Monday, November 20, 2017

The "Poet Path"

There's a section of the Paugussett Trail we've nicknamed the "Poet Path" because it's up in the so-called "Poet Section" of the White Hills, where the streets are named after famous poets. A trail as long as the Paugussett needs a lot of place names, whether they are real or invented, so we maintainers can communicate exactly where that new blowdown is that needs a chainsaw.

Click to enlarge
This part of the trail runs through a narrow piece of property held by the Shelton Land Conservation Trust. As a reminder, the Land Trust is a private, non-profit group, and not the City of Shelton. Many people get confused about that. Once upon a time, developers had to donate their open space to the Land Trust because the City didn't have an open space program, and I believe this property is one of those. The property was preserved specifically for the Paugussett Trail. To the north of the Land Trust property, there is a pedestrian easement for the trail (be sure to stay on the trail and respect the property owners if you are hiking there).

The Land Trust references the property as LT#21, but we've been calling it the Lost Poets. Why are the poets lost? Not sure, but it seems like a lot of people driving around that neighborhood are lost. While repairing the steps near Princess Wenonah Drive, cars kept slowing down and stopping. Admiring the work? Nope. Turning around, lost.

The Poet Path skirts the slopes of Round Hill
This trail needs some love. For the most part, it's been a rather ignored connector, used only by people hiking the Paugussett Trail between Webb Mountain and Birchbank Mountain. There are short road walks on either side of it, and it's sandwiched between houses, so people tend to skip this entire section. The lack of foot traffic actually makes the trail harder to follow and maintain, which in turn discourages hikers, so it's a vicious cycle.

The trail has potential though. It can be a nice walk, with seasonal views of the Housatonic River Valley, and during the summer, the houses are barely visible. One of the biggest drawbacks for this section is the footing. There is a long stretch with a pretty good ankle-twisting side-slope because the trail was never benched into the hillside. And then there is the steep climb straight up the hill from Princess Wenonah.  That's a pretty good workout if you're going up. Going down in the fall is something else.  One part has steps, but the rest is so slick with fall leaves you may be tempted to get on your butt and just slide down the trail (the leaves were just removed, so it's OK now).

The trail needs side-hilling
This past year, the blazes were freshened, graffiti removed, steps repaired, and a few very short sections were benched into the hillside. It's a start. This fall, the leaves were blown, which is normally not necessary for a trail, but it really does help with the footing here. Next spring we hope to have some work parties during spring vacation when high school students are available. Stay tuned, because we're going to need a lot of volunteers to get the job done!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wicked Windy Weather this Weekend

Sunday was wild on the trails.  The sky was clearing from the storm, the wind was whipping the trees about, the leaves were wet and slippery, and the temperature was dropping as the front came thru.  Occasionally branches were heard crashing down.  Not ideal hiking weather you would say.

Then you would be wrong.

Shelton's trails were almost mobbed Sunday and residents were out taking advantage of the weather.  I started at Buddington Road to finish up Hike #12 of the Lollipop Series to earn my hiking tag, and thought I would be the only one in the woods.  I couldn't have been more wrong.


The "stick" of this lollipop hike started at the kiosk on Buddington Road at the powerlines.  The trail then crossed on of our many bridges built by scouts and volunteers.

This was Josh's bridge.  And the vernal pool was full today so the bridge was really appreciated.  The trees were thrashing about as I continued thru the trails.  Care to guess how many bridges you'll cross if you do Lollipop Hike #12?

There were several residents and neighbors out using the trails.  Despite the wind's best efforts the oaks hadn't dropped all their leaves yet and some of the beeches were still holding onto the bright golden color of early Fall.

The hike contained scenic views of some of the rock ridges and stone walls that were now clearly visible without leafy shrubs blocking them.

Eklund Garden had been mowed and put to bed for the season awaiting next seasons wildflowers.

Some residents were out using the RecPath along Oak Valley Road.  The RecPath is going to get a lot more sunlight here following UI's clearing of all the trees along the overhead wires.  The City might have to rename Oak Valley Road something else, like Cordwood Road.

And as I said, a number of Shelton residents were out enjoying the trails.  Here's Crash taking his human out for a walk on the RecPath.  Crash was a little shy, but a nice hiker, and was probably the 5th four legged resident that I passed.  They were all making sure their 2 footed friends got out for some fresh air.  That was in addition to all the joggers, bikers, strollers, and others who were out using the trails.

