Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 in Review: A Year to Remember

2020 Out & About Challenge
2020 was a big year for our trails, which suddenly became more popular than anyone could ever imagine.  The pandemic forced many work parties to be cancelled even as trail use was through the roof.  Even so, trail volunteers logged 1200 hours this year in Shelton, an average of 100 hours each month, not including several major Eagle Scout projects and the efforts of many trail users who help keep the trails clear by removing fallen branches and reporting blowdowns. Most of those hours were done independently (rather than work parties). Here are some trail volunteer highlights:

Events: While other towns were closing down their trails in response to the pandemic, Shelton created the 2020 Out and About Challenge to encourage people to visit our lesser-known public properties and trails. In November, participants were rewarded with an invitation-only hike and a drawing for carved hiking sticks.

So many people attended the Full Moon Hike held in October (157 people with additional people unable to park and join the hike), the Trails Committee has had to put a hold on public hikes for the time being. 

One of many blowdowns from Storm Isaias

Storm Isaias (hit August 4): From August to October, volunteers recorded 158 hours clearing trees and limbs from the trails, mostly chainsaw work. Staff also assisted, and some blowdowns were cleared by mystery volunteers, probably mountain bikers. 

New section of Tahmore Trail

Trail Relocations & New Trails Completed: The cooler months are for trail relocations, and there were several accomplished in 2020.  

Korey Barber's bridge leading to Webb Mountain
Eagle Scout Projects: 
  • Korey Barber & Troop 27 constructed a large bridge where the Paugussett Trail crosses Round Hill Brook and enters Webb Mountain Park. 

  • Andrew Kluk, Troop 3, constructed and installed mile markers along the Rec Path. 

  • Marc Santacapita, Troop 19, relocated a bridge and installed bog walks for a Paugussett Trail relocation off of Independence Drive. 
Dozens of hand-routered signs were installed in 2020

Other Projects: 
  • The Rec Path at Wesley Drive & Lane Street was resurfaced after being used as a temporary road during construction of the Lane Street bridge
  • 188 tires were removed from the Little Pond Trail off of Beech Tree Hill Road.
  • About 30 hand-routered signs were created and installed along the trail system.
  • The Birchbank trails were all reblazed. 
  • Access for the trails gator & DR mower was improved
  • Plans for a replacement trails building were finalized (the existing structure is near collapse). 

188 tires were removed from Little Pond Trail

Monday, December 21, 2020

Tahmore Trail Adjustments

Reroutes along the east half of Tahmore Trail (click map to enlarge)

Three sections of Tahmore Trail were shifted a bit this fall in the continuing effort to address problems with footing, erosion, trail alignment, and scenic value. Most of the western half of the loop was completely rerouted this past spring up to the top of so-called "Big Tahmore," and has proved popular with local hikers.  The latest trail changes occurred on the east half of the loop and were relatively minor. Here were the changes and why they were done:

Reroute #1 (see map above): This stretch had a short steep section that was eroding badly into a gully and was treacherous when covered with fresh oak leaves. The existing route went straight down the hill, so there was no way to redirect stormwater off of the trail, meaning the erosion would only get worse. It was also very close to a house, which only become a problem this year after the homeowners cut down a nice screening of hemlocks and dumped the branches over the stone wall onto the Land Trust property alongside the trail. So the trail was steep, eroding, and now a bit of an eyesore.  

View from the old route

Same view from the new route, further from the house

So the trail was pulled away from the home and now hugs the hillside, where there are some interesting rock features to catch the eye. The trail is still relatively steep, but not quite as bad. Two rock steps were installed in the steepest spot. And the trail cuts across the slope and bends around the hillside in such a way that stormwater can be directed off of the trail in several locations, preventing the trail from become a big gully. This reroute required a lot of 'side-hilling' (digging the trail into the side of the hill). 

The reroute allows stormwater to escape from the trail

Reroute #2: This was an easy reroute that simply straightened out the trail. It was always a curious curve ("why are you taking me to the right when the trail ends up to the left?"). The new route takes hikers more directly along their way, and away from the other part of the loop so that hikers on different parts of the trail are less likely to see each other. 

