Sunday, April 26, 2020

Fences Fixed, Again

For the second time in two weeks vandals knocked down sections of split rail fence along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path at Silent Waters.  The RecPath runs along the top of the historic dams, and the fences are there to protect users from falling off the steep stone wall face of the dams.  The first time happened before Easter weekend, and the second time of Orthodox Easter weekend.  And this vandalism is occurring during record use on the RecPath and all of Shelton's trails.

The Trails Committee is hampered in organizing work parties right now due to the Coronavirus.  Fortunately Bill Dyer, Trails Committee Chairman was able to get the folks from Dan and Dave Landscaping to repair the fence.  They have done work for the City on the RecPath in the past and do a good job.  They were able to use the remainder of the spare posts and rails that we had on hand and fix the worst sections of fence so it's tight and sturdy.

We have a lot of people out using the RecPath right now.  Including many families with toddlers and we'd like to make sure things are enjoyable.   This past Saturday all the trailheads were mobbed with people enjoying the good weather.
Thanks to Dan and Dave for the nice fence repair.  And thanks to Bill for organizing things so quickly.  Enjoy and respect Shelton's trails and open spaces.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Silent Waters Vandalism: Trails Committee Reaction

On Wednesday morning, April 8, a Trails Committee (TC) member reported that vandals had removed two fence posts and rails on the northern section of the Silent Waters Dam, resulting in a 30 foot gap. The drop-off in that area is about 10 feet. The posts and rails were dumped in several locations below the Recreation Path. Some of the rails were broken and therefore additional rails will have to be procured for replacement.

Very early on Thursday before the rain, another TC member went to the scene and retrieved the posts and unbroken rails using a rope, then replaced the posts in the holes and installed the top rails. Additional rails were criss-crossed for safety. 

Later in the day after the rain stopped, a third TC member went to the area and was able to install the top two rails to make the fence much safer for the large number of hikers, dog walkers and joggers using the Rec Path. 

The replaced posts are still wobbly and are not back to the proper depth. When the Trails Committee can get back together on the trail, the two posts will have to be removed, material scooped out from the bottom of the holes, the posts replaced, material packed around the posts and three rails inserted to fill the 30 foot gap. 

Sadly there are people out there willing to do damage to the Shelton trails in spite of the current situation that we are enduring. Shelton has kept our trails open despite other town’s restrictions and closure. If anyone sees vandalism or other criminal issues, please report to the Shelton Police

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Our Favorite Walks Part 6: Teresa Gallagher

Indian Well to Birchbank: Heart of the Paugussett

by Teresa Gallagher (Natural Resource Manager)
This post is part of a continuing series describing the Trails Committee members favorite jaunts along Shelton's thirty miles of trails. There are many types of trails located across the city, from the handicapped-accessible Rec Path to the rugged Paugussett Trail. 

The blue-blazed Paugussett Trail at Burritts Rocks
When I'm in the mood for a local hike and have a few hours to spare, I head over to Indian Well State Park and walk from the beach area up to the overlook at Birchbank Mountain and back again, with a little loop while I'm at Birchbank. The loop is made using the blue/white connector to Birchbank Trail (white) and then to the Paugussett, so I'm arriving at the overlook heading southbound on the Paugussett. It's a 3.5-mile round trip (print map), but feels longer due to some very rocky sections known as Burritts Rocks.  All that rock at the top of the steep riverbank gives the trail the feeling of the Appalachian Trail in northwest Connecticut. Like the Paugussett Trail, the Appalachian runs along the top of rugged hills overlooking the Housatonic River.  I'm also able to check on the condition of the trail as the CFPA Trail Manager for the Paugussett between Indian Well and the Monroe border. 

This part of the Paugussett has had a lot of recent improvements, so if you hiked it five or ten years ago and didn't care for it, try it again. In the past five years, the Birchbank overlook has been cleared out so you can see the river, and there have been a number of reroutes to bypass the most treacherous and tedious spots and to pull the trail back away from houses as much as possible. The trail is still challenging, but less tedious and more wild and rewarding.

It's not a hike I do if it's wet outside. And if I have my dog along, I often turnaround at the beginning of the worst rocks because I don't need a leashed dog lunging after a chipmunk while I'm trying to keep my balance going from rock to rock.

CFPA volunteer Bill worked tirelessly on the big steps in 2017
I park in the off-season lot across from the main entrance to the beach on Indian Well Road. A white-blazed access trail heads immediately up some massive oak steps. Each step took a CFPA volunteer 2.5 hours to build, and there are over fifty steps. It's a work of art. 

In April, Dutchman's Breeches and Trillium bloom above the steps as you continue ascending the hill.  Take a right when it levels out and follow the  blue blazes of the Paugussett Trail northbound.

The first half mile along the Paugussett is pretty easy. Then you cross scenic 'Blowdown Brook' and the trail immediately starts angling up the hill, up and up. We call this Hickory Hill because the houses at the top are on Hickory Lane. As it climbs, the trail is skirting around the beginning of Burritts Rocks, heading for the top of the boulder field because it's impossible to go through it. You'll start to see more ledge and boulders as you climb, but the real rock is still out of sight down the hill. When you get to the top, the trail is squeezed between the precipitous rockfall on the right and some houses on the left. Reroutes have pulled the trail down the hill a bit further from the houses, so instead of feeling like you're in someone's backyard, you momentarily glimpse the houses through the trees when the trees are bare. 

New section near "Border Brook"

The next stream is 'Border Brook'. Not a real name, that's just what we call it. It's the brook near the border between Indian Well and Birchbank Mountain.  There should be a Shelton open space marker on a tree at the brook. This is a recent reroute and I just love this spot. The reroute was the most technically challenging section of trail I've ever done. I didn't think I would ever find a feasible route through that terrain, but there it was. 

"The Boulders"
The trail heads up the hill some more and level out briefly before getting to the heart of Burritts Rocks. First up is "the Boulders."  You'll need to use your hands to get over them. Follow the blazes carefully through the boulders for best results. 

Area known as "the Caves"

Next up is "the Caves." A jumble of ledge and giant boulders have resulted in nooks and crannies that resemble little caves. Not all are visible from the trail, so it can be fun to stop and explore.

It's all rock underfoot as you descend from the Caves. Go slow and watch your step. The trail soon takes a left onto a new section and cuts across the boulder field. The old route used to go straight down the steep hill on loose stones that were both tedious and treacherous. The new route is still extremely rocky, but the tread is solid and much more gradual.

Shortly before arriving at the Birchbank overlook there is a junction for the blue/white Birchbank connector. At this point you can continue heading directly to the overlook (0.1 mile), but I like doing a little loop at Birchbank to stretch my legs after the tedious rocky section. Take a right and follow the blue/white blazes down the hill (made less steep in 2020). This was part of the Paugussett Trail for a few decades, so it's well-worn. The connector trail ends at Birchbank Trail (white). Take a left and go up the hill gradually through the mountain laurel and eventually the trail will have both white and blue blazes until the trail splits. Go left on the Paugussett, now southbound, and after a short climb you'll find yourself at the Birchbank overlook. 

At the top is the overlook of Lake Housatonic 400 feet below. If the leaves are off the trees, you can look left to see Laurel Lime Ledges across the river in Seymour. Then check out the nearby trail register.  People leave notes in the logbook, and I like to stop and read them.
Housatonic Overlook

Trail register near the overlook
The way back to the parking lot seems a lot easier and quicker than the hike to the overlook. The trickiest footing is uphill instead of downhill (the worst footing is always better to do uphill), and there is a lot of gradual downhill that goes fast (you're descending about 350 feet). Some people prefer to make a loop by continuing on to Birchbank Trail and then taking the railroad tracks back to the parking area. It's illegal but there are no trains and people do it. I've done it once or twice but with all the recent trail improvements I like to just go back the way I came. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Our Favorite Walks Part 5: Terry Gallagher

Gristmill Trail: A lot of scenery for a short amount of walking.
by Terry Gallagher

This post is part of a continuing series describing the Trails Committee members favorite jaunts along Shelton's thirty miles of trails. There are many types of trails located across the city, from the handicapped-accessible Rec Path to the rugged Paugussett Trail. 

Gristmill Trail
One reason people choose a favorite trail is convenience, and this one is within walking distance for me.  Most of the trail follows the Far Mill River and it gets used a lot by fishermen accessing the water.  The trail itself is only 0.3 miles long, but my walk to the trailhead adds length for a total round-trip walk of about one mile. There's a parking area at both ends of the trail on Mill Street. I walk in on the east end of the trail near the intersection with Judson Street (#140 Mill Street). That's the smaller pull-off. Here's a Trail Map. 

In the Winter the River can look like a Christmas card with all the trees frosted with snow.

The Spring brings new growth, Spring freshets, fishermen, and the occasional whitewater kayaker following a storm.  Portions of the trail are temporarily underwater from time to time during floods.   The trail may get wet for a while, but it's better than having someone's home or business flooded out.  It's a good reminder why we need lots of open space along the rivers and floodplains.

Summer offers a cool respite from hot days by the historic mill dam.  At one time the Far Mill River was dotted with water-powered mills as settlers moved to the far end of Stratford to found Shelton.  The trailheads along Mill Street reflect the historic character of Shelton's first designated Scenic Road.

Early Fall along the river can be a striking walk when the trees bring on The Color.  Gristmill Trail is a pretty stroll along the Far Mill River with a lot to offer for very little effort.  This trail is a treat in all seasons of the year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Armchair Tour of Boehm Pond Trail

Lately I’ve been avoiding the overcrowded Rec Path and seeking less-used trails. Everywhere I go, I meet people looking curiously at the trailheads, but a little nervous about venturing into the unknown. I thought a few armchair tours might be helpful.

