Friday, December 25, 2015

I'm Dreaming of a Warm Christmas

Well 2015 is definitely shaping up as a weird winter.  We're got record high temperatures up and down the East Coast for Christmas and no snow in sight.  Some folks are complaining about the lack of snow, but after last year a lot of people are enjoying the warmth.

The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree along the Recreation Path at Lane Street has grown up.  Click here to see what it used to look like.

And so to has the tradition of everyone hanging an ornament or two on the tree to celebrate Christmas.  This year the Land Trust suggested using natural ornaments due to left over tinsel and glass from last year.  This created some back and forth discussion over what types of decorations were appropriate, some of which the Land Trust folks tried to accommodate but didn't realize all the ramifications of.

Some people got really creative making some natural ornaments to hang on the tree.

But the bottom line is enjoy the Christmas season, show the kids how to enjoy stringing popcorn and cranberries, be responsible and clean up after yourselves, have a wonderful time with your families, and enjoy Shelton's beautiful open spaces,

I took Biscuit out for a walk today & I was HOT in a long sleeved shirt on December 25th!!!.  What the heck.  It's a fluky year - enjoy it while you can.

Here's this year's Christmas theme song .

Eventually we'll get whacked by Old Man Winter and then it will be time for snowshoeing, but until then crack out those light hikers, shorts and tee shirts and hit the trails. 

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Your Shelton Trails Committee Volunteers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is it winter yet?

We're not complaining...the weather has been ideal for catching up on our Fall clean-up! With over 14 miles of trails in Shelton to maintain, we'll take all the good weather that can come our way!

Click on photos to enlarge
The ducks had the right idea. Just relax in the sun on Silent Waters!

It all starts with cranking up the leaf blowers. Harry fires up his machine
Terrance and Mary focused on clearing away invasive Russian Olive
Before: Leaf litter all but obscured the rec path between Constitution Blvd and Silent Waters
After: Much easier to walk, run, and ride your horse (if that's your means of transportation)

Harry disappears inside the Russian Olive that he's taking apart
"Where are we gonna put this stuff?"

Richard and Harry clear away the debris from the rec path
Found in the overgrowth: A birds nest transformed into a seed and berry stash?
At mornings end, one small step for the Shelton Trails Committee, one giant leap for......well, at least we cleared up part of the picture!

Thanks to Mary and Harry, our volunteers, for giving up their Saturday morning to help out, and to Terrance, Richard, and Jim (who failed to get into the pictures), from the Shelton Trails Committee.

Tahmore Trail 2.0 Blazes and Benching

Anybody see a trail here??
In November, CFPA asked Terry & Teresa (the one writing this post) to become Trail Managers for the Paugussett Trail from the Monroe border to Indian Well State Park, including the side trail known locally as Tahmore Trail. The first order of business was to assess the trail and see what needs to be done. We decided to start with Tahmore Trail on the assumption it had been overlooked for several years. 

A very faded blue/yellow blaze

We were right. Wow.  Many of the blazes were faded, and with a thick covering of fresh oak leaves on the ground, finding the trail was not easy. First order of business: Reblaze. There were also a few areas with brush that needed to be cut back and some blowdowns to be removed. Finally, the trail has always suffered from poor footing. There are a few steep spots, but worse is the cross slope along one section. The combination of the cross slope and slippery oak leaves made the trail downright hazardous, even when I was wearing microspikes on my boots, so the trail needed to be leaf-blown immediately. Lots of work to do! 

There. That's better. 
The previous blazes were the tradition CFPA blue blaze with a yellow "dot", signifying that the trail was a side trail off of the Paugussett. CFPA has changed that style of blaze because it required the blue paint to dry before the yellow paint was added over it. The new style consists of the top two thirds of the blaze painted blue, and the bottom 1/3 painted a secondary color, in this case yellow.

