Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Great Paugussett Reroute of 2017 at Indian Well

Junction of the Well Trail and Paugussett reroute
The Great Paugussett Reroute of 2017 at Indian Well State Park is mostly complete and open for hiking. Come along on a hike up to the overlook and check out CFPA's work (click photos to enlarge). If you are heading northbound, the new section starts at Indian Well Road near the intersection with the side street leading to a neighborhood called The Maples. The big parking lot is usually closed these days, but there's a small off-season hiker lot further down the road to the Maples.

The blue blazes now head down the gravel path known as the "Well Trail" but quickly take a right turn and drop down to Indian Hole Brook to cross on stepping stones. The old route used to follow Indian Well Road to cross the brook via the bridge, and that is still an option if the stepping stones are flooded.
Crossing Indian Hole Brook on stepping stones
The large stepping stones were artfully placed by the CFPA "Rock Stars" using ropes and pulleys. Amazing work. The stepping stones blend in so well with the river that you have to stop and look for a moment to see them.  Once you see them, however, crossing is a delight. The old cobblestone bridge, a WPA project from the Great Depression era, provides a nice backdrop.

Stepping stone crossing
The terrain rises steeply from this point, but the new trail curves along the slope contours to switchbacks, gaining elevation much more slowly that the old route, which went straight up the hill. Volunteers put in a tremendous amount of work benching the trail into the side of the slope.

The new trail levels out briefly at a hemlock graveyard shelf, then rejoins the old trail briefly about half way up the slope before turning right to another new section. This part levels out for the next 0.2 mile mid-slope, following the contours as the trail heads north to get around a big rock formation. The old trail went straight up the rock formation, but it was hazardous and eroded.  There didn't seem to be any better way up the rock, so CFPA decided to outflank it.

Walking along the side of the slope.

The forest is beautiful and there are some very large trees. Lake Housatonic can get pretty noisy at times, and I was treated to live music by a band covering mostly 80's tunes for this entire hike. I believe the band was actually across the river in Derby. It was a bit annoying but eventually I just started singing along because why not? If you want a peaceful hike, I recommend mornings or going off-season.

The rock ledge rises steeply to the left, while the slope drops off towards the river on the right. The overlook is up at the top of the ledge.

Can't go that way
Finally the rock formation comes to an end and the trail starts heading uphill towards another switchback.

End of the rock

If you're hiking in the evening, as I was, you may notice the woods lighten up quite a bit as you come out from the shadow of the hill.

At the top of the rise the new trail will cross the old trail, which followed the top of the cliff. Now you have an option of following the blue blazes straight ahead to continue along the trail northbound, or taking a left turn onto the old trail, which is now a spur to the overlook.

Escaping the hillshade.
We'll take that spur to the overlook, which was cleared out this year so you can see the Housatonic. 

Housatonic Overlook
If you zoom in, you can see downtown Shelton. There's the dam and gatehouse on the river, with Riverview Park in shadow overhead. Beyond that are the buildings of Canal Street, and beyond that the Route 8 bridge. 

Zooming in