Sunday, October 17, 2021

Lovely Fall Day on the RecPath

 It was a lovely Fall day on the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path with a lot of folks out enjoying the trails.  People were strolling, dog walking, mountain biking, jogging, family hiking, you name it.  Some people were even getting chauffeured up and down the RecPath.

Some people have it made.  If only they realized it.

The rest of us were walking about, or planning for upcoming work parties.   There is a volunteer work party next Saturday, October 23rd to fix eroded portions of the RecPath near Lane St., cut brush, clean ditches, un-clog culverts, and other not-so-glamorous maintenance stuff that make it easier to enjoy Shelton's trails.  Check the Events Page for additional information if you're interested in helping out.  And now onto the nice afternoon.

The Shelton Land Trust Meadow at Lane St. was splendid.  Can't say much more than that.  It's amazing how much much natural habitat there is just a few footsteps away from the busy streets in Huntington Center.  People were out hiking, biking, jogging, bird watching, walking their dogs, walking their families, possibly walking other families dogs, the combinations are endless.

This very nice couple was out enjoying the RecPath by the Little Meadow near Lane Street.  Thanks for the update on the bridge conditions at Oak Valley Trail.

This is the processed stone that we're going to use next Saturday to fix some of the ruts on the RecPath. 

This is one of the eroded sections of the RecPath that will be worked on.  We will blow off the leaves, place and compact processed stone in the eroded gullies, clean culverts and drainage ditches, cut grass and brush, and improve sightlines along the trail.  We might even pick up some trash (which looks small at this time).

Here's another spot along Wesley Drive that need erosion repair and clearing to get back to the original 8 foot wide RecPath with 2 foot wide shoulders that were originally built.  

It was really good to chat and see everyone out enjoying the RecPath this Sunday .  Feel free to come out Saturday and help with trail maintenance if you can fit that into your schedules.  Visit the Trails Events Page for additional information about upcoming events and work parties.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Repairin' Ruts on the RecPath

We had some heavy storms in late summer that caused flooding, clogged culverts, and eroded portions of the RecPath.   The ruts were a tripping and biking hazard so they needed to be repaired.  

Recently the Shelton Highways and Bridges Department was able to get a couple of truckloads of processed stone and drop them at various locations along the RecPath for our use.  Some of the stone was a little larger than we typically use for topping the RecPath, but it was good for the repairs.

It was a beautiful Fall Saturday for moving and raking stone.  

One crew loaded crushed stone into the Gator.

Another crew was preparing the washed out areas and spreading the stone when it arrived.  The hydraulic bed on the Gator was a big backsaver.  They also cleaned out the drainage ditches and clogged culverts along the way.  The storms blocked some of those up with debris, which caused the runoff to wash out the gravel surface of the RecPath.  Gotta maintain drainage.

Various spots along the RecPath were exposed down to the filter fabric.  We used up the pile down by the Dog Park & Red Barn parking lot fixing the worst problems.  We'll probably have to come back with material from some of the other piles.

Various spots were filled in out thru the mountain laurels along the powerlines.

We had a great crew of experienced trailkeepers and new volunteers.  Thanks to Ellen, Zach, Jahneil, Mil, Eli, Mark, Graham, Bob, Bill & Terry.  A lot of help makes it easier to move a lot of crushed stone.  There's more to do; probably in 2 weeks down at the Lane Street end of the RecPath, but this was a good start.  Check the Trails Events Page for more information.

Monday, August 16, 2021

"Birch-Well" Hike

If you live in Shelton, it's hard to get in shape for some serious hiking in the White Mountains or along the Appalachian Trail, where you may have elevation gains of a couple thousand feet. Our Birchbank Mountain is just 350' elevation gain. Sleeping Giant in Hamden is a bit more, but that's a very busy park and then there's traffic. There's always Bear Mountain in the northwest corner of the state for an elevation gain of about 1500 feet, but that's a long drive. 

1400-foot elevation gain
(click image to enlarge)

Here's a "Birch-Well" option in Shelton that gives you a 1400-foot cumulative elevation gain over 6.5 miles.  It's the Paugussett Trail between Birchbank Mountain and Indian Well State Park with loops at each end. Parts of the route are similar to the terrain you would find up north, with lots of mossy rocks to navigate, and two good overlooks of the Housatonic River down below. What we call "the Boulders" mark a high point you'll need to cross twice (this is where you need to use your hands). The other high point is capped with the "Top of Tahmore," along the blue/yellow Tahmore loop. 

