Thursday, August 29, 2013

It needs to be repainted ALREADY!

I've read that when maintenance crews get done painting one end of the Golden Gate Bridge they go right back to where they started and start repainting the whole bridge over again.

We know the feeling.

The Silent Waters sign was looking distressed this spring, so we took it down for refreshing.

The Eklund Garden Gate was looking pretty whopped too.  Being outdoors all year can take a toll on you.

But, with a little cleaning and some tender loving care it's back on the job.

Emma Gallagher repainted the Silent Waters Sign by the Intermediate School and it's also back in action.   Everybody always likes to show up at ribbon cuttings when something new is built, but one of the un-heralded tasks of any successful operation is taking care of things once they're build.  Thanks to all the volunteers that help out on Shelton Trails.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Letterboxing: Hiking With a Purpose

There are over a hundred letterboxes hidden along the trails in Shelton, with about forty scattered just along the Rec Path. People tend to think letterboxing is a child's game because it sounds a bit like a scavenger hunt, in the same way that golf might sound like a child's game because kids like to hit balls ;).

Put aside the misconceptions: Letterboxing was born in Dartmoor, England many decades ago by outdoorsmen who traded secret clues in smokey taverns. It was about demonstrating your navigational skills through difficult terrain. One outdoorsman would hide a container deep in the moors with his calling card and challenge others to find it. Eventually, small logbooks were placed in these hidden containers so the victorious could sign their names and prove they were there, and also see who else had been there, perhaps a good friend. And then people started placing rubber stamps in the containers so visitors could stamp their personal logbooks as if they were passports. Each rubber stamp needed to be absolutely unique, which lead to the folk art aspect of letterboxing that really sets it apart from the much more recent trail game of geocaching (geocaches MUST be founds with a gps unit, while letterboxes MUST have a rubber stamp).

This is not to say that letterboxing isn't enjoyed by families, but I've noted that many of the most avid boxers are retired, single, or have older children they can leave at home.  Letterboxers generally enjoy hiking, appreciate folk art, are self-directed problem solvers, and have a certain level of tenacity and tolerance for bug bites and other hazards of the trail. There is also a social aspect to letterboxing, with myriad events where boxers meet each other. Retired couples in particular find a pastime that is inexpensive, involves traveling, socializing, using their brains, and getting exercise.

Letterboxes contain a stamp (usually hand-carved) and a logbook.

"Find the path that symbolically links the edge of downtown Shelton with the edge of Huntington Center and if you are headed toward the Center come face to face with P#4609 about half way (we don't want to favor either side, do we?). Look left to a big red oak at the corner and check it's base."

If a letterboxer finds the "06484 Letterbox" using the above clues, he or she would open up the tupperware to see a hand-carved stamp and a small logbook inside. The letterboxer would have brought an ink pad, a signature stamp, and a personal logbook. An inked impression of the signature stamp goes in the letterbox logbook, while an impression of the letterbox stamp goes in the personal logbook. Everything is then resealed, and the letterbox is carefully rehidden in the same location where it was found so that no passerby can see it. Stealth is an important part of this very secretive game.  

Signature stamp
Sometimes clues are simple directions. And sometimes the clues are more like hints, and you have figure things out on your own. (What is "P#4609" in the above clue?) Sometimes you can't find the letterbox you're looking for, but you will certainly find adventure.  The search for letterboxes will bring you to new places and new people. If you go looking for a letterbox and see the stamp at right in the logbook, you'll know I've been there. And then maybe I'll see you at an event, or maybe we'll run into each other on the trail, clues in hand.

More information about letterboxing and clues to local letterboxes may be found at and    Two guided letterboxing hikes will be held in September by Trailhead Tessie, one for adults and one for families. See the Events section for details. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Emily Tarini's Scout Project at the Dog Park

It's too bad that we don't get more Girl Scout projects on the trails.  Some of them are quite good.  Emily Tarini's recent project at the Dog Park, though not a trails project, is at one of the gateways for the RecPath and is excellent.

Two custom benches were installed.  The routered letters and paw prints were a nice touch.

Emily's team also built a new picnic bench.

Another bench was installed overlooking the beautiful flower garden and the RecPath.  The Parks & Rec Dept. had just finished new curb along the driveway there.

Emily also repainted the Dog Park shed (love the color), installed timber guide rail (It's a good thing some of her family is in the construction business), installed planter barrels, and planted a variety of flowers and landscaping.

It was a very good job.  Thanks to Emily and her Gold Scout team.  We need more Girl Scout projects like this along the trail system.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Old Paugussett Route

Here are some old maps of the Paugussett Trail, known by some locals as simply the "Blue Dot Trail", which once stretched from Monroe to Stratford before it was cut off by subdivisions south of Indian Well State Park some time before 1971. The first map shown is from 1964.  The old trail is shown in the black dotted line, while a blue line has been added that represents the restored trail.

1964 Paugussett, with restored route in blue
The 1964 route headed west from Indian Well along Route 110 to Birdseye, crossed Saw Mill City Road somewhere near Means Brook Reservoir, then turned southeast and headed for what is now Aspetuck Village and the Huntington Woods subdivision.  The faded remnants of a blue blaze have been discovered on an old tree along Buddington Road where the trail crossed at the intersection with Old Town Road. At this point the old route and new route are converging. The two should meet when the new route is extended south of Buddington to the Old Kings Highway open space. That's as far as the trail can go for now unless we can get permission to cross private property. 

1946 route on a 2012 aerial

We also have a Paugussett map from 1946. The route is similar to 1964, though the trail was nudge over from time to time to when properties were developed.  The old route crossed through what are now the offices and commercial buildings between Commerce Drive and Bridgeport Ave, as well as Route 8, which did not exist in 1946. That's obviously not something we want to take the new version of the trail through. 

1946 map.  Remaining trail sections and new section are highlited in blue. 

Continuing south, the old trail crossed into Stratford and ended in Roosevelt Forest. There is still a blue blazed trail in Roosevelt Forest to this day which may be a remnant of the Paugussett Trail.  It may not be possible to reconnect the Paugussett Trail to Roosevelt Forest without extensive roadwalks, and at any rate that is something the Town of Stratford would need to be involved in. The most practical ultimate destination of the trail may be the Far Mill River.

Blowup of the 1946 map from Indian Well to Mill Street.

Old route shown on 2012 aerial.