Tuesday, December 29, 2009

25 & 25 - The Nell's Loop Frost Hike

Twenty five degrees with 25 mile per hour winds; gusting to 50 mph. What lovely weather for our Nells Loop Hike today.

We had 13 hardy souls & 4 dogs out for a sunny, but cold walk. It was so cold that Emma's tongue apparently froze to her face.

We met at the Abby Wright Parking Lot (opposite L'Hermitage Condominiums) on Nells Rock Road. We had been worried that the trails might be too wet when it was 50 degrees on Sunday, but everything was frozen, so we had that going for us. Lynn led us off to the powerlines and we ran the hike counterclockwise from the route described on the Shelton Trails website.

Everybody was pretty well bundled up so we didn't have too many problems. Even the dogs had sweaters.

Aayah, that north wind's a might nippy today. Did I mention it was gusting to 50 mph today on the ridgetops? Normally we stop for a bit at the powerlines to enjoy the view, but today - not so much. Click here if you want to see a wind chill chart to see what 50 mph feels like. Geoff Fox on Channel 8 Weather said that this was one of the coldest days he had seen in Connecticut because of the strong winds, and there was various damage around the state from downed trees. We had no problems other than some red noses and rosy cheeks.

We did stop (briefly) at various spots, like this turn off on the Bridge to Bridge hike to Wesley Drive so everybody could get their bearings. The Nells Loop Trail is good because the terrain is easy and there are a lot of access points to various other trails and neighborhoods that make it easy to create an enjoyable loop. The Nells Loop Trail is used by a lot of dog walkers, and is good for cross county skiing and snowshoeing. See the Shelton Trails website for additional maps and measured routes.

This girl gets the prize for the most stylish hiking outfit of the day. She was bundled up with multiple warm layers & everybody liked the shades and fluffy scarf. She and her dad had a good time on the invigorating hike.

The wind wasn't as fierce when we were in the woods and we did the whole 1.56 mile loop in under an hour. Thanks to Rich for taking pictures and everybody for coming out on a clear but windy winter day. We hope all the hikers were able to enjoy the hot chocolate or brandy of their choice when they got home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Fun at Lane Street

This pair of dogs were taking their humans out snowshoeing on the Recreation Path off Lane St. today. The snow was nice and soft following the storm on Sunday. This section of the Recreation Path is great for snowshoeing, cross country sking, or winter hiking. There were a few good snow drifts at the back of the meadow that Biscuit had a good time bounding through.

The Land Trust Meadow looked like a picture from a Christmas card. For more photos of the winter scenes see the In The Field Blog here. A mid-Christmas Break hike is scheduled for Dec. 29th at the Abby Wright Parking Lot at 2:00 if anyone wants to explore other areas for winter activities. Hopefully we still have some snow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Before the Storm

There was a lot of activity in Shelton today despite the cold and wind. I think everybody was trying to play beat the clock before the Nor'easter hit and the snow shuts down everything.

Lynn Reid was back from vacation & decorated the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree in the Land Trust Meadow off Lane Street. The RecPath will be in the proper festive spirit for the holidays.

Ray & Dylan Spaguolo got some fresh air on a balmy Saturday morning out digging holes for the sign kiosk at the Lane St. entrance to the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path. Dylan is completing the project for his Eagle Scout badge. The parts for the kiosk are cut and due to be fabricated. Maybe Ray will get his parking spot back in the garage for Christmas. Gotta love a father & son spending quality time together using crow bars and post hole diggers.

The Parks & Recreation Dept. Crew has been busy this week at the White House on Nells Rock Road clearing and chipping trees for a Bark Park. I think the public will really enjoy this in Spring if it is done well. The Parks guys look like they're doing a good job. I hope the Mayor and Aldermen have a sit down meeting with everybody involved so the Bark Park works properly with the Red Barn, Recreation Path, future Greenway Center, trailhead parking, etc.

This happy puppy was taking his family for a winter walk on the RecPath along the Turkey Trot Trail - they didn't mind the cold weather. And neither did a lot of other people. I saw a pack (gaggle, covey, flock?) of mountain bikers on the powerlines, power walkers along Independence Drive, some trail runners on the Turkey Trot, dog walkers, and two really hardy young guys running in shorts along Willoughby Road. And this was all when it was cold and blowing.

There was a lot of activity on the trails & open spaces before the storm. Wonder what the snow will bring.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Shelton Sports Person of the Year Award

On October 19, 2009, The Shelton Trails Committee was honored to receive the Shelton Sports Person of the Year Award from the Fairfield County Sports Commission at their annual dinner in Greenwich. Chairperson Victoria Lorusso (center) is shown above presenting the award to Sheri Dutkanicz & Bill Dyer.

And here's another photo of Sheri & Bill with the award plaque. The award by the Sports Commission was for the Trails Committee's work to make Shelton's open spaces more accessible to the public, organizing volunteers, promoting outdoor recreation and open spaces. The Fairfield County Sports Commission recognizes individuals and groups that have had some positive impact on area communities with local or regional sports. The plaque will soon be on display in Shelton City Hall.

