Sunday, April 30, 2017

Indian Well: More Overlook Clearing

We did some more work on the Indian Well overlook restoration today, and were rewarded with the unexpected sight of cars crossing the Route 8 bridge in the distance, along with the Derby-Shelton Dam and gatehouse. Cleared today were small trees or saplings that were tall like poles. The pictures below will speak for themselves. As always, click on the photos to enlarge.

Let's get started! 

After cutting some small trees down below, Terry takes out the most annoying one.

Teresa (the chainsaw buddy) spots some Columbine while waiting up above.

Last sapling for the day getting cut. 

The Derby Dam and cars going over the Rt 8 bridge are visible if you have
good eyes or binoculars 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Indian Well Reroute Part 1

Introductions. Look how clean everyone is. 
A crew consisting mostly of REI-Milford employees along with a few locals and CFPA pros took on the challenge of cutting in 600 feet of new trail near the falls at Indian Well. This is the first part of a larger reroute that will bypass the hazardous "butt-slide" up to the overlook.

Completed reroute in red.
The existing trail has two steep sections and a road walk, all hazardous. This section of the Paugussett gets a lot of use from park visitors who are out exploring but who are not hikers. They'll park at the beach and decide to walk over to the falls or the overlook and are not prepared to scale a cliff.

Building the trail down to the brook.
Thanks to the reroute, the first steep section is now closed, and there is also new trail section leading down to Indian Hole Brook. During the summer, CFPA's Rock Crew is planning on building a rock crossing so that the trail can link up with the unmarked trail to the Falls. If it gets flooded, people can always revert back to using the road bridge. In the meantime, people can either use the old route or pick their way across the stream on their own.

Colin explaining how to bench in the trail.

There was a LOT of earthwork on much of the reroute benching into the side of the hill. More work, but now the grade is much easier to walk and less prone to erosion. 

Up on the plateau.

A much easier walk.
Part 2 of the reroute will be longer, with the goal of bringing people up to the overlook without needing to climb up the steep rock formation. The new route will head north along the base of the rock formation, about half way up the slope, until the formation ends, before angling up the hill. There will then be either a spur to the overlook or the trail will do a loop back to the south up to the overlook.

All done! Time for pizza. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Indian Well Overlook Restoration

It's pretty sad when you stagger up a steep hill and arrive at the top panting only to discover that there's no view because all the trees grew back in. Last year we restored the Birchbank overlook, which people have been really enjoying. This year the old Indian Well overlook is getting the treatment.

To begin, we identified one large oak tree with a spreading canopy that could be cut to open up a view of the river. The family photo below is from 2006, but you can see there is one big tall oak with a spreading canopy. Get that baby out of the way, and that's a start.

The tree was flagged and gps coordinates recorded for the CT DEEP, which needed to grant permission to cut the tree in the state park. Joe Maler from the DEEP promptly walked up the hill to check it out and gave his permission to cut the tree. Colin Carroll from CFPA did the work.  Colin seemed to know what he was doing and after about 20 minutes of careful cuts and strategically applied wedges, he gave the signal that he was about to do that last cut. Watch the video below to see it fall. Wow!  Look at how far the trunk of the tree jumps as it lands!

You really need to click that video and go to Youtube with it maximized on a PC to get the full effect. 

After removing the big oak, there is still more to cut, but it's a huge improvement.

UPDATE May 9, 2017. After more clearing, here's the overlook now:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beating Around the Bush

A small section of the Paugussett Trail in Shelton currently passes through the edge of a pasture at the former Wiacek farm and onto a utility access road. Much of the access road has been topped with a thick layer of stone for use by heavy equipment and is not pleasant for walking. Our plan is to re-route the trail off this road and through an adjacent wooded area, bringing the trail back into a more natural state.

      click on photos to enlarge
Terry, Richard, and Val discuss the work details. It was supposed to be a warm, clear day, but once again Mother Nature kept us guessing as we labored through occasional brief showers
Clearing invasive barberry was a major project. Barberry spreads easily and has overgrown large sections of these woods

Heavy vines were also cut and cleared
We had help from Shelton High School students looking to pick up some community service hours.   
Richard is almost lost in this jungle of briars and vines while trying to clear the last section of the re-route  
We "Tom Sawyered" the strong, healthy high school guys into moving boulders to create an opening in this wall

                                                What was once jungle is now a cleared trail

Many thanks to our volunteers Eva, John G., Carla and Amanda, John P., Mark, Brendan, and Jimmy, and Shelton Trails Committee members Val, Terry, Jim, and Richard

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Killing Barberry

Japanese Barberry is an invasive shrub that grows heavily along some of our trails.  It nasty, has lots of thorns, doesn't die easily, harbors ticks, crowds out native plants and wildflowers.  In short, not nice to have in town parks and on trails.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station has a booklet on ways to remove barberry titled "Japanese Barberry Control Methods".  Methods including pulling, cutting, burning, and using herbicides on the plants.  Each method has their pluses and minuses, and will probably need to be repeated to be effective.

There are also a series of videos on You Tube from the UConn Extension Office regarding ways to control barberry.  There are 3 videos that give an overview of barberry and Lyme Disease.   Part 2 covers ways to control or eliminate barberry.

