Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Trails - getting ready for Connecticut Trails Day

National Trails Day is next Saturday June 5th & there are a record-setting FOUR events in Shelton to enjoy. We've been racing around cutting, mowing, painting blazes & getting our trails in shape for Connecticut Trails Day. Join us on one of these fun events.

  1. Nature Hike on Oak Valley Trail: 10:00-12:00 for an easy 2.2 mile nature hike lead by Conservation Agent Teresa Gallagher including a trip to the Eklund Native Species Garden – meet at the trailhead at Hope Lake on Nells Rock Road. For those who were there, this is the parking lot where Bertucci's catered that wonderful hike earlier this month (sorry, not catering this time). Take a hike and learn about the native plants and wildlife to be found along the trails. The mountain laurel should be in full bloom. It's more fun to go for a walk if you know what you're looking at. For information contact or (203) 926-9572.

  1. Hike on the NEW Paugussett Trail Extension from Indian Well State Park to Shelton Lakes: 9:25 – 1:25 for a fun but challenging hike led by Lynn Reid of the AMC. Meet at the Maples parking lot before Indian Well State Park (Tip: spot a second car at the powerlines on Rt. 108 to shuttle back). Only 17 years in the making, volunteers have been working all winter and spring to restore the link between the White Hills and Shelton Lakes. Registration Recommended – contact

Here's the Paugussett Trail along the edge of one of the meadows on the Wiacek property. The trail needs a haircut, but it is a great example of how Shelton's open space and farmland preservation program work together to preserve the quality of life in our community. One of Shelton's farmers is in the process of haying the fields right now.

  1. Hike or Mountain Bike the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path; 10:00 – 1:00. Meet at the Shelton Community Center in Huntington Center and we’ll explore the new construction off scenic Lane Street on our 4.5 mile hike. (Tip; spot a second car at Pine Lake on Rt. 108 for the ride back, but we will have a shuttle running also). The beginning & end of the hike are on the handicapped-accessible gravel portions of the RecPath, but the middle portion is a non-accessible dirt trail that is suitable for mountain biking and hiking. The Lane St. entrance was just constructed this Fall thanks to the generosity of local contractor Barry Mucci, and we'd like to encourage people to enjoy one of the prettiest open spaces in town along the Land Trust Meadow. Victoria Lown of the Higgins Group Real Estate office has kindly volunteered to provide water again. Contact Terrance Gallagher at or (203) 926-9572 for information.

Leashed dogs & kids (OK - the kids don't have to be leashed) are welcome on all the hikes. A rain date of June 6th is scheduled for all the hikes if there is heavy rain. For more information visit or the Shelton Trails Blog at

June 5th is a Greenway Day in Shelton. There are a number of other events scheduled including

Get outside and enjoy your greenways and open spaces this weekend.
Visit the Connecticut Forest and Parks website at for a listing of over 160 events around the state.

This year's theme for Trails Day is Find Your Happy Place, but we decided to just go with
Happy Trails. See you Saturday.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Click on image to enlarge

The interesting thing about the Shelton Trails is that you don't have to go far to see critters in their natural habitat. That is, as natural as the environment allows. Take these chipmunks, for example:

This guy is living in what he probably thinks is a chipmunk housing development, created in the 1930s as a retaining wall along the road to Indian Well. I don't know if he has any neighbors, but he let me know that I was not welcome in his front yard! (Wish I'd had my good camera).

Now this fellow, or gal, did not wait long to utilize the steps we installed a few weeks ago. A nice smooth stone wall with easy-to-dig dirt makes for a brand new home in the neighborhood.

Front entrance with a stone deck. Great for sunbathing!

On the power lines access path, near the aptly named Turkey Trot Trail, I stumbled upon this turkey hen presumably taking a nap right in the middle of the trail. At first I thought she was dead.

When I got a bit closer, she up and skedaddled for the bushes.

Whoa! She left behind a herd of chicks that she had been sitting on! They scattered while mom tried to lure me away. I departed, hoping they were not terribly traumatized by my sudden appearance.

Life goes on along the Shelton Trails!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bridging the Gap

Click on photos to enlarge

Scouts and parents representing Troop 55 pitched in to assist Nick Shigo in completing a Shelton Trails project, undertaken as part of Nick's requirements toward achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. The work party today was split into two groups, one working on clearing and leveling a biking and hiking bypass that will avoid the current steep and rocky hillside trail, while the others constructed a replacement bridge designed by Nick over a muddy and sometimes flowing gully. The Shelton Trails Committee assisted by providing their utility vehicle, a John Deere Gator, to haul lumber and tools through the woods to the work site.
Unloading the Gator

The old bridge was unsafe (no kidding?)

