Saturday, October 29, 2016


I finished the last of my hikes to complete the Shelton Trails Marathon Challenge on Saturday; Birchbank Mountain, and the Missing Link portion of the Recreation Path.  If you go to the Trails Marathon page you can see the other people who completed the hikes, along with all the other information on the various parks and trails.

Completed 13 Hikes for 26.2 Miles.  It sounds like a lot, but a few trails here and a few hikes there, and it gets covered.

 It was beautiful Fall weather in the woods.  The sun was shining through the Beech leaves.

There wasn't a ton of water in Upper White Hills Brook, but it was nice out none the less.

The view of the Housatonic River from the Paugussett Overlook was splendid.

After finishing Birchbank Mountain I headed over to the RecPath and walked the Missing Link from Constitution Blvd N. down toward the schools.  It was a peaceful stroll along Curtis Brook.

There was even a Fall baseball game going on at the High School.  Wonder who thought they were the Cubs and who were the Indians.

The RecPath was much busier than Birchbank Mountain.  Folks were walking dogs, running, strolling, or just out for a nice afternoon with the family.

Everybody was enjoying the October sun, even this little garter snake near Pine Lake.  Enjoy the Fall weather.

The Shelton Trails Marathon has been a great way to explore new trails and open spaces around town. There's still plenty of time to get your walks in.  Just download the form on the Marathon page, check off which hikes you did, and earn a one-of-a-kind medal suitable for jackets, packs, or whatever you want to put it on.  You can also join us for the guided hike on the Turkey Trot Trail on Thanksgiving Weekend - see the Events page for more info.

Now, I wonder how many other people on the Conservation Commission, Trails Committee, or the other City boards are close to finishing the Marathon?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Rainy Fall Walk along the RecPath

A series of rain storms helped cancel Saturday's work party, but a break in the cloud warrented a hike on the RecPath.  Got to finish the Shelton Trails Challenge.

I started today's walk in late afternoon, at the lower Wesley Drive crossing.

It was a moody, grey day, but you can see some things if you pay attention to the leaves around you.

The RecPath at the Lane St. Fire Access road had a variety of Tulip, beech, maple, and some other funny leaf.

A really long, sharp- toothed American Chestnut leaf.  It's very distinctive along the RecPath, once you start to look for it.

Other things started to jump out in the grey light, like this Mockernut Hickory.

The RecPath curved in and around trees, dipped into channel, over bridges, with some nice overlooks of Basil Brook.

There was some Witch Hazel in flower near the upper Wesley Drive crossing.  One of the only shrubs to flower in the Fall.  This one's yellow leaves were gone, but the flower's were still there.  Witch Hazel bark and roots are used as a medicinal astringent for a variety of medical treatments.

There was more Witch Hazel near Great Ledge and Oak Valley Road further up the RecPath.  It really stands out this time of year if you know what to look for.

There was also a lot of deep red - purple Maple Leafed Viburnum along the Path.  There were still a few of the purple berries left that the birds had missed so far.

Sadly, some of the ash trees above Lizard Head Rock and Crabapple Drive were dying.  You could see the dead tops and then looking lower you could see the distinctive bark.

The bark is gone from "blonding"; the loss of the bark from woodpeckers searching for bugs in the dying trees.

So whether its from Emerald Ash Borers, some fungus, or some other blight we are losing a lot of our ash trees almost overnight.

When you've seen one you start looking along along the Path and you'll see a number of sick ash trees that are under attack.

But then you come to other old friend, like the knobby maple tree,
near the turtle pond and they seem to be doing OK.

This Red Maple has been around for a while and has the bumps and lumps to prove it, but it keeps going on and is in a scenic spot near the gas pipeline crossing.

There are some surprisingly picturesque spots when you come out onto the powerlines.  There is a very colorful shrub community that grows under full sunlight without the shadowing of tress along the powerlines.

The RecPath winds through wetlands along Spooner Swamp and around the power towers near Great Ledge.

All that left of the Sweet Pepperbush are the little pepper seeds.

On the other hand the Winterberry looks like it will have a bumper year and the leaves are still all green along Spooner Swamp.

Further up, the oaks start to take over near appropriately enough Oak Valley Lane.