Yesterday, I walked the Boehm Pond Trail, a quiet gem on the West side of town. There are two access points. There’s a small pull-off across the street from 99 Farmill St. and more parking at 70 Winthrop Woods Road, at the bottom of the hill just past the guardrail. I started at the latter.
A red-blazed trail crosses Winthrop Woods Road at my starting point. I headed across the street (North), towards Boehm Pond. Until recently, you had to take a short side trail less than 1/10 mile up and to the left for a view of Boehm Pond. That’s no longer necessary. Beavers have changed the landscape, giving hikers a water view right from the main trail.
These blazes indicate a short side trail to the left for a better view of Boehm Pond, and the main trail straight ahead.
View of Boehm Pond from the end of the side trail. Those trees with their feet in the water used to be on the shoreline. Beavers changed that!
The red trail is flat and easy to follow, just a tad muddy in a couple spots.
The trail beckons.
About ¼ mile from the road, you’ll cross a stream on some stepping stones.
Rock-hop across the stream.
Shortly beyond that, there’s a sign indicating the end of the open space. Thanks to a pedestrian easement, you can continue down the trail all the way to the end of Boehm Circle.
A pedestrian easement allows hikers to continue along the trail past this sign to Boehm Cirlce
I opted to walk down Boehm Circle, then left on Farmill St. and left on Winthrop Woods Road. Alternatively, you can trace your steps back to Winthrop Woods Road and cross the street to continue on the red trail on the other side of the street.
The red trail continues across Winthrop Woods Road, to the right of the evergreen.
Once you enter the woods, you’ll go down a short hill and across a wooden bridge.
The stream crossing became LOTS easier after the bridge was installed.
Trout lily leaves are poking up everywhere. Look for their pretty yellow flowers in a couple weeks.
Heading uphill, the red trail ends in about 1/10 mile, where it meets the white trail. Bear right and continue up the hill, following the white blazes. In another 1/10 mile, the trail bears sharply left (the path to the right leads to the parking area on Farmill St.).

Once the trail turns, it levels off and parallels Farmill St. You’ll pass a couple other neighborhood access side paths. Ignore them and keep following the white blazes.

The trail eventually bears left, turning away from Farmill St. Keep your eye out for a sharp left turn in the trail, marked by two white blazes, one canted to the left above the other. Take that left and keep following the white trail.
Blazes arranged like this mean "the white trail
turns left here."
On other trips, I’ve seen a large flock of turkeys on this section of the trail. They love the huge supply of acorns there.

A yellow-blazed trail meets the white on the right. It’s a “u”-shaped trail that meets the white again further along. I continued on the white and took a right on the yellow trail at the bottom of the hill, making a sort of figure-8.

At this time of year, the yellow offers a nice view of the stream below.
Enjoy the water view and keep a lookout for wild turkeys!
A plank bridge makes it easy to get across the boggiest spot.
The easy way across the bog.
Once across, the trail heads back uphill and joins the white trail, where you can retrace your steps back to the red trail that will take you across the wooden bridge and back to your car. Total mileage of this route is 2 miles.

Tahmore Trail Reroute Complete

The Red Roof Promontory, partly blazed 
The west half of Tahmore Trail has been rerouted and reopened. Originally, this reroute was going to be completed on April 4 with a big work party, but due to the ongoing pandemic, all work parties have been cancelled and probably will be for a long time. In the meantime, the number of people on the trails has just exploded. So a couple of us just went ahead and cleared the trail.

It's open!!
This is rugged terrain, and a few parts of the new route go along the side of a hill. We were going to have those sections all leveled out and dug into the hill on April 4, but it was not to be. We did get the worst sections leveled off, and will continue to improve the tread a little at a time. We'll get to it! But if anyone with a strong back needs community service or just something to do, let us know. We'll supply the tools if you supply the labor. 

More of the trail will be dug in like this

There is always, always a golf ball
The newly improved Tahmore Trail is a really nice 1.0 mile loop, encompassing the Indian Well overlook (formerly a part of the old Paugussett Trail) and now the hilltop we've been calling 'top of Tahmore.'  The footing is a lot better than the old trail, even with the parts that still need to get dug in.  A really nice 'lollipop loop' is to start at Indian Well across from the beach, go up the stairs, hang a left on the Paugussett, continue up hill to the overlook (an elevation gain of 200 feet) and then do the Tahmore Loop (another 100 feet up). A good, quick work out with great views and there aren't usually any crowds.

A note about the old route: A number of locals have hiked part or all of the old route even though it wasn't being maintained and parts didn't even have any blazing left. This is especially true of the part closest to Tahmore Place. It followed an old woods road which was nice and gentle but went right along the edge of some back yards. That first part of the old route remains open, it's just not blazed. Some locals have been bushwhacking off of the old trail to bypass the southern lobe of the old loop, the part with a bridge. That little bushwhacking route has been cleared out because it now connects the old route with the new trail in only 75 feet. Locals 'in the know' can continue following the old route and quickly link up with the new route. It's shown as a faded gray dot on the new map. Regional hikers coming in from Indian Well will stay on the blazed trail.

An updated map is on the Shelton Conservation webpage or click HERE.  Access is via Indian Well State Park (see map) or locally by parking at the end of Tahmore Place (GPS #30 Tahmore Place).