It was cut up and parts were used as a temporary work platform

The new base is framed and set on each bank

Now's a good time for the crew to pose for posterity! Nick Shigo holds the "cornerstone" crediting Troop 55's Eagle project

Back to work! Scouts build a retaining wall on the high side of the new path

It's a team effort

Nick nails in the last board of his new bridge. The scouts and the adults did a great job, and due to good advance planning and preparation the bridge was completed ahead of schedule and the trail, though not yet complete, also seems to be progressing faster than anticipated.

Roughin' It

Sunny, 65 degrees, light breeze - terrible day for a hike - I'd SOOO much rather be doing chores. But we had scheduled to help lead a guided hike for 2:00 at Abby Wright so off we went.

Here's the buffet line courtesy of Bertucci's Restaurant at Hope Lake at mid hike, but more about that later ....

Apparently a lot of other folks thought that today was a splendid day to go for a walk in the woods also. The Abby Wright parking lot on Nells Rock Road was packed.

We had about 40 people and a dozen well-behaved dogs. So we headed off clockwise around Nells Loop Trail.

The woods were lush and green with new, fresh leaves. We walked thru a canopy of huge Tulips, past some old stone piles (placed by tired farmers?, indians?, aliens?) and then headed over toward the Dominick Trail (was blazed orange but is now blazed blue) toward where the scouts had been working all morning at the J-Pond Bridge and the Eklund bypass.

Here's Nick Shigo of Scout Troop 55 at the just-completed J-Pond Bridge replacement. Nick was directing a team of scouts as part of his eagle scout project to replace a bridge that had seen better days and cutting in a new bypass trail up Eklund Cliff so it would be safer for mountain bikers to use.

Nick and the scouts had done a great job replacing the old bridge that morning, and were cutting in the bypass trail up the cliff (see Richard's Bridging It post for more photos). Here's the nice entrance to the bridge that we got all muddy.

Here's Burt & Nina Jackson of Milford coming up the Eklund Cliff (Trail Com. Member Bob Wilkins sent us some customers). Also in the back are the daughter & father who came out on our Frost Hike in January. Today was a much more pleasant day for a hike.

We then went up to the Eklund Native Species Garden where Teresa discussed the history of the parcel and showed off some of the plants that were in bloom.

Nope, it's not the fabled Shelton Trails Conga Line. It's the hike winding it's way up and around the paths at Eklund. Mr. Eklund must've wanted to get out of the house alot & he built of lot of stone walls and paths around the property.

Here's one of the Pink Ladyslippers that we saw along the trail. There were a number of attractive wildflowers still in bloom along the trails.

We went across Oak Valley Road to the southern point of Hope Lake & headed up to the parking lot and picnic tables at the trailhead where we met....

Christine and her colleagues from Bertucci's who were setting up a woodland feast. Christine had contacted Lynn Reid after one of our earlier hikes and volunteered to donate some food for one of our public walks.

And they didn't just bring some pizzas (which we also liked). They had trays of meatballs, zitis, stuffed shells, and all kinds of good stuff.

Just look at this! This wasn't just a picnic - it was a catered dinner. Thank you Christine & all the nice folks at Bertucci's. It's really great when a local business offers to help out like this. We can vouch for the tastiness of the food - go to Bertucci's on Bridgeport Avenue some night for dinner.

Everybody had a great time hanging out at the lake. Particularly that one retriever that pounced when Jim dropped his meatball on the ground. The dogs were very well behaved.

There were a lot of other folks out enjoying the open space at Hope Lake.

There were some guys kayaking. Other families were hiking or picnicking.

Some folks were trying to do a little quite fishing until we showed up. A lot of the fishermen were probably grumbling at the noise, but then when we explained the event they were joking about how we were "roughin' it" hiking.

On the way back to Abby Wright everybody was noticeably slower. Maybe we shouldn't have a big feed part way thru the hike - NAH. We stopped at a little vernal pool below the Eklund Garden and Terry showed off a red eft to the kids. This little area has a lot of wildlife in it when you stop to look around.

