We had a great afternoon for the hike at Birchbank Mountain. It was a bit cool, but sunny & people warmed up as we hiked up the hill. We had about 2 dozen walkers plus a number of dogs who enjoyed a number of highlights; the views of the Housatonic Valley from the Overlook, the re-routed trail along White Hills Brook, and the marshmallow roast at the old chimney.
We started on Indian Well Road (one of the straighter and flatter roads in Shelton) at the railroad crossing. We then walked in along the old colonial road that was level for about a quarter of a mile, and passed a number of trees that had been cut by Aquarion Water Company to try the make the area less attractive to ATVs. The ATVs tearing up the trails and causing a lot of erosion damage. Some of the trail re-routes were done to avoid the damaged areas and try to stabilize the gullys.
We started to warm up as we began the gradual climb up the wooded slope. We crossed the junction with the Paugussett Trail, then headed right through the mountain laurel on the re-routed Birchbank Trail and got to enjoy the babbling White Hills Brook below us. After a bit we came to the junction with the blue and white access trail to the short and easy walk to the Overlook.
We passed the remnants of an old charcoal pile along the blue & white trail. It's hard to believe looking at the woods today that much of these hillsides were once cleared to provide fuel for the mills in the Valley.
The Overlook has one of the most open views of the lower Housatonic Valley from this outcrop & everybody enjoyed it. We were showing people how the Birchbank Trail hooks up with the Paugussett Trail and connects with various neighborhoods.
We then retraced our steps back to the White Trail, crossed the brook and proceeded downhill to the Chimney, where Rich had a nice fire going.
The chimney and foundation are the remains of the old Monroe Rod & Gun Club. The chimney has seen better days but it was fun to take a break next to the fire, crack out some hot coffee, enjoy the sound of the little waterfalls along the brook and toast some marshmallows.
After the break we headed down the hill along the re-routed trail with nice views of White Hills Brook in the ravine below us. (Thank you Rich for staying behind to put out the fire). In some places we were retracing the route the Indians and colonial farmers used in going from the Upper White Hills down to the Housatonic River, and the remains of older retaining walls along the colonial roads were visible at the bottom of the hill. It's fun to hike on trails, but it's more interesting when some of our trails follow historic routes.
There's a longer description of the new and improved Birchbank Trails on the Shelton Trails website. The round 2.3 mile trip took about 2 hours with a nice long stop at the Chimney.
We hope that all our neighbors and friends from the Birchbank and the White Hills neighborhoods explore the new trails. Future access from Little Fox Run is also planned to give neighbors better access to the park. Birchbank Mountain contains some of Shelton's most interesting habitats, so you never know what you'll find. Enjoy Shelton's open spaces, & see you on the trails.