Reroute #2 was a simple straightening

Reroute #3: This reroute addressed two problems. First, if you were following the trail clockwise, the section heading west down to the red trail had a steep section that was slick when covered with leaves or snow. Second, people not familiar with the trail kept accidentally turning right onto the red trail because that was the more obvious tread. To follow Tahmore Trail, you actually would turn left immediately after a big tree on your left that blocked your view. People not used to following blazes kept missing it.

Reroute #3: Less steep, and prevents
people from accidentally turning right on red

So instead of going straight down the hill, the new route first jogs to the right and cuts gradually across the slope, then bends back to the left and drops more steeply. The new alignment directs hikers straight through the red junction (no more left turn). And the remaining steep section is shorter and not quite as steep as before. Some drainage work was also done that may help, since after a storm a river of water flows down Tahmore Trail at the bottom of the notch. 

What's left for Tahmore? The steep hillside above the cattle pasture isn't horrible, but it still needs the leaves to be removed in the fall. Some additional improvements may be warranted there. 

Our Favorite Walks Bonus: Nicholdale Expanded Loop

Here's an easy two-mile loop through forest and meadows in the White Hills on Nichols Trail and the Pearmain Path, but be prepared for seasonal issues like mud, hunting, overgrowth, or snowed-in parking lot. 

by Teresa Gallagher (Natural Resource Manager)

This post is part of a continuing series describing the Trails Committee members favorite jaunts along Shelton's thirty miles of trails. There are many types of trails located across the city, from the handicapped-accessible Rec Path to the rugged Paugussett Trail. 

Click map to enlarge

The outer loop at Nicholdale Farm keeps getting better and it seems like it all came together in 2020 for a high quality 2-mile loop. Click HERE for a printable map showing the full trail system. In the past year we've had improved blazing (including signs and arrows), new bogwalks over wet areas, and half of the yellow-blazed Pearmain loop was substantially relocated and is now much more interesting and scenic. 

Seasonal considerations.  Most of the time this hike has no issues, but before setting out be aware of the following. Winter: The parking lot may not be plowed. Spring: Wear water-proof shoes during mud season. Trail improvements are addressing the mud situation and it's getting better, but be prepared. Early Summer: In late May-June the vegetation may get away from us for a few weeks, especially near the cattle underpass.  Fall: There is firearm hunting late November - December on the Pearmain Path, which crosses private property.  The best times to hike the trail during hunting season are Sundays when firearm hunting is prohibited, and the middle of the day. Morning hunters have typically cleared out by 10:30 am or so, but may return in late afternoon. Wear bright colors, preferably blaze orange. 

The hike: Park at the main entrance to Nicholdale Farm (gps #324 Leavenworth Road and look for the "trailhead parking" sign on Rt 110). Note that Nicholdale has a secondary signed entrance that is more visible, so be sure to pull in at the "trailhead parking" sign. 

Pay attention for the dark blue markings of Nichols Trail

Head down the steps alongside a gate and pass the big sign kiosk. You'll be doing the loop clockwise. Nichols Trail is marked with dark blue blazes and arrows. This property used to be a dairy farm, and the old farm paths and meadows are maintained by the Shelton Land Trust. Go left off the old farm road where the signs and arrows tell you, crossing a bridge with a memorial bench on either side of the brook, and continue through the forest. There's a long stretch heading south with an old stone wall to your left and some bog walks through seasonally muddy areas. 

Eventually the path bends to the right and you'll come to a large boulder abutting the path and the junction of the Pearmain Path ("Boulder Junction"). Take a left and follow the yellow blazes south along an old woods road. There is firearm hunting (with landowner permission) in this section late November-December, so wear bright colors and stay on the trail or hike on Sunday. This is private property covered by a limited conservation easement. You'll cross a small stream dubbed "Abner Brook", and then the new "Pearmain Preserve" property owned by the City is just off to the left. 

Just before you get to Pearmain Road, there is a 3-way intersection, with the main trail heading right and a yellow-square access trail continuing straight to Pearmain Road (the road there is unimproved and not recommended unless you have a big truck). Go right and keep following the rectangular yellow blazes. After crossing the gas pipeline, the trail enters a scenic forest with permission from the Jones Family. Please respect this private property and stay on the blazed trail. 

