Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Paugussett Trail Tweaks: A Summary

Improvements to the Paugussett Trail "Shelton North" section continued in 2018. As a reminder, in 2016, the trail was reroute through Birchbank so that hikers would come to a newly cleared overlook of the Housatonic River and then descend to the Birchbank chimney. In 2017, a major reroute at Indian Well was undertaken, the overlook was cleared, and the beach access trail gained over 50 new steps. 

In 2018, there were no major reroutes. Instead, there were a series of incremental trail improvements between the Monroe border and the beach at Indian Well. Here's a summary: 

1. The Poet Path section between Princess Wenonah Drive and Thorea Drive was greatly improved in early spring. Crews dug the existing trail into the side of the hill so it would a more pleasant walk. The steep climb up the hill from Princess Wenonah Drive was made much easier with some route tweaking and steps. Finally, five painted slates were added that depicted famous poets.

2. The south side of Birchbank has the most difficult footing of the entire trail in Shelton. One section that descended steeply loose rocks and then ascended back up was replaced by a new section that was cut into the side of the hill. It's still very rocky, but the footing is much more stable.  There were a few other tweaks in this area. A short switchbank was added near the overlook due to a steep section of trail, and another switchbank added near the "caves." The switchbacks make it  much easier to descend when conditions are slick.

3. The section between Thoreau Drive and the Monroe border (Webb Mtn) was staked out by a surveyor. Once the narrow twenty-foot open space corridor between houses was staked, we were able to adjust the trail accordingly and add a split rail fence to help delineate the public corridor. Next, the steep rotting steps leading towards Round Hill Brook were bypassed with a switchback leading to a new brook crossing location. The old crossing had become washed out and very difficult (and at times impossible) to cross.

4. About 300 feet of trail was shifted just north of the pedestrian bridge at Indian Well due to severe erosion issues associated with the stream. The existing trail was very steep and an advancing 15-foot-deep gully appeared next to the trail. The new trail route is a good one, though it passes through thick barberry.

5. Another 300 feet of trail was shifted at Indian Well between "Blowdown Brook" and "Hickory Hill." The trail (old road?)  there had descended straight down a long slope and was eroded in places, making the footing difficult. The new route curves up the hill, allowing rainwater to escape the trail. Some side-hilling was required. The footing is much easier now, especially going down hill.

6. And yet another 300 feet or so of trail was reroute near the top of Hickory Hill. This is where the river slope steepens and the trail starts to get very close to some houses on Hickory Hill Lane. A huge tree had fallen across the trail a few years back and was across the trail at chest height. The tree was not something we could cut, so the trail had been reroute around the tree at the stump end, close to  houses. It appeared the reroute might be on private property, though. The trail was then rerouted down the hill through the other end of the tree, about 100 feet down the hill (it was a big tree). This gives the trail a lot more privacy. Here are some photos:


Within the past three years, the Paugussett has gotten a lot of attention! Hope it's a better hiking experience for all. What's next?

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