Thursday, May 10, 2018

Along the "New" Poet Path

The new, easier climb up from Princess Wenonah Drive
Take a stroll along the new and improved Poet Path, a section of the Paugussett Trail. This section of trail was once so bad that at least one hiker said it would have been better to just walk down the road.

Trail benching!
Nothing can be done about the fact that the open space corridor is pretty narrow and that you're never far from houses, but hey, this IS Fairfield County. You've got to expect some of that along a 13-mile trail.

Add caption
What we could do was improve the footing and markings and clean up the place. A lot of people, including a couple crews of high school students, benched the trail into the side of the hill. And the steep trail going up the hill from Princess Wenonah was redesigned with some switchbacks and stairs so the hillside is much easier to going up and down.
A  poet station
And then to give the Poet Path a bit more interest, we installed painted slates with quotes from five poets who have nearby streets named after them.


There are painted rocks near the slates that relate to the poet's quote.

Robert Frost's famous quote

The blue blazes of the Paugussett Trail connect a series of local parks and trail systems, starting with Shelton Lakes to the south, then Indian Well, Birchbank, Webb Mountain, and the Boys Halfway River corridor in Monroe. Until now, the Poet Path section was the part hikers had to just slog through if they wanted to get from Birchbank to Webb Mtn, or if they wanted to hike the entire Paugussett. With the recent improvements, we're hoping that people who live in the neighborhood will start walking and enjoying the path.

Follow the blue blazes
And we hope this encourages more people to hike from Indian Well or Birchbank Mountain through to Webb Mountain Park. Our 2018 Trails Day Hike will be doing just that.

Words of wisdom

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Basil Brook Bypass Blowdown BuckUp and Brushcut

Last month's Nor'easters left many trails around the state a mess.  On Saturday, a number of volunteers, including several high school students, helped out to make the trails more passable and safe.
We had 19 volunteers out at Wesley Drive on Saturday to clear the Basil Brook Bypass with four blowdowns, and trim the brush along the RecPath near the Huntington Woods neighborhood.  A number of high school students were trying to finish out their Community Service Hours for the year and were helping out with trail clearing.


We split up into teams and Jim & Mark went ahead with chainsaws to tackle the bigger blow downs across the trail.  We separate the chainsawing from the non-chainsawing crews for safety's sake.  All the high school students were equipped with a variety of hand tools.

There were a lot of folks out enjoying the RecPath as we worked.  Gaggles of runners, dog walkers, strollers, or bike riders passed us by.

Here's Mike Flament with some of the students cutting small saplings along the Basil Brook Bypass while others raked the storm debris from the trails.

Teams of students worked along the Bypass trail paralleling Basil Brook.

And Basil Brook looked good this morning following the rain the night before.  It was starting to feel like Spring finally.
Mark and Jim cleared the lower blow downs at this location so you can scootch under the tree.  The larger tree was left for another day.  If you're an avid mountain biker you may need to get off your bike to get under this one.

The delicate yellow flowers of the Spice Bush were just blooming along the wetlands and streams.  A sure sign of Spring at last.

Some people had to leave after we finished up the Basil Brook Bypass, but the rest continued to work their way down the RecPath toward Lane Street.  A number of neighbors, including possible this future trails volunteer (gotta start them early), were being pushed along the RecPath from the Land Trust Meadow.

Mark was challenged by one beech tree that still warrented cutting, and even though some perfectly good chainsaws were back at the vehicles, decided to take things into his own hand saw hands.

After a while it was time for a tag-out.
 
Now it's a challenge and everybody wants to add a little elbow grease.

 
Eventually the team got it and everyone had a good time dragging it off the RecPath.  This has got to be a lot more fun than a stairmaster for exercise.


There were a lot of pretty flowers along the RecPath near Lane Street just starting to come out.  It's a sign of a good Spring ahead and the start of mowing season.


The Basil Brook Bypass signs were added on Sunday to help people find their way.  Let's hope they last awhile.  In the meantime thanks to all the volunteers that helped out.   So whether you like to hike, run, bike, or take your dog for a walk enjoy the effort it takes to keep the trails clear.





Friday, April 27, 2018

Updates to the Trails Email List

Gmail says we're Spam! That's right, and they've blocked our emails announcing upcoming events and work parties. So we're in the process of migrating over to Google Groups. If you are a member of the old email list and received announcement previously, but do not receive any with the next few weeks, there is something wrong. You may need to check your Spam folder and whitelist the Google Group. Or for some reason Google Groups may have rejected the entry (there were a few). Click this link HERE to request your email address be added.  Also click that link if you're never been on the email list but want to add your name now. Happy Trails!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poetry on the Poet Path


Quote by Thoreau near Thoreau Drive
To get from Birchbank Mountain to Webb Mountain, the north-bound hiker on the Paugussett Trail comes to a Land Trust property sandwiched between two short road walks. This section of trail is nick-named the Poet Path because many of the nearby roads are named after poets. You're never far from the roads and houses in here.

A lot of work was done over the past week digging the trail into the side of the hill for easier walking (see previous posts). That work is 90% complete. We wanted to give the Poet Path a bit more character, though. So we decorated the trail with some simple lines from Thoreau, Frost, Dickinson, Bryant, and Longfellow. These are all the names of nearby streets.

Themed rock sets, this one is about stars
The project was inspired by painted slates and rocks set out by "The Kindness Rocks Project," in particular a painted slate set out along the Rec Path near the Dog Park.  There's a slate dedicated to each poet, with some painted rocks below that are related to the chosen line from that poet. For example, for the line, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see," the rocks below the slate sign are of small things you might see when outdoors, easily missed if going too fast.


