Saturday, August 21, 2010

Twilight Traipsing

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In spite of the scheduling of our second annual night hike the same evening as the Wednesday Concert on the Green, a nice group of hardy adventurers joined us for an invigorating romp through both open and wooded sections of the Shelton Rec Path. Participants included men, women, children, dogs, and any accompanying fleas, flies, and mosquitoes that came along for the ride.

The group met at the Community Center, where Teresa explained the nature of the hike, assured all present that there are no bears in Huntington (in spite of husband Terry's warnings), and read everyone their Miranda rights.

A short stroll down Lane Street brought us to the kiosk marking the beginning (or ending, depending upon your direction of travel) of the Shelton Rec Path. This kiosk, by the way, is one of several that were the result of local Eagle Scout projects over the years.

Our trail passes through two pastoral meadows, where critters such as deer are often seen browsing or doing their wildlife thing. This meadow is part of the Shelton Land Trust properties. We've all been told at one time or another to "stop and smell the roses". No, Emma, that's a weed!

Lynn had her trio of pooches along for protection.

The Rec Path crosses Wesley Drive in two places. Here anxious hikers, adrenalin pumping, can't wait for the rest of the crowd, but are dead set on being the first to find the bears that Teresa said don't exist.

It's not long before the sun goes down and the flashlights and glow sticks come out (and some of us wish we had checked the batteries before leaving home). This is where the fun begins!

YIKES!!!! A BEAR!!! No, it's just one of our happy hikers emerging from the woods near the end of our ramble. (Whew!).

All who participated seemed to enjoy the evening, as expressed by some of those on their first hike with us, commenting that they will definitely be joining us on future adventures.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hidden Treasure

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Hidden from traffic, and known but to a few (catchers of fish and locals), the lower Far Mill River is a scenic and serene location that begs to be explored along its sometimes raging banks, although as we hacked at the overgrowth on this work party, the river was closer to a trickle due to this summer's lack of rain.

Winter and Spring storms had dropped a number 0f dead trees across the upper trail. Plans had been in the works to clear and level the existing sloped and somewhat precarious trail, but we found that some good citizens had already been hard at work at the leveling part. Thank you, kind citizens, whoever you are!

There was still the matter of those fallen trees. Terry made short work of it, though. Some touch-ups on the trail floor itself, and it was ready for serious foot traffic.

Ah...that looks much better!

Brambles, vines, and weeds almost buried the trail in some places.

What! Another break? Dominic and Peggyann actually did an outstanding job of whacking down those pesky weeds.

Luis and Lynn provide encouragement to a fisherman at the ol' swimmin' hole (one of the treasures along this river) after having pruned away some of the jungle on the lower trail.

"What river???" Terry had plans of raking seaweed, but there was not much sea to weed!

This trail may be accessed from 865 River Road, across from the Shelton transfer station entrance, behind the ASF Sports and Outdoors building on the left corner.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Twilight Trail Ramble

Now normally, we recommend that people plan ahead and be out the woods well before it gets dark. But on Wednesday we take off at twilight in the hopes of getting deep into the woods in the dark. Bring your flashlights, glow sticks, tiki torches, fire flies and night vision goggles.

This was one of our funnier hikes last year so we'll see what type of wildlife we might see. Meet at the front of the Shelton Community Center on Church 7:00 P.M., 8/18/10, and we'll walk the RecPath off Lane St.. We'll get deep into the trails beyond Huntington Woods and then find our way back, hopefully. If the coyotes, bears and mountain lions don't get us. We might even stop at the Huntington St. Cafe afterwards for refreshments. This is a good hike for kids of all ages.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Acadia Trails - Part 2

Acadia National Park has a lot of signs - some of them funny - this was on top of South Bubble. I wonder how many times people had to roll rocks down the cliff before the Park Service felt compelled to put this one up?

We saw a lot of great trails at Acadia National Park in Maine this summer. There were a lot of innovative trail solutions that would be fun to try here in Shelton.

Emma & Terry at the Cadillac South Ridge Trailhead. The National Park Service uses these routered cedar posts for trailheads to reduce theft of trail signs. Cadillac Mtn. has a road going to the top so we dropped these two off and they hiked down a trail with stunning views and little effort. One of the troubles with Cadillac Mtn is that having the road going to the top takes away a little something from the mountain, but the trade-off is that the public gets to enjoy the park.

This is one of the concrete walks at the top of Cadillac Mtn. The Park Service used pink granite chips in with the concrete to match the distinctive granite of the mountains. Our vacation overlapped the Obama family but we avoided the Secret Service had a great time. The Park Service appears to be doing a good job maintaining the park.

Here's Terry & Biscuit riding bikes on the Carriage Path Roads. The Carriage Paths are 16 foot wide crushed stone roads that were built for horse-drawn carriages, but work really well for bicycles, walkers, dogs, etc. This is similar, but a little bigger than what the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path will ultimately hopefully look like.

This is another view of the Carriage Paths on the Hadlock Brook Loop. There was a lot of disturbance to construct the roads, but the woods have grown in and everything looks very natural now.

