Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spring Wonders in Plain Sight

Spring is a great time to enjoy the trails.  It's not too hot or muggy yet, and everything is fresh and bright green.  If you take a little time to look right, left, up or down you may see many of the woodland flowers that are blooming.


Like this Pinkster azalea blooming just off the RecPath by Silent Waters.  We had a trail work party yesterday and when going back for more gas while cutting brush I spotted this just off the Path.  I had missed it before because I was focused on what I was doing.  As a great philosopher once said "You can observe a lot by watching".  There were things blooming all over once I started looking.

 
These viburnums were finishing blooming over by the Canoe Launch sign, but they were still pretty.

So Sunday Biscuit and I went for a walk to see what we didn't see working on the trails.  The RecPath at Pine Lake weaves between the lush pines. You can still hear the cars over on Rt. 108, but you start to feel like you're back in the woods once you get into the pines.

 There are large carpets of Canada mayflowers in places.

A close-up of the little white mayflowers.

 There were also Jack-in-the-Pulpits.

Some greenway customers were out getting Sunday brunch.


And we found some purple Woodland floxs Wild Geranium.

There were also Solomon's Seal, and False Solomon Seal along the RecPath.


Silent Waters was a scenic place to hang out.  It's funny how many people trudge right over the bridge, and don't stop to look around at one of the highlights of  the RecPath.  You start looking around and you never know what you'll see.

Possibly some local residents out looking for some warm sun.

Did I mention that this all started in a trail work party yesterday?  We were clearing back brush in preparation the National Trails Day hikes in 2 weeks.  Here's Luis and John cleaning up the RecPath at the Turkey Trot Trailhead.


And this is Jim, Bill, and Michael cutting back the jungle below the Silent Waters Dam.  It's a real pretty spot be the brush explodes with the sunlight.  The guys cleared the loop around the Intermediate School as well as the RecPath, portions of the Turkey Trot Trail, and side trails.

There's another nice stand of azaleas on both sides of the RecPath below the dam.

It was almost like you were walking in an arboretum.


So we cleared out the trails, RecPath, crossings, and entrances; like here at Rt. 108.  We should be all set for Trails Day, but then things keep growing.  Thanks to John, Luis, Michael, Bill, and Jim for helping out on Saturday.  Take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy the trails.  Come out and go exploring with us in two weeks for one of the Trails Day Hikes.  In the meantime, look around when you're out in the woods, you'll never know what you might see.

  



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birth of a Trail: Before and After

Here's the same spot before and after a new trail reroute went in. Still needs a bit of chain saw work and blue blazes, but what a difference. Enjoy. Paugussett Trail, Indian Well State Park. Work done by volunteers from UnitedHealthcare and CFPA. 

BEFORE

AFTER

Indian Well Reroute Part 2

UnitedHealthcare employees and their nice white shirts
CFPA held another work party on a beautiful spring day to begin the second reroute of the Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park, this time with volunteers from UnitedHealthcare.

Benching in a trail is hard work. 

The second reroute is much longer than the first, with about a quarter mile of new trail needed to reach the overlook, and much of this new trail needs to be benched into the side of the hill. At the end of the day, the crew had benched in 750 feet of trail.


The Indian Well overlook sits atop a long rock formation that caps the slope and forms one long series of cliffs.  The old route goes straight up this rock formation and reaches the overlook in 650 feet, but it's hazardous hiking downhill and the trail is eroding badly.


The new flagged route follows the base of the rock until the cliffs end, then rises gradually, reversing direction with a switchback to rejoin the existing trail north of the overlook. The hike will be about a quarter mile longer to reach the overlook from the parking area. The routing at the top has not yet been determined, but it's likely that part of the existing trail will be converted to a spur to the overlook for at least the short term.

Lost in the jungle?

The new route is not yet ready to hike and you would have to search through the woods to even find it. The connecting ends are done last so as not to lead people onto an unfinished trail.



Many thanks to the folks from UnitedHealthcare for getting those nice white shirts dirty and creating this new route.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mending Fences....Again

Fence repairs are an ongoing project due to natural deterioration and human intervention. But this time there was a dangerous situation, with a section of fence entirely gone, at a high point in the dam. a few of the fence posts had bruises that were most certainly caused by contact with a moving object. Bicycle? Dirt bike? ATV? If either of the latter two, they are definitely prohibited from the rec path and should be reported to the police immediately.
Click on photos to enlarge
Pressure treated pine replacement rails brought to the work site

Anthony and Allan start hauling some of the tools needed.  Nothing is as much fun on a rainy Saturday morning as some quality time with a diggin' bar.

We access the RecPath at the Canoe Launch on Constitution Boulevard North, right across from the Shelton Intermediate School.
And Rich followed them in to make sure they didn't run off with the post hole digger.

We lugged the new replacement fence rails (pressure-treated this time) and posts (locust) along the RecPath
We pulled out the old broken posts, and loosened some of the others.  Out with the old ... in with the new. Rails, that is!
At least one damaged post also had to be replaced.  I don't think Rich knows how to take pictures of people's good sides.  Wait, maybe this is our good side.

Anthony, Allen and Jimmy digging out an old stump to get the new bottom rail in place.