We had an earlier blog post in 2011 about Burning Barberry.  We had some success, but it's a stubborn plant to remove.  One option is to pull it up and dispose of it so it can't reroot itself back into the ground.  Some can be pulled up easily by hand early in the spring.  Larger clumps may be removed with a weed wrench; a heavy crowbar-like pry bar with a clamping foot that can grip the stem and pull the whole thing out.  Ours is from the Puller Bear Company in Canada.

Other methods including cutting; either manually with long handled loppers, or with a hand held brushcutter like the one below.

The brushcutter has a variety of heads; one of which is a triangular brush knife that is supposed to be good on barberry.

We're looking to try this one out soon.  Also shown is the Permethrin spray that is effective in killing ticks.  Spray your boots and pants before going into the brush.  It's effective for several washings after it drys.  Don't spray your skin with it though.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bridge Building 101

In this course, a.k.a., "Introduction to Bridge Construction", the student will be exposed to the joys and heartbreaks of creating a span over a pastoral woodland stream. Your instructors are dedicated engineers and laborers, having hands-on bridge building experience, mostly not catastrophic. The existing stream crossing along the Boehm Pond Trail was potentially hazardous, and the Shelton Trails Committee and several volunteers set out to create a safe crossing.

Click on photos to enlarge
Soon, hopefully, this will become a bridge
The work begins by leveling the 2x6s that will support the structure. While some worked on the bridge, hauling rocks to provide a firm base at each end, others cleared a trail leading to the crossing
The trail had to be clearly defined
"Looks good on this end!"

When it came time to fasten planks onto the main supports, it was discovered that we had screws, but the wrong screw bits! Bill, Eva, and Anthony search for anything adaptable. Jim just stares off into space
Fortunately good neighbor John ran home and was able to provide screws that matched our screw bits
Richard refused to get his feet wet, so much of the plank fastening had to be done from the sitting position

 Jim fastens the last planks
As the sole representative of his neighborhood present for the occasion, John is given the honor of being the first to cross the completed bridge. Ignore the safety hazard at the foot of the bridge
A safe crossing in a pleasing environment...a babbling brook
 While one group worked on the bridge, Terry and his gang of horse thieves were busy clearing and extending  the existing Boehm Pond Trail , following an old farm road to where it meets with Boehm Circle. (Due to privacy concerns, no photos of the thieves were available)
 Some portions of the old road are seasonally wet. Skirting these sections will be a job for a future work party, assuming the gang of horse thieves are released from prison and are available for honest, unpaid work
Bob shows Richard the trash he removed from the vicinity of our trail. The car is not part of the trash

Many thanks to those who helped...volunteers John and his son Brendan, Eva, Anthony, Mark, and Brandon, and Shelton Trails Committee members Bill, Terry, Sheri, Jim, Bob, and Richard

Monday, April 3, 2017

Birchbank Blowdown Buckup

A number of trees came down over the trails during the winter, including some large Tulips on the Birchbank Mountain trails.  Rather than a full work party a pair of Trail Committee members; Jim Taradine & Rich Skudlarek (which Google's spellcheck wants to change to Tardiness and Skulker for some reason) went out to clear the worst of the mess.

Here's Jim sizing up the mess.  Rich is probably offering helpful advice on how Jim should remove the tree.

Not sure if this was Rich's advice, but Jim started to take the tree apart with his bare hands.

But ultimately resorted to using chainsaws.

One of the trucks sprung back up after the weight was taken off.  Always fun when this happens quickly.

So if you happen to see 2 guys with chainsaws on the trails, sometimes pushing a rickety cart that looks like it escaped a World War II scrap metal drive, they are harmless.  Feel free to help them. Or come to one of our work parties; the next of which is 4/22nd at the Waicek property - see the separate page for Upcoming Work Parties.

The Trails Committee will hold a Spring Wildflower Walk at Birchbank on April 29th (Saturday) at 10:00 hike.  You can come out an enjoy not having to hike up, over, and around all of the blowdowns.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Far Mill River Kayaking

It rained pretty heavy last night and the Far Mill River was at bank-full level.  It was flowing good, but not flooding.  It was flowing good enough that it was attracting whitewater kayakers though.

Here's the guys putting on the gear.  They put in by the Gristmill Trail kiosk on Mill Street.

Here they are coming down the river along Gristmill Trail.

And there they go down toward the dam.  They took out at the dam and had so much fun doing it they ran that stretch a couple of times.

This is what the rapids looked like just upstream of Bridgeport Avenue.

They pulled out temporarily to by Wells Hollow Creamery and the UI substation.  The sewer pipe across the river at the powerlines was a nasty strainer with the high water.  They asked how the river was below here and I said it was OK except for the dam and rapids.  Their eyes seemed to light up and they asked how high the dam was.  So they decided to run the rest of the river and I helped them shuttle their van down to Rt. 110 at the take-out.

It was a cold day and it looked like they had all the right gear.  The 4 guys were from Quebec and were going to a race in Vermont, but the river was frozen.  So they were adventuring down south and saw a good listing for the Far Mill River.  With all the rain last night it was a perfect day for kayaking.
The water was a little milder down by Far Mill Crossing.  But it gave them a chance to warm up for the rapids ahead. 
Our open space is so nice it draws in tourists from other countries.  So long Francis, hope you and your friends had a good time in Shelton.