Monday, November 21, 2022

Burritt's Bypass Trail at Birchbank Mountain

Burritt's Bypass Trail features a scenic cave

We have a new bypass trail at Birchbank Mountain designed to make the northbound journey between Indian Well and the Birchbank Overlook a bit easier. It also features a scenic cave. This is in the area known as Burritt's Rocks, which is precipitously steep and covered with boulder fields.  The Paugussett Trail descends 100 feet over the rocks, which can get slick. Some rocks can be challenging in a fun way to many hikers, but these are not those kind of rocks.  They're tedious when dry and hazardous when wet. The new trail finds a ways around most of the rocks by taking the high road, staying up near the top of the ridge above the boulders until arriving at better ground, then descending on packed earth. When hiking, it's best to go up the steepest option and down the more gentle route, so if you're doing an out-and-back hike, take Burritt's Bypass northbound and the Paugussett Trail southbound. 

Birchbank map showing the bypass trail

The new bypass trail is blazed blue/green

The new trail northbound descends on
packed dirt instead of rocks

The new trail is 0.23 miles long and is blazed blue/green. The rocky descent on the Paugussett  (if you are northbound) had been improved a few years back with a partial reroute, but the remaining portion can't easily be improved. It's no trouble going southbound uphill (see photo below), but when heading northbound downhill, your momentum can easily cause a slip and fall. So for most people, it's a tedious and potentially nerve wracking descent, especially if the rock is wet or you have a leashed dog that might tug at just the wrong moment.

Looking back up the Paugussett Trail
after descending down the rocks.
This is what the new trail bypasses.

Northbound from Indian Well, Burritt's Bypass begins at the top of a hill where the largest boulders are located (sometimes called "the cave rocks" because they form little caves). The blue/green blazes head up and around the largest rock and then soon rejoin a previous version of the Paugussett Trail where it passed by a substantial rock shelter or cave formed by an overhang.  At some point in the 1980s or '90s, a developer put forth a subdivision plan for the area just above this. Not knowing whether the trail might be cutoff suddenly one day, the trail managers shifted the Paugussett Trail down the rocky hill. It later turned out that most of the old route was preserved as open space, including the Birchbank overlook

Burritt's Bypass starts here, heading up to the big boulder
instead of down the rocky hill

The "cave" or rock shelter

A few years back, I found some old blue blazes at Birchbank from the former route and followed them to discover this scenic cave. It's not a true cave, but in Connecticut we call just about any rock nook a cave.  I thought it was a real shame that this feature was no longer accessible and pondered whether a new trail could be established to it.

An old blue blaze near the cave

This trail is not long, but the terrain has required a lot of work to make it worth hiking. There was a lot of digging and moving rocks on the south end due to the steep side slope.  

Lots of digging required!

Although it's less rocky than the Paugussett Trail, there are still plenty of rocks, including one boulder-filled section that looks worse than it is. Many boulders were moved from this section and the holes left behind filled in with smaller rocks and dirt carried up the trail in buckets. The boulder section is fairly level, and the rock is coarse-grained, so it's not too bad. Some hikers might view these as challenging in a fun way. 

A short rocky section

After that, the trail comes to the end of the boulder field and the slope becomes more gentle. This is where Burritt's Bypass makes the 100-foot descent to rejoin the Paugussett Trail. The trail curves back and forth down the hill in an effort to find the best footing and minimize erosion. Each direction change is a point where stormwater can exit the trail before it causes too much damage. 

Heading down the hill on Burritt's Bypass

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Eversource Relo - The Change of Seasons


We had a change of seasons this week in Shelton.

Last weekend, we started doing a relocation of a portion of the Paugussett Trail that currently crosses the Eversource powerlines north of Buddington Road.  Eversource is planning a major construction project in 2023 that will build 2 big new monopole transmission towers where the trail goes now.  In many cases we can't move the trail, but here Teresa Gallagher flagged out a route around this spot and we started cutting it out on 11/12.    There's more info on Eversource's project here.

The night before we had the remains of Hurricane Nicole blow thru dumping lot of rain, and the fear was that we would be washed out.  But most of the storm blew out in the morning and it was Game On.  We had 6 folks out cutting thru a mountain laurel thicket.  It got hot, and sunny.  Everybody was sweating.

Getting thru a Laurel thicket is challenging because it's dense, and it can be tough to see what you're doing.  This one was at the base of cliff with wetlands on the downhill side.  We wanted to stay out of the wetlands, so the footing would be good once we're out of this year's drought.

