Saturday, November 9, 2019

Birchbank Mtn. Work Party, or Why Do I Keep Hearing Bells?

There have been a lot of trees and branches knocked down in recent storms.  The trails at Birchbank Mountain had not gotten a full clean up in a while so on a crisp Saturday morning a work party was scheduled to clear up a number of blowdowns across the trails.

We had a great turn out of 15 volunteers to tackle the trails in the park.  When we met at the trailhead next to the railroad on Indian Well Road we were greeted by flashing lights and clanging bells at the railroad crossing, but no train.  Everyone stopped, looked for the train, then crossed the tracks to the parking area and walked back.  Still no train, the signal apparently was malfunctioning.

So while the railroad signal kept clanging away we signed everyone in, enjoyed some doughnuts from Royal Bakery, and headed off into the woods to the sound of  bells.

There was a number of trees down across the trail.  Some small, some quite large.

We split up into 3 groups with multiple chainsaw teams and worked along the White trail.  Helpful Trail Tip #1: A sharp chainsaw cuts much better than a dull chainsaw.  Sharpen your saws on Friday night.

Helpful Trail Tip #2:  A fresh chain cuts better than a dull chain, but only if you put it on the bar with the teeth facing forward.  

The teams then proceeded along Birchbank Trail, then up along the brook to the Paugussett Trail, up above the stone chimney, and then worked their way back down the hill.  Meanwhile, another team was tackling some large blowdowns at the bottom of the hill.

One big tulip was too high to get over easily, and a decision made to notch out a step thru the tree instead.  Here's Mark Vallero with Jim, Luis, and Graham notching out the tree.

Then, with the help of several wedges, and some persistence they were able to wedge out the block of wood.  Actually, it was a lot of persistence, various wedging tries, more sawing, with some prying and hauling.  But they're a stubborn lot and eventually they got it out of there.

Success!  The trail is much easier to walk now.  The log also acts as a barrier to keep vehicles and  ATVs from damaging the trails.

Other blowdowns and tree tops were removed from the trails.

The clearing made it easier to follow the trails without having to zig zag around all the blowdowns.  The trails were pretty busy too.  We had multiple residents and hikers walking past or around us as we worked.

The trails are much clearer now due to all the work.  There was also a lot of brush along the trails that was cut, and fallen branches and logs hauled away.

It really does help to have a big crew when there's this much work to be done.  Thanks to Clay, Gary, Ryan, Vince, James, Tommy, Bill, Bob, Val, Graham, Jim, Luis, Mike, Mark, and Terry. 

When we were got back to the trailhead about 3 hours later, the railroad bells were still going off at the crossing signal.  We phoned Housatonic Railroad to let them know and they said that they had already gotten calls.  A very pleasant woman said she was trying to get someone down to look at it, but everybody was in Mass. and since it was Saturday they didn't have many people working.  Hopefully the signal has been fixed by now and the bells have stopped ringing.

Helpful Safety Tip #1: Remember to look both ways before you cross the tracks on the way to the trails.

Helpful Safety Tip #2: Yield to oncoming traffic when leaving Birchbank going South toward Indian Well State Park.  The road is rather curvy and there are some tight bends where only one car can pass at a time.

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