Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Indian Well Overlook Restoration

It's pretty sad when you stagger up a steep hill and arrive at the top panting only to discover that there's no view because all the trees grew back in. Last year we restored the Birchbank overlook, which people have been really enjoying. This year the old Indian Well overlook is getting the treatment.

To begin, we identified one large oak tree with a spreading canopy that could be cut to open up a view of the river. The family photo below is from 2006, but you can see there is one big tall oak with a spreading canopy. Get that baby out of the way, and that's a start.

The tree was flagged and gps coordinates recorded for the CT DEEP, which needed to grant permission to cut the tree in the state park. Joe Maler from the DEEP promptly walked up the hill to check it out and gave his permission to cut the tree. Colin Carroll from CFPA did the work.  Colin seemed to know what he was doing and after about 20 minutes of careful cuts and strategically applied wedges, he gave the signal that he was about to do that last cut. Watch the video below to see it fall. Wow!  Look at how far the trunk of the tree jumps as it lands!

You really need to click that video and go to Youtube with it maximized on a PC to get the full effect. 

After removing the big oak, there is still more to cut, but it's a huge improvement.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beating Around the Bush

A small section of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton currently passes through the edge of a pasture at the former Wiacek farm and onto a utility access road. Much of the access road has been topped with a thick layer of stone for use by heavy equipment and is not pleasant for walking. Our plan is to re-route the trail off this road and through an adjacent wooded area, bringing the trail back into a more natural state.

      click on photos to enlarge
Terry, Richard, and Val discuss the work details. It was supposed to be a warm, clear day, but once again Mother Nature kept us guessing as we labored through occasional brief showers
Clearing invasive barberry was a major project. Barberry spreads easily and has overgrown large sections of these woods

Heavy vines were also cut and cleared
We had help from Shelton High School students looking to pick up some community service hours.   
Richard is almost lost in this jungle of briars and vines while trying to clear the last section of the re-route  
We "Tom Sawyered" the strong, healthy high school guys into moving boulders to create an opening in this wall

                                                What was once jungle is now a cleared trail

Many thanks to our volunteers Eva, John G., Carla and Amanda, John P., Mark, Brendan, and Jimmy, and Shelton Trails Committee members Val, Terry, Jim, and Richard

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bridge Building 101

In this course, a.k.a., "Introduction to Bridge Construction", the student will be exposed to the joys and heartbreaks of creating a span over a pastoral woodland stream. Your instructors are dedicated engineers and laborers, having hands-on bridge building experience, mostly not catastrophic. The existing stream crossing along the Boehm Pond Trail was potentially hazardous, and the Shelton Trails Committee and several volunteers set out to create a safe crossing.

Click on photos to enlarge
Soon, hopefully, this will become a bridge
The work begins by leveling the 2x6s that will support the structure. While some worked on the bridge, hauling rocks to provide a firm base at each end, others cleared a trail leading to the crossing
The trail had to be clearly defined
"Looks good on this end!"

When it came time to fasten planks onto the main supports, it was discovered that we had screws, but the wrong screw bits! Bill, Eva, and Anthony search for anything adaptable. Jim just stares off into space
Fortunately good neighbor John ran home and was able to provide screws that matched our screw bits
Richard refused to get his feet wet, so much of the plank fastening had to be done from the sitting position

 Jim fastens the last planks
As the sole representative of his neighborhood present for the occasion, John is given the honor of being the first to cross the completed bridge. Ignore the safety hazard at the foot of the bridge
A safe crossing in a pleasing environment...a babbling brook
 While one group worked on the bridge, Terry and his gang of horse thieves were busy clearing and extending  the existing Boehm Pond Trail , following an old farm road to where it meets with Boehm Circle. (Due to privacy concerns, no photos of the thieves were available)
 Some portions of the old road are seasonally wet. Skirting these sections will be a job for a future work party, assuming the gang of horse thieves are released from prison and are available for honest, unpaid work
Bob shows Richard the trash he removed from the vicinity of our trail. The car is not part of the trash

Many thanks to those who helped...volunteers John and his son Brendan, Eva, Anthony, Mark, and Brandon, and Shelton Trails Committee members Bill, Terry, Sheri, Jim, Bob, and Richard

Monday, April 3, 2017

Birchbank Blowdown Buckup

A number of trees came down over the trails during the winter, including some large Tulips on the Birchbank Mountain trails.  Rather than a full work party a pair of Trail Committee members; Jim Taradine & Rich Skudlarek (which Google's spellcheck wants to change to Tardiness and Skulker for some reason) went out to clear the worst of the mess.

Here's Jim sizing up the mess.  Rich is probably offering helpful advice on how Jim should remove the tree.

Not sure if this was Rich's advice, but Jim started to take the tree apart with his bare hands.

But ultimately resorted to using chainsaws.

One of the trucks sprung back up after the weight was taken off.  Always fun when this happens quickly.

So if you happen to see 2 guys with chainsaws on the trails, sometimes pushing a rickety cart that looks like it escaped a World War II scrap metal drive, they are harmless.  Feel free to help them. Or come to one of our work parties; the next of which is 4/22nd at the Waicek property - see the separate page for Upcoming Work Parties.

The Trails Committee will hold a Spring Wildflower Walk at Birchbank on April 29th (Saturday) at 10:00 hike.  You can come out an enjoy not having to hike up, over, and around all of the blowdowns.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Far Mill River Kayaking

It rained pretty heavy last night and the Far Mill River was at bank-full level.  It was flowing good, but not flooding.  It was flowing good enough that it was attracting whitewater kayakers though.