Overview Map
(click image to enlarge)

Be aware that many map sources are obsolete after trail changes over the past few years, including the All Trails, Gaia, the State Park map, and even the CFPA map hasn't been updated for Tahmore Trail and the new blue/red Beach Cutoff Trail as of this posting. Refer to the City of Shelton Conservation Department maps - those are correct:

Birchbank Mountain Map

Tahmore/Indian Well Map

If you'd like a verbal description, here you go:

  • Park at the Birchbank Trailhead on Indian Well Road/Birchbank Road
  • Take white (go straight through white/white junction), cross bridge, follow stream up the hill to Chimney Junction, turn left on blue-blazed Paugussett Trail and cross the brook. 
  • Follow blue up the hill to the overlook. 
  • Continue following blue up and over the boulders and beyond to Indian Well. Pass the white-blazed turnoff, arrive at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue/yellow Tahmore Trail around the loop, passing the Indian Well Overlook. Arrive back at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue blazes towards the Falls (not the way you came).
  • Turn left at new Blue/Red trail marked "<---BEACH"
  • At the Indian Well Parking area, head over towards the trail kiosk and go up the big stairs on White. Arrive quickly back on the blue Paugussett Trail, turn right. 
  • Follow blue blazes back the way you came, up and over the boulders again. 
  • Turn right onto blue/white Birchbank Connector, near a sign telling you the overlook is 0.1 mile ahead. 
  • When blue/white ends, go right on white. 
  • When white gets to the bottom of the hill, go right and return to your car. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

'Twas a Steamy Saturday

It 'twas a steamy Saturday morning for cutting brush along the RecPath.  The kind of muggy July morning when the sweat started running down your nose just walking out to the job, instead of waiting till you'd been working for a bit.   But we had a good crew and got a lot done, but we were a bit of a leaf-spackled mess by the end of the work party.

Here's Graham, Mark, Matt, Mike, Luis, & Jeff at the end.  Tired, sweaty and victorious.  Bob & Terry were elsewhere.

It started out pretty.  Allison's flowers over by the Trail Barn & Dog Park were in bloom.  It's one of the scenic treats along the RecPath.

The crossing on the N. side of Rt. 108 was cleared out to improve sightlines and to get back some of our 8 foot wide path.  There was a lot of poison ivy and mugwort growing there.

Bob Wood spent a lot of time cutting back brush and vines amidst the poison ivy at the entry.

The edges of the RecPath were cleared to keep the vines, briars, and raspberries away from the Path users.  It was a busy morning with a lot of hikers, dog walkers, runners and bikers using the Path.  We'll have to remember to bring our "work party ahead" signs next time.

The stonework for the two dams that the RecPath runs on top of are always impressive to look at when we stop for a second.

If you look close you can see the hand cut drill holes where the stones were split with chisels during the 1800's.  Makes our work today look easy.

The  jungle on both sides of the RecPath was cut back.  The growth was thickest on the southern dam with the bridge overlooking Silent Waters.

The pond looked very pretty with all the lilly pads.

The Woodland sunflowers were just starting to bloom along the N. end of the dam.  These native species are on the east side of the Path a little south of the canoe launch area.

Darn Mugwort was growing everywhere.  It's an invasive species that crowds out native plants and we try to cut it where we can.

It was a good work party, now time to put away the instruments of destruction.

And enjoying the flowers along the RecPath by the Dog Park.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Birchbank Invasives

Trillium, Bloodroot, and Bladdernut (a stunted shrub)

What's going on at the beginning of Birchbank Trail?  Invasive species removal. Why? Because Birchbank Mountain has some really distinctive growing conditions and native plants that we don't usually see in this part of the state. That includes all the spring wildflowers like Dutchman's Breeches, Trillium, and Bloodroot. But that's just the start. Basswood, Catalpa, Elm, and Sugar Maple are classic for this "Rich Mesic" forest type with sweet and rich loam, so different from the acidic glacial till we usually deal with (there were a lot of ash, too, but they've all died). Water seeps out of the base of the river slope, but drains easily through the loam.  Shrubs include Bladdernut heavily stunted by deer. Bladdernut and Basswood are considered classic for this type of forest. Maidenhair Fern, Green Dragon, Wild Cucumber, and Doll's Eye Baneberry can be found here as well. 

This used to be a Burning Bush the size of a small tree

Several years ago, the Birchbank trailhead would become impassible each summer due to a patch of invasive Japanese Knotweed that was 350 feet long. A brush cutter had be used every year to cut down the Knotweed forest and allow hikers in. What a nightmare that plant is. So a lot of effort has gone into removing the Knotweed over the years, and it's over 99% gone. Sprigs keep coming up here and there, so it's important to stay on top of it. In doing so, it's become sadly obvious that the native plants are under siege from all the usually invasive species that are such a problem around the state, as well as deer overbrowsing. 