Looking down through hemlocks at Beardsley Brook

This is a pretty section, built in 2020. The trail, now trending north, comes to a little overlook of a stream dubbed "Beardsley Brook", then winds through some hemlocks to come back to Beardsley Brook for a bit. Right after that is Abner Brook. There is a seasonal waterfall just below the trail here. Cross the plank bridge and notice how Abner Brook is on the both the right (flowing south) and also down below on the left (flowing north). The long piece of ledge on which you are are walking has acted like a dam and blocked the flow of the brook. 

After crossing Abner Brook, you are entering a new Land Trust property known as "Little Knoll." You'll know why after hiking the trail. It's not a big property, but the land down below is all water company forest, so it seems bigger.  Very peaceful. Continue following the yellow blazes back across the gas pipeline and rejoin the blue-blazed Nichols Trail at the Scout Camp. Go north straight through the camp, then watch for a sharp left turn at the edge of a meadow. 

Cattle underpass below Rt 110

The rest of Nichols Trail goes in and out of meadows and along old farm roads, with some sharps turns, so pay close attention to the blue trail markings. After awhile the trail will cross a wooden bridge over a brook and then a stone bridge over a seasonal wet spot, and cross a large meadow bringing you near Rt 110 and an access trail leading across the highway to Willis Woods and Stockmal Trail. Ignore that and head right (east) to parallel Rt 110 for the remainder of the loop. The first section is on the old Leavenworth Road before it was upgraded to a state highway. The trail then winds around the woods a bit before coming out onto a meadow that can be a bit wet in the spring, and overgrown in early summer before the crews can get to it. Just before you arrive back at the parking lot is a square tunnel under the highway. This was built as a cattle underpass when the state constructed the highway across the farm. Sometimes in early summer the tunnel is obscured by vegetation, but it does get cleared out eventually. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Snowy hike on Nells Loop Trail

 It was a good day to hike Nell's Loop Trail.  Sunday, peaceful, snow falling.  The temperature was near freezing so the snow had a little give to it.  I parked at John Dominick Drive, which had been plowed, and walked in toward the powerlines.

The view looking north along the powerlines was very stark, yet striking, at the same time.  What stuck me what how very quiet and muffled it was with the snow.  Not much traffic noise.  You could've been up in the Northeast Kingdom, as well as Fairfield County, for all the noise that you didn't hear in the falling snow.  This is one of the easiest hikes to get away from all the racket at the right time of the year.

After crossing the powerlines you can see where Eversource and Iroquois were out cutting brush along the powerlines earlier in the year.  The new snow covered up a lot of the recent cutting.

There were some nice trail junction signs to let you know where you were in the snowy afternoon.  There are a lot of nice neighborhood hikes that link up with Nell's Loop, and it was obvious that a number of folks had been out snowshoeing along the trails.  Even if you know the trails pretty well it's a comfortable sight to have some of the signs in the snow saying "Yup, this is where I am".

Even though the parking lots were not yet plowed out there was a lot of footprints along the Paugussett Trail and Nell's Loop at 4 Corners.  A number of snowshoe'rs were going up and down the Paugussett Trail.

There were also a lot of wildlife tracks - in this case coyote tracks along Nell's Loop.  A little further on the deer tracks were bounding ahead about 10 feet apart for some reason.  Could the coyotes have motivated a deer to move along up the trail?  There were also lots of deer tracks, squirrel tracks, some possibly fox tracks, and other animals.  It's a great time of the year to work on your animal tracking skills.

There were some friendly, little trail signs guiding you back to the parking spot and the end of John Dominick Drive.  It makes for a very peaceful hike in the falling snow.  

Helpful Trail Tip:  Just remember to allow some extra time when hiking in the snow.  "You'll take twice as long to go half the distance" as regular hiking, or so I've heard tell.  But it can be well worth it.



Monday, December 14, 2020

Our Favorite Walks Bonus: Tahmore & Indian Well

Indian Well and Tahmore Loop: a great exercise routine

by Teresa Gallagher (Natural Resource Manager)
This post is part of a continuing series describing the Trails Committee members favorite jaunts along Shelton's thirty miles of trails. There are many types of trails located across the city, from the handicapped-accessible Rec Path to the rugged Paugussett Trail. 

Blue arrows to the top then red arrows back down in a figure-8
(Click to enlarge)

This two-mile loop has a scenic overlook of the Housatonic River, decent footing, and lots of hills, making it a great exercise routine that doesn't take too much time. But it's also just a really nice hike. You can also take a spur to the falls at Indian Well. The loop didn't exist when I wrote up my original favorite hike, but has since become my favorite. Note that a ton of reroutes, improvements, and new trails have happened here recently. This is not the old trail system, so if you tried these trails a few years ago, try them again. 