Clarified trail junction. Go left to the Paugussett Trail,
right to do the Tahmore Loop. 
We reblazed about 3/4 of the trail, but left a section unblazed where it comes very close to homes and backyards while we think about a possible reroute. That section is easy to follow, so we're not too worried about people losing the trail. There is some yellow survey flagging out there marking the possible reroute. The new route would take the trail up the hill to an open area and seasonal views. 

Before: bad cross slope, faded blazes. Where's the trail??
After we got the trail back to where people could follow it, we decided to improve the footing along a hundred-foot stretch where there was a steep drop, a bad cross slope and a steep rise. This section was rerouted to follow the contours and eliminate the drop, but to do so had to be benched into the side of the hill. It's a lot of work, but is a huge improvement. We will be looking for Eagle Scouts and others who are interested in improving the footing along this trail. Many opportunities here!

Benching in a trail is hard work. 
Rocks in the treadway are moved to the downhill side.
Much better! The original trail was about 30 feet down hill. 

Update 12/28/2015: 

For Christmas, Emma Gallagher routered up a sign for the Paugussett/Tahmore junction as her father's present. Check it out: 

Also, we've proposed the following reroute to the Shelton Land Trust. The reroute would move the trail away from backyards and driveways, and add in a scenic hilltop with partial seasonal views of the Housatonic River: 

Proposed reroute
The reroute would go here instead of next to people's back yards. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dining al la Cart

We're having a streak of unusually mild December weather so take advantage of it.  You never know what you'll find.

Like this guy, out enjoying an early dinner on the 3rd Hole at Oak Lane Golf Course.  I decided to walk 9 holes after getting our Christmas Tree and this Red Tailed Hawk was polishing off a squirrel and allowed me to play through without any problems.  With this weather the animals are still all out and the leaves are down so you can enjoy the outdoors in unexpected ways.

We got our tree this year at Jones Farm.  There were some beautiful overlooks of the White Hills.  These are good examples of private properties that encourage walking, just please buy something and support your local farms.  Helpful Trail Tip: go early.

There was this really cool carving from the Civil War era in the wreath barn back at the yard.  I hadn't seen it before.  It's folk art of cutting the family tree, or possibly an early trail work party?

Our next work party is Dec. 12th at the Turkey Trot Trail & RecPath - come out and join us if you have time and maybe you'll see something interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Turkey Trot Trek

It turned out to be a great day to work off those Thanksgiving calories, and 22 folks (and one pooch) took advantage of the opportunity. The weather cooperated and the trail had been prepared the day before. So off we went!

 Click on photos to enlarge
We met at the Shelton Intermediate School
Terry explained the route we would be taking

The entire two miles of the trail had been prepared the day before. Leaves and especially acorns were blown clear, brambles and overgrowth were cut back (Thank you, volunteers!)
Terry leads the way
At an intersection on the powerlines, Terry points out the different route options available to hikers
A short uphill climb
Happy hikers near the end of their trek
It was a great day and a pleasant hike. We had some new folks as well as returnees, and all appeared to have a good time. See you at the next hike!

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Saturday, November 28, 2015


We wanted to make it easier for the participants in the following day's Turkey Trot Trek, knowing that the Thanksgiving feasts would slow down the bloated hikers for several days, so this work party sort of carved the trail rather than the turkey.

 Click on photos to enlarge

Volunteers gather at the starting point for our work party. Eva thinks this is fun, not realizing that work is part of the party!
First things first. "How do we start this darn thing?"
After clearing leaf debris that was backing up this little brook, Bob trimmed away encroaching brambles from the trail
Mary walked behind mike, cutting away at wayward branches and brambles

Mike put his leaf blower to work clearing a path through a thick layer of leaves. Acorns were also in abundance this year, creating a dangerous situation , especially on slopes, where it was like walking on marbles. In the background, Richard had started from the other end and met Mike here

Luis and Terrance cut away the invasives, such as Russian Olive, that were closing in on the trail

The Turkey Trot is a great walk, passing through picturesque woodlands and providing a fun and healthy means of getting that exercise you've always said that you needed

 Many thanks to Mike, Mary, Luis, and Eva for volunteering to help us out on this day. Shelton Trail Committee members toiling away were Bill, Terrance, Bob, Jim, and Richard

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Screw the Gator, we gotta get some of These!

