Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lost and Found: Old Blue Blazes at Birchbank

Updated GIS Map showing the old route
People occasionally go looking for the old Blue Dot route at Birchbank Mountain. The old trail route has become something of a mystery. Where did the trail used to go before it was moved down the hillside in the 1990s to get it away from several pending subdivisions?  Were there any nice trail features that were lost?

Finding the old route became much easier after stumbling upon a couple of filed maps that showed bits of the old trail. A number of old blue blazes were found, recorded with the gps, and imported into the City's open space map (see map above).

Look close: Old blue blaze covered with brown paint
The blazes were hard to spot. The blue had been covered over with brown. Also, younger trees shed their blazes, as do certain tree species such as beech and tulip. But old oaks, hemlock, and sugar maple can hold onto the old blazes for decades. 

See the blaze? 
Heading south from the overlook, the old route crosses a couple of intermittent streams and then becomes more rocky as it ascends the riverbank gradually. There are some dramatic cliffs off to the right, and some rocky areas to cross.

Another blazed tree. 
The footing gets a little tricky, especially where the trail cuts across a steep hillside and the benching has eroded away. But the reward is an old "cave" or rock shelter. This obviously used to be a feature of the old trail, but knowledge of the cave was lost after the reroute.

A "cave" - a good place to take a break

The "cave"
The "cave" is directly uphill from the south end of the 2018 reroute. Continuing south from the cave, you soon look down onto the tops of a couple huge boulders. These are the same giant boulder that are next to the existing route. The old and new route are close together at this point, but the old route is higher up. 
Really big boulder as seen from below
The old trail then follows the top of a ledge, the same ledge that can be seen from below while hiking the existing route.
Ledge and "cave" as seen from below
After this, there are no more old blazes, but an old letter from CFPA Trail Managers Dick Blake and John Marren says their reroute begins at the water company pipeline, which is a short ways to the south.

References: Filed map #2677, 1989, "Hidden Trail Estates" off of Rugby Road, opposite White Oak Road. Hidden Trail Lane never built

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