Everybody had a great time. I don't know how we'll top this for the next hike. There is a work party scheduled for next weekend, and then June 5th 2010 is National Trails Day. There are four hikes scheduled in Shelton this year. If we get weather like today's it should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Enjoy Fine Hiking & Dining this Saturday

It's raining now, but it'll be sunny on Saturday May 15th, 2010 so join us for a fun guided hike at 2:00 (please show up at 1:45 so we have a head count for Bertucci's). Meet at the Abby Wright parking lot on Nells Rock Road (across the street from L'Hermitage condominium and Chordas Pond).

It'll be an easy 2 mile guided hike lead by the Shelton Trails Committee on Nell's Loop Trail with a side excursion to Eklund Native Species Garden. Learn what's been going on in the area & see the scouts at work replacing a footbridge and re-routing a trail. And the best bonus is that Bertucci's Brick Oven Restaurant has volunteered to provide food and beverages after the hike, FREE, to all the participants. It should be a lot of fun so make plans to join us and enjoy some great Spring walking.

The rain date is Sunday, 5/16. This is a great hike for children and pets (please bring a leash for your dog, whether you leash your kids is up to you). For more information go to,, or call (203) 926-9572.

In addition to our hike at 1:45, the Scouts are going to be meeting at 8:30 in the parking lot to start re-building our J-Pond bridge. If anyone wants to help them do some work before the fun events they would love to have you participate.

Also on Saturday, May 15th, 2010 the Connecticut DEP is hosting The Great Park Pursuit at Indian Well State Park all day. There will be many activities for families trying to enjoy the outdoors at a beautiful park along the Housatonic River. Our own Teresa Gallagher will be demonstrating letterboxing, with a new hand-carved stamp.

So, this coming Saturday, you could get the satisfaction of helping some scouts make our trails better by building a bridge, take the family to some explore the outdoors at Indian Well, come with us on a pleasant Spring Hike, and get a great meal courtesy of Bertucci's, all for the low, low price of FREE. You can't beat that deal with a stick. Come out and join us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Trail Mix

Trail work was carried out at two locations this week in anticipation of heavy traffic in the coming weeks.  Extensive erosion on the Rec Path at the Lane Street meadows, where the path enters the woods, was a cause for concern due to safety issues. And the Blue Dot connector, on the old Weicik pasture, was in need of some brush and bramble trimming.


What was once referred to as the "Grand Canyon" has been filled and hopefully a water bar positioned at the top of the incline will divert heavy runoff from eroding the path again.

Jim clears some wayward brambles alongside the Lane St. meadow, following some serious relocating of gravel to fill the washout. The Gator has been invaluable, considering the wood chips, millings, stone, and other materials that are moved around on work parties and during general trail maintenance.

Carol, Lynn, Jim and Dominic work at cutting and removing thorny briars. 
A group effort is required to clear some of the heavier brush and brambles, all while standing on wet and muddy ground at the edge of the pasture.

After awhile, the predicted rains came, dampening the clothes, but not the spirits, of the volunteers. Shari, Darlene, Dominic, Bill, and Lynn return from a fruitful work party.
In spite of the predicted thunderstorms and rain, were were genuinely pleased to have such a turnout for this work party. Besides the accomplishments, the work parties are always fun, a chance to meet folks with similar interests, and a great way to become more familiar with your Shelton trails! Thanks to all for spending your Saturday morning with us!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring Scenes along the Northwest Passage

Spring is a great time to explore and work on trails. The wildflowers & shrubs are in bloom & there's a lot of wildlife to be seen if you just pause a bit & look around. Here's a native azalea that's blooming just off Independence Drive. We've been working throughout the winter and spring to get our new Northwest Passage trail open for National Trails Day, and it's almost here.

We have two work parties scheduled for this month and we hope you can join us this Saturday at 8:30 on Constitution Blvd. North near the entrance to Summerfield. These are work parties that are good for all ages. If you don't have tools just come & we'll hook you up.

Stepping stones were placed in one wet spot to make the footing easier. We've also been cutting brush, raking, removing trash, filing in holes, building bridges, mowing, etc. All with a small crew, so any & all help is welcome. It's fun and rewarding to see everything starting to really come together. This area is packed with song birds and wildlife on many occasions, and you'll only experience them by walking along the trail.

Here's some of the garbage that we hauled out of the open space for Clean Sweep. Over 57 groups or individuals participated to make Shelton a better place to live & work. Visit the Clean Sweep website for photos of them in action. We got the worst of it, but there's still a bit more junk in there so anybody feel free to pitch in and pick some of it up. It would be really good if some of the neighbors along Wellington Court stopped dumping their yard waste in the park along the trail.Here's one of the views along the trail from a little earlier in the year. There are a lot of surprising pretty views that can only be fully appreciated from using the trail.

