Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020 Outdoor Challenge Continues

Ann & Robert Singletary visited Riverview Park
Several people have completed one or more levels of Shelton's 2020 Out & About Challenge, which encourages everyone to explore corners of the city they might not know about (and reduce crowding on the more popular trails).  Participants select an avatar to represent themselves and take a photo at each of the ten designated sites for the level they are working on. Some people are working on all three levels, which is a total of thirty sites. Those who have completed all thirty sites so far includ John Girard, Lisa Adriani, Sara Skrabl and Diego Murcia.

John Girard's avatar "Bumper" at Pine Tree Pond, fishing
John Girard took the challenge a step further and made up little props for his avatar "Bumper", a little stuffed goat. Those photos deserve their own blog post. In fact, Bumper has his own Facebook Page. 
Melissa Quan & the "Screaming Goat" at Birchbank
Some people have named their avatars. The "Screaming Goat" is one of our favorites.

Lisa Adriani's avatar "Geir" completed all thirty sites
An advantage to doing all thirty sites is you can mix up some drive-bys with some nearby hikes and do several in an afternoon. The Google Map showing all the sites is helpful for figuring out a plan of attack.

Terry Gallagher's avatar is a hiking frog made from nuts and bolts,
here seen at the Maybeck wall, Paugussett Trail
Some of the spots are scenic in a classic sense, but other locations were chosen more because they were identifiable in a photo and were located somewhere that gets fewer people. The Maybeck stone wall, for example, is on a part of the Paugussett Trail between Constitution Blvd and Meadow Street that doesn't get much traffic because it's not part of a loop. It's more of a connector between Shelton Lakes and Indian Well. But it's still a nice trail, and just beyond the wall is a big meadow where deer, turkey, and even woodcock are seen.
Joe Hollis's avatar is a car, here at Birchbank's cave-boulders
(Level 3)
Some of the sites are super easy, just a few steps from the car. This level was designed for people with mobility issues or for people who just don't want to hike. These are the level one sites, and they are some of the more scenic sites. In contrast, the above photo is from Level 3, and involves some serious hiking through Burritt's Rocks to reach. That site is probably the most difficult of all the sites to reach. People looking for more of a physical challenge will enjoy Level 3.

Robert Goncalves and family visited Southbank Park
(Level 1)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Out and About on Memorial Day Weekend.

There was some new developments and scenic areas along Shelton's trails this weekend.  The new bridge at Lane Street is nearing completion, and the sidewalk is open, sort of.

Here's Ollie bringing his human back from a walk on the Recreation Path.  The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic for the last couple of weeks when the temporary bridge was removed.  But the new sidewalks are open (watch your step - the rest of construction is still going on), so that folks from the neighborhood can walk from the RecPath to Huntington Center.

New signs were installed on the Paugussett Trail at Indian Wells.  The new signs direct people to the new Blue/Red trail that leads them back from the Falls to the Beach entrance at the park, which avoids walking on the road and is much safer.

 People out enjoying the waterfall at Indian Well.

Further up the road at Birchbank Mountain, the Birchbank Trail had a lush growth of Blue Cohosh growing near The Notched Log.

Uphill along Birchbank Trail, there was some Cinnamon fern growing next to some Maple-leafed viburnum along Upper White Hills Brook.

Along River Road, a number of families were out fishing and picnicking at Southbank Open Space, along the Housatonic River.

 While the azaleas were blooming over at the Bushinsky Arboretum near Trumbull.  It's a good weekend to be Out and About in Shelton.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Paugussett Mudhole Reroutes

We've done a couple quick little reroutes of the Paugussett Trail just north of Independence Drive, in the area of the three bridges. It's always been muddy through there, but this year things came to a head with all the additional trail traffic due to Covid-19, along with a wet spring.
New section of trail
There are no good routes through that area, just potentially less bad ones. Areas that look drier at first are likely to become wet after a few years of compaction. So although the two little reroutes are open for hiking, but more work is expected over the next year or so.