Even with the wild weather there were a lot of great scenes along the trails; like this wetland pocket with the red Winterberry's growing around the edges.  It's surprising what you can see, even on a blustery Fall day, once you start walking about on Shelton's trails.

Visit the Event's page for the upcoming Thanksgiving Hike on the Turkey Trot Trail, and see some of the trails for yourself.










Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Paugussett's Unlikely "Chalk Hill Road"

The Paugussett Trail runs down the length of the never-completed Chalk Hill Road
The Paugussett runs through an interesting wooded peninsula that intrudes far into a large meadow along Meadow Street, opposite Mayflower Lane.  A wide mowed path extends up the length of the peninsula, and if hikers look close they can see overgrown dirt ridges up to 8 feet tall on either side of the wooded corridor. Pioneering trees like gray birch and white pine are growing up through heavy brush, promising a future forest. What is this place? Why does it look like this?
End of the brushy peninsula that would have been the cul-de-sac
A filed subdivision map dated 2003 provides part of the answer. The brushy peninsula follows the outline of what is identified as "Chalk Hill Road" on the map. The 21-lot approved subdivision plan was called Wiacek Farm Estates.

Part of the approved subdivision plan, filed in 2003
Although the City had been attempting to purchase the property, the developer had the proper approvals and began construction by stripping the topsoil from what would be Chalk Hill Road, and stockpiling the dirt next to the future cul-de-sac. Road grading then began, but before it could be completed, the City stopped the project and seized the property through eminent domain. The land is located next to the high school, affording room for future ballfields or other facilities if needed, and the property was also highly rated for open space acquisition for the City's greenway program.

2006
After the City purchased the property, the excavated areas were left untouched. The ground could no longer be hayed, and the disturbed areas filled in with weeds. There was talk of having city crews restore the land, but there were more pressing matters to attend to. In the meantime, the abandoned roadway seemed like a good spot to route the Paugussett Trail across the hayfield, and the Trails Committee began mowing a pathway down the length of the peninsula.
2012 - The stockpile of topsoil was just removed. 
The pile of topsoil disappeared a few years later, used on the newly expanded Long Hill School ballfields. And the weedy corridor evolved into brush and then small trees.

2015
So that's the story. Today we have a nice wooded corridor that seems almost as if it were created specifically for the Paugussett Trail.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Full Moon Hike at Nicholdale

In our never-ending quest to lose people in the woods we held a Full Moon Hike last night at the Shelton Land Trust's Nicholdale Farm.  The weather was a little iffy, but 31 hikers and a number of seeing-eye dogs showed up.  I think that people felt if we lost them in the woods the dogs would help lead them back to civilization.




We had a great hike helper who distributed lollipops to the participants (everyone earned credit for the Lollipop Hikes on this event.  And, as a bonus, bulbs of garlic from one of the Shelton Community Gardens were handed out to ward off vampires.  The noises from Fairview Farms last night of Trails of Fear could be heard in the distance. So the hike was a bit spooky as we headed through the trees.

As we wandered thought the fields we could see stars and planes though the bands of clouds.  




As we approached the Scout Camp there was a fire in the distance.  Jim & Bill from the Trails Committee had built a nice warm camp fire, and Joe Welsh from the Land Trust brought ingredients for S'mores.  The hikers circled around the campfire.

The night photography was not the best but everyone had a good time.

 It was cool jacket weather, but no wind, so it made for pleasant hiking.  The fire and toasted S'mores were a good treat.
  
There was no moon on the way in, but on the way back to the cars the moon was big and glowing through the clouds in the sky.  It was a great night for a Full Moon Hike, and we didn't even lose anyone (that we know of).   So a moonlit hike in mid-Fall with lollipops, S'Mores, and garlic (german hardneck garlic to be specific), and no vampires.  What more could your ask for?

Thanks to the Land Trust for hosting this hike.  They often get confused with the City of Shelton, but they are a well-run private charity that owns their open space properties.  Consider joining them if you're interested in local open spaces.  And thanks to Bill and Jim for setting up and dousing the fire for everyone.