Here is a photo of the Shelton Trails Committee. From left is Peter Conway, Bill Dyer, Bob Wilkins, Lynn Reid, Rich Skudlarek, Terry Gallagher, and Sheri Dutkanicz. Missing from photo: Andy Cable & Jim Taradine. This group shown is just a fraction of the volunteers that help out with Shelton's trails and greenways each year. We would like to thank all the volunteers, and the Fairfield County Sports Commission for this totally unexpected and greatly appreciated award.

And here by popular demand is another version of the Trails Committee. We said that it's too bad that that there wasn't some critter in the picture & this is what we got back from Rich.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Briar mayhem along the Northwest Passage

A small group of diehards lead by Jim, Carol, Luis, Terry, Rich & Bill met at the basketball courts at Riverview Park on a cold December morning. After debating current events, and stamping our feet to keep warm we decided that the snow was too frozen to rake leaves along The Bluff Walk, so we decided to rough clear the trail through the briars along the Northwest Passage instead. So we went up to Constitution Boulevard North to work our way south through the open space corridor along the powerlines.

It turned into a surprisingly nice morning with only the noise of the the birds singing, loppers snicking, and the quite schwing schwing of Rich with his two machetes. (he always has 2 of everything). The briars and Russian Olive were so thick here that a rabbit would have to walk backwards in order to get thru the thorn maze.

Helpful Trail Tip: Hedge clippers work pretty good on briar patches if you're equipped with thick gloves, a heavy coat, and flannel lined Carhartt pants. Safety glasses would also be good too if you don't already have glasses. The briars showed no mercy.

Here's Carol, Luis, and Bill clearing a hole thru the brush. Suddenly, the peaceful tranquility of a winter Saturday was jolted awake by the sound of loud power equipment. Bill had fired up the gas-powered Stihl hedge trimmer that is possibly our most evil looking tool, but it is pretty effective with the thorns along the powerlines.

Here's a picture of Bill looking like an extra from a Steven King movie. Run away.

Helpful Safety Tip: Create a safe work zone around each worker depending on the tools involved. Bill looks scary, but he's OK if you stay about 15 feet away. Rich on the other hand kept trying to point at things all morning when we were talking, but forgot that he had a machete in his hand. Thank God he's not Italian, and doesn't use too many wild hand gestures.

Here's a picture of what it looked like after we did the rough cutting. The buzzards kept circling us, which was a little troubling, but we all made it out in one piece. Additional work will be needed , but at least you can follow the trail now. All told, about 3/4's of a mile of new trail are now roughed out from the junction with the Turkey Trot Trail up to Constitution Boulevard North at Summerfield Condos.

There is a small stream and swamp crossing north of Independence Drive. Rich and I carried in some of our old boardwalk sections from The Missing Link (we love to recycle). We'll position them in place during the coming weeks. The section near the stream is wet and will require stepping stones and maybe some small boardwalks, but it is open now as long as you have good boots. Look for an update on future work parties and enjoy the holidays.

Happy hiking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Footwear for Trail Planning

We spend a lot of time in the field planning trail routes before we schedule work parties. We walked the route of our Northwest Passage last weekend and it was wet. It had rained a lot, more rain and snow was in the forecast, and the property that we were walking is wet with a lot of thorns. So an early e-mail went out reminding people to bring their boots and briar-resistant pants. Some people got the message, and showed up with a variety of pac-boots, gore-tex, rubber boots, but ONE person chose alternative footwear; golf shoes. Truth be told, he did think about going home when he found he had just sneakers, but chose to tough it out with the waterproof shoes he had in his trunk. He never takes his golf gear out of the car until the snow is 2 feet deep.

We thrashed around along the powerlines, through briar patches, past hayfields, over barbed wire fences, and along stone walls looking for the best routes. The trail will head northward from the Turkey Trot Trail at Shelton Lakes. It is already cleared up to Independence Drive.

Here we are emerging from some of the powerlines into one of the meadows. The trail will follow the edge of the meadow to avoid conflicts with farming in the summer.

We passed a former farm pond, which is probably an attractive frog pond in the spring. We also saw a really striking grove of large pin oaks that we'll have to route the trail through.

There are some nice views of nearby hills from the edges of farm fields.

At the end of the walk our footwear was muddy and our feet somewhat dry. We managed to get back to the cars as the rain was starting. Note that one pair of shoes is cleaner than all the others. Now that is a sign of executive ability.

Winterberrys on the Independence Dr. Connector

Winterberrys are one of the most striking shrubs of late fall/early winter in the area. Besides being attractive they offer a well-needed food source to birds and other wildlife. This one is found along the edge of a vernal pool along the powerlines on the connector trail to Independence Drive. It may be a little windy up there today, but on calmer days there is a surprising amount of wildlife that can be seen on that trail if you take your time & are quiet.

We apparently have leprechauns in Shelton. See if you can spot any of the stone sculptures that have popped up along the Turkey Trot Trail.

