Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Indian Well Reroute Planning

Unmarked trail to the falls. 
For years there have been discussions about rerouting the Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park near the famous falls. It's been rerouted before. In the photo above, the big wide trail that leads to the falls might actually be the original Paugussett Trail, as shown in some older maps and even the state park map.

The falls
For years, however, the Paugussett Trail has followed the road instead, crossing Indian Hole Brook via the roadway before hopping over the guardrail and heading up the hill. 

Reroute alternatives in pink.
The current route has three bad spots. First is the hazardous road walk, where pedestrian are squeezed between the walls of a bridge and passing cars. Second is short steep section that is eroding and that is slick in the fall if you're heading downhill on fresh leaves. 

Hikers follow the pavement across the bridge
And third is the butt slide near the top. It's a steep, eroded section of bare rock and tree roots that tends to collect leaves in the fall. It's so slick that some hikers either bushwhack into the surrounding hillside to descend at an angle or just slide down on their butts, especially in the fall. 

The butt slide. It's steeper than it looks. 
Unfortunately, a lot of people on this section of the trail are not prepared for this type of hiking and are only searching for the falls, which they aren't going to find on this trail. There's no sign for the falls. We get a lot of people at Birchbank, over a mile down the road, walking down that trail looking for the falls. 

Cross the stream here?
Members of CFPA have been mulling over the rerouting options for years now. One option is to create a new stream crossing below the main bridge on Indian Well Road (a scenic WPA project from the Great Depression). This would probably be a rock-to-rock type of crossing, and during high water hikers can cross the stream via the main bridge. The Paugussett would then form a "T" into the Falls Trail, making the falls easier for people to find.

The Rock. Mossy and slick and continuous. 
The biggest challenge is finding a better way to the top of the big mossy ledge that caps the river bluff near the falls. The ledge runs for quite a ways and there is no really good route up it.

One reroute option follows the base of the ledge
The most southerly option manages to flank the Big Ledge, but in doing so approaches the boundary of the park and an ugly fence. The most northerly option is the longest, but there's some interesting views and ledge before arriving at one short but very steep section that would probably need steps. 

Northern option
Once up that steep section, though, you arrive at one of the seasonal overlooks. We hope to have this overlook cleared out so there's a view of the Housatonic River Valley even during the summer.

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