Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another Birchbank Reroute Off the Eroded Road

Reroutes circled in blue and red
A couple of modest reroutes at Birchbank are redirecting hikers off of an old eroding road bed where footing can be difficult, especially in the fall. On the map above, the area circled in blue was just completed while the section circled in red is under construction. The old road is shown as a double-dashed line.

This is an area where waterbars would not have worked because the land needs to drop off on one side so the water can be channeled off of the trail. The old road is too deeply eroded (as much as three feet deep) with the land rising on both sides. It's essentially a long gully.

Bits of blue and yellow from a former blaze
Much of the erosion was caused by ATVs and dirt bikes. At one point many years ago, CFPA blazed the old road blue with a yellow dot in the center and maintained it as part of the state-wide Blue-Blazed Trail system.  This was back when the property was owned by the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.  But the trail managers grew tired of the ATVs and CFPA finally abandoned the trail. If you look closely, you may find some old blue/yellow blaze remnants. We don't know when that was, but it was prior to 1998 when the city purchased the property.

Not fun to walk on or to look at
After the City took title, the old road was blazed white and named Birchbank Trail, but it soon became apparent that parts of the old road were treacherous to walk on, especially in the fall with fresh leaves hiding loose cobbles underneath. Several years ago, a section of the trail was moved off the old road and now follows Upper White Hills Brook. This bypassed the worst spot, but not all the bad spots.

Top of the new reroute, where it connects with the existing trail

Rock slope where a big wild animal should live

Grassy area, top half of the reroute, 

Besides getting the trail off off the eroded gully with a more sustainable route, a major goal was to make the trail more scenic. Heading down the hill, the first part of the broad new "S-curve" takes hikers to a bowl-like feature at the bottom of a rock face before heading through a flat grassy area at the top of the steep slope.

View of Upper White Hills Brook at the "chute"
After crossing the old road again for the second half of the "S-curve", the new trail route heads down to an overlook of Upper White Hill Brook at the water chute and slide. If there's been rain, hikers will hear the sound of running water as they approach, and can wander on down the hill if they want to leave the trail and explore. Otherwise, the trail continues to rejoin the old road through an area where students from Shelton High School did a lot of work benching in the trail last year. This reroute actually started as an overflow project for the students in case they finished up the main job, which was the reroute of the Paugussett Trail. We had a good turn out, so the Birchbank reroute was started. 

Lower junction with the old road
The last photo was taken at the lower junction with the old road, looking back up the trail. The new trail goes off to the right. This is the spot the students benched in last year. The old road (and old white trail) goes off to the left, now just an old gully that no one needs to walk on. If people (including ATVs and hikers) will stay off of it for awhile and let it fill in with leaves and sticks, the erosion should slow down substantially.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"mad dogs and Englishmen"(What, again?)

The hayfields at the former Wiacek Farm were due for a haircut, but had not yet been hayed. Since a section of the Paugussett Trail currently skirts the edge of some of the field, hikers found it a struggle walking the several hundred yards through the tall hay and the resulting pollen dust. On another one of those hot, humid days, Shelton Trail Committee members Jim and Richard set out to clear a path through the hay.
Jim and the Gator are swallowed up in the hayfield

There's enough hayseed gathered on the Gator to start a new farm!

Jim clears weeds from the access to the Wiacek Farm

Hiking the Paugussett through the Wiacek section just became a bit easier

Monday, June 12, 2017

"mad dogs and Englishmen"

"mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun" Rudyard Kipling
Well, there were no mad dogs in sight, none of us were Englishmen (though we all spoke fluent English), and we never made it to noon. But it was pretty darn hot!

Click on photos to enlarge 
The rec path at the Lane Street meadow was being overrun by weeds and the encroaching hayfield 

Using a brush mover towed by our gator made short work of clearing the tallest stuff
We forgot to tell Jim to add gas or the mower won't work
Terry takes advantage of the shade to take a break. It was hot out there!

A weary Jim and Mike call it quits for the day after hours of cutting, hacking, and staring down wayward brush and weeds

There's a little more elbow room now on this part of the trail. 'til next time!

Seems like only a few of us were crazy enough to spend a Saturday morning tackling the accumulated vegetation that resulted from the past rainy days. We could have used more help, of course, and we hope that more volunteers come out for our next work party on June 24. Thanks to Shelton Trail Committee members Terry, Jim, and Richard, and volunteer (many times) Mike.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It was a Fun 2017 Trails Day Hike in Shelton

We had perfect weather for our 2017 Trails Day Hike today; partially overcast, dry, cool, breezy.  Gradually the sky cleared, the sun came out, and the breezes made for great hiking conditions.

 No, he's not running for Mayor! Shelton Trails Committee member and hike leader Terry is just welcoming everyone to our National Trails Day stroll. (The little guy in the background was obviously not interested in Terry's inspirational speech)

There was a good turnout of about 26 people at Pine Lake.That included 3 younger hikers, plus 3 four-footed hikers.

This hike was the first of our 2017 Lollipop League Hikes; short out and back hike with some kind of loop.  Participants who complete all the hikes between now and November earn a special commemorative medal.

We started off along the RecPath behind Pine Lake.  The side trails off the RecPath allow future exploration for fishing, nature observation, and picnic opportunities.  Sometimes we saw some wildflowers too.

The RecPath wound along Curtis Brook and over to Silent Waters.  The canoe launch and bridge overlook were very picturesque.  Some of the hikers found caches of lollipops in red coffee cans along the route.  It looked like those were a big hit.

Some had it better than others

The hike wound back behind the Shelton Intermediate School, the ball fields, and proceeded back to Pine Lake.  We're happy to report that everyone made it back and had a fine excursion.  Thanks to everyone on the Trails Committee who helped with the hike, and to the Connecticut  Forest and Parks Association for all the organization on Trails Day.  It was a fun event, and we hope that the future Lollipop Hikes will be as well attended.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't Jump Over the Chainsaw

It seems that since National Trails Day is this Saturday, all the trees are committing hare-kari (or Harry Caray if you're a Chicago fan).  The trees are all falling over.  One such case was reported by Val Gossett along the RecPath near Oak Valley Road.

Not too bad if you're flexible and don't mind a bit of Limbo when you hike or bike.  As it so happens Jim and Bill were able to go out Wednesday and clear it during the week to make everyone's Trails Day walks a little smoother.

It took a little while but they were able to get the tree down as it was raining,  Here's Jim checking out some of the other trees that were leaning along the RecPath.  Jim made a keen decision that these were posing no imminent public harm, and did not have to be cut down in the rain.

No sooner had Jim stopped sawing.  A trail runner came thru and "hopped over the chainsaws" which were still hot and streaming (and hopefully with the chain stopped), and kept running thru the work zone.  Now, you can come to a couple of observations: 1.) This runner was really lucky and should buy a lottery ticket, or 2.) The runner should stop next time and ask if it's OK to proceed, or 3.) We should close off the trail before doing any work and make people run out in the road or bushwack.  We would suggest Door #2 because we like our trail users and want them to keep coming back.

Helpful Trail Safety Tip:  If you hear someone chainsawing on the trail ahead don't just run by them without checking first because they or you could get seriously hurt.  Don't assume that trail volunteers can see or hear you just because you can see us.  Someone, possibly you, could be crushed by falling trees or cut with power equipment.  Nobody wants that to happen.  Work with us to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time on the trails.

So on a cheerier note; come on out Saturday to one of the Trails Day Hikes in Shelton, or elsewhere, and enjoy the trails. It should be fun, particularly for families with smaller children.  See the Hikes and Special Events page for more information.