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.