Our next Trails work party is 11/11, and the last Lollipop Hike is Thanksgiving Weekend.  There's still time to earn your custom medal.  See the events and work parties pages for additional information & thanks for coming out to enjoy the hike.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Indian Well Steps

No more slipping down the slope
A sweeping staircase now leads up from the beach at Indian Well towards the Paugussett Trail.  The access trail gets heavy use from people looking for the falls that give Indian Well its name.  The project is part of CFPA's Great Paugussett Reroute of 2017.


Bill whacking things into place
CFPA volunteers Bill and Russ have been working on the stairs for months. They both have a pretty good commute just getting to the work site. Early on, Bill was working alone, but he was only getting two steps done per trip. Once Russ started helping out, the pace picked up. The heavy oak timbers were donated by the CT DEEP, harvested from State Forests.

"The stairs are going up to that root behind you."
This section of trail is used mostly by people looking for the falls who don't normally go hiking. We see a lot of flip flops and very few hiking boots. Even with proper footwear, the steep slope was a slipping hazard, especially going down hill in the fall.

Russ cutting up the heavy oak timbers to length

Many thanks to Bill and Russ for all their hard work!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Restorative Powers of Forest Bathing

Trails Committee chairperson Bill Dyer penned this interesting article on the health benefits of forest bathing, a Japanese practice that combines nature walks and mindfulness. Explore some of Shelton’s many acres of open space and give it a try!


Shelton Trails Network is a fine place to practice Forest Bathing – a retreat to nature that can boost your immune system and mood. You do not need a bathing suit and you do not get in water. The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. It differs from a hike in that you meander along forest trails with no particular destination in mind. All the senses are used: smells, textures, tastes, sounds and sights of the forest.

The practice began in Japan in the early 1990s when the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku, which translates roughly as forest bathing. Medical researchers in Japan have found that the forest environment led to a significant reduction in blood pressure and certain stress hormones, while improving energy level, mood and sleep quality.

It is not a surprise that researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure compared to a similar length city walk. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases, which lead to a drop in blood pressure.

Another factor researchers have found is that the release by trees of compounds, known as phytoncides, reduce concentrations of stress hormones and enhance the activity of white blood cells that protect the body against infectious diseases. There is no question that stress takes a terrible toll in the United States – a 2015 study found work-related stress accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs.

Go for a walk on the many Shelton trails that pass through the woods; walk slowly; breathe deeply; open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku forest therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Beautiful Fall Day on The Shelton Lakes RecPath

It was a beautiful Fall Saturday on the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path.  The sun was shining brightly thru the leaves.  It was a little chilly to start but we warmed up with a little trail work.

Here's the sun coming through the beech trees at Lizard Head Rock off Wesley Drive.

Jim, Michael, and David were working along Lane Street.  We had multiple groups working from Lane St. to Oak Valley Road cutting grass, spraying, mowing, unclogging drainage pipes, and cutting brush.  The storms earlier in the week caused some wash-outs and Bill will be working with Parks & Rec to try to get that fixed.  In the meantime watch your footing in a couple of spots.

Michael was raking leaves to clean out some of the turns, while Paul and David were clearing out brush along the lower Wesley Drive Crossings.

A lot of people were taking advantage of the weather to go biking, running, walking, and dog walking.  There were a lot of hellos and thank yous.

The little American Chestnut tree before Wesley Drive looked good in the fall colors.

The Maple Leafed Viburnum was turning scarlet and showing off its black berries.

The Winterberry in Spooner Swamp near Great Ledge was also bright red.

Val & Sheri were cutting back brush along Great Ledge near Oak Valley Road.  It had gotten pretty thick in there this summer.  Jim mowed sections of the RecPath from Great Ledge to Lane Street and back.  Hopefully things will stop growing soon.


David & Jim weedwacking and mowing along the RecPath.  It felt like we got a lot of things done with a good crew.  Thanks to Paul, David, Mike, Jim, Val, Sheri, Bill & Terry

So enjoy the RecPath during the rest of the Fall.  Don't forget to finish your lollipop hikes, and join us for the Full Moon Night Hike next week.  







