Monday, November 30, 2020

The "Out & About" Celebration and Hiking Stick Drawing

2020 "Out & About" winners with their hiking sticks

The traditional Turkey Trot Trek hike for 2020 was changed to an invitation-only hike for people who had completed at least one level of the "Out & About Challenge."  The event started with a drawing for souvenir hand-made hiking sticks. There were just enough sticks that everyone got one. 

Some of the sticks during the summer

The sticks were made over the summer by Trails Committee member Terry Gallagher.  The shorter sticks all came from the beaver dam at Boehm Pond and were covered with beaver gnaw marks. Beaver eat the bark, then jam the stick into their dam. The longer sticks varied in wood types but were mostly found along the trails in Shelton. 

There were a variety of strap styles, wood types, and finishes
Notice the beaver chew marks.

Terry Gallagher finishing up the hiking sticks

After adding a strap, the final touch was a tag explaining where the stick was found and what kind of wood it was. Some people at the drawing selected their stick because it was from a favorite stretch of trail. 

"Pear wood, Paugussett Trail, @ Independence Drive"

Finally the day of the drawing arrived. We decided to combine the drawing with an invitation-only Turkey Trot Trek. The traditional public hike was cancelled due to the unmanageable crowd we had at the most recent public hike (the Full Moon Hike), and because of the fall surge of the virus. 

Making a stick selection

Everyone was social distancing and wearing a mask at the Out & About event, and we had twenty people including the guides, so it worked out great. 

Retrieving the prize

After the drawing, the gang took a stroll up Turkey Trot Trail, using their new hiking sticks on the fresh leaves that covered the trail. 

Heading down the trail

The trail was pretty busy and everyone in the group kept their mask on. No one told them to, they just did. You can keep lots of space between you and other hikers if you are on a lesser-used trail and avoid peak times, but there are times when it's best to keep the mask on. 

The group kept their masks on during the hike

As always, the hike finished off with the view at the Silent Waters dam. The pond has grown quite a bit this year due to beavers.

Enjoying the view at Silent Waters

And right after the hike ended, it started raining. Timed that one just right!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pearmain "Little Knoll" Reroute

The New & Improved Pearmain Path
(Click to enlarge)

The new & improved Pearmain Path at Nicholdale Farm is complete.  The original Pearmain Path was a straight (boring) access path to Pearmain Road from the Land Trust's Scout Camp. It closely followed the gas pipeline per a grant contract with the State of Connecticut. But everyone wants a loop.  

So with the kind permission of landowners Guy Beardsley and the Jones family, a new loop route was planned in 2019. The east half of the loop mostly follows an old woods road and the Trails Committee cleared it out quickly. The more difficult routing for the west half was marked with survey tape and reserved for an independent project that ultimately fell through. So in November 2020, the west route was cleared out. (See the full trail map - not yet updated to reflect the 2020 reroute)

It's a much prettier walk than the old path along the gas pipeline. Check it out:

"Little Knoll" 
Heading south from the Scout camp, the new trail crosses the pipeline and then quickly comes to "Little Knoll," which looks down across water company land. This property was recently transferred from the Jones Family to the Shelton Land Trust

"Abner Brook"

The trail then comes to so-called "Abner Brook," an unofficial name that Guy Beardsley and Terry Jones use. This is an interesting spot because the trail follows the top of a long section of ledge that forces Abner Brook to do a U-turn on it's way down the hill. The brook is on both sides of the trail. On the left it's next to the trail and flowing straight ahead, and on the right it's down at the bottom of the ledge flowing in the opposite direction. The brook finally breaks through the ledge and cascades down it in a little waterfall just below where the trail crosses the brook. 

"Beardsley Brook"

Very quickly after crossing Abner Brook the trail comes to "Beardsley Brook" (another unofficial name) but does not cross it. Instead, the trail curves left to follow the stream a bit, then left again to gradually climb a hill and head into a beautiful stand of hemlocks. 

