Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Little Pond Trail Lives On

Little Pond Trail
Back in 2014, Luke Claire and other member of Boy Scout Troop 27 created a new trail to a small pond located off of Beech Tree Hill Road in the White Hills. This was Luke's Eagle Scout project. The trail provides neighborhood access to the little pond, which can be fished early in the season, before it's covered with lily pads. The trail is just under 0.1 mile, so it's a very quick walk to the pond.

"Out & About" challenge photo at the pond
During the 2020 pandemic, the pond has been included as one of thirty "Out and About" outdoor challenge sites located throughout Shelton, in an effort to reduce crowding at some of Shelton's better-known locations. Participants visit the sites, take a picture of an avatar they chose to represent themselves, and then email the photos to the Conservation Department.

Oops, the trailhead is really overgrown
This little trail needs someone from the neighborhood to become a Trail Monitor and let us know when the trail is overgrown or had some other issue that needs to be addressed. It was fine earlier in the season, but by mid-July it was a jungle.

Trailhead cleared out and with a new sign
It was felt that a sign at the trailhead was needed so that people in the neighborhood would know the trail was there. But the trail was never named, so what should the sign say? And the pond isn't named, either. After some back and forth, we settled on "Little Pond Trail" for the practical reason that when we referred to the trail as the little pond trail, everyone on the Committee knew which trail we were talking about. The trail is little and the pond is little.
New sign at the trailhead  letting the neighborhood know the trail is there

Closer to the pond, the trail was really overgrown and needed a haircut, just like a lot of people these days.


Sadly, someone had scraped off some of the painted trail blazes and ripped off the Public Open Space sign. This is usually the mark of a neighbor who doesn't want strangers in the open space near their property. This has all been repaired for the moment, and of course the trail had to be cleared extra wide in case the blazes are removed again and people are trying to follow the trail to go fishing or whatever.  If it keeps up, we'll probably have to install cameras. This is another thing a new Trail Monitor can keep an eye on and let us know as soon as possible if the trail is vandalized.

Vandal removed the sign and scraped off some blazes

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

RIP Yellow Blazes at Shelton Lakes

The old yellow blazes refused to fade...
Once upon a time, the 4-mile Rec Path was but a dream. There were plans, for sure. A route had been determined. But the City didn't even own all the property that was needed. No matter. The Trails Committee optimistically created parts of the Rec Path as a simple hiking trail on the properties the City did own. Those trail sections were blazed yellow.  After the Mayflower Lane fiasco, the Committee wanted to get a trail established wherever possible before residents moved into new homes next to the trail. Because based on resident feedback, it appears that a nearby trail constructed before a home is built is a valuable asset to the neighborhood, while a nearby trail constructed after a home is built is just a conduit for bearded pedophiles to attack small children and steal big-screen TVs. The Committee scrambled to get the trail built as fast as possible, even as a simple foot-path.

Later, a portion of what is now Nells Rock Trail and Basil Brook Bypass were also painted yellow to help people along the so-called "Bridge to Bridge" route. More on that later.

...so they were covered over.
After the Rec Path was fully constructed as a multi-use path, we decided to let the old yellow blazes fade. It didn't seem necessary to mark this big, wide path with traditional hiking trail blazes. But we didn't cover them over, either, since some people were used to them.  And then we forgot about them.

This tree trunk got wider and split the blaze
You know how you stop seeing things that are in front of you all the time? It was like that. We just stopped seeing the yellow blazes. I got a call from someone referencing the "Yellow Trail" at Shelton Lakes a few weeks ago. I said we don't have a yellow trail at Shelton Lakes. Completely forgot about the old blazes. Well, we don't have a designated 'yellow trail' on the maps, and haven't for many years. But those old blazes never faded like they were supposed to, and someone not referencing a map would assume they were on the Yellow Trail.

Blaze covered over
So those blazes were finally painted over this past week with a special shade of ultra flat Behr paint called "Landmark Brown." This color seems to match most tree bark the best. If you're ever looking for paint that's the color of the average tree trunk, just go to Home Depot and ask for the Landmark Brown shade.

Old map showing the "Bridge to Bridge" route and yellow markings

Painting over the blazes meant getting off the existing Rec Path in places and traipsing through the woods, because the route that was constructed with heavy equipment wasn't always exactly where the hiking trail had been placed. The blazes were sometimes 20 or 30 feet off the existing trail, especially in the Wesley Drive neighborhood.  One old section was found to be still in use by mountain bikers.

Nells Rock Trail
In 2005, much of the Rec Path existed as either a narrow foot-path or as a newly-constructed gravel multi-use trail, but there was still a section in the middle near Oak Valley Road that was privately owned and couldn't be built. So the Trails Committee created the so-called "Bridge to Bridge" (B2B) route, using other trails to bypass the missing section. That allow people to hike from Pine Lake to Huntington Center.

Old map, "bridge to bridge" route in orange.
Times have changed. Notice no Paugussett Trail.

From Pine Lake, you could follow the Rec Path to Hope Lake, then take the orange-blazed Dominick Trail (now the blue Paugussett Trail) along the shore of Hope Lake to Nells Rock Trail at a place we call "Four Corners." At that time Nells Rock Trail was a smaller loop, and the old woods road leading through new open space out to the powerlines was not marked. That was blazed yellow to help hikers connect with the southern sections of the Rec Path. (Later, Nells Rock Trail was enlarged, with white blazes added.) Once at the powerlines, the yellow trail turned left for a bit, then took a right into the woods at what is now a short section of Basil Brook Bypass, to join was is now the existing Rec Path. The rest of the yellow-blazed route to Huntington Center was close to the existing Rec Path, usually within 20 or 30 feet.