The RecPath winds along as it crosses a couple of driveways and parallels Oak Valley Road before heading North toward the Dog Park.  It was a pretty walk that demonstrated that even on a rainy grey day there were new things to see.  You just have to look around you and ask yourself what am I  looking at?  Fall is a time of change, but it won't last forever.  Try to find the time to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hope Lake Fall Upgrades

Hope Lake (formerly known as Reservoir #3) on Nells Rock Road is one of Shelton's most popular open spaces, enjoyed by fishermen, kayakers, hikers, mountain bikers and picnickers.  It's a great scenic spot that's popular with families.  So last Saturday the Trails Committee and local volunteers fixed up the entry way at the parking area on Nells Rock Road. south of the causeway.

Shelton Parks and Rec Dept. dropped off several loads of woodchips that were spread up and down Oak Valley Trail to cover eroded areas along the lake.  The wood chips filled in nicely between exposed tree roots to improve the footing along the east side of Hope Lake.

While some people were moving the wood chips into place others were nailing down loose boards on a couple of low board walks that span some of the wetter spots along the trail.  With the current drought these were pretty dry, but we still fixed the boards to prevent a tripping hazard.

We used our John Deere Gator and a wheeled cart to move the wood chips up and down the trail.

Other people started to dismember the last remains of the old bridge and the southern end of the lake.

The structure was carefully taken apart so the lumber could be recycled into other scout and trail projects.

The southern point was cleared off so that the scenic views remain, while access to the point is still open from the southern rock spine.

Other trail volunteers removed rocks from the trail bed, moved mulch into the rough spots, fixed up boardwalks, and removed the lumber from the point.

Thanks to Eva, Val, Stan, Chris, Jimmy, Jim, Mark, Bill, Sheri, and Terry for helping out on a beautiful crisp Fall morning. Next time you're going along the lake, if it seems like it's easier to walk Oak Valley Trail along Hope Lake it's due the volunteer elbow grease.  Enjoy your Shelton Open Spaces.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trails Trivia Quiz October Edition

You're invited to take the Shelton Trails Trivia Quiz (October Edition) to test your knowledge of Shelton's wonderful trail system.  Click HERE to take the quiz, and come on back when you're done to have each answer explained below.

1. Which trail is called "the blue dot": Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, the River Walk, Tahmore Trail, or the Paugussett Trail? 

The Paugussett Trail is part of a 825-mile network of "Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trails" that are all marked with blue blazes, hence the nickname "Blue Dot." The sky-blue color was selected many decades ago after testing the visibility of various colors at dusk, with light blue doing the best. "Blue Dot" seems to be a strictly local nickname, however.  Elsewhere in Connecticut, the "dot"nickname references side trails that were blazed with a blue rectangle and a 'dot' of another color on top of the blue. People would speak of the  "yellow dot" connector trail, which meant a blue rectangle with a yellow circle in the middle. These days, two-color blazes are done with blue on top third of the rectangle and the secondary color being the bottom third. This allows for complete blazing in one step rather than waiting for the color underneath to dry. 

2. Which trail is famous for it's spring wildflower display: Tahmore Trail, Nells Rock Trail, Boehm Pond Trail, or Birchbank Trail?

Birchbank Trail is located in an area of marble, which makes the soil sweet, and bottom of the river bank is moist and cool. During April, a blanket of Dutchman's Breeches carpet the ground on either side of the trail. Other wildflowers include Red Trillium, Dog Leaf Toothwort, Trout Lily, Bloodroot, and Blue Cohosh. The display is short-lived, and by mid-summer even the foliage of Dutchman's Breeches has died back completely. 

3. When you see two offset blazes of the same color on a tree, what does that mean? 

It means the trail is turning in the direction of the upper blaze. This is especially important to know if the trail tread is obscured by fresh leaves or snow. 

4. Which of the following cannot be found on Nells Rock Trail: Pokemon, picnic tables, letterboxes, or geocaches? 

Picnic tables! There are none on this trail. There are geocaches, letterboxes, and Pokemon. The Nells Rock kiosk is a Pokestop in the PokemonGo app. 

5. Which trail features an old mill dam:  Gristmill Trail, Rec Path, Boehm Pond, or the Nicholdale Perimeter Trail?

Gristmill Trail features an old mill dam near the trail head, along with a bench. The dam was used to raise the water level and direct water into a head race, which would power a mill. It may have been a gristmill, which would grind grain. Note that there are big dams along the Rec Path, but they were not mill dams. These dams created a water supply that could be used to fight fires downtown during the industrial peak. 