You start at the off-season beach lot across the street from the main Indian Well parking area and head past the sign kiosk and up the Big Stairs (about 50 steps). Phew! Then there's another short but steep hill taking you up to the junction with the blue-blazed Paugussett Trail. That was the hardest part. Take a hard left onto the blue trail (pay attention for this junction, some people who aren't go the wrong way on blue and end up at Birchbank). There is more uphill, but less steep, until you arrive at Tahmore Junction (the intersection with the blue/yellow Tahmore loop trail). You'll jog to the left and then to the right to get on Tahmore Trail going clockwise, following signs for the overlook. This part of Tahmore Trail used to be the Paugussett Trail until a few years ago, so it's well-worn. 

Overlook on Tahmore Trail

This is a great overlook of Lake Housatonic about 200 feet below. Off in the distance is the Derby-Shelton dam, and past that is the Route 8 bridge with teeny-tiny cars crossing it. You might also see Route 34 on the other side of the river. I enjoy seeing this overlook change with the seasons and the time of day. 

Continue following the blue/yellow blazes up and down and around, but mostly up. You'll gain about 150 feet in elevation. Like I said, it's a great workout. The "Top of Tahmore" offers a 360° view through the trees during the offseason, including the river far below. You can't see any of that during the summer, though. 

Sunset at the "Top of Tahmore"

I like the different feel of the hilltop. It's rocky and open and dry, and there are different plants than down below. Blueberries and wild pink, for example. Lots of oak. 

From the Top of Tahmore it's all downhill. Follow the blue/yellow blazes back to Tahmore junction and go straight through the intersection and down the hill on blue, following the signs for the falls (do not take the first blue option, which is the way you came). The trail quickly bends left for a bit, which can feel wrong,  but will switchback back to the south. 

The new Beach Cutoff Trail is still being improved

You'll come to big rock face on the right and the blue/red Beach Cutoff Trail  on your left. The blue/red trail is new and is basically an express trail from the beach to the falls. At this point you have a choice: Turn left onto blue/red and head back to the parking lot, which is what I usually do when I'm in a hurry, or continue on for a slightly larger loop or to see the falls. The blue/red trail is co-aligned with the blue trail for a short ways and then the two split again before coming back together before the blue trail goes down to the river. If you want to see the falls, continue on blue, crossing Indian Hole Brook carefully, then taking a right onto the big wide path that leads a short ways to the falls. There are a lot of signs and maps on the trees to help you find your way here because most people in this area are not hikers and seem to be a little lost. Note that if the water is high, you might not be able to cross the brook. 

Happy Hiking!

Andrew Kluk Eagle Scout Project: Mile Markers


Andrew Kluk's Eagle Scout project consisted of creating and installing mile markers along the Rec Path every half mile. The Rec Path gets used a lot for daily exercise, so people love seeing the markers. It should also help with emergency response or when someone needs to report a trail problem. 

New marker at Silent Waters
As a bonus, the mile markers will help to clarify that the Rec Path is a long trail (just over four miles). A lot of people think the trail starts at the dog park (Mile 1.25), or don't realize that the path off Lane Street (Mile 4.0) is the same one as the path behind Pine Lake (Mile 0.0). The markers should help with that. The markers look great. Nice Job! 

Recommended Trails for Snowshoeing

Rec Path off Wesley Drive right after a storm

Right after a big snowstorm, any of our trails Shelton can be snowshoed if you can get to the trailhead. Parking is the real issue. The hiker lots may go a few days without being plowed, and some are never plowed.  Here's some recommended snowshoe hikes with on-street parking (click links for maps):

Boehm Pond TrailsPark on the side of Winthrop Woods Road. There is a nice system of loops that doesn't get used much and is well-blazed. The trail system runs on both sides of the road. A big new beaver pond (Boehm Pond) is on the north side, while the trail loops are on the south side.

Tahmore Trail: Park at the end of Tahmore Place. The 0.9 mile blue/yellow loop has been completely redone in the past year and is much safer than it use to be. Expect some hills, but there is also a great overlook of the Housatonic River, and a 360° view through the trees at the top of Big Tahmore. If you only want to do half the loop, use the red connector trail. 