Bob, Mark & Luis were looking at different options.  Mark was down to his tee shirt and Bob was dying in 4 layers of shirts.  It later got up to 72 degrees and sunny that day.

But we punched thru the worst part using loppers, handsaws, chainsaw, and rakes.  Remember to bring water to a work party even in November or winter.

Fast forward a week to 11/19/22 to finish the relocation and what do we have.  27 degrees and snow!

Maybe not 5' in Buffalo NY snow, but a cold and slippery coating of the white stuff none the less.  Goodby Summer, Hello Winter.  Fall 2022 lasted 7 days I guess.

We made our way into the woods and picked up where we punched thru last weekend.  Ellen lead on group cutting and raking.

Mark took the brushcutter out to where we stopped and did a little weedwhacking in the snow.  

Trenton & Tammy were raking and clearing up that stubs from last week.  Others starting working up a switchback route up a wooded hillside with good views of the adjacent swamp and woodlands.

Our snowy route thru the woods; trying to find the least slippery way across the rocks.

Graham and Bob were clearing the hillside, while Mark when back to do some more chainsawing.

Annie and the others did a fine job clearing and raking the new trail.  It should look really nice in June when the Mtn. Laurel blooms.

What's a little snow to these volunteers.  The sun came out and started to warm things up.

We finished up before lunch with the relocation all connected and carted all our gear back to John Dominick Drive.

So everybody made it out, invigorated,  and ready to start the rest of their day.  Thanks to Annie, Trenton, Tammy, Graham, Mark, Bob, Terry, Bill, Luis, Ellen and Mike for these two work parties.  And thanks to Teresa for the planning, layout and fine tuning.  She was leading another group of volunteers closing up Eklund Native Garden nearby at another snowy work party.  After this Mark & Ellen went to take care of some other cleanups on the RecPath and Oak Valley Trail. 

We have some great volunteers working on our trails in all seasons.  On this job is was 3 seasons in one week; which is a little extreme, but so be it.  Join us on Sunday 11/27 at 1:00 for the Turkey Trot Hike.  Maybe it'll be Spring.  See the Trail News and Events page for more info.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Getting Rid of the Blob on Mill Street (or, If I Had a Hammer, I'd have Bill Swing It)

 The Blob Strikes Shelton Trails.

The Blob (1958) theatrical poster.jpg 

Well, it was a concrete blob at Gristmill Trail on Mill St.  Nothing that chased you down and ate you, but still an annoying eyesore.

Years ago somebody had dumped a large blob of concrete from a mixer on City park land at one of the open spaces on Mill Street.  Uglier than Sin right at the trailhead.  Getting rid of it has been on our Trails To Do List for ages and Mark wanted to knock it off this week since we didn't have a work party scheduled.  Why waste a perfectly nice Saturday morning, eh?

Mark had gone to Home Depot to rent a jackhammer and generator, but due to technical difficulties that did not work out.  So we went Old School;  picks, rock bars, and stone hammers.

Mark and Bob got the blob up and stuck some bricks and junk under it the help create a hinge.  Bill Dyer was keeping Teddy out of the shower zone and offering helpful support, or prepared to call 911 if needed.

We took turns with the 12 lb. stone hammer.  It worked best when we scored a line across the blob and then beat a chunk off along the score line.  There were actually a couple of concrete blobs to winnow down.

Bob Woods is showing that concrete who's the boss.  Nothing like a little applied physics.
Helpful Trail Safety Tip: Wear safety glasses (we were-3 pair), and keep your mouth closed when striking concrete because chips fly everywhere at high rates of speed (at least the way we work). Maybe next time bring the hard hats with the face shields too.

A couple of hours later we had reduced a big eyesore on City Open Space into a pretty respectable pile of concrete rubble (with an average density of about 150 lbs/cubic foot mind you).  Bob, Terry & Mark are standing over the spoils of victory.  We were all a pretty sweaty and disgusting mess by the end, but given the abnormally warm November we've been having it was a good mornings work.  A future task will be to haul the junk out to Mill St. and contact Shelton's Highways and Bridges Department so they can take the chunks away and recycle them.
The Gristmill Trail on Mill St. is a very pretty walk along the banks of the Far Mill River.  We encourage everyone to explore it.  Just leave the concrete at home.  We have another work party planned for the Paugussett Trail this coming Saturday if anyone wants to help out - no concrete demo is proposed.

BUT, if you'd like to see more of Bob Woods working to remove the concrete, here it is: