Saturday, April 27, 2019

Wildflower Walk WrapUp

The 2019 Wildflower Walk was held under clear and windy skys at Birchbank Mountain Saturday.

Red Trillium were up.  As were some of the Dutchman's Breeches.  The Trout Lilly's were just getting started after a cold and wet spring.

There were two test plots surrounded by deer exclosure fences that had many more wildflowers and bigger wildflowers that the surrounding woodlands.  A high deer population impacts other areas of the park due to overgrazing.

Click on the photo and zoom in on the Trilliums inside the fence.

All the brooks were running due to the recent rains.  The drainage channels put in the scouts were holding up.

Checking out some Jack-in-the-Pulpits that were coming out.

Blue Cohosh and ferns were also visible near Upper White Hills Brook.

The brook was really running.  Everyone stopped and took pictures at the Lower Bridge.

The Brook looked more like something from the White Mountains than Shelton.

The flume was really running fast.  Only Bailey went in for a swim.

We had some familiar friends show up unannounced.  People come from far and near for the Wildflower Walk.  Rich and Luis checking out the Upper Bridge.

Upper White Hills Brook was very scenic.  New construction is beginning nearby.

There were good views of the Housatonic River from the overlook with the hills just starting to green up.

Bailey jumped right up on top of the boulder once the snacks came out of the pack.  She probably slept well that night for all the back and forth walking along the trail.

There are a few trees down along the trails that can be cut up.  Some had been up high enough to walk under, but have now gotten low enough to block the trail.  Now if only we could find someone who knows how to cut trees.....

It was another good hike.  Everybody did some exploring and had a good time, saw some wildflowers, and no one fell into a brook.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Shelton Lakes Kiosks & Brochures

Brochures, addresses, and maps!
The Shelton Lakes trail network can get a little confusing, so this spring we've been working on making things easier with new maps, trail colors, updated kiosks, trail signs, and assigned addresses.

Trail Map & Brochures: We've got a new map on an 11x17" trails brochure. It's on durable, water-resistant paper with a large map on one side and information about the trail system on the other. Look for the new brochure in our map boxes. The brochure is also posted online if you have the ability to print out 11x17 documents in color (see HERE).  The map has also been posted on most of the kiosks.

The Hope Lake picnic area & Oak Valley Trailhead is 226 Nells Rock Road
Parking Addresses: If you take a look at the new map on that brochure, you'll see that some of the major trailhead parking areas have addresses. These aren't official postal addresses, but are close enough to use for GPS driving directions. These addresses can be used for meet-ups and also for emergencies.

Red and blue blazes
We've added these addresses to the sign kiosks. Each kiosk will have a piece of paper identifying the approximate street address, and there are 4" black metal address numbers nailed onto the kiosk as well.

But wait, there's more! The three hiker lots on Nells Rock Road also have highly visible address plaques on the trees out by the road. Those parking areas can get confusing, with people going to the wrong lot at times. Numbers were also added to the gate under the powerlines that cross Shelton Avenue.

Trail Colors: Because there were three white-blazed loop trails, and just a lot of white blazes in general, we switch the middle loop trail (Oak Valley Trail) to red. This will probably be even more confusing at first for people not expecting is, but over time should make things easier (see previous blog post).

Trail Signs: In general, hikers are expected to use trail maps and understand how the trail blazes are color-coded to correspond with the trail map. Trail signs are a LOT of work and tend to be stolen as trophies. That said, we're in the process of creating some trail signs to be placed along the Rec Path at each trail junction, so that people can see that the cross trail is, for example, Turkey Trot Trail. These trail junction signs can be used as landmarks for people on the Rec Path. If you were to report a fallen tree on trail, you could say it's on the Rec Path near the junction with Turkey Trot Trail. The signs can also help trail users learn the names of the trails.

Of course, none of these steps will help for hikers who don't look at the kiosks, don't bring a map, and don't pay attention to trail blaze colors or signs. For those people: Good luck!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Reclaiming the Shelton Ave Kiosk

Shelton Ave kiosk "BEFORE"
You may have noticed a kiosk at Shelton Lakes that became a 2004 time capsule. The one on Shelton Ave under the power lines. Nothing was ever changed under the plexiglass. Here's proof:

"Currently (June 2004)"
There are two reasons for that. First, the kiosk design made it hard to open it up. You needed to dismantle it rather than just open some doors. And when we tried to do that a few times over the past 15 years, we discovered wasps, fled the scene, and moved on to other tasks. In March of 2019, we weren't expecting wasps, but when the kiosk was taken apart to replace the map, there they were, crawling about. It was a bit startling.

It's ALIVE!!!
The back side of the kiosk was packed with years of wasp nesting materials, and many wasps assumed to be dead were actually alive.

Backside nest with crawling wasps
Fortunately, the wasps were just crawling around and too cold to launch an attack. That seemed like the perfect time for an offensive. The wasps and both sides of the kiosk were sprayed with permethrin (normally used to treat clothing for ticks). It worked. Permethrin lasts for about a month, and hopefully would discourage any survivors from coming back to the kiosks.