Beardsley Brook overlook

At the top of a rocky knoll under the hemlocks, hikers get one last look at Beardsley brook before heading back towards the gas pipeline. On the other side is the junction with the existing trail (as completed in 2019), now with new signage. 

Junction with the 2019 reroute 

Finally, the yellow square blazes were all converted to standard 2x6" blazes, except for the short access section leading to Pearmain Road. Hikers can now make a really nice 1.9-mile loop by combining the Pearmain Path (yellow) with Nichols Trail (blazed dark blue). Note that there is firearm hunting near the trail in late November and throughout December, so hikers should definitely wear bright colors, or visit on a Sunday. The middle of the day is usually free of hunting as well (around lunch time). 


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Stockmal & Willis Woods Work Party

Yesterday, we removed two large blowdowns & improved a trail thru a floodplain in the White Hills.

We moved logs off the trails.  Here's Bill, Gino, and Tony doing their version of the Shelton caber toss on the Stockmal Trail.

 Meanwhile, Mark, Luis, Bob & Graham wacked a large blowdown near Rt. 110.  You can now see the Nicholdale Land Trust Preserve on the other side of the road, and you don't have to schootch under the tree any more.

It was a good sized oak tree that came down across the trail.

Meanwhile, back in the floodplain, Ellen and Val started placing rocks for an elevated turnpike thru the uneven hummocky ground.  We dug up rocks and gravel from other areas on Stockmal Trail, and wheelbarrowed or used buckets to get the material where it was needed.  Tony, Gino & Ellen brought a lot of the gravel and rocks over to the swamp.

Luis, Mark, and Gino were digging up gravel and carrying it over after they finished cutting up trees.

These are some of the blowdowns that were cleared along the Willis Woods Trail.  One tree fell, knocked down another tree, which hit another tree - and you have woodland dominos.

Teresa Gallagher cut out portions of the Willis Woods trail and benched in some steep sections on Friday ahead of the work party.  Val, Bill & Ellen also cut back brush along sections of both trails while the blowdowns and gravel hauling were taking place.

This is the "after" picture of the elevated turnpike thru a portion of the floodplain with Bill, Ellen, Tony & Gino standing on their handiwork.  The grade of the trail was raised just above the floodplain (hopefully) using rocks and gravel going from hummock to hummock to improve the footing.

The goal is to improve the trail with a low elevated wooden bog walk that will allow the floodwaters to pass under it during Spring freshetts.  The elevated turnpike will link to the bridge with an S-shaped bog walk.

It was a good Saturday work party and thanks to everybody who helped out; Tony, Bill, Gino, Ellen, Mark, Luis, Graham, Terry, Bob, and Val.  Both trails make a nice walk combined with the Nicholdale trails. 

Trail Safety Tip: Remember to wear bright colors during hunting season.


Friday, November 6, 2020

Busy Beavers at Boehm Pond

 It appears that the beavers have been busy recently along Boehm Pond Trail.

The water levels are up and there is fresh evidence that the beavers have been out grocery shopping.

There are fresh sticks on the dam located just upstream of Winthrop Woods Road.

It's an impressive feat of engineering.

 Wish we could hire them to clear trails for us.

The trails were in great shape this past weekend.  The beech tree leaves glowed in the late afternoon sun.

The "corkscrew oak" just off the red trail was really impressive.  It's a very large twin oak that has kind of grown into each other at at couple of locations with the trunks twisting around the tree.  Look for it as you're passing the timber flooded by the beavers.

Boehm Pond is a great trail area for fall hikes.  The best parking spots are on Farmill Street, or Winthrop Woods Road.  There are also neighborhood pedestrian connections from some nearby streets.  All the trails were clear, there are new signs, and fresh trail blazes.  Print out a map from the Blog before you go.

Helpful Trail Tip: Bring a hiking stick; the fresh dry leaves can be slippery when walking downhill.