We have a John Deere Gator that we use for trails maintenance.  It's The World's Greatest Wheelbarrow.  We can haul stuff, tow stuff, mow stuff, and maybe even carry an injured person out of the woods (EMS's job technically).  But it's a great tool and and we've gotten a lot of heavy duty use out of it.

 Here's Jim and Rich mowing the RecPath at Lane St this summer with The Gator.  It's a great tool for trail maintenance.  We've been hemming and hawing about the best time to get the water pump fixed on the Gator this Fall, what Martinka's schedule was, how to fit it into our mowing schedule, etc.

Screw the Gator, lets get a couple of these bad boys.  If we get not one, but two of these (you always need a back up), we could not only do trail work, but we could catch illegal ATV's on the trail.  Heck, if Bill can get the Gator airbourne imagine what he could do with one of these things (Rich, that is not an invitation to Photoshop).   Whatever you do, do not stick Bill's noggin on a Dukes of Hazard photo.

 I was getting a Stihl kit to add to my leaf blower so I could clean my gutters at home. I picked it up at CT Powersports in Wallingford, and they had enough ATV's and off road vehicles to look like the scene from a Mad Max Movie.  I was amazed.

I asked one of the guys there what these go for, ballpark.   He said "$9,000 and up, the sky's the limit".  These things not only have heat, they have windshield whippers, roll bars, and cup holders!  These rides are sweet.

And they had a whole building full of them, a big building, plus more outside!  Plus they had other outdoor toys like jet skis and motorcycles.  This place was impressive.

It's amazing how much money is being spent on these vehicles.  I say in jest that we should trade in our John Deere Gator, but it's been a great tool for us, and we would never get rid of it.  I wonder where are all the places that people ride these off-road vehicles and ATVs; do folks have permission to ride them legally there?  The City of Shelton has banned motorized vehicles from City streets, open spaces and parks due to all the damage and complaints.  So too has the CT DEEP at State Parks, Aquarion Water Company at their watershed property, UI, Eversource, Iroquois Gas at their ROWs, and most of the major farms and landowners at their property.

They look really cool, but where do people ride these expensive toys legally?  Maybe some of the people who sell these things could fund some privately-owned ATV parks where they can ride legally.  It seems like the market is there, the questions are where can they be ridden legally, and how high can Bill get one of them to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

We Blew It!

Crisp Autumn air, blue skies, a slight breeze, the fragrance of newly fallen was a great day to be outdoors, removing Mother Nature's annual prank from our trails. This day we chose to clear our Bluff Walk trail that runs the length of Riverview Park, through the woods on the slopes below.
 Loaded for bear with back-pack leaf blowers and old-fashioned rakes, we set out to once again clear a path through the wilderness of Riverview Park

 Click on photos to enlarge

Bill, Eva, and Val work together as a team. In some stretches the leaves were almost knee deep and wet, which required muscle work with the rakes before the leaf blowers could do their job 

Richard and Bill meet up. Richard had started at the farther end of the trail and worked his way toward Bill

"Val, you're holding it wrong!". Actually, in many instances the leaves were so deep they had to be shoveled out of the way

 Bill and Eva insect some of their work. This trail overlooks the Housatonic, noticeable with the leaves gone from the trees

"It ain't over 'til it's over", as the late Yogi Berra would say. Some trees were still holding out as we finished. We'll get them next Fall!
Thanks to volunteers Eva and Val, and also to Trails Committee members Jim and Terry, who were out of camera range, purportedly working at the other end of the trail, but probably sitting in Dunkin' Donuts wondering what to have for lunch