This is the Waterfall Bridge that carries the Carriage Path Road over Hadlock Brook. What's amazing to me is that the entire system of Carriage Paths and bridges were built by John Rockefeller Jr. just so he could ride his horse and buggys without being bothered by cars when he went on vacation every year. This was a monumental undertaking that was on par with constructing the Merritt Parkway, and you can see a lot of similarities in the bridge architecture. I think that it's a safe bet to say that the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path will probably not have a bridge that looks like this, but we may have a little nice stonework here and there.

The Carriage Roads used a lot of granite slabs on the uphill sides (left) for slope stabilization and drainage. Granite blocks were used as coping stones on the downhill (right) side for traffic safety - an early guide rail. The roads have a thick base and good drainage system to prevent erosion. There's a nice book titled Mr. Rockefeller's Roads by Ann Rockefeller Roberts that illustrates the history of the Carriage Path Roads.

The hiking trails are well integrated with the Carriage Paths. Here's a nice example of granite stairs with a rustic timber railing leading up to the Path. This looks like something Bob Wilkins could whip out for Shelton.

On a slightly less rustic note - this is a portion of the Brown Mountain Gate House that was created to keep cars off the Carriage Paths. Maybe we could build this in downtown Shelton as an entry for the Riverwalk.

This is the Asticou Map House in Northeast Harbor. It's just out in the middle of the woods over by Eliot Mountain with a map of the park and a bench to sit down.

The Map House didn't seem to have a vandalism problems like we've had in Shelton. Here's a low-maintenance granite bench in the Wild Gardens. This would be the Jim Tate Special that he's talking about installing at different locations along the RecPath. Good luck moving that slab Jim.

There are a number of rustic footbridges on the trails in Acadia. This one is on the North end of Jordan Pond, right before we went up the South Bubble Cliff Scramble. We latter found out that we probably shouldn't of taken a dog up that one, but Biscuit The Trail Terrier made it OK.

One trail we didn't take Biscuit up was the Beehive Trail. Ryan really wanted to hike the Precipice Trail since it is supposed to be the most difficult trail in the park, but The Precipice was temporarily closed due to falcon's nesting (silly reason to close a trail - it just makes hiking interesting). So Emma, Ryan and I climbed the Beehive instead (Ryan actually climbed it 3 times). The Beehive is actually listed as "the ugly little brother" to the Precipice with a series of iron ladders, bridges, and cliff scrambles.

The trail goes up some sections that are so steep the granite stairs are pinned into the ledge to keep the steps from moving.

The trail winds along the face of a cliff with some fun features. Here's a iron bridge over a vertical drop that even Emma was a little nervous about crossing, but she went right over it.

There's a number of iron ladder rungs and handholds set into the cliff face to make it easier to climb. It was foggy and misty when we went up, and later cleared out.

The amount of work that has gone into building Acadia's historic trails is incredible. Just look at the work that went into setting these iron rungs half-way up a cliff, by hand, over a century ago - amazing! The trails are challenging, safe (sort of), and great for families that like to hike. Just be prepared and the worst hazard you may face will be the dreaded "bunny ears".

Monday, August 9, 2010

Silent Waters Bird of Prey

During a recent guided hike around Silent Water, a group of us took a detour to the back of the Intermediate School where this very large bird of prey was screeching nonstop over our heads. A catbird down below seemed to be answering him. What a racket!

Lynn Reid snapped the photo. The bird seemed very white and gray. Not sure what it is, possibly a Harrier (Marsh Hawk). The call was not a typical "hawk" call - more of a shrill whistle similiar to the call of a Harrier. Harriers are usually seen along the coast over marshes.

Later, I (Teresa) lead another group along Turkey Trot Trail, where I pointed out a piece of quartz lodged in the trail that might be an arrowhead. We couldn't get it out of the dried trail immediately and left it. A couple days later I was able to did it out, and it indeed was an arrowhead.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Acadia Trails

It's always fun to go on a vacation to Acadia National Park. The Park offers some of the best hiking and biking anywhere with the dramatic views from the granite mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. The island has a rich history of highly crafted hiking trails and carriage path roads that is inspiring when it comes to trail building. Here's some examples of various trail construction that we can try around Shelton:

Dorr Mountain is the quiet mountain east of Cadillac Mountain - all the same great views, but without the crowds, because there is no road to the top of it. Here's the trail sign at the large cairn on the Dorr Mountain Summit. There are 5 really stunning trails up the east face that are the highlight of any trip to Acadia.

We took the free shuttle bus to Sieur du Monts Springs where they have the Nature Center, the Wild Gardens, the Spring, and the indian museum. There is a beautiful carved sign at the Wild Gardens and it's worth going in there even if your'e not a big plant person. Their volunteers do a nice job with the place and Teresa came back with some good ideas for the Eklund Native Species Garden.

We hiked out along the Kane Path from the Springs to the Tarn to get to the foot of our climb. The Park Service recently replaced this rustic looking footbridge over a stream.

Ryan & I did Kurt Diederich's Climb this time. The trail was constructed as a memorial in 1916 & contains some of the largest stones used in trail stairs anywhere on the island (and they were all built using hand labor).