Birchbank: Park at Round Hill Road. Expect hills. Take the Paugussett Trail into Birchbank to the chimney. From there, you can continue following the blue blazes up to the overlook. For a lollipop loop, continue past the overlook and take the blue/white Birchbank Connector (recently reroute so it's less steep) to Birchbank Trail (white), turn left on white and take that back to the blue blazes, turning right to arrive back at the chimney. There are other loop options at Birchbank. 

Basil Brook Bypass/Rec Path (Shelton Lakes). Park on Wesley Drive and make a loop out of these two trails. Basil Brook Bypass is not blazed, so this is best done if you are already familiar with the trail. A highlight is Basil Brook Falls, which is often full of ice and flowing nicely during the winter, and there is lots of mountain laurel.  This end of the Rec Path isn't used as heavily as the north end, and Basil Brook Bypass tends to be completely ignored after it snows. 

Nells Rock Trail (Shelton Lakes): If the main lot (near L'Hermitage) isn't plowed, park at the end of John Dominick Drive and follow the white square blazes of the access trail to the main loop (white rectangular blazes). You can also pick up the Paugussett Trail and follow that to Hope Lake. This area is relatively flat. 

Places and parking areas that may be inaccessible for a long time when there is snow may include: Nicholdale (sporadic and unpredictable plowing), Willis Woods, lower Birchbank, Gristmill Trail, and the Paugussett at Buddington. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Are Water Bars open during Covid?

Trail volunteers met on a foggy December morning to fix drainage problems on the Turkey Trot Trail.  A new water bar was constructed to control groundwater that was impacting the Recreation Path downhill.

The forecast for Saturday had been for rain, but it looked like we could squeeze in the work party during the morning.  The discussion about the weather let Trails Chairman Bill Dyer to quip "Given Covid, are water bar(s) still open?"  We assumed that the Governor's Covid restrictions did not apply to trails events and proceeded with face masks and foggy glasses to start digging.  Luckily, nobody hit their own foot, or their teammates foot, with a hoe, pick or shovel.

The groundwater had been breaking out on the Turkey Trot Trail, washing down the trail tread, causing erosion, and ponding on the Recreation Path below.  Earlier in the week Mark and Luis had cleaned out a relief drain and culvert along the RecPath controlling some of the runoff, but more was needed.

There were two other water bars on the slope along the Turkey Trot, but these were higher on the slope and ground water breaking out of the hillside.

The water bar is a shallow angled ditch that directs runoff off the trail before it can reach velocities that cause erosion.  Mark and Gino are grading the gentle berm on the downhill side of the water bar.  The trick is to construct something deep enough to control runoff, but shallow and smooth enough that it's good for walking or biking.  The water bar has to carry the runoff well beyond the limits of the trail.  There were a lot of tree roots to dig through on this one.

Here's the completed water bar with Betsey in the background.  A lot of people were out in the moody weather trying to get in a walk before the rain hit.  Bob & Mark were chatting with a lot of friends and neighbors as they passed the work party.

We also cleaned out two existing water bars, placed gravel in washed out spots, and fixed some of the split rail fence on the top of the dam along the RecPath.  More needs to be done but at that point the fog was turning to rain and we decided to pack it in.

Thanks to everyone who attended: Mary, Betsey, Val, Gino, Bill, Bob, Mark, and Terry.  It was muddy and foggy, but we hopefully fixed the drainage problem.  Time will tell.

The trails were in good shape and getting a lot of use on Sunday with the sunny 60 degree weather.  Everyone was out on the trails judging from the tracks in the new water bar.

So we can safely say that the water bars in Shelton are open during Covid, and Governor Lamont can check them out next time he's in town.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Korey Barber Eagle Scout Project

Completed bridge, as seen from the Monroe side
Korey Barber's Eagle Scout project was the construction of a substantial bridge at the Shelton/Monroe border where the Paugussett Trail crosses Round Hill Brook before entering Webb Mountain. The existing crossing was deceptively difficult to use. Even when the water was low, it was easy to slip on the wet rock and fall.  When the water was high, the crossing was about impossible.  

