Thursday, June 28, 2018

Another Paugussett Reroute at Birchbank

Birchbank Reroute Location

The latest reroute of the Paugussett Trail bypasses what may have been the most tedious -- and at times treacherous -- section of the entire trail. The new trail makes hiking from Indian Well to Birchbank Mountain a safer and more enjoyable trek. There are still some challenging spots along this stretch of the Paugussett, notably "The Boulders" where you need to use your hands, but some hikers find the Boulders to be the fun type of challenge. 

Old route - straight up the loose rock on a 40% slope
The south end of Birchbank Mountain is very steep and covered with rock rubble. In an effort to circle around a particularly bad section, the old trail veered down the slope before heading straight up the rocky hill. Years of erosion loosened some of the rock and it wasn't clear where exactly you were supposed to put your feet. The "trail" was essentially ten feet wide. Northbound hikers descending this hill had to use extreme caution, especially if it was wet out or there were fresh leaves.  

Old route went down then back up. New route is more level.

The new route is shorter with less elevation gain as it cuts straight across the bony hillside. It starts by passing through a very difficult area with lots of boulders and massive Yellow Birch tree roots over mostly level ground, then rises gradually through an area of ferns before leveling out again to cross another rocky area. The reroute was challenging to construct but much easier and safer to hike. 

The rocks and yellow birch roots were a challenge at the north end

Middle section: Much easier getting up the hill now!

South section levels out, passing through more rock

Here are profiles of the old route compared to the new route. The new route is about sixty feet shorter because it cut the corner. The old trail went down 26 feet in elevation and then gained 46 feet. The new trail starts out level, then gains 20 feet, then levels out again. The old trail had a 42% slope on loose rock. The new trail has a slope of 14% on packed dirt. 

Slope profiles (southbound)
So now if you want to do the Overlook to Overlook hike between Indian Well and Birchbank Mountain, it should be a bit more enjoyable.

Overlooks at Indian Well and Birchbank

Friday, June 8, 2018

It's June - Mountain Laurel Time

In case you live and work in an underground bomb shelter, It's June and the weather is great outside!  And bye the way, the Mountain Laurel are spectacular along the Recreation Path.

Some times we get so wrapped up in chores, sports, home improvements, etc. that we forget to see what's around us.  We see some attractive spring flowers as we speed by on City streets, but do we really see them?  They are nice everywhere this year, but one really good place to see them is along the powerlines by the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path. 

The best stretch is between the Nells Rock Parking Lot at the Dog Park, and Great Ledge going past Oak Valley Road.  There are a lot of good sights along the entire RecPath, but you'll see a lot of picturesque views with very little effort by taking a walk along this stretch this year.  Take your time and soak in the scenery.

There are places where you'll feel like your walking through a tunnel of flowers.  It won't last forever, so carve out a few minutes and go for a short walk this weekend, or possible a longer one.  There's a variety of reasons that residents like Shelton's greenways.  Go for a walk and you'll be pleasantly surprised along Shelton's trails and open spaces.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

2018 Trails Day Hike - Overlook to Overlook

On a muggy and tropical National Trails Day, we had a challenging hike on the Paugussett Trail from Birchbank Mountain to Webb Mountain.   We had previously spotted cars at Webb Mountain Park in Monroe for the drive back to Shelton after the hike.
The map shows the route of the hike. It was 4 miles, with 800 feet of elevation gain, and 3 stream crossings.

Portions of the Blue/White trail up the hill from Birchbank Road were steep, and hot, but with a number of stops we arrived at the first Housatonic River overlook.  And there was a breeze!.

Birchbank Mtn overlook

 Following a short breather at the overlook we went down to Upper White Hills Brook.

Crossing Upper White Hills Brook (at the chimney)

This was one of three pretty streams that we crossed.  The two four-footed hikers with us enjoyed each stream crossing.

The first of the brief road walks

This stretch of the Paugussett involves 2 road walks through quiet residential neighborhoods.   We said hi to folks out mowing their lawns and doing yardwork as our party trooped past.  A little red fox was spotted running across one yard not too far from a road named Little Fox Run.  We then climbed some of the new stair along the "Poet Path" section (a number of streets in this neighborhood are named after famous authors).

Eventually we came out on Thoreau Drive, had another shorter road walk, and came to the crossing of Round Hill Brook.  Congratulations the party made it to Monroe.

New bridge at Webb Mtn Park

Our event was supposed to meet with a Monroe event near the new bridge that the girl scouts had constructed along with a trail blazing project.  They were up at the second Overlook when we arrived, but we still admired the bridge.  It was very sturdy.

Maple-leaf viburnum

The Maple-leafed Viburnum were starting to blossom along the trail.

Pink Ladyslippers

As were the Pink Lady Slippers near some of the campsites.

We met David Solek, the Monroe Park Ranger, up at Goat Rock and learned about the history of the park and Monroe's wayward livestock.

The views of the Housatonic River from Goat Rock were great, and there was another breeze.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch, and then shuttled back to Birchbank Mountain.  The number of cars was perfect for the number of hikers, and we arrived just as the thunderstorm warnings were being broadcast.  It pays to start the hike early sometime.

We had 23 people, plus 2 dogs, from Shelton, Monroe, Derby, Milford, Bridgeport, Stratford, and Haddam.  Talk about your Trails Day Tourism.  Everybody enjoyed the challenging hike, but the cold drinks and showers were welcome afterwards. Thanks to everyone who came out or helped.