Our new bridge on the Turkey Trot Trail also held up well during the recent storm. One comment from a mountain biker was that they liked the trails, but the newer bridges were a little slippery - see a trails report from NEMBA. So I guess be a little careful riding over it until it weathers - I had no problems walking on it however. It's good to hear other people's take on our trail system. Please feel free to e-mail your observations and thoughts to this blog or the Shelton Trails website - we like the feedback.

We also have a work party scheduled tomorrow morning at Riverview Park. Meet at 9:00 by the basketball courts to remove leaves and debris from The Bluff Walk. I'm not sure how this will work out with the weather, but we'll give it a shot.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Tahmore Loop Hike

We had a great hike on the Tahmore Loop Trail yesterday afternoon on the Shelton Land Conservation Trust's property overlooking the Housatonic River. I was really surprised about the turnout when we came to the end of Tahmore Place. About 30 people with 8 or so dogs were mulling around the cul-de-sac and parked part way down both sides of the road. (And there weren't any problems - nobody's driveway was blocked, no neighboring children were harmed, and some of the neighbors and their families came out and enjoyed the walk with us)

Here we are starting off with the Land Trust folks; the Liddel family, with Joe Welsh and his kids. The Liddels are the monitors of the Tahmore property and live next to the Trail. Joe is the president of the Land Trust.

Here's Bill Dyer from the Trails Committee leading the first leg of the hike. The trail is a nice figure 8 so you can do the whole loop, or cut it short on the red trail if you only want to do half. The Trail is marked with a blue blaze with a yellow dot.

After a short while we joined with the Paugussett Trail (blazed solid blue) and walked south to the overlook of the Housatonic River. We could see down to downtown Shelton, Indian Well State Park, Osborndale State Park, Derby, and The Maples.

Everybody enjoyed the views of the Housatonic River. It would improve the view at the overlook if a few trees were removed, but we could see OK now that the leaves have fallen.

We worked our way backon the Paugussett Trail from the overlook to the Red Trail so we could complete the figure 8.

We looped back to the Tahmore Loop & went back toward the trailhead in case anyone had to leave, but pretty much everybody was having a good time & kept going.

We crossed a small ravine over a nice bridge built by the scouts. We crossed into some old field habitat and looped back along some cow pastures. The kids had fun calling out to the cows.

Young or old everybody had a great day. Joe's son had a particularly good time riding dad near the end. The total hike was about 1 1/4 miles, and took about 1 - 1.5 hours. Thanks to the Shelton Land Conservation Trust for maintaining the property & helping sponsor this hike. They are a very nice local charity, and if people want to support a good cause they should consider becoming a member - just click on the link above to access their website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bridge Replacement on the Turkey Trot

Well, we lucked out with the weather Saturday. What was predicted to be a raw, rainy morning turned out to be pretty nice for our work party. We replaced a footbridge on the Turkey Trot Trail along the powerlines north of Rt. 108. The former bridge was an old machine pallet that was well beyond it's life. Here's a picture of the rickety old bridge in it's tunnel of briars.

We had a good turn out so we were able to tackle different tasks; While we removed the old bridge Sheri & Luis started clearing briars at the stream, Lynn and Carol cleared out the trail down to the bridge, Nick & I started playing in the mud building the foundations, and Bill, Rich & Jim brought in the bridge materials with the Gator & started building the bridge.

Here's the start. The pictures don't do justice to the nasty, nasty briars that had to come out. I think Luis needs to get a new pair of gloves after this one.

The briars were trapping debris in the stream, which caused the water to build up and wash out the old bridge in storms. So we built the new bridge to be above the high flows and be more stable.
And here's Carol, Luis & Sheri with the "after" picture and the new abutments.

And here's Nick when he wasn't using one of our new used pickaxes to clear out the area for the bridge abutments. Nick is going to be replacing the "J-pond" bridge on the Dominick Trail latter this year as part of an upcoming Eagle Scout project.

The Gator not only is useful to haul in material, but it also makes a pretty fair workbench. We used pressure treated lumber for the new bridge so it should have a long life. Just have to remember to buy more driver bits - Jim & Rich are tough on equipment.

Bill & Jim walked the bridge down into position. The new bridge is 8 ft. x 2 ft.

As part of the Shelton Trails Committee Quality Control program we make the guy who built the bridge be the first to cross it. The public will be happy to know that Jim pronounced it fit & sturdy. He did go and get our new bridge all muddy though.

Almost right on cue we had our first customers. The passage was a success & we didn't even charge them a toll. Lynn reported that a number of other hikers and bikers were using it later that afternoon.

Here's the finished bridge with stone ramps built up on either end for mountain bikers. Our work force was all hikers so we tried to make the ramps nice and solid, but if anybody feels more stone is needed please feel free to do some additional work. Or work on the trails - the briars are tough to control in this area.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friendly neighborhood Shelton Trails Volunteers. Rich, Nick, Sheri, Bill, Lynn, Carol, Luis & Jim are shown here testing out the completed bridge. You'll be happy to know that it's sturdy. Happy hiking & dry feet.