"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see" - Thoreau
All the rock was painted by Emma Gallagher, and placed by Terry and Teresa Gallagher, the Paugussett Trail Managers for this section of trail.

Hanging the signs
Rocks turn out to be pretty heavy to carry down the trail. Multiple trips were required. But worth it.

This picture would be better with a sunset background
People who are into painting rocks are invited to add to the collection at any of the five stations. Please be sure to stick with the themes, though, so the quote about "sunset in a cup" would have rocks painted with that theme.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Birchbank Mountain Gets Cleared


Volunteers cleared winter storm damage from three miles of trails at Birchbank Mountain. We have a great turnout, with lots of high school students in need of community service hours. Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures of the kids working because all the photographers were busy using a chainsaw. The kids went up and down the trails picking up sticks and branches and cutting overgrowth.

Jim and Luis work on an ash
We also had three people with gas powered chainsaws and one with a battery-powered saw. The saws were going non-stop for hours at the park. Hope no one was trying to get a nice peaceful walk in.

 A few Dutchman's Breeches are starting to form buds
We have the annual wildflower hike coming up, but the wildflowers are just starting to emerge from the earth. They normally are going strong around opening fishing day, but not this year. It's been a cold spring. The Dutchman's Breeches are up, but other like Trillium haven't even emerged from the ground yet.


Mark tackled a huge oak. Wow.
There were trees down all over. Maybe twenty or so across the trail. Our volunteers are not professional sawyers, and they don't lug the biggest saws down the trail, so a big log can be a real project.


On the Blue-White Connector ("before")
One blow-down mess on the Blue/White Connector trail actually fell a few years ago, although a big new tree was added to the pile over the winter. The original blowdown included some so-called "widow makers" and the Trails Committee members decided they weren't paid enough to die clearing that booby trap. Hikers have had to simply make their way around it. Last year the booby trap collapsed and became safer to cut. It was still a challenge with some smaller trees and logs under tension, meaning they could spring when cut. But the guys got it done.

Terry and Bob got this one cleared. 
Teresa stuck a tiny battery-powered chainsaw in her backpack and wandered south along the rugged Paugussett Trail to the Indian Well border. Fortunately there was nothing needing the gas-powered saws because that's the most difficult section of trail in all of Shelton.  The battery-powered saw is a new addition to the trail clearing arsenal, and it's been working great for small diameter or rotting logs. It takes a lot longer to cut a log, but the saw much easier to carry down the trail.

Battery-powered saw cut through this log (slowly)
To reach the Indian Well border from Birchbank, you have to scramble over some large boulders using your hands, so the ability to put the chainsaw in a pack is important.

The tools about to get thrown in a pack to scramble over "The Boulders"
The weirdest find of the day may have been the site of a carnivore's meal at the top of a root ball next to a blowdown that was cut. It was up high and covered with feathers and some other stuff that used to be inside the bird.

Someone had dinner here.
But mostly the day was cutting logs like the one below. Over and over. That was a tough winter!


There was of a lot of this kind of thing

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring Break Work Parties Part 2: Paugussett Trail Improvements

Getting started on Princess Wenonah Drive
The work continued today benching part of the Paugussett Trail into the side of the hill. Very hard work! There was a threat of rain, which probably lowered the turnout, but in the end, the rain held off and the weather was perfect for working outside.

The digging continues
Many thanks to the volunteers: Mark Vallaro, Sean Beacham, Mark Gergely, Lucas Deoliveira, Eric Silva, Emily Hunter, Katie Hunter Veronica Hunter, and Bob Wood (Trails Committee Member).

The fight with this rock became personal, didn't it, Bob?
Although the trail tread needs more work, most of the treacherous side slope has been eliminated.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring Break Work Parties Part 1: Paugussett Trail Improvements


Ready to start
We fully expected the first 2018 Spring Break Work Party would be cancelled due to the terrible weather forecast that started with 3-5 inches of snow, then changed to rain, then showers, and finally cool and dry. In the end, it was ideal working weather: just cold enough to keep the ticks and bugs away. You just never know. The cold, gloomy morning probably kept some volunteers away, though. 


A tough job
The group met at #34 Princess Wenonah Drive in the so-called Poet Section of the White Hills, and headed straight up the steep hill to a section of the Paugussett that has been nicknamed the "Poet Path." It's probably the least walked section of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton, in part because of the footing. The goal this week is to improve the footing by digging the trail into the side of the hill so the tread is more level and doesn't twist your ankles.

The main group got started benching in the trail, also called side-hilling. This is exhausting, hard-core trail work. But it's very rewarding because the results will be seen for decades. The trail tread is dug into the hill so that a cross section is close to level. 

Monroe Town Line at Round Hill Brook

We had enough people to also take a small crew north up the trail to the Monroe town line to clear out winter storm damage. The trail there goes through various properties, including Land Trust property, private properties under a pedestrian easement, and city open space. The Shelton Trails Day hike in June will go this way. The girls then picked up quite a bit of litter along the trail. 


Tiring!

Getting there...

After several hours everyone was exhausted and we called it a day. But not before walking back along the trail to review the improvements. 500 feet of trail were benched in, winter storm damage cleared to the Monroe border, and a pile of litter was removed. Nice job! There's lots more to do, though. The second Spring Break Work Party is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, from 2:00 pm to 5:30 (raindate Thursday, same time). 


Looks good

Many thanks to the following volunteers: Anthony Gambardella, Allan Schmidheini, Hunter Smith, Mark Vollaro, Sean Beacham, Gill Dkeffington, John & Katie Killian, Luke Roberts, Lily Norris, and Nan Muldoon. 


Beautiful!


This litter was along the trail
Also a big thanks to CFPA for letting us borrow some of their trail tools for the week.