Friday, July 3, 2020

Local Residents on the Nichols Trail & Pearmain Path

Ran into a number of locals while walking along the Nichols Trail and Pearmain Path at Nicholdale on a recent morning.  I started at the Rt. 110 parking lot and followed the fresh blue blazes on Nichols Trail.

  This little guy was enjoying breakfast along one of the grassy trails near the Tamarack trees.

Tamarack's; an evergreen tree that drops it's needles every year.  There's a line of them along Nichols Trail as it bends toward Nicholdale Brook.

A recent blow down across the bog walk had just been cleared by Joe Welsh before I got there.  It made it a lot easier to use the bog walk.

Ran into a number of chipmunks using the stonewall highways along the trail.  I wonder where chipmunks lived before colonial farmers built all the stone walls?

The Nichols Trail; blazed blue, was in very good shape and had received a lot of recent clearing.

The Pearmain Path was also in good shape with new signs, and the trail was getting a lot of use.

Encountered another local resident who was kinda shy.  This box turtle was taking Covid social distancing seriously.

There's also some new trails maps up showing residents and visitors (those residents who are taller than a box turtle), how the trails link up around Nicholdale.

Bill's Bridge out to Pearmain Road was being guarded by another local resident.

At least he didn't ask me to answer three questions before passing.

This end of Pearmain Road is a quiet, gravel road that provides good neighborhood access to the trail network.

Another new sign marks the entrance to Pearmain Path from the road.

Going back up the Pearmain Path the trail is well worn and blazed yellow and reconnects with Nichols Trail (blue blazes) near the scout campground.

The Nichols Trail was very easy to follow around the perimeter of Nicholdale.

The wildflowers were growing within the meadows and provided a lot of habitat for butterflies, bees, and birds.

New arrows and fresh blazes mark turns around the meadow sections to aid hikers.  Particularly hikers who may be new to the mown paths that dot the property.

Hazelnuts were forming along Nichols Trail.  They are a source of food for many of the wildlife living around the preserve.

Nicholdale Brook was flowing low but was a cool respite from some of the open fields on this July day.  A number of bridges cross and recross the brook.

 The old stone bridge was dry today, but it had been cleared and was fun to walk across.

The path back toward Rt. 110 and the parking lot had been mowed and had a new marker post that was visible above the meadow wildflowers.  This apple tree was producing many green apples for the fall.

The Nichols Trail was in good condition all the way back to the parking lot.  The recent trail clearing, mowing, signs, blazes, maps, etc. make it a very easy walk.  It's a great place to explore on a summer hike.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Trail Markings Upgrade at Nicholdale

An arrow helps out novice hikers who don't understand the offset blazes
Nichols Trail was originally called the 'Perimeter Trail' because it followed the boundaries of the Land Trust's Nicholdale Farm property. Although the route is good for maximizing the size of the loop, and to check the boundaries of the property, it does have several spots where the trail splits, often in meadow areas, with mowed paths going in multiple directions and Nichols Trail taking a sharp turn. "Which way should I go?" Although people could usually figure it out, the many junctions could lead to decision fatigue, especially for newer hikers who aren't familiar with standard offset blazes. And also when vines crawl up the trees and cover blazes.

A bunch of signs and arrows have been added to help with that problem, along with a marked 4x4 post in a long stretch of meadow, some trail alignment tweaking in one spot, clearing, and freshening of the blazes. It should be a lot easier for people to follow the trail now.

This spot was always confusing
The first spot to get a custom sign was near the parking area where Nichols Trail splits from the main meadow path (the one that heads straight for the Scout camp). Before the sign was there, it wasn't entirely obvious that you were supposed to veer off to the left. The trail was also shifted a bit here so that the mowing tractor could go directly down the trail. If we can get everyone to follow the same tread for awhile, instead of meandering around the meadow, it will be easier for people to see which way they should go. A string trimmer was therefore used to create a faux tread.

Offset blazes tell hikers to watch out for a right turn
In addition to the signs and arrows, a few new double blazes were added in the grassy areas. This will only help the people who understand that the upper blaze indicates the direction of a turn. Everyone else will just have to look in every direction for the next blaze.

New arrow in a confusing spot
In a couple open spots where the trail might go in a multiple directions, the new arrows were twisted at just the right angle to show you which way to go.

Blazed 4x4 post off in the distance
The 4x4 post was a job to carry down the trail and install. The soil was so dry it was like flour all the way down to 2.5 feet. This was an area that people generally did just keep going straight and hoped for the best, but now the blazed post provides comfort to the hiker, letting them know they are on the right track. Also, some years the guys on the mowing tractor create a number of mowed paths in this area and it's not always clear which one you're supposed to be on. This should help. 

Blaze obscured by vines
One problem we have at Nicholdale in the more open areas is vines growing up the trees and covering up the blazes. It happens quick. And sometimes the bushes get too taller and likewise cover up the blazes, or the tree branches dip down and get in the way. Blazes covered with vegetation are no use to anyone. This is where it would be a big help to have a Trail Monitor to alert us when there is a problem. Or for a routine trail user to carry a set of pruners and clip those vines before they become a problem (some are poison ivy though, so watch out).

Blaze uncovered

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Trails Day 2020 - DIY Corona Edition

Over 250 CFPA Trails Day events were canceled this year due to the Corona Virus; which is disappointing to say the least.  The Shelton hike on the Paugussett Trail and Tahmore Loop is continuing as a Do It Yourself event for individuals and families whenever they want to however.  And a very nice hike it is.