6. Which trail is blazed blue+yellow: Paugussett Trail, Boehm Pond Trail, the Rec Path, or Tahmore Trail?  

Tahmore Trail has the blue+yellow blazes. Previous blazes were blue with a yellow dot in the center. The Paugussett Trail blazes are blue, Boehm Pond has white blazes and some yellow blazes, and the Rec Path is not blazed (although there are some old yellow blazes here and there). 

7.  Which of the three "Shelton Lakes" is stocked with trout: Pine Lake, Silent Waters, or Hope Lake? 

Hope Lake is stocked with trout. The other two reservoirs are too shallow and warm for trout. 

8. Which trail was created specifically to be used by the SIS cross-country team: Turkey Trot Trail, Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, Oak Valley Trail, or the Paugussett Trail? 

Turkey Trot Trail was laid out to achieve specific mileage needed by the SIS cross country team. Runners need to do the outer loop as show on the map above and then an inner loop.  An apparent wayward bend in the trail near Willoughby Road was added to get the mileage correct. 

9. Which trail has an overlook of the Derby/Shelton dam: Paugussett Trail, Bluff Walk, Birchbank Trail, or the Rec Path? 

The correct answer is the Bluff Walk at Riverview Park. This is Shelton's oldest park, and portions of this trail are so old we have no idea when it was created. 

10. What trail has an overlook of Lake Housatonic (but not the Derby/Shelton dam): Paugussett Trail, Bluff Walk, Birchbank Trail, or the Rec Path? 

This overlook is on the Paugussett Trail (blazed blue). It's located in our Birchbank open space, and the Paugussett can be accessed from Birchbank Trail (blazed white).

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grey Skies, No Rain, and One Big Pumpkin; Shelton Day 2016.

With a forecast for showers we brought extra tarps, extra umbrellas, extra rain coats, and waterproof maps.  And since we did all that the skies stayed grey, but dry, and we had a pretty decent Shelton Day.  You're Welcome for the weather.

We had the usual spot between Dunkin' Doughnuts and Bricks and Barley Tavern.  Perfect spot for a Trails Booth - thanks again Sheri.

We passed out a hundreds of maps that Teresa made, and answered a lot of questions about neighborhood trails, places to fish, the Shelton Trails Challenge (we gave away ALL our packets), guided hikes, how people could volunteer to help out with the trails.  Bill was hawking the raffle tickets like Gary Busey in Carny, Bob Wood was moving the Marathon packets (in between swapping out his shirts for all the different booths he was working).

The lack of rain and wind allowed us to set out some nice displays.  A number of the younger trail patrons enjoyed the candy and apples (as well as the older trail patrons.  The Trails Committee members patronized the other booths, ate a bunch of food, and chatted with dozens of friends and neighbors working all the other booths.

No, he's not praying for rain (although we do need it)! While an interested party checks out a brochure identifying fish, Jim regales him with some tall tales of his own.

We had lots of visitors, many asking questions, gathering maps and brochures, or commenting on our trail work. Rich kept telling them how much fun work parties are.  We also had 35 folks sign up for our trail activities email postings.

Jim tried to see if the High School Robotics Team could jury rig some of their robots with chainsaws to help us with trail maintenance.  They kept mumbling something about legal restrictions, public safety, finally that it might be fun to try it, but then someone talked them out of it - Sigh!  What could possibly go wrong.

We also had a great little raffle at the end orchestrated by Sandie.  Christiana at Jones Family Farm donated a mongo pumpkin for the raffle, which Fran won.  It was funny wheeling it down to the Farmer's Market in a little cart and having people direct me along the way to her van (just look for the guy with the big pumpkin).  Hope she had someone to help her get it out at home.  We also raffled off 4 hiking sticks and we hope Ken, Bob, and Leah (she bought multiple tickets and won 2) have a great time on the trails with them this Fall.

Finally, after the gear was all packed up, we patronized one more local establishment at Bricks and Barley while waiting for the Shelton Police to reopen Howe Avenue.  It was tough work, but somebody had to do it.  It was a good time and thanks to everyone who stopped by, helps on trails, or donated their time and effort.  And thanks to Jones Family Farm for donating that big pumpkin - it was a big hit.
The End - see you soon on the trails.