Doll's Eyes Baneberry

One thing that became very apparently this year is how the thriving native plants inside the first deer exclosure have been doing a fantastic job of outcompeting the invasive plants. Outside the deer exclosure, the invasives would get pulled and the deer would then come by and eat all the native plants. And then there would be nothing, and the next year the invasive would come right back to fill in the gap. So this year, the area is also getting some deer repellent to help fight the invasives.

Basswood and Catalpa

Previously, invasive species removal has been somewhat random as time allowed (other than staying on top of the Japanese Knotweed, the priority). This year, things are more methodical. After pulling out a mountain of garlic mustard that had gone to seed, the goal is to start at the trailhead and work gradually down the trail, pulling every invasive along the way on the left side of the trail and up the hill about 100 feet (beyond that there are not many invasives).  This includes some Burning Bush and Japanese Barberry, which open up the hillside quite a bit in places. Both can be uprooted surprisingly easily, although it's hard work. The larger Burning Bush shrubs need to be sawed off and herbicide painted onto the stump to keep them from reprouting. After a section of the left side of the trail is done (marked with stakes), the right side will be worked on. As of today, the stake is about 100 feet down the trail. 

Wild Cucumber (with Virginia Creeper)

Other invasives getting removed include Bittersweet vines, mugwort, multiflora rose, wineberry, and first year garlic mustard. 

If this is something that interests you and you're willing to help out, please shoot an email to Teresa at 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

June Cutting at Lane Street

It's June, so it's time to do some cutting along the RecPath at Lane Street.  The stretch along the Land Trust Meadow is one of the most scenic areas of the RecPath, but it also grows like crazy in early summer.  We're also entering a early Hot & Sticky spell in the weather, so we've got that going for us.

Fortunately, we had a good turn out of volunteers, so we got everything done before it got silly hot.

Helpful Trail Tip: Bring lots of water to drink on these work parties, and don't leave your canteen in the car.  Bring it with you too.

The RecPath follows the edges of the meadows with the Means Brook floodplain on the other side.  It's a prime area for robust edge growth.  The hay and thorns starting to encroach on the RecPath were trimmed.  Some invasive species were removed, and sightlines improved going around some of the curves.

The raspberries and other plants were in full bloom.  One of the benefits of coming to this work party were the trailside snacks.

Mike & Terry also fixed holes in the decking on the boardwalk.  Some of the screws were reluctant to come out, but luckily Terry had his tool kit in his car.  

Mike let Terry try to fit all the parts back into the tool case.  Maybe we'll get him a Rubik's Cube for next time; it might be an easier puzzle to solve.  

The boardwalk looked good by the end.  There's some great viburnums and shrubs flowering along both sides, and unless you like wading deep into swamps this is one of the easiest places to see these plants.

 There was a nice patch of Mayapple at the end of the boardwalk.

The meadow hasn't been mowed this year and there is a mix of meadow grasses and wildflowers that are attracting a lot of butterflies and birds.  It doesn't show in the photos, but if you walk along the RecPath and stop to look from time to time you'll see a lot of activity in a very pretty meadow.

There were a lot of folks out enjoying the RecPath.  We'd like to thank the neighbor who offered to get us doughnuts at Royal Bakery.  We'll take you up on that next time.  Thanks to everyone who came out to help:  Matt, Terry, Bill, Luis, Graham, Mike, Terry & Mark.  It definitely helps to have a lot of hands on a job like this.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Great Views at Great Ledge

On a drizzly Saturday morning 11 volunteers cut and trimmed brush along the RecPath at Great Ledge, while enjoying some great scenery.

The section known as Great Ledge is south of Oak Valley Road and crosses some of the powerlines along Spooner's Swamp.  The combination of wetlands and open sunlight make for some rapid growth out into the RecPath and this is always a section that needs attention.

On the plus side it's really scenic working along all the flowering shrubs.  There's various viburnums, Highbush blueberry, Mountain Laurel, Sweet pepperbush, and others.

Even the Green briar looked good.  

There were a lot of trail users out enjoying the open spaces.

Some of the Highbush blueberry along the RecPath.

We strung out along the trails so that there was adequate room for power tool users and hand tool users to work safely.

Bob & Graham were cleaning up a blowdown with Ralph & Ralph.

Mike and Bill were clearing the edges going south toward Huntington Woods.

Some of Basil Brook Bypass were cleared, especially at the entry points along the powerlines.

Sections of Nells Loop Trail were also cut back and cleared.

The cool, overcast weather made it much easier to work in than last weekend's hot spell.  There are some really scenic areas along Great Ledge.

We got a lot done with a good sized crew.  Thanks to Matt, Bill, Ellen, Ralph, Ralph, Luis, Graham, Bob, Mike, Terry & Mark.  Now, everybody go enjoy the scenery while everything is blooming.