Here's another view along Independence Drive earlier in the Spring. The Northwest Passage will link up a lot of neighborhoods and sidewalks so people can enjoy a shorter or longer walk through some scenic areas. And no, the paving crew was not drinking when the sidewalk was put in. That's what happens when you turn a landscape architect loose, but it's a still a pleasant walk.

So come out and join us this Saturday if you can & help build the Northwest Passage.

There is also a great group of scouts working the next couple of weekends on improving the Dominick Trail if anyone would like to help (see previous blog post). We also have a guided hike scheduled on May 15th at 2:00 at the Abby Wright parking lot on Nells Rock Road that should be a lot of fun. See the events calendar for more details.

And there are FOUR Shelton events this year for National Trails Day on June 5th. There will be more information, but you can also see a brochure on various events around the state on the Connecticut Forest & Parks Association website that was just updated.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mayflies in My Throat (and other enjoyable outdoor excursions)

Teresa & I worked at the Eklund Native Species Garden off Oak Valley Road this Sunday. We cleared out an area for a compost pile and tiedyied up the working end of the garden. There were a lot of really pretty native wildflowers in bloom - see the Eklund Garden Blog for photos. Visit Eklund Garden in the next couple of weeks when you have a chance to enjoy some of the natural beauty that we have in Shelton.

Did I mention that there were Mayflies? There were Mayflies, a lot of Mayflies. And since this was May second that probably shouldn't come as a surprise. However it was the lovely combination of Mayflies, unseasonably warm 80 degree temperatures, sun, and humidity (why is it humid this early?) that made for a grinder of an afternoon digging post holes in rock skree for the compost bin. There is small pond just below Eklund that is a really busy vernal pool with lots of Spring Peepers, Grey Tree Frogs, Wood Frogs, various salamanders, etc., and they all eat bugs including mosquitoes, and, you guessed it; Mayflies. The pond was literally boiling with activity which was interesting, but the downside was the bugs. We just kept spitting the Mayflies out, drinking more water, and we finished the compost enclosure.

There are a lot of improvements that could be made at Eklund including resetting a stone bench, raking leaves, clearing, chipping brush, building waterbars on the current Dominick ( and soon-to-be-Paugussett) Trail, picking up debris, placing woodchips, etc. We'll have to talk to some of the scouts about this trail work opportunity. I think that they'd get a lot of satisfaction in contributing to this community project.

Nick Sligo and his fellow scouts started working yesterday on a more gradual mountain bike trail down the Eklund Cliff just south of the Eklund Garden.

They are doing a little of the building "the path to Grandma's house" with all the downhill rocks and timbers, but this is coming along fine for the first day. They will also be rebuilding the J-Pond bridge & we hope to showcase their efforts on the May 15th guided hike (see schedule for more info). This project is a first for Shelton in that we have TWO eagle scout projects going on simultaneously in the same location.

The scouts will be working Saturdays from 9 to 2 and on Sundays from 11 to 2, if anyone wants to help. Feel free to bring shovels, tools, etc., and water or whatever (I'd suggest bug spray too).

There were a number of hikers out and the fishing areas on Nells Rock Road were packed. It was great to see so many people out enjoying the open spaces along the Shelton Lakes Greenway.

On Saturday, volunteers were also fixing up the Northwest Passage north of Independence Drive; cutting brush, digging out stumps, cutting trippies flush with the ground, grading the trailbed, etc in a race to get the Passage ready for National Trails Day. It's only 1 month away and we have THREE events scheduled in Shelton - the most that we've ever had. There is still a lot to do.

The CFPA brochures should be out this week - hopefully we can have some for our Trails Committee meeting Weds. night in City Hall (Room 303 at 5:00 - the public is welcome).

If the mayflies are not enough wildlife for you then check out Diane Carlson & Bridget Kelly's excellent Wildlife Lane blog for some great photos of local wildlife that you might see (possibly tipping over your garbage cans).

And thanks to all the Shelton High School students and everyone else who helped with the Housatonic River Clean-Up on Saturday. It was a great turn out by the students, particularly considering that the SAT's, First Communion, Scout Tag Sale, and other events were going on at the same time. See the In the Field blog for photos of the work from the Sunnyside boat ramp. Now if only we can keep the crap from getting IN the river the rest of the year.