and the others good for digging in sidehills (best in gravel) and smoothing out the tread.  It's mostly used out west to control forest fires, but we're trying it out in Shelton for trail construction.

It digs pretty good when benching into hillsides; like at the recent Bluff Walk Re-Route at Riverview Park.  It has trouble if there's too many roots or rocks, but it can be pretty handy in some situations.  It's kinda a super hoe/rake for the woods.  Maybe we'll get a chance to use it this Spring on some of the trail work parties.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bluff Walk Baseball Bypass

Baseball Bypass (yellow). 
In our previous blog post, we showed how old the Bluff Walk is with a post card view from 1914, and mentioned that part of the path was buried under the two ballfields and the parking area for the basketball court.

Old route follows the back of this fence

When we set out to re-established the trail in the 1990's and mark it with white blazes, we weren't quite sure what to do when we got to that missing section, so we had the blazes directing people to walk directly behind the ballfield fences. It was never a good arrangement and the sunny route tended to become overgrown incredibly fast each summer. There's also lots and lots of poison ivy. 

Behind the War Memorial Building
Another issue was the staging area behind the War Memorial Building. Sometimes it was pretty clear, like in the above photo, but at other times there could be a huge pile of landscaping debris.

North end of the new bypass trail, looking South

So we set out to find a new way. In the photo above, looking south, the new route angles down the slope to the left. The former route simple followed the fence to the right.

The new trail, heading south
The new trail descends to a knoll with a seasonal view of the Shelton Canal. While working on the trail, a bald eagle glided over the length of the canal like an airliner coming in for a landing. 

Much of the trail needed benching 

Most of the new route had to be benched into the side of the slope. It's not a very long reroute, only about 500 feet, but it does re-establish more than half of the long-buried section of the Bluff Walk.

Continuing south, the trail rises to rejoin the original Bluff Walk 
We still have about 330 feet of lost trail, but there are no easy solutions for most of that. About 130 feet of that is hopeless due to the extremely steep slope and infestation of Japanese Knotweed, but the trail could be restored on either end if it's determined to be worth the effort.

1934 path routes shown on Google Earth
Where exactly did the old path used to go? There a series of aerials from 1934 that I was able to overlay perfectly onto Google Earth and trace the paths as new lines. After the 1934 aerial layer is turned off and the view tilted, we have the image above. The orange line is the heaviest path or drive. The yellow is the new reroute. The white lines are narrower paths, and match up with the existing Bluff Walk north of the basketball court.