The old route was a morrass

The southern reroute closer to Independence Drive bypasses one of the Scout bridges. We have another Scout project pending which will include moving that bridge to the new route and building some bog walks on ground that is acceptable for now but will sink after people start walking on it. Inevitable when you're next to skunk cabbage.

New section is a bit rocky, but drier

The second part was a 150'-long shift onto a low bony ridge that parallels the powerlines, possibly a byproduct of when the powerlines were installed. The line of big trees, especially hickory trees, are a sign of firmer ground. Hickories don't grow in swamps. The footing is uneven but much of it seems pretty firm.  Maybe one section of bog walk will be needed eventually. A lot of poison ivy vines had to be pulled out by hand along one section.

The old mudhole route is history

At any rate, it's now a lot easier to hike the Paugy between Independence and Constitution Blvd without getting your feet all full of mud.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Shelton Trail Committee is Safe Outdoors

The Corona Pandemic isn't coming at a good time for trail work.  The Shelton Trails Committee has had to cancel the last two trails committee meetings, several work parties, and a guided hike.  All of this during our busy season when things are growing.  We finally were able to meet in safety however;

in a parking lot, spaced 6 feet apart.  It was good to see everybody finally over coffee and doughnuts.  (Sorry for chopping off Bill's head in the photo).  Mostly we were socializing.  Everyone discussed the record use the trails and open spaces were getting during the pandemic while businesses and schools are shut down.

We are going to have to adapt our normal trail operations for the time being.  Trail work is going on, but just differently.  Unlike some other towns that closed their trails and greenways, Shelton has decided to keep our open spaces open.  Shelton has 30 miles of trails on nearly 2,000 acres of open space.  There's plenty of room for people to spread out if we do it smartly.  We did discuss some of the problems and good things we've seen along the trails:

  • Space yourselves out.  If you just pass someone on a trail outside you probably are safe, but wear a mask when being close to people and avoid big meet-ups.  Please everybody be smart.
  • Spread out much more than 6 feet if your running or biking with others.
  • Be respectful of the trails and other users.  Some people go for a walk on the trails to relax and enjoy nature.  Remember that not everyone wants to hear about your cousin's hairstyle from a quarter mile away.
  • Don't vandalize things or dump trash.  We don't have enough volunteers to go around as it is.
  • If you see some trash along the trails please pick it up.
  • Keep your dog on a leash, and walk on the right along the Recreation Path.  Mind the extend-a-leash too so it doesn't trip anybody.
  • If you're biking or running give good notice to walkers who may not hear you coming up behind them before passing them, and stop if you have to.
  • Try some other trails than the RecPath to minimize congestion there.  Consider trying the Shelton 2020 Out and About Challenge to explore our other trails around town.
  • There will be no organized public work parties for the near future.  We can't have a dozen people working elbow to elbow right now.  Mini-work groups will probably be onesies and twosies, or by invitation only.  Feel free to clip brush and briars along your favorite trail however.
  • Please report any issues or blowdowns.  
  • We'd like to extend A BIG Thanks to all our Trail Monitors for keeping up the reports.
  • The National Trails Day Hike on June 6th will be cancelled.  The trails at Indian Well and Tahmore Open Space are in great shape after a lot of hard work, and we encourage you to enjoy that hike as a DIY event.  CFPA is sponsoring many other DIY events around the state this year.
  • Take the kids out hiking, biking, fishing, picnicking, or nature observing.
  • Enjoy the Shelton's Trails and Open Spaces.  And try the 2020 Out & About Challenge.
People fishing at Hope Lake

Friday, May 8, 2020

New Beach Cutoff Trail at Indian Well

Emma Gallagher spent hours digging in the trail
New trail! By popular demand, and rushed to completion in response to the recent Covid Crowds visiting Indian Well State Park, we bring to you the Beach Cutoff Trail. It's only 0.3 miles long, and is pretty easy, especially for a trail at Indian Well. But it will be MUCH easier to walk between the falls and beach areas now. Most of the trail is pretty level.

