Monday, March 16, 2020

Our Favorite Walks Part 1: Mark Vollaro

This post is part of a continuing series describing the Trails Committee members favorite jaunts along Shelton's thirty miles of trails. There are many types of trails located across the city, from the handicapped-accessible Rec Path to the rugged Paugussett Trail. 

Mark's favorite hike is at Birchbank Mountain in the White Hills part of Shelton. It's a scenic two-mile "lollipop loop" that features an overlook of the Housatonic River. There's an elevation gain of about 350 feet, which will get the heart pumping."You will get in your exercise for the day on this hike, but the views and rushing water are worth it."

Hike route shown in orange
(click to enlarge)
The hike starts at the main trailhead for Birchbank Trail on Indian Well Road one full mile past the turnoff for the Indian Well State Park beach area. A sign kiosk and space for two cars marks the spot. The road jogs to the right to cross the railroad tracks where there is lots of additional parking.

Pay attention to the color of the blazes painted on the trees. For this hike you will start out on white, then turn onto blue, then blue/white, and then back onto white.

From the parking area, follow the white blazes of Birchbank Trail along the bottomlands for half a mile, cross over a footbridge, and start up the hill alongside a tumbling brook. "Water running down the 'chute' from Upper White Hills Brook is loud and quite spectacular," says Mark. "There are many small waterfalls that funnel water between large boulders and create some interesting white water around you. This is not something you expect in Shelton, but it is one of the gems on this hike."

The Chimney
Continue following the white blazes up the hill to the junction of the blue-blazed Paugussett Trail. You'll be turning left here. An old chimney overlooks the brook. This is the site of the old Monroe Rod and Gun Club before it burned down.  Follow the blue blazes across the brook and on up to the Birchbank Overlook. There is a great view of the Housatonic River looking south. Mark says he likes to sit on the rock outcropping, take in the vistas over the tree tops, and have a few sips of water. There is also a trail register near the overlook where people can leave notes for other hikers to read.

Continue along the Paugussett Trail southbound and watch carefully for the junction with the blue/white trail (if you start to go up a rocky hill, you missed it). Turn left to follow the blue/white blazes down the hill. There are some steep sections here that can be slick with leaves in the fall. The trail comes to a "T" ending with Birchbank Trail. Turn right and follow the white blazes down the hill to another overlook of the cascades and chutes of Upper White Hills Brook. Shortly after that, the trail joins an old road that settlers once used to bring their crops to ships on the Housatonic River. It was called Burritt's Road and there was a shipyard near Indian Well. When the trail reaches the bottom, turn right and follow the old road back to the parking area.

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