Monday, November 22, 2021

Lost Overlooks of the Paugussett Trail

 A good friend just passed on the 1976 Bicentennial Edition of the Connecticut Walk Book, and it was interesting to check the Paugussett Trail description and map. 

Paugussett and Pomperaug Trails in 1976

At this point in time, the trail south of Indian Well had already been abandoned. To the north, the Paugussett officially ended at a junction with the Pomperaug Trail, which ran from Kettletown State Park south to the Stevenson Dam, then on to Monroe. At some later time, the trail system was reorganized, and southern end of the Pomperaug Trail became an extension of the Paugussett Trail. 

Reading the description of the Paugussett in 1976, it's striking how many more overlooks there used to be. This is probably due to both the riverbank trees getting taller as well as some trail relocations in response to new housing developments. 

Here are the overlooks referenced in the 1976 edition of the Connecticut Walk Book. Note that the mileage is based on the trail beginning at Rt 110, going to the falls, then straight up the cliff to the first overlook. The trail goes a different way now and the mileage would be longer. Mileages from Birchbank to the Stevenson Dam were also much shorter in 1976 because the trail was more direct at that time (no houses). 

Overlook #1 (mile 0.2): Indian Well, above the falls. This overlook had overgrown but was cleared out a few years back. 

Overlook #2 (mile 1.1): The old trail was said to cross an attractive brook at mile 1.0 and then "swing sharply uphill to outlook at 1.1 mile."  This brook is what we call "Blowdown Brook" and is the last and largest of several brooks before the trail heads gradually up "Hickory Hill" (so named because it crests opposite Hickory Lane).  There is a steep rise and cliffs on the left as you climb up the hill where the trail presumably used to go. It was likely moved down the hill as a reaction to new housing. 

Overlook #3 (mile 1.7): An outlook is reported above the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company wells. This appears to be about where "the boulders" are located. At least some of the trail in this area was originally located a bit higher up on the ridge (some older blazes have been found there). Again, the trail was probably shifted downhill in response to new homes. 

Overlook #4 (mile 2): This is the Birchbank Overlook, which was reclaimed a few years back. 

Overlook #5 (mile 3.8): This was in Monroe on the other side of Webb Mtn Park: "Climb through a cleft in cliff to rock ledge with unique view of either side of river." This has been lost. The trail was relocated above the cliff climb and trees got taller.

Overlook #6 (mile 4): "Pass lookout above Lake Zoar".   An overlook above Lake Zoar was cleared out a few years back. 

Overlook #7 (mile 4.4): "Head west past series of lookouts to Stevenson Dam and junction of Pomperaug." Lost to new houses. 

So we still have three of the seven overlooks, and a few years back we didn't even have those. But imagine how different the Paugussett was in 1976 with lots of overlooks and no houses. Sigh.

And look how the trail used to blow through what is now all houses. (Do not take this map litterally, it's not that accurate). 

1976 map GIS overlay (do not take litterally)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Dig We Must - Two

Crisp, but clear Fall morning at the Shelton Intermediate School.  A group of about a dozen volunteers formed to start work on the Recreation Path and Turkey Trot Trails.

Cody and Chase were not giving an inch when it came to digging out the beech roots along the Turkey Trot Trail.  And neither was the beech.  But in the end teamwork and persistence prevailed over the tripping hazard, and the trail was fixed up.

And so goes much of trail work.

A bunch of us started to tackle various drainage improvements along the RecPath.  Ellen Cramp, our newest Trail Committee Member, asked where is the best place to start?  I said begin at the low point near the culvert and work your way uphill.  Looking back at it, I think much of life can be summed up that way; you just got to dig in, and start your way backwards.

Ted and Bill were clearing out the drainage ditch at the RecPath.  We have a lot of erosion issues at the junction of the Turkey Trot with the RecPath.

Mary King cleared ditches along the RecPath.  A lot of folks were working up and down the trail.  It was mentioned that it was a scene from Cool Hand Luke.

 Derrick, Ted, & Paden were working on a swale to direct water off the RecPath at the Turkey Trot Junction.  We''ll see how time works out, but it looked like a good improvement.

Waterbars on the Turkey Trot Trail were cleaned out.  The culverts and ditches along the RecPath below were also cleaned out.

The leaves were blown off the RecPath.

And we made The Sun shine brightly on Silent Waters.  Well, maybe that last one is a grand exaggeration.  But it was a wonderful morning, and we were out there working, so we must've had a part in it. Right!

Thanks to Cory, Chase, Lorren, Ted, Luis, Mary, Ellen, Paden, Graham, Mark, Derrick, Bill, Eli, Bob & Terry for coming out today and ditch digging.  Sure, it looked like a scene out of Cool Hand Luke, but it was a lot more fun.  See you on the Turkey Trot Hike after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Wesley Drive Work Party

We had another fine turnout for the trails work party this past Saturday.  Folks met at the Upper Wesley Drive crossing near Scotch Pine Rd.