The new trail is blazed blue/red
The new trail allows for a 1.4-mile loop that includes the Housatonic scenic overlook and the Falls (mileage includes the spurs to those features). Because everyone wants a loop!

Most of the trail had to be dug into the hill
About 0.2 mile of the trail had to be dug into the side of the hill, and the Gallagher Family got it done within a week. Most of the trail is pretty level, except for one long descent of maybe 90 feet down to the parking area. It's moderately steep, but not as steep as the White Trail (where the steps are).

Blazes are blue/red
The trail is marked with blazes that are blue on top and red on the bottom.

Following the contours
Digging the trail into the side of the hill allowed for an easy grade to be maintained part way up the hill. Once the trail gets up to a certain elevation from the parking area, it stays there. Much of the trail is close enough to the road so that you can see the guardrail through the trees, but you're not right next to the road. This may provide comfort to people who aren't very confident about their navigational skills.

Two trails coaligned through the pass
There is one spot where the new Beach Cutoff Trail merges with the Paugussett Trail for about 100 feet. The terrain was responsible for this. A rocky cliff rises above the trail here (the overlook is near the top of it), and more steep rock is down below. Both trails needed to squeeze through a pass.

Diverging trails
Be sure to pay attention to the blaze colors now. In the photo above, the Paugussett Trail goes right and the Beach Cutoff Trail goes left. Remember when there are two offset blazes of the same color, that trail is turning in the direction of the upper blaze.

Up above the Indian Hole Bridge
The blue-blazed Paugussett Trail remains the more scenic route, but the faster and easier Beach Cutoff Trail does have its own scenic value. You're closer to the river and the beach facilities, so there will be seasonal views of Indian Hole Bridge, the boat launch, and the river through trees. There's more a feeling of being in a state park. The sounds of children on the beach and boats in the river are louder, and the smell of barbecue in the air.

North end of the new trail at the off-season beach lot

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Explore the 2020 Out and About Challenge

With thousands of City residents and visitors turning to open spaces and trails during the COVID19 pandemic, things have gotten crowded, and quickly, along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path.  In an effort to avoid closing the RecPath due to overcrowding, like a number of communities around Connecticut; the Shelton 2020 Out and About Challenge was born.

It's not hard.  There are three levels;  easy drive byes spots, middlin' easy fun walks, and some visits to picturesque locations that require a little more walkin'.  Grab some trinket to show you're you, go visit spots along trails and open spaces, take a picture with said trinket, send the photos to the Conservation Commission, and maybe win a prize (we're working on the prize but it ma ybe a walking stick).  You can get as creative, or non-creative, as you want to be.  It's a fun
opportunity to go exploring and do a little social distancing at the same time.

You'll visit various waterfalls, trails, vistas, rivers, and open spaces around town that you may, or may not be famillar with.

You may see the occasional Red Tailed Hawk up close and personal at said feature.  All it takes is sitting still for a couple of minutes quietly enjoying the scenery.

There is a lot of really nice stuff right under our noses that we drive past every day and don't appreciate.  This is a pair of dams along the Far Mill River that I would normally drive past twice a day, and never see.  The challenge takes you to the other side of the river and this is a little-known, but really nice spot to visit that most people overlook.  And if you sit still for a bit you'll see some neat things.

There was a bird swooping down getting fish at the pond.  At first I thought it was a Kingfisher, but later looking it up it looks like a Black Capped Night Heron.  Either way it was big and something that you wouldn't notice just driving by on the road.

There are 3 groups of 30 locations total to visit.  One of which I had never seen until the other week.  Visit the Out and About Page for directions and information.  Take some good pictures of your visits.  Enjoy not just the RecPath, but all Shelton's trails and open spaces this spring.

And please spread out.