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.


  1. Make me look bad, eh? Well, I didn't slash anyone important that day! By the way, should you find a pinky (left hand) on that trail in the snow, please return it to me.

  2. Hey, we got the work done and everyone left in one piece. The fact that you almost took Jim's ear off saying "hey look there's a hawk" with a machete in your hand like you were an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was besides the point. I went back later that day and there were a surprising number of footprints, paw prints, and even bike tracks in the snow on the RecPath, Turkey Trot & Northwest Passage.

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