There were a lot of folks out enjoying the RecPath; neighborhood families, joggers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and even a couple of rock climbers.  And then there were these 2 neighbors out for a little Fall stroll by Lizard Head Rock.  Nice to see everyone out using the trails.

And thanks to all the volunteers who turned out.  Here's Norm and Harry cutting brush back along both sides of the RecPath.  It was a pleasant fall morning to do some trail work.

Mark and Chase picked up some crushed stone with the Gator to fill in erosion from earlier storms.

Chase, Val & Mark filling in washouts near one of the bridges off Wesley Drive.

The Fall colors were great.  The Christmas fern, Maple-leafed viburnum, and beech leaves were putting on a show of native color.

Basil Brook was flowing nicely along the RecPath following the recent rains.

Did I mention that we had cute kids out acting as nature guides and explaining the trails to us?  We may have a future trails volunteer here.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fall RecPath Maintenance - Part 2

 We met on Wesley Drive on a bright Fall morning to continue maintenance on the Recreation Path.

It was a good turnout of volunteers.  Our main objective was to clear drainage and repair storm damage.

The Loading Crew was shoveling processed stone into the Gator at Lane St.

Mark then delivered it to the Spreading Crew filling in the washouts going down the hill toward Lane Street.

Neighbors came over to help out too!  Will & Scott even brought their own power tools - bonus!

We even had Trail Committee Alumni drive up from Florida just for the work party.  Well, that and to visit family too.  Sandie was cutting brush along the sides of the RecPath.  What a wonderful surprise.

Another Alum, Rich Skudlarek, was also helping out and offering safety advice.  "Keep walking backward, you're not going to fall off the cliff yet".  

Helpful Trail Safety Tip:  Don't listen to Rich.

The high school volunteers were doing a fine job with the crushed stone repairs.

Several culverts and drainage ditches were cleaned out and cleared along the way.  It's not the most exciting work, but it's important for long-term management.

The RecPath and ditches were blown off and cleaned down to the Lane Street entrance.  

The next work party may be from Wesley Drive North to Great Ledge.  Stay tuned for updates on future work parties.

Thanks to Harry, Zach, Jahneil, Mil, Eli, Luis, Mark, Graham, Will, Scott, Betsey, Val, Ellen, Sandie, Rich, Bill & Terry.  We got a lot done with all the help.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Lovely Fall Day on the RecPath

 It was a lovely Fall day on the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path with a lot of folks out enjoying the trails.  People were strolling, dog walking, mountain biking, jogging, family hiking, you name it.  Some people were even getting chauffeured up and down the RecPath.

Some people have it made.  If only they realized it.

The rest of us were walking about, or planning for upcoming work parties.   There is a volunteer work party next Saturday, October 23rd to fix eroded portions of the RecPath near Lane St., cut brush, clean ditches, un-clog culverts, and other not-so-glamorous maintenance stuff that make it easier to enjoy Shelton's trails.  Check the Events Page for additional information if you're interested in helping out.  And now onto the nice afternoon.

The Shelton Land Trust Meadow at Lane St. was splendid.  Can't say much more than that.  It's amazing how much much natural habitat there is just a few footsteps away from the busy streets in Huntington Center.  People were out hiking, biking, jogging, bird watching, walking their dogs, walking their families, possibly walking other families dogs, the combinations are endless.

This very nice couple was out enjoying the RecPath by the Little Meadow near Lane Street.  Thanks for the update on the bridge conditions at Oak Valley Trail.

This is the processed stone that we're going to use next Saturday to fix some of the ruts on the RecPath. 

This is one of the eroded sections of the RecPath that will be worked on.  We will blow off the leaves, place and compact processed stone in the eroded gullies, clean culverts and drainage ditches, cut grass and brush, and improve sightlines along the trail.  We might even pick up some trash (which looks small at this time).

Here's another spot along Wesley Drive that need erosion repair and clearing to get back to the original 8 foot wide RecPath with 2 foot wide shoulders that were originally built.  

It was really good to chat and see everyone out enjoying the RecPath this Sunday .  Feel free to come out Saturday and help with trail maintenance if you can fit that into your schedules.  Visit the Trails Events Page for additional information about upcoming events and work parties.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Repairin' Ruts on the RecPath

We had some heavy storms in late summer that caused flooding, clogged culverts, and eroded portions of the RecPath.   The ruts were a tripping and biking hazard so they needed to be repaired.  

Recently the Shelton Highways and Bridges Department was able to get a couple of truckloads of processed stone and drop them at various locations along the RecPath for our use.  Some of the stone was a little larger than we typically use for topping the RecPath, but it was good for the repairs.

It was a beautiful Fall Saturday for moving and raking stone.  

One crew loaded crushed stone into the Gator.

Another crew was preparing the washed out areas and spreading the stone when it arrived.  The hydraulic bed on the Gator was a big backsaver.  They also cleaned out the drainage ditches and clogged culverts along the way.  The storms blocked some of those up with debris, which caused the runoff to wash out the gravel surface of the RecPath.  Gotta maintain drainage.