Prepping the foundation

This project required an epic level of paperwork and reviews before construction could even begin. The bridge is located in two municipalities, each requiring reviews from multiple agencies such as Wetlands, Parks, Conservation, Trails, and Engineering. And because the Paugussett is managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), they too reviewed the project. And this was all during the Covid pandemic, making each step potentially more difficult as offices shut down or restricted their hours. 
A full crew, all in face masks
To top it all off, Covid-related lumber shortages arose right about the time that construction was ready to begin. Shelves were bare at Home Depot and Lowes. Fortunately, Lowes management supported Korey's project and donated the materials he needed. 

View from the bridge
Round Hill Brook is a pretty little stream that falls rapidly through a notch down the embankment of the Housatonic River, creating a series of scenic little falls. Neighbors in the so-called Poet Section of the Shelton now have a convenient back door into Webb Mountain Park, and thru hikers have a much easier time getting across the brook (especially if they are backpacking into Webb Mountain, which has campsites). Nice job!

Marc Santacapita Eagle Scout Project - Paugussett Trail

This existing bridge was relocated to the new crossing

Much of the Paugussett Trail between Independence Drive and Meadow Street is poorly drained and full of tree roots, so as the trail has become compacted over time, some spots have turned into mud holes and others are just hard to walk on. Marc Santacapita's Troop 19 Eagle Scout project addressed one particularly muddy section near Independence Drive by relocating the trail. 

Spanning a wet spot
The new route is much dryer (the old route passed through a lot of skunk cabbage, a wetlands plant, see photo below), but there was still water to contend with. This required moving one of the existing Scout bridges installed by Daniel Vigezzi and constructing heavy-duty bog walks on another section. The heavy planks used for this bog walk are a pleasure to walk on and should last a long time. 

The old muddy route through the skunk cabbage was closed

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Winter Hiking Tips for Shelton

Sounds like a lot of people are going to try and keep using the trails this winter due to the Coronavirus. Great! Winter hiking is great for your mental and physical health. 

Here's are Teresa's recommendations for winter gear.

Snowshoes?  I have a pair and occasionally get to use them in Shelton, but not often. You need the right kind of snow. If it's too powdery, modern snowshoes sink right through it. A heavier snow works great. But after a few days and some compaction it's likely to ice up, at which point microspikes work better. And most years there just isn't enough snow in the first place. I use my microspikes a lot more...

Microspikes!!  A heavy-duty set of serious trail microspikes allows you to easily walk down icy trails as if you were walking down a sidewalk.  When Shelton has snowcover, the trails are usually packed down by other trail users. The snowpack melts during the afternoon, and refreezes every night, so the trails get pretty icy. Kahtoola is a great brand that I use. I've heard some say you can get a pretty good pair at Ocean State Job Lot for a fraction of the price, but can't verify that. The one time spikes are not recommended is when snow is really sticky (warm afternoons), because the snow balls up under your feet. Microspikes can also be used in a pinch when hiking on thick oak leaves on some of the steeper Connecticut trails in the northwest corner. 

Headlamp. It gets dark so early. Some trail headlamps are designed for night hiking. I have this Black Diamond headlamp. Any flashlight will do, however. Just remember to bring one if you head out in the afternoon. 

Trekking Poles are not absolutely necessary, but are helpful when hiking on hills covered with fresh leaves, ice, or snow, and for crossing streams that tend to run higher during the winter (and are icier). Trekking poles have a sharp grip at the bottom that is less likely to slip than a hiking stick. I have some high-end Black Diamond trekking poles because I use them a lot for all-day hikes, and these are significantly lighter than something you would find at Walmart. I typically only use two poles when I'm backpacking, and just use one pole for day-hiking. 

Clothing: Lots of layers, and no cotton. I have a packable down winter coat that was a game-changer for me. It weighs nothing, compresses into a tiny ball in my pack, and is really warm. 

WHEN TO HIKE: During winter months, the trail conditions are often much better in the morning when everything is frozen solid. This is true whether there is snowcover or not. On warm, sunny afternoons, snow and ice turn into slippery slush. Super wet snow will ball up in microspikes, making them useless. When there is no snow, the top layer of dirt thaws out into a slick, poorly drained layer of mud that sits on top of the frozen dirt below. This is especially true for trails like the Paugussett at Indian Well and Birchbank. As a bonus, the morning trails are more peaceful. 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:  Winter trail conditions change drastically from day to day and hour to hour. Be prepared for anything and try to be flexible.