There is a great paperback book titled "Trails of History" by Tom St. Germain and Jay Saunders for $14.95 that lists the history of all the trails in the park. One of the amazing facets of Acadia was that most of the land, and a lot of the improvements, such as the trails and carriage roads were built and donated to the Park Service by wealthy individuals and families that enjoyed Mt. Desert Island and wanted to see it preserved. Today it is one of our most heavily visited National Parks. Taking any of these trails will allow you to enjoy the park far from the crowds.

The trail follows a series of faults and cliffs using an ingenious series of granite stairs. It's a fun hike but bring lots of water. The blueberries and huckleberries along the trail were a great treat.

Here's more of the stairs going thru a crevice in a rock slide. And this is only one of 4 trails up the mountain face on this side that are like this. The others are Homans Path, Emery Path, and the Ladder Trail. All show amazing craftsmanship in providing ingenious solutions in scaling the mountain.

We passed two guys from the Parks Dept. trail crew who were on their way back down to mountain to carry up more gear for their days work. We later stumbled across their tool cache & Ry had to model the model the stylish Smokey the Bear hat. The Park guys had to buggylug a gas-powered rock drill, gas, water, bits, etc. on their backs up a mountain, and then go back for more stuff, just to start their work. Talk about logistics! I was sweating just hiking up the trail - those guys really work. We carefully put their stuff back and left them a little something for their trouble. Hope they were able to enjoy a cold one at the end of the day. Support your local trail builders.

Here's a section of granite stairs further up the trail that have been restored. You can see where holes were drilled in the granite boulders, then split using iron wedges and pins. The granite stairs hold up well, but everything takes maintenance after a century of use. The Park Service seems to have put a greater emphasis on restoring some of these historic trails the last few years, and that's a really good thing.

The Climb joins the Schiff Path which gradually winds up to the Dorr Mountain Summit. On one side is the mountain and on the other side just air. It's a really dramatic trail that you would not want to take a wrong turn on in the dark. In a number of places the granite boulders were set like paving stones. It took a lot of work to do this, but it works to prevent erosion.

Here's the view of Bar Harbor from the Schiff Path. I don't know why there's not more post cards, tee shirts and posters of these trails because they are amazing climbs. Sieur du Monts Spring is in the lower right hand corner and The Great Meadow is in the center.

Following the Summit we returned using the West Face Trail, and then went north on the Gorge Trail. The Gorge trail was a cool ravine that was a refreshing change from the hot summit. We had been experiencing some hot, dry weather when we went up, but I can see where the Gorge Trail would be tricky during high water.

We came back and hiked into Bar Harbor. The Jessup Path looks like it got a recent upgrade with this boardwalk.

We walked back thru The Great Meadow using portions of the Jessup Path and the Great Meadow Loop. This trail is an elevated crushed stone path through the marsh & was a unique persective that you don't get when driving by on The Loop Road. This is a good reason to fill in a little wetlands & we saw a nice buck in velvet. Too bad they prohibit dogs and bikes on this trail - Biscuit would've had a great time. Maybe the Parks Service should consider loosening this rule up a bit if people take care of their dogs.

The walk back along the roads into Bar Harbor was most difficult portion of our hike, but at least this hike ended in a trip to the ice cream parlor for a Pina Colada Smoothie. Now we could copy this experience in Shelton with our Shelton Lakes Nature Center, Brew Pub & Ice Cream Parlor..........

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wet 'n' Wild

On one of the rare temperate days of this July, the Shelton Trails Committee organized a fun Saturday, inviting all to join us in guided hikes, biking, and kayaking at Silent Waters. We had initially included sledding on the agenda, but the anticipated blizzard did not materialize. That aside, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

Enjoy the cruise? This father-son team won the prize for coolest looking boat. One of our goals was to get people out exploring the open spaces that they hadn't visited yet, and we think we succeeded.

Jim and Terrance inspect the flotilla before launching the first kayak.

In spite of the low water level, the hardy sailors were able to push off from our canoe launch. Bill was elected to test the waters and managed to keep his feet dry! (and his white sneakers shiny)

Terrance bids farewell to son Ryan, the sailor gone to sea.

Ryan joins father and son kayakers exploring the perimeter of Silent Waters. This small body of water attracts fishermen and floaters both, due to its serene and colorful nature. If not for its proximity to the road, you would think that you were in a primitive wilderness.

Emma has her learner's permit, but she hasn't attended the class on which side of the paddle goes up yet. "Why is this thing going in circles?"

While the Silent Waters Yacht Club was out paddling Teresa lead a group hike along the Turkey Trot Trail. Some folks got to explore some areas that they hadn't seen before. We passed a few trail runners, dog walkers, and other familys out enjoying the trails. We also had some mountain bikers, and two cute little girls on scooters enjoying the paved portions of the RecPath over by the Intermediate School.

Teresa points out a lurking alligator while Biscuit the Sea Dog is more concerned with the dock they are about to crash into.

It was a beautiful day, we did some new enjoyable things, and we had a nice turnout from a wide variety of folks out exploring and enjoying Shelton's greenways.