In 2011, the last piece of property, known as "Great Ledge", was purchased. By that time the rest of the Rec Path on either side of this new property had been upgraded to a gravel multi-use path, and soon enough the two halves were connected to complete the Rec Path. The Bridge-to-Bridge Route was no longer needed to get from the north end of the Rec Path to the south end. The yellow blazes were retired and left to fade. Or not, as it turned out. But they are now covered over.

RIP yellow blazes. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

The Shelton Trails Committee re-started regular work parties Saturday after a Covid-enforced layoff of big work parties since mid-March.   Pretty poor timing for a pandemic too, since this is the time of the year when things grow a lot.   All this while Shelton, and many other towns, have being experiencing record trail use while people have been confined at home.  We've been doing some onesie-twosie work around the trails trying to keep up with the growing season, but things are getting shaggy out there.  But now that the public health measures in Connecticut have been working we're going to get back to our regular schedule of work parties. 

Well spaced out workparties that is.  With masks and kerchiefs.  We may look like bank robbers, but we're really just harmless trails volunteers.  We're Back in the Saddle Again.

We met at Shelton Intermediate School to cut back brush along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path on Saturday.  It was hot and steamy following last night's tropical storm Fay but we counted our blessings and got to work.

Bill, Jim & Bob replaced broken fence rails along RecPath at the top of the historic dam.
Part of our on-going saga with the fencing there.

Luis cleared out briars along the overlook by the bridge.  The RecPath was very busy this morning.  We got a lot of nice comments from users.  One woman said "Thanks, I was beginning to things the brush was coming to get me".  Not while Luis has a hedgetrimmer in his hands.

Val and Luis clearing out along the top of the dam.  Well-spaced and masked.  We spread out as much as possible to socially distanced while we worked.  This will probably be the program going forward this Summer and Fall for Shelton work parties.

Dan was a big help cutting thick brush along the top of the dam.

Graham was cutting back the overgrowth along the fence.

Bill, Jim & Bob were also cutting stuff along the RecPath.

We had a lot of joggers, bikers, dog walkers and various users pass us while we were working.  Everybody was having an enjoyable Saturday morning and appreciated the work being done.  Thank you.

Here's the "After" picture.  We didn't get a good group photo of everybody all sweaty and covered with poison ivy and vine spackle, but trust us we were.  Cold drinks afterwards went down quickly.

 We got a lot accomplished, and it needed it.  Thanks to everybody who came out: Mike, Bill, Jim, Luis, Dan, Graham, Bob, Val, Mark, and Terry,   Anybody who wants to help out is welcome on future work parties, just e-mail in and we'll spread ourselves out.  The Shelton Trails Committee is Back from the Shadows Again.  (with a nod to Firesign Theater).

Friday, July 3, 2020

Local Residents on the Nichols Trail & Pearmain Path

Ran into a number of locals while walking along the Nichols Trail and Pearmain Path at Nicholdale on a recent morning.  I started at the Rt. 110 parking lot and followed the fresh blue blazes on Nichols Trail.

This little rabbit was enjoying breakfast along one of the grassy trails near the Tamarack trees, until I came tromping through.

Tamarack's; an evergreen tree that drops it's needles every year.  There's a line of them along Nichols Trail as it bends toward Nicholdale Brook.

A recent blow down across the bog walk had just been cleared by Joe Welsh before I got there.  It made it a lot easier to use the bog walk.

Ran into a number of chipmunks using the stonewall highways along the trail.  I wonder where chipmunks lived before colonial farmers built all the stone walls?

The Nichols Trail; blazed blue, was in very good shape and had received a lot of recent clearing.

The Pearmain Path was also in good shape with new signs, and the trail was getting a lot of use.

Encountered another local resident who was kinda shy.  This box turtle was taking Covid social distancing seriously.

There's also some new trails maps up showing residents and visitors (those residents who are taller than a box turtle), how the trails link up around Nicholdale.

Bill's Bridge out to Pearmain Road was being guarded by another local resident.

At least he didn't ask me to answer three questions before letting me pass.

This end of Pearmain Road is a quiet, gravel road that provides good neighborhood access to the trail network.

Another new sign marks the entrance to Pearmain Path from the road.

Going back up the Pearmain Path the trail is well worn and blazed yellow and reconnects with Nichols Trail (blue blazes) near the scout campground.

The Nichols Trail was very easy to follow around the perimeter of Nicholdale.

The wildflowers were growing within the meadows and provided a lot of habitat for butterflies, bees, and birds.

New arrows and fresh blazes mark turns around the meadow sections to aid hikers.  Particularly hikers who may be new to the mown paths that dot the property.

Hazelnuts were forming along Nichols Trail.  They are a source of food for many of the wildlife living around the preserve.

Nicholdale Brook was flowing low but was a cool respite from some of the open fields on this July day.  A number of bridges cross and recross the brook.

 The old stone bridge was dry today, but it had been cleared and was fun to walk across.

The path back toward Rt. 110 and the parking lot had been mowed and had a new marker post that was visible above the meadow wildflowers.  This apple tree was producing many green apples for the fall.

The Nichols Trail was in good condition all the way back to the parking lot.  The recent trail clearing, mowing, signs, blazes, maps, etc. make it a very easy walk.  It's a great place to explore on a summer hike.