The hike starts at the off-season parking lot at Indian Well State Park (across the street from the Main Entrance), goes up the timber stairs, take a left on the Paugussett Trail (blue blazes), and walk along to a nice overview of the Housatonic River.  Proceed along the Tahmore Loop (blue/yellow blazes) though Shelton Land Trust Property for a pleasant walk that will lead you back to the junction with the Paugussett Trail.  Follow the blue blazes and signs for the Falls to bring you down to Indian Hole Brook.  You can cross the brook and then turn right to go see the Falls if you like, or follow the new return trail back to the Beach (blue/red blazes) for an easy walk back to the start of the hike.

Maps of all the trails are here.  Please print one out and take it with you.  You can't get lost even if you try.

Just beyond the sign kiosk is the start of the hike up the big steps.  Some hikers may want to guess how many there are before they start.  The steps were built by CFPA volunteers a few years ago.

Turning right on the Paugussett Trail you'll follow a well-worn trail toward the overlook.

After the Overlook you'll continue on the Tahmore Loop through open woodlands with periodic sunny glades and knolls.

There were many re-routes, trail improvements, fresh blazes, new signs, and new trails created the make the hike more enjoyable and safe.
Indian Hole Brook after the Tahmore Loop.

Indian Hole Bridge is under construction.  It is not safe to walk back to the walk back to the State Park entrance on the road.  Use the new Beach return trail blazed blue and red for an easy walk back to the start of the hike.

The trails are in great shape, please enjoy them.

Following this hike we went up to Birchbank Mountain, just north of Indian Well State Park to replace a map box on the kiosk there.  The old one had become faded and weather beaten.

And met a local family out hiking on Birchbank Trail.  They were some of the many hikers and families we saw using the trails.  They were having a great time just going for a walk.  That was very gratifying to see and one of the reasons that we put so much effort into the trail system.  So even if there's no big scheduled group hikes for 2020, go out and enjoy whichever trail you choose for Trails Day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020 Outdoor Challenge Continues

Ann & Robert Singletary visited Riverview Park
Several people have completed one or more levels of Shelton's 2020 Out & About Challenge, which encourages everyone to explore corners of the city they might not know about (and reduce crowding on the more popular trails).  Participants select an avatar to represent themselves and take a photo at each of the ten designated sites for the level they are working on. Some people are working on all three levels, which is a total of thirty sites. Those who have completed all thirty sites so far includ John Girard, Lisa Adriani, Sara Skrabl and Diego Murcia.

John Girard's avatar "Bumper" at Pine Tree Pond, fishing
John Girard took the challenge a step further and made up little props for his avatar "Bumper", a little stuffed goat. Those photos deserve their own blog post. In fact, Bumper has his own Facebook Page. 
Melissa Quan & the "Screaming Goat" at Birchbank
Some people have named their avatars. The "Screaming Goat" is one of our favorites.

Lisa Adriani's avatar "Geir" completed all thirty sites
An advantage to doing all thirty sites is you can mix up some drive-bys with some nearby hikes and do several in an afternoon. The Google Map showing all the sites is helpful for figuring out a plan of attack.

Terry Gallagher's avatar is a hiking frog made from nuts and bolts,
here seen at the Maybeck wall, Paugussett Trail
Some of the spots are scenic in a classic sense, but other locations were chosen more because they were identifiable in a photo and were located somewhere that gets fewer people. The Maybeck stone wall, for example, is on a part of the Paugussett Trail between Constitution Blvd and Meadow Street that doesn't get much traffic because it's not part of a loop. It's more of a connector between Shelton Lakes and Indian Well. But it's still a nice trail, and just beyond the wall is a big meadow where deer, turkey, and even woodcock are seen.
Joe Hollis's avatar is a car, here at Birchbank's cave-boulders
(Level 3)
Some of the sites are super easy, just a few steps from the car. This level was designed for people with mobility issues or for people who just don't want to hike. These are the level one sites, and they are some of the more scenic sites. In contrast, the above photo is from Level 3, and involves some serious hiking through Burritt's Rocks to reach. That site is probably the most difficult of all the sites to reach. People looking for more of a physical challenge will enjoy Level 3.

Robert Goncalves and family visited Southbank Park
(Level 1)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Out and About on Memorial Day Weekend.

There was some new developments and scenic areas along Shelton's trails this weekend.  The new bridge at Lane Street is nearing completion, and the sidewalk is open, sort of.

Here's Ollie bringing his human back from a walk on the Recreation Path.  The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic for the last couple of weeks when the temporary bridge was removed.  But the new sidewalks are open (watch your step - the rest of construction is still going on), so that folks from the neighborhood can walk from the RecPath to Huntington Center.

New signs were installed on the Paugussett Trail at Indian Wells.  The new signs direct people to the new Blue/Red trail that leads them back from the Falls to the Beach entrance at the park, which avoids walking on the road and is much safer.

 People out enjoying the waterfall at Indian Well.

Further up the road at Birchbank Mountain, the Birchbank Trail had a lush growth of Blue Cohosh growing near The Notched Log.

Uphill along Birchbank Trail, there was some Cinnamon fern growing next to some Maple-leafed viburnum along Upper White Hills Brook.

Along River Road, a number of families were out fishing and picnicking at Southbank Open Space, along the Housatonic River.

 While the azaleas were blooming over at the Bushinsky Arboretum near Trumbull.  It's a good weekend to be Out and About in Shelton.