Saturday, October 14, 2017

Paugussett Bypass at Wiacek

We met on a surprisingly muggy Saturday to finish clearing along the Paugussett Bypass at the Wiacek Open Space.  The Bypass had been cleared as earlier work parties and an Eagle Scout project earlier in the year, but like everywhere else had grown back, especially at the powerline crossing.  One of the goals was to clear enough to see if we could get the DR Mower thru for maintenance mowing.

Starting at Constitution Blvd. N. we dove into the barberry thickets cleared by the scouts.  Val, Jim, and Paul cut, whittled, and dug out various saplings, shoots and clumps to make the trail and tread more passable.

One of the challenges is the thick barberry grows in clumps, and the sections that stuck up were tripping hazards.  So we tried using the Pullerbear weed wrench to remove the clumps.


The weed wrench is a heavy steel bar with a jaw and fulcrum welded at the bottom.  In theory, you clamp the jaws on the stem of what you want to pull out and then push down on the handle.  In this case, because the barberry was cut low it was tough to get a good bite with the jaws without tearing the root ball up.  Progress was slow.

After pulling most of the roots out we tried burning the rest with a weed torch.


Careful not to let the fire spread to the leaves, the torch seemed to work well.  Most invasive species require multiple treatments, and barberry is susceptible to burning.  Should bring a fire extinguisher or water bucket next time, don't want to start any California-scale brush fires.



Above is a section of the trail after pulling and burning.  It's slow progress.  Need to have teams of 2-3 people digging, pulling and burning next time.  If we can get one person to loosen the root clump with a mattock, the another to rip it out with the Pullerbear, then somebody to burn the remaining roots, I think it would be more productive.

But we got out and made some progress.  Thanks to Paul, Val, Jim & Terry for helping out.  And thanks to Royal Bakery for the great doughnuts; a weekend special.

The next work party is at Lane Street in a week or so - check the work party page for further details.  Come out and enjoy the Hawley Meadow along Means Brook in Huntington Center.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Dog Paw Path Blowdown is Down

Saturday morning was a good time to clear up that large oak tree that had recently blown down across the Dog Paw Path.  The clearing near the Dog Park was a little tricky due to some large branches hung up overhead.  Potentially a bad thing if they fell on you while cutting below them.

A couple of us had looked at that earlier and said "Yup, that's a job for more than one person", and walked away.  Where's Rich when you need him.

So today Jim & I attacked it by whittling away the smaller sections across the trail.  That still left some hung up branches.  But with a rope, climbing up onto some of the trees, a handsaw, an axe, wedges, a lot of tugging and leverage, we encouraged the biggest pieces to come down and rest on earth where they couldn't hurt anyone.  Then we finished clearing the worst parts of blowdown.

Near the end I nicked the chainsaw on some rocks which reduced it's cutting efficiency greatly.  We may go back to clear up the rest of it after sharpening the saw.  In the meantime enjoy using the Dog Paw Path.
 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We Gotta Up Our Game (Mapboxes and Kiosks)

On a recent vacation in New Hampshire we saw some interesting examples of map boxes and kiosks.

Here's the Fox Map Box at Gap Mountain in New Hampshire with the beautiful painted fox pictures decorating portions of the kiosk.  Interestingly, this Live Free or Die State wants money to walk in the park, which our City does not.  Maybe we should set up some easy system where people could donate to trails and open space if they choose to, but for now everyone is welcome to enjoy our open space for free in Shelton.
Here's the kiosk at the Gap Mtn. N. Access Trail with the cool map box.  One interesting aspect of the kiosks is that they assign a street address to the kiosks for 911 Emergency Address purposes.  This allows someone in the woods to call in a situation to 911 with a defined street address for quick emergency response.

Here's a detailed note at another kiosk.  So that if you broke your leg and had to call for help you could let the Fire Department know where you were.

This is the sign out by the road to assist the public with the street address for the kiosk and trailhead parking.  Many of the trail parking areas are set back off the road a short ways and may be away from nearby house mailboxes, so giving the trailhead a distinct street address helps first responders.

Here's a very basic map box at one trailhead kiosk.

Nothing too fancy, but durable and practical.

Here's the trailhead kiosk; maps, rules, contact us info.

Here's another really cool map box at Rhododendron State Park.  Someone up there has a lot of artistic talent.  We thought that we had some interesting folk art along our trails, but we may need to up our game.