Monday, June 29, 2020

Trail Markings Upgrade at Nicholdale

An arrow helps out novice hikers who don't understand the offset blazes
Nichols Trail was originally called the 'Perimeter Trail' because it followed the boundaries of the Land Trust's Nicholdale Farm property. Although the route is good for maximizing the size of the loop, and to check the boundaries of the property, it does have several spots where the trail splits, often in meadow areas, with mowed paths going in multiple directions and Nichols Trail taking a sharp turn. "Which way should I go?" Although people could usually figure it out, the many junctions could lead to decision fatigue, especially for newer hikers who aren't familiar with standard offset blazes. And also when vines crawl up the trees and cover blazes.

A bunch of signs and arrows have been added to help with that problem, along with a marked 4x4 post in a long stretch of meadow, some trail alignment tweaking in one spot, clearing, and freshening of the blazes. It should be a lot easier for people to follow the trail now.

This spot was always confusing
The first spot to get a custom sign was near the parking area where Nichols Trail splits from the main meadow path (the one that heads straight for the Scout camp). Before the sign was there, it wasn't entirely obvious that you were supposed to veer off to the left. The trail was also shifted a bit here so that the mowing tractor could go directly down the trail. If we can get everyone to follow the same tread for awhile, instead of meandering around the meadow, it will be easier for people to see which way they should go. A string trimmer was therefore used to create a faux tread.

Offset blazes tell hikers to watch out for a right turn
In addition to the signs and arrows, a few new double blazes were added in the grassy areas. This will only help the people who understand that the upper blaze indicates the direction of a turn. Everyone else will just have to look in every direction for the next blaze.

New arrow in a confusing spot
In a couple open spots where the trail might go in a multiple directions, the new arrows were twisted at just the right angle to show you which way to go.

Blazed 4x4 post off in the distance
The 4x4 post was a job to carry down the trail and install. The soil was so dry it was like flour all the way down to 2.5 feet. This was an area that people generally did just keep going straight and hoped for the best, but now the blazed post provides comfort to the hiker, letting them know they are on the right track. Also, some years the guys on the mowing tractor create a number of mowed paths in this area and it's not always clear which one you're supposed to be on. This should help. 

Blaze obscured by vines
One problem we have at Nicholdale in the more open areas is vines growing up the trees and covering up the blazes. It happens quick. And sometimes the bushes get too taller and likewise cover up the blazes, or the tree branches dip down and get in the way. Blazes covered with vegetation are no use to anyone. This is where it would be a big help to have a Trail Monitor to alert us when there is a problem. Or for a routine trail user to carry a set of pruners and clip those vines before they become a problem (some are poison ivy though, so watch out).

Blaze uncovered

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Trails Day 2020 - DIY Corona Edition

Over 250 CFPA Trails Day events were canceled this year due to the Corona Virus; which is disappointing to say the least.  The Shelton hike on the Paugussett Trail and Tahmore Loop is continuing as a Do It Yourself event for individuals and families whenever they want to however.  And a very nice hike it is.

The hike starts at the off-season parking lot at Indian Well State Park (across the street from the Main Entrance), goes up the timber stairs, take a left on the Paugussett Trail (blue blazes), and walk along to a nice overview of the Housatonic River.  Proceed along the Tahmore Loop (blue/yellow blazes) though Shelton Land Trust Property for a pleasant walk that will lead you back to the junction with the Paugussett Trail.  Follow the blue blazes and signs for the Falls to bring you down to Indian Hole Brook.  You can cross the brook and then turn right to go see the Falls if you like, or follow the new return trail back to the Beach (blue/red blazes) for an easy walk back to the start of the hike.

Maps of all the trails are here.  Please print one out and take it with you.  You can't get lost even if you try.

Just beyond the sign kiosk is the start of the hike up the big steps.  Some hikers may want to guess how many there are before they start.  The steps were built by CFPA volunteers a few years ago.

Turning right on the Paugussett Trail you'll follow a well-worn trail toward the overlook.

After the Overlook you'll continue on the Tahmore Loop through open woodlands with periodic sunny glades and knolls.

There were many re-routes, trail improvements, fresh blazes, new signs, and new trails created the make the hike more enjoyable and safe.
Indian Hole Brook after the Tahmore Loop.

Indian Hole Bridge is under construction.  It is not safe to walk back to the walk back to the State Park entrance on the road.  Use the new Beach return trail blazed blue and red for an easy walk back to the start of the hike.

The trails are in great shape, please enjoy them.

Following this hike we went up to Birchbank Mountain, just north of Indian Well State Park to replace a map box on the kiosk there.  The old one had become faded and weather beaten.

And met a local family out hiking on Birchbank Trail.  They were some of the many hikers and families we saw using the trails.  They were having a great time just going for a walk.  That was very gratifying to see and one of the reasons that we put so much effort into the trail system.  So even if there's no big scheduled group hikes for 2020, go out and enjoy whichever trail you choose for Trails Day.