Monday, December 30, 2019

Pondering a New Tahmore Trail Route

Existing trail in red, flagged reroute in orange
(Google Earth with vertical exaggeration)
Last fall, the east half of the Tahmore loop trail was fixed up, so our attention turns to the west half. This section of trail has not been maintained in a few years as logistics and permissions are sought for a new route. The trail is managed by CFPA on land owned by the Shelton Land Trust and the State of Connecticut (Indian Well State Park), with support from the Shelton Trails Committee. It's part of CFPA's 825+ mile system of "Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails" and is considered a side-loop of the Paugussett Trail.

The old (existing) route always had bad footing along the southwest lobe, with some steep sections and a wicked side slope in places which was treacherous when covered with oak leaves and acorns.  A lot of people slipped and fell down. There used to be a scenic meadow there with cattle and at one point even alpaca, a highlight of the trail, but a large house in the style of a cabin replaced the meadow recently. The northwest section was much easier where the trail followed an old road, but took hikers along the edge of backyards. 

Flagged route in gray

At the same time, the nearby hilltop has seasonal views of the Housatonic River Valley through the trees and a sense of being at the top of the world. The goal of the reroute is to eliminate the steep sections of trail, pull the trail back away from houses as much as possible, and bring hikers to the top of the hill, a natural destination that's a 350-foot elevation gain from the two nearby parking areas at Indian Well. 

The hilltop has seasonal views of the river through the trees

 After a number of site visits we've marked a preliminary route with survey tape and are now waiting for review from CFPA headquarters and then the Shelton Land Trust. The old road section of existing trail would remain open as an easy bypass for locals who don't want to go up the hill, with a short connector allowing them to bypass the old southwest lobe.

Old Route (click to enlarge)
The flagged route is 0.1 mile shorter than the old route. The old route had an elevation gain of 190 feet going clockwise, a loss of 150 feet, and an average slope of 10% but with some very steep sections and bad side slopes. The new route would have a gain of 150 feet, a loss of 108 feet, and an average slope of 12% that is pretty steady.

New Route (click to enlarge)
The route that is currently flagged is a rough draft that could change drastically based on input from CFPA and the Land Trust. Stay tuned!


UPDATE January 10, 2020: CFPA has approved the reroute! Now all we need is final approval from the Land Trust.

UPDATE January 13, 2020: The Land Trust has given their final approval of the reoute. We are all set to go!

WORK PARTY: Saturday, April 4, 8:30 am to 12:00 pm, meet at the end of Tahmore Place. GPS address #30 Tahmore Place, Shelton, CT. Raindate will be April 11, same time. Great opportunity for High School community service hours.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wiacek Hardpan Leads to Soggy Paugussett

A freshly deepened drainage channel alongside the Paugussett Trail
During our wetter seasons, waterproof boots help when hiking the Paugussett Trail near Meadow Street on the section referred to as Wiacek Woods (pronounced something like WHY-uh-seck).  There are a series of meadows on this property, all of them pretty wet, and the woods are even wetter (that's why the old farmers didn't even bother trying to farm them). Wiacek Woods is up on broad hilltop or plateau, not a low area, so it seems like it should be drier than it is.

The culprit is hardpan, a compacted layer of till left by the glaciers that water can't drain through. Rainwater can't seep into the soil more than a couple inches, so it just sits there and causes trouble. Here's a great video somebody took on a golf course showing exactly how this works. There can be better soil under the layer of hardpan, which is the case in the video. Break through the hardpan, and the water can escape downwards. 


We're not able to hire some fancy deep aerator like a golf course can, and it wouldn't work in the woods even if we could. So we're stuck trying to channel water away where possible or providing some other means for hikers to get through the wet spots, like bog bridges or stepping stones (attention Scouts!)

The hardpan at Wiacek look like a rock when dug up
The best time to dig drainage channels is after a rain. You can see which way the water wants to go, and it's possible to break up the hardpan layer. When it's dry, that hardpan layer can be hard as a brick (hence the name).

When we first put the trail through, the water didn't seem too bad, but as the trail aged and the soil compacted along the treadway, the trail sank and became the low spot for water to accumulate and just sit there.  Tree roots also became exposed and are tedious to walk over. Over the years there have been many discussions about how best to remedy that. Bog bridges can be attractive and easy to walk on, but eventually rot out and need to be replaced. "Hardening" the trail with rocks is hard work, but lasts longer. The rocks can be slick and hard to walk on, though, especially if they are uneven or covered with freshly fallen leaves. A third option is to build up the treadway with mineral soil or crushed stone, especially in low areas with lots of roots that aren't all that wet yet.  A combination of all three may ultimately be used.

Another drainage channel dug to direct water off the trail
For now, if you walk this section during the wet season, wear some good boots!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

2019 Turkey Trot Hike

The 2019 Turkey Trot Hike was post-poned until December 8th due to inclement weather after Thanksgiving.  Today's weather was brisk and clear, which made for fine walking weather.

Sixteen well-bundled, but adventurous souls, left from Shelton Intermediate School on Constitution Boulevard North as part of the annual event.  There was no road race encountered while crossing the street to the kiosk at the trail.

We proceeded down the Recreation Path and turned right up the hill on the Turkey Trot Trail.  The footing was great due to all the maintenance activity done during the last couple of weeks.  Bob Wood was acting as Sweeper making sure we didn't loose anybody.

 Eversource and Iroquois Gas are getting ready to do some work along the powerlines near one of the streams that we crossed.  The footbridge was icy.  We were able to get up the newly re-routed section on the west side of the powerlines with no problem.

Walking along the trail we looped around the swamp out to Willoughby Road and came back parallel to Rt. 108.

Mark Vallaro lead the advance group as they pushed ahead trying to keep warm.  The trail along the powerlines and back along Rt. 108 was mostly clear of snow, but there were some icy patches.

A one point a plane above us seemed to be circling and searching for someone.   Possibly looking for Bob?

Nope they're not lost.  The remainder of the pack was coming up a little slower minding the icy patches.

Bill & Luis were leading the second group.  The air was crisp and invigorating - just keep moving along.  It was a good way to enjoy the open spaces after the holidays.  A lot of folks were out hiking, walking dogs, or enjoying a family event along the trails.

The bridge at Silent Waters was icy from all the earlier foot traffic packing down the snow.  Using the fence and railings was recommended.  Remember the micro-spikes for hiking later in the season.

Silent Waters is always picturesque.  Winter scenes are no exception.  Remember to stop and take it in when you're walking by.

Everyone heading back along the RecPath to Shelton Intermediate School and warm cars.  It was another fine event, and there were no traffic jams on Constitution Blvd..

After the hike, starting near the Jolly Woodsman, crossing the road, heading toward Willoughby Rd. and the mug, back along Rt. 108 & around Silent Waters, then back to SIS by the Woodsman.  Another successful hike and no one lost.