Here's the guys putting on the gear.  They put in by the Gristmill Trail kiosk on Mill Street.

Here they are coming down the river along Gristmill Trail.

And there they go down toward the dam.  They took out at the dam and had so much fun doing it they ran that stretch a couple of times.

This is what the rapids looked like just upstream of Bridgeport Avenue.

They pulled out temporarily to by Wells Hollow Creamery and the UI substation.  The sewer pipe across the river at the powerlines was a nasty strainer with the high water.  They asked how the river was below here and I said it was OK except for the dam and rapids.  Their eyes seemed to light up and they asked how high the dam was.  So they decided to run the rest of the river and I helped them shuttle their van down to Rt. 110 at the take-out.

It was a cold day and it looked like they had all the right gear.  The 4 guys were from Quebec and were going to a race in Vermont, but the river was frozen.  So they were adventuring down south and saw a good listing for the Far Mill River.  With all the rain last night it was a perfect day for kayaking.
The water was a little milder down by Far Mill Crossing.  But it gave them a chance to warm up for the rapids ahead. 
Our open space is so nice it draws in tourists from other countries.  So long Francis, hope you and your friends had a good time in Shelton. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brisk Marshmallow March; 3/5/17

No snow this year for the Marshmallow March, but it was crisp & blustery.  We had a number of families turn out to enjoy the great Sunday at Nicholdale on Rt. 110.

Over 28 people, plus 3 well-behaved dogs made good time exploring the Blue-blazed trail on the Shelton Land Trust's property.  We had a great team of energetic path-finders who led us from one blaze to another on the way to the scout camp.

Where some trusty trail volunteers had a welcome campfire going, and some marshmallows for toasting.

It was a little smoky, but everyone seemed to enjoy the warmth of chatting around the campfire.

Rich Skudlarek packed in several thermoses of hot cocoa that were a welcome hit for young and old.

People had a good time picking toasted marshmallows of their sticks.  The Marshmallow March is turning into a great annual family tradition.

Some hikers know how to really work the system; marshmallows, cocoa, and a ride.

We then made our way back to the parking lot.  Since there was no snow we took the longer route along the blue trail.  It was a little blustery at the top of the meadow near Rt 110, but pretty.

Thanks to everybody who came out.  And thanks to the Shelton Land Conservation Trust for hosting the event.  Nicholdale is a great place to see wildlife, particularly during Spring and Fall bird migrations.  And thanks to Rich & Jim for the advance campfire and cocoa preparation.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Old Kings Highway, Buddington to Mill Street

Junction Old Town Road and Buddington
The "Old Kings Highway" between Buddington Road and Mill Street is unmarked but easy enough to follow. The entire route is public property, and the old road certainly dates back to the 1700's if not earlier. There is no designated parking, so it's mostly neighbors who hike it. Old Town Road, a dead end, does link up with other nearby open space and we have the potential for linkage with the Rec Path someday in the future.
View of Old Kings Highway from Old Town Road
From Buddington Road, the Old King's Highway isn't super obvious, but you can find it going straight across from Old Town Road (the name "Old Town Road" suggests this is an old intersection). The Paugussett Trail used to go down Old Town Road in the 1960s, and then follow Old Kings Highway.  Look at the really big oak in the middle of the photo above. If you look really closely at the big oak, you should a couple of small flecks of blue paint.

Remnants of a really, really old blue blaze
That's an old blue blaze from several decades ago. Back when they probably had long-lasting lead in the paint!

The trace of the old road with a modern paved drive to the left
From Buddington, the old road bed squeezes between homes and private property, but the road itself is owned by the city.

That "posted" sign is facing the wrong way. The road is public property. 
Before long, you're completely in the woods. Probably not for long though, because the property on the left is part of the Shelter Ridge site slated for development. There was bright orange survey flagging along the border, and blue wetlands flagging as well.

Clubmoss (lycopodium)
The area around the stream crossing is scenic. If the season is right, you can hear the water cascading down the slope below. There are interesting rock formations and the beginning of the long stone walls.

Near the stream crossing

Old Kings Highway fords a small stream
The old road goes right through a stream, and it's helpful to have waterproof boots and a walking stick to get across. To the left, the stream moves slowly through a vernal pool. To the right, it falls sharply down the slope through an open space property called the "Old Kings Highway Open Space."

The stream plunges down the slope . 
It's possible the old Paugussett Trail diverged from Old Kings Highway at this point and followed what is now an unmarked trail or old road. We don't really know.

Road junction
Right after crossing the street, there is a junction with some old farm roads that come out of the Wells property known as Shelter Ridge. The Wells property isn't posted, so it's still possible to follow the farm roads, now completely wooded and lined by stone walls, to the distinctive remains of some old building.

Old foundation

Back to Old Kings Highway, continuing south towards Mill Street, the road runs through the most scenic stretch, line with old stone walls. Imagine old stagecoaches and farm wagons heading down this road during the Revolutionary War.

Tragically, some heartless mason has been stealing rock from this historic wall. The theft has been reported to the police and we were told that it constitutes larceny. Weathered stone like this has economic value.

Most of the rock in this wall has been stolen recently. 
We believe the thief is a professional mason because some of the rock was chiseled and trimmed as only an experienced mason would do. This occurred late fall through winter. If anyone has any tips, please let us know.

The stone wall used to be much larger
The old road descends and suddenly becomes a narrow paved road that is often confused for a common drive. There are a few homes on either side before you get to Mill Street. A wrack of mail boxes on Mill Street marks the spot.