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?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eklund/Paugussett Eagle Scout Project

Removing piles of dead mountain laurel branches
David Leandres from Troop 55 earned his Eagle Scout ranking by making several much-needed improvement to Eklund Garden and the Paugussett Trail, which passes through the garden. The crew started out by hauling away truckloads of old dead mountain laurel branches from the entryway which had given the path a rather haunted look. They then spread woodchips up the Paugussett Trail from the parking area on Oak Valley Road up to the kiosk, and then spread woodchips in the garden aisles.

"BEFORE"- Vandalized kiosk
The kiosk was badly vandalized and the sign board and plexiglass need to be completely replaced and redesigned.

Taking down the old board
Kiosk repaired and redesigned
After the repairs were completed, David added a sign at the top that was beautifully carved by Tim Bonney. What a difference!

One last thing! An old rough-stone bench that had fallen apart many years ago was brought back to life. The bench is next to the old gold fish pond overlooking the vernal pool down below. Nice job!

Old stone bench rebuilt

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).