And so it went down the line, as the rain got a little heavier, we tried to get the worst sections repaired before the main part of the storm hit.  Dig out near the post, remove the broken rails, slide in the new rails - sometimes with some loving taps from our Fine Adjustment Tool; a 12 lb. sledgehammer.
With a little digging, tugging, whacking, and backfilling we fixed the worst of the broken fence on the north section of dam.

Jim even used his "foot shovel" to fill in the fence post holes and tamp them down.

And as the rain started coming down heavier we decided to, in the words of our leader Bill Dyer "Let's declare victory and go home".  And it was a good job done at minimal expense to the taxpayer.  Jimmy even felt confident enough of his work that he was leaning on the fence he helped repair.

So, if you are the owner of a local landscaping company looking for experienced fence refurbishers this summer, we can hook you up with some local guys named Jimmy, Allen, and Anthony who know which end of a diggin' bar to use.  We might even throw Jim in too.

Our next work party is May 20th at the Intermediate School where we may cut brush or repair more fence before the National Trails Day Hike on June 3rd.  Come out and enjoy the fun.  Thanks to Val, Bill, Jim, Rich, Jimmy, Anthony, Allen and Terry for helping out.


One of the nice sights in this area is the view of Silent Waters from the Canoe Launch.  Make a point to get out and enjoy Shelton's open spaces.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wildflowers at the Indian Well Overlook

Sorry about the crappy cell phone pictures, but while Terry was working on cleaning up the Indian Well Overlook the past few weeks, I had to hang out up top in case there was a chain saw accident. While I was waiting, I ran across some spring wildflowers along the edge of the cliff that we don't usually see in this part of the state. The geology and microclimate there seem to be pretty close to Sleeping Giant.
Columbine
These types of wildflowers tend to hide in the nooks and crannies of the rocky cliffs. None of them were visible from the trail. A grassy slope held a single Wild Pink plant.

The upper slope and ledges are home to species usually
found in places like Sleeping Giant

Wild Pink (Silene caroliniana) is also known as Pennsylvania Catchfly. This is a species we planted at the Eklund Native Species Garden early on. It last a year or so and then died out. But here it is, growing on the grassy slope. I'm not sure if I've ever seen this growing elsewhere in Connecticut, but it is native to the state.

Wild Pink

Pale Corydalis is lot like Bleeding Heart, except it's pink and yellow and grows in places you don't expect. Always a pleasant surprise while out hiking. 

Pale Corydalis
Some people tend to get competitive about hiking, like it's some kind of march to accomplish as fast as possible. I encourage people to ask themselves what they saw on their hike instead. Enjoy the trail like a fine wine. There is so much to miss if you go too fast. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Broken Fence along the RecPath

There is a section of broken fence along the Recreation Path that is a hazard.  It's located at Silent Waters just north of the Canoe Launch.  It was flagged off this past weekend.

There is about a 10 foot drop off from the RecPath to the bottom of the dam so please be careful until this is fixed.  A work party is scheduled for this Saturday at 8:30, and all trail users are invited to participate.  See the Events Page for more information.

It looks like one of the posts rotted, or maybe was hit by something; possibly an ATV.  We've had to replace a lot of non-pressure treated rails before, but this is one of the first posts that's broken.

Shelton's trails are traditionally maintained by volunteers, with some welcome assistance from Parks and Recreation, when they have time.  Spring is tough for City crews due to ballfield and mowing operations.

So, if you enjoy using the trails and open spaces, consider helping maintain them from time to time.  This Saturday would be a good time.  National Trails Day is June 3rd, and we are hosting a public hike as part of Shelton's Connecticut Trails Day Events.  So we're trying to get the RecPath in not only safe shape, but also really good shape going into the summer.  Come out and help out and explore the trails if you haven't been there before.  We're meeting at the Intermediate School Parking Lot at 8:30 this Saturday, May 13, 2017.

You'll be rewarded with a view of Silent Waters in Springtime from the bridge.


Monday, May 1, 2017

The Wild(flower) Bunch

 Spring has sprung! Time for our annual hike in search of the elusive wildflowers. Nature has a way of messing with the timing of the first blooms, and every year we try to guess in advance the perfect weekend for tracking the trillium.

Click on photos to enlarge
What's so funny? This is supposed to be an educational romp


Just out the gate, Teddy holds up the file to check out the environment

Terry is prepared to lecture on the local flora, guidebook in hand

Enjoying the scenery

Terry took every opportunity to point out the numerous different Spring flowers along our route

Over time, fallen trees have made casual hiking challenging, but your Trails Committee makes every effort to clear any obstacles as soon as conditions permit. In this case the situation was compounded by a wet and muddy location
 
 
Our furry companions enjoyed a brief respite from the hot and humid conditions

The happy hikers pose for a group photo

Fortunately, Terry pointed out quite an assortment of colorful wildflowers, or we would have had to change the title of this blog entry

 
A picturesque brook winds down through Birchbank. At times it's just a trickle, at others a torrent. Two bridges, built as Eagle Scout projects, provide easy crossing on the trail

Back to civilization! Terry, the Davy Crockett of the Trails Committee, was able to educate us on a variety of plants and flowers on this hike. This was a nice kick-off for what we hope will be a wonderful summer spent enjoying the Great Outdoors!


(Terry as a small boy with his first wildlife encounter)