Common Paper Wasp stunned by Permethrin
These were later identified as common paper wasps, and it looks like the same family may have been living in this kiosk for many years. With the wasps dispatched, the kiosk was cleaned out in preparation for a door redesign. The old paper map that was removed disintegrated into a thousand pieces as soon as it was touched.

Cleaned out and ready for repair
About a week later, Trails Committee member Terry Gallagher set out to convert the kiosk from one that needed to be unbolted to one with doors that can be easily opened. The doors had been made years ago, but had not been installed due to the wasps. Happily, Terry did not encounter any wasps while fixing the kiosk.

Adding kiosk doors
Installing the doors turned out to be more time consuming than expected. The roof braces were in the way. More parts were needed at Home Depot. That sort of thing.

All ready for new materials!
But in the end, it got done and is ready for new informational materials.  The map box was taken home for refurbishing. We have new Shelton Lakes brochures on order that will be going in the map boxes soon.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Oak Valley Trail to be Reblazed RED

Existing Trail Colors - Oak Valley Trail is WHITE
[UPDATE: Reblazing is now complete and Oak Valley Trail colored red. ] It's come to our attention that all the white trail blazes at Shelton Lakes are really confusing to most people and few people know the names of the trails. That becomes a problem for many reasons, like people getting lost and confused, trail reports with unhelpfully vague locations ("there's a fallen tree on the white trail off Nells Rock"), and the more serious prospect of confusion if an emergency response is needed.

We know this is going to add more confusion in the short time, but we've decided to change Oak Valley Trail from white to red to help with that problem. After people get used to it and everyone has the correct map, it should be a lot less confusing overall.

Future Trail Colors - Oak Valley Trail will be RED
Why were all the trails blazed white in the first place? To begin with, there were three disconnected loop trails, all blazed white because that color shows up best in low light. It only became confusing after the Paugussett and Rec Path were constructed. These linear trails cross all three loop trails multiple times, all of them blazed white. It's come to the point where many people don't even realize these are loop trails with names. So we're going to be working on that. 

By the way, Oak Valley Trail got its name because it follows an old roadbed for a spell that was once part of Oak Valley Road back in the 1800s, back when people with horses and wagons need to get from Nells Rock to Huntington Center.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring has Sprung

Nothing like mid-60's and sunshine to bring out trail users.

Including these folks out riding on Nell's Rock Trail.  We don't traditionally get a lot of horseback riders so it was fun seeing them. 

We had dog-walkers, joggers, mountain bikers, nature observers, and now horses.  It was a busy day on the trails.

The Nell's Loop Kiosk is one of several that are being upgraded with new maps and content for Spring.

Someone left some cheery painted rocks below the kiosk.

And over on the west side of town the Spicebush is just starting to bloom yellow along Boehm Brook.  The recently relocated bridge was looking good.

Trail Tip:  Remember that it's Mud Season.  If a trail is wet and mushy don't create a muddy mess by over use.  Spread out to some lesser used or higher and dryer trails, or wait until things dry out a bit to use the trails.  The RecPath and The Riverwalk are good all-weather surfaces.

A series of trail work parties and hikes are planned for the coming weeks to repair erosion and explore spring trails.  See the events and workparties pages for more info.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What's the Trail Address?

Hope Lake picnic area address
Trailheads don't get mail, so they don't have a postal address. Back in the day, no one cared. But GPS systems are now standard for deliveries, emergency response, Uber, and everyday navigation. More and more people want a simple street address instead of a big long description of how to get somewhere.
We've therefore taken the step of providing approximate street addresses to many of our trailheads. These are not official addresses, but should get you in the right general area. And we're placing these approximate addresses on the sign kiosks. Look for the black numbers nailed to the outside of the kiosk. In a few locations, the address are also posted prominently on entryway trees or gates. The addresses will be placed on our trail maps as well.

Pine Lake Kiosk is 133 Shelton Ave.
This should make it easier to tell people how to get to a specific parking location. For example, on Nells Rock Road there are three parking locations for hikers and sometimes people go to the wrong one:

  • 160 Nells Rock Road: Nells Rock Trail near L'Hermitage
  • 226 Nells Rock Road: Hope Lake Picnic area & Oak Valley Trail
  • 316 Nells Rock Road: Dog Park

Nells Rock Corner parking for Rec Path & Dog Park
Sometimes it doesn't work: When there are nearby houses, it's pretty easy to come up with an approximate address that makes sense and works when you plug it into Google Maps. There are a few spots where this doesn't work. The Birchbank trailhead, located where Indian Well Road and Birchbank Road meet, is one of those areas. No address seems to work for this spot. We do have some Google "Plus Codes" that can be used in lieu of an address if you are using Google Maps, and we'll post those in the kiosks and use them for events. For the Birchbank trailhead, you would enter "9v35+jg Shelton, CT" into Google Maps and that should give you a very accurate point to navigate to. Google Plus Codes are based on latitude and longitude but easier to enter into your phone.

Maybe some day procedures will change and allow for official addresses to be assigned to locations that don't have buildings. Until then, we'll do our best to estimate an address that will work in your phones.