Various spots along the RecPath were exposed down to the filter fabric.  We used up the pile down by the Dog Park & Red Barn parking lot fixing the worst problems.  We'll probably have to come back with material from some of the other piles.

Various spots were filled in out thru the mountain laurels along the powerlines.

We had a great crew of experienced trailkeepers and new volunteers.  Thanks to Ellen, Zach, Jahneil, Mil, Eli, Mark, Graham, Bob, Bill & Terry.  A lot of help makes it easier to move a lot of crushed stone.  There's more to do; probably in 2 weeks down at the Lane Street end of the RecPath, but this was a good start.  Check the Trails Events Page for more information.

Monday, August 16, 2021

"Birch-Well" Hike

If you live in Shelton, it's hard to get in shape for some serious hiking in the White Mountains or along the Appalachian Trail, where you may have elevation gains of a couple thousand feet. Our Birchbank Mountain is just 350' elevation gain. Sleeping Giant in Hamden is a bit more, but that's a very busy park and then there's traffic. There's always Bear Mountain in the northwest corner of the state for an elevation gain of about 1500 feet, but that's a long drive. 

1400-foot elevation gain
(click image to enlarge)

Here's a "Birch-Well" option in Shelton that gives you a 1400-foot cumulative elevation gain over 6.5 miles.  It's the Paugussett Trail between Birchbank Mountain and Indian Well State Park with loops at each end. Parts of the route are similar to the terrain you would find up north, with lots of mossy rocks to navigate, and two good overlooks of the Housatonic River down below. What we call "the Boulders" mark a high point you'll need to cross twice (this is where you need to use your hands). The other high point is capped with the "Top of Tahmore," along the blue/yellow Tahmore loop. 

Overview Map
(click image to enlarge)

Be aware that many map sources are obsolete after trail changes over the past few years, including the All Trails, Gaia, the State Park map, and even the CFPA map hasn't been updated for Tahmore Trail and the new blue/red Beach Cutoff Trail as of this posting. Refer to the City of Shelton Conservation Department maps - those are correct:

Birchbank Mountain Map

Tahmore/Indian Well Map

If you'd like a verbal description, here you go:

  • Park at the Birchbank Trailhead on Indian Well Road/Birchbank Road
  • Take white (go straight through white/white junction), cross bridge, follow stream up the hill to Chimney Junction, turn left on blue-blazed Paugussett Trail and cross the brook. 
  • Follow blue up the hill to the overlook. 
  • Continue following blue up and over the boulders and beyond to Indian Well. Pass the white-blazed turnoff, arrive at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue/yellow Tahmore Trail around the loop, passing the Indian Well Overlook. Arrive back at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue blazes towards the Falls (not the way you came).
  • Turn left at new Blue/Red trail marked "<---BEACH"
  • At the Indian Well Parking area, head over towards the trail kiosk and go up the big stairs on White. Arrive quickly back on the blue Paugussett Trail, turn right. 
  • Follow blue blazes back the way you came, up and over the boulders again. 
  • Turn right onto blue/white Birchbank Connector, near a sign telling you the overlook is 0.1 mile ahead. 
  • When blue/white ends, go right on white. 
  • When white gets to the bottom of the hill, go right and return to your car. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

'Twas a Steamy Saturday

It 'twas a steamy Saturday morning for cutting brush along the RecPath.  The kind of muggy July morning when the sweat started running down your nose just walking out to the job, instead of waiting till you'd been working for a bit.   But we had a good crew and got a lot done, but we were a bit of a leaf-spackled mess by the end of the work party.

Here's Graham, Mark, Matt, Mike, Luis, & Jeff at the end.  Tired, sweaty and victorious.  Bob & Terry were elsewhere.

It started out pretty.  Allison's flowers over by the Trail Barn & Dog Park were in bloom.  It's one of the scenic treats along the RecPath.

The crossing on the N. side of Rt. 108 was cleared out to improve sightlines and to get back some of our 8 foot wide path.  There was a lot of poison ivy and mugwort growing there.

Bob Wood spent a lot of time cutting back brush and vines amidst the poison ivy at the entry.

The edges of the RecPath were cleared to keep the vines, briars, and raspberries away from the Path users.  It was a busy morning with a lot of hikers, dog walkers, runners and bikers using the Path.  We'll have to remember to bring our "work party ahead" signs next time.

The stonework for the two dams that the RecPath runs on top of are always impressive to look at when we stop for a second.

If you look close you can see the hand cut drill holes where the stones were split with chisels during the 1800's.  Makes our work today look easy.

The  jungle on both sides of the RecPath was cut back.  The growth was thickest on the southern dam with the bridge overlooking Silent Waters.

The pond looked very pretty with all the lilly pads.

The Woodland sunflowers were just starting to bloom along the N. end of the dam.  These native species are on the east side of the Path a little south of the canoe launch area.

Darn Mugwort was growing everywhere.  It's an invasive species that crowds out native plants and we try to cut it where we can.

It was a good work party, now time to put away the instruments of destruction.

And enjoying the flowers along the RecPath by the Dog Park.