Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Birchbank Connector Reroute

The latest reroute is shown in purple

There have been a number of reroutes at Birchbank over the years to address sections of trail that were either deeply eroded or overly steep (and therefore becoming eroded). The latest one is near the top of the blue/white connector, which was formerly the Paugussett Trail until that trail was moved up the hill to the overlook. 

The new route has turns where water can be directed off the trail

The Birchbank Connector is a nice trail allowing people to create a heart-pumping loop past the overlook. There were two problems, though. First, part of this trail was ridiculously steep and quite hazardous if going down the hill when leaves are on the trail. There are leaves on the trail for most of the year, so that was a real problem.

Second, the steep section was developing erosion issues. The trail is about twenty-five years old, but it was really just the past few years that a lot of people started to walk (or run) it routinely. That wear and tear straight down a steep hill was predictably leading to the formation of a gully down the middle of the trail, which would have necessitated a series of water bars. 

The new trails heads up a scenic valley

The new route is still moderately steep, but it has strategic turns and flat areas where water can be diverted off of the trail, hopefully reducing future erosion issues. 

One of several stone piles

The new section runs up through a deep, broad valley, passing several large boulder where the old people placed some stones. Why? There are several possibilities. Farmers would put stones on boulders to get them out of the way. This doesn't seem likely, since the area is a real boulder field and there are no stone walls indicating the land was used for farming. 

A second possibility is the stones were marking an old property line. This seems more likely. 

A third possibility is the rocks were place by Native Americans for ceremonial or remembrance purposes. 

We'll probably never know how the rocks got there. But it can be fun to ponder as you walk past. By the way, this is one reason it's best not to start moving rocks about to build unnecessary cairns or whatever. You might accidentally upset something created a few hundred years ago. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Nicholdale Log Rolling (storm clean-up)

The parking lot at the Shelton's Land Trust's Nicholdale Preserve needed to be cleared of several fallen trees at Storm Ess-Ahh-ee-sahs.   Technically, the lot was open after an initial storm clearing, but there was a lot of junk to remove to make the trailhead really usable.  

Who were those masked trail workers?  This is the "After" picture with Val, Bob, Mike, Terry, Graham, Mark, Ellen, Luis, and Bill, when all the work was done.

This was the "During" photo when people were sawing, hauling, dragging and stacking all the debris.  There were three trees that were criss-crossed over the parking lot.  The trunks were cut up into fire wood for the scouts, and the tops were stockpiled for later chipping by the Shelton Highways and Bridges Department.

Mark and Ellen clearing up the debris.

Bob Wood having a great old time with the brushcutter.

Bob & Luis clearing back the parking and driveway after the trees and tops were sawed up.

And a new trail sport; competitive log racing.  Bob is in the lead, Ellen is close behind, and Val is Running to Show.

There was an impressive pile of fire wood at the end.  Nice job by everyone who came out to clean up all the storm damage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Birchbank Mountain Kiosk Sign

Installed kiosk sign

A lot of people pull into the Birchbank traihead parking area thinking they're at Indian Well. There's a blurb in the kiosk asking people if they're looking for the falls at Indian Well, and tells them how to get there, but a lot of people don't stop to read.  Groups clad in swimsuits and carrying beach towels head down the trail, possibly wandering about the trails for hours in utter confusion. Who knows. Do they get to the little cascades of Upper White Hills Brook and think that's the "well" of Indian Well? 

..inspired by the Eklund Garden sign

A header sign for the well-built kiosk is something that always made sense. A gorgeous sign crafted for Eklund Garden by Tim Bonney several years ago set a very high bar for what might be possible. The sign has raised-relief lettering, with the wood around the letters having been carved or routered away. I've always admired it. 

As always, these things are typically harder and more time-consuming than you expect. The first hurdle was getting some lettering penciled onto the boards, which sounds simple, but it isn't. What font? How do you transfer that onto the wood? I printed out "BIRCHBANK MOUNTAIN" in what I hoped was a workable font, then tried using a small projector we had stashed in the basement. Sadly, the projector cannot project from very far away, meaning the project image must be small. Too small.  I pulled the project back farther from the board to try an enlarge the lettering, but then it was out of focus. So I did my best to trace the fuzzy letters, then turned the lights back on and repaired the font by eye. Not a very efficient system, but eventually the lettering looked OK. 

Outlining the letters with a narrow router bit

The next step was to carefully outline the lettering using a 1/16th" router bit. This was done freehand and was a little nerve wracking. All it takes is one slip up...


Then a 1/4" router bit was put on and the remainder of the wood around the lettering was removed. This was boring and took longer than expected. And then it was all sanded.

All painted

There was a lot of back and forth about the colors. The Eklund Garden sign looks superb with the dark green background and natural stained border. For a trailhead sign, a different set of colors seemed appropriate. The other issues to consider were maintenance (polyurethane tends not to last very long), and what supplies were already on hand. In the end, the colors were (for future reference): 
  • Lettering - White paint used for trail blazes (Behr premium plus)
  • Background - the Gallagher's leftover deck stain. 
  • Border - Concealer paint used to cover obsolete blazes and graffiti on trees. Behr Premium Plus "Landmark Brown" (ultra flat). 
In the end, it looks pretty good, but not as nice as the Eklund Garden sign, which was expected. I certainly gained an appreciation for how hard these signs are to make. And when people pull into the parking area, or even just drive past on the road, they should see that the kiosk is for BIRCHBANK MOUNTAIN.