Thursday, July 28, 2022

Photo Tour of Trombetta Trail

Trombetta Trail

There's a new hiking trail on our Trombetta Woods Open Space that you can't quite legally get to until the state grants permission to cross a narrow strip of Centennial Watershed State Forest. It will make a nice loop off the end of Stockmal Trail so that you don't have to just stop and turn around. 

There's a short gap between Stockmal Trail and Trombetta Trail.

The Natural Resource Manager (me) has a permit to cross Means Brook and Centennial Watershed State Forest in order to remove an invasive Mile-a-Minute (MAM) Vine infestation. The hiking trail was created last fall after MAM was found growing on the far end of the property. Without a trail, it would be nearly impossible to access the infestation for management. The old driveway from Monroe shown on some maps is completely overgrown, and we don't want to clear it for fear of inviting ATVs. The loop is about half a mile long. 

Stockmal Trail starts here on Route 110 across from Nicholdale Farm

So here's a photo tour. After hiking to the end of Stockmal Trail near Means Brook, it's time to cross Centennial Watershed State Forest. The forest is about 100 feet wide in this spot. 

Means Brook is easily crossed during low summer flow.

Means Brook is super easy to cross during low summer flow. I just stepped on a couple rocks and never got my feet wet. There's a steep embankment on the far side, but a notch in one spot makes it easy enough to climb up onto the berm that follows the brook.  The brook can only be crossed like this during low flow. Other times of year, the water will be higher, and after heavy rain it jumps its banks and really floods. A traditional pedestrian bridge may not be feasible due to the severe flooding. 

Trombetta Trail begins

Trombetta Trail starts out by following the top of the wooded berm alongside the river. It's unusual. The berm was created when the river was channelized many years ago. The trail stays up on the berm because the footing is solid and dry. The area below is a bit damp and soft. After the berm walk, the trail drops down to begin a loop. 

The loop starts

Heading counterclockwise around the loop

The loop starts out pretty level and comes to an area that used to be quarried for sand. The ground is weirdly uneven where heavy equipment was used to scoop out sand, and there are also drainage ditches. Piles of unwanted dirt were left behind. After the quarry was abandoned, trees and brush grew up over everything. There's one spot that still pretty open for some reason, and that's were the Mile-a-Minute Vine was found growing. 

Time to check for MAM

Found some MAM.
It won't let go of my glove.

The MAM vine has been pulled a couple times already this year and is under control. It doesn't seem to be able to spread into shady areas, which is good, and the heavy vegetation in the clearing is suppressing its growth. It has little barbs that act like velcro and are sharp enough to cause micro-stab wounds. It can grow up to 6" per day, so it's important to keep checking this area. 

MAM weevils are helping
Little holes in the leaves show that weevils are active and doing their job. The weevils were released in Newtown and other areas several years ago and have multiplied. They slow down the growth a bit, but do not stop the spread. 

Continuing down Trombetta Trail
After pulling MAM, it's time to finish the Trombetta loop. The trail circles around the MAM site and starts heading back, this time up the slope. The terrain changes after leaving the old quarry area, with old stone walls cutting through classic New England woodlands. 

Classic New England stone wall

Lots of Christmas Fern

The trail follows the slope grade until it gets to a big stone wall that marks the boundary line with Jones Farm. There's some scenic ledge in that area. The trail then turns to follow the stone wall for a bit before turning back to complete the loop. 

Stone wall along the Jones Farm property

Peaking through the trees at the Jone's Farm meadow

Just before completing the loop, there's a very tall oak tree next to the trail that towers over its neighbors. Last fall it was still green when the surrounding trees had already dropped most of their leaves. 

King of the Forest. 

For more information about Trombetta Woods and our quest to gain access across Centennial Watershed State Forest, read our post from January 4, 2022. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Trails Committee Provides Comments for the Eversource Rebuild Project

The Committee held a Special Meeting on June 7 to
review the final Eversource plans.

Big changes are coming to the powerline corridor that cuts through Shelton Lakes when Eversource installs big new monopoles and takes out the existing towers.  There will be lots of grading, new gravel pads around the new poles, and a new road system. To get a better idea of what's coming, see the Committee's blog post from April 18,  

May 12 site walk on the Rec Path at Great Ledge

Trails Committee members spent a lot of time and energy reviewing the Eversource proposal in order to try and minimize impacts to the trail system.  There were multiple meetings with Eversource staff, including a site walk, and then a Special Meeting was scheduled after the site walk to come up with detailed recommendation to send to the Site Council.  

Here is the Trails Committee's final letter: The Trails Committee letter to the Siting Council

May 12 site walk at Nells Rock Trail with Rec Path in distance.
The rock ledge in foreground will be removed for a new tower pad.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Another Paugussett Reroute at Indian Well

The new Paugussett Trail route

Yet another trail relocation at Indian Well!  This time it's the section between Route 110 and Indian Hole Brook, near The Maples. 

Reroute is in pink

This time around the main problem to be addressed was the chronic dumping and littering down the embankment holding up Indian Well Road.  There are the eternal beer cans, but every year there is also something big and new that gets dumped down the hill. This year it was about 50 tires and a queen sized mattress. Last year it was also tires. Before that were bags of construction debris. It's always something, and months go by with hikers walking past a pile of garbage before we can arrange to have it removed.  

View from the old section of the Paugussett, now closed

The relocation also gets the trail off of Indian Well Road, and further away from traffic and noise.  This is an interesting corner of the park that is seldom visited. There's a pond and criss-crossing historic roadbeds along the river slope, as well as ruins from who knows what. 

The new view instead of those tires

Lidar image 
New trail is dark blue. Old Trail light blue.
Yellow is 1867 "highway"
Orange is the original Indian Well Rd
(click to enlarge)

Lidar is famous for revealing ancient cities and pyramids hidden in jungles, but it also finds old Connecticut roads. The image above is pretty complex and attests to how this difficult terrain along the Housatonic River has prompted the rerouting of roads through the years.  The existing Route 110 and Indian Well Road are easy to see on the Lidar image.  An older version of Indian Well Road is highlighted with orange. Indian Well Road was shifted up the slope a bit during the Great Depression as part of the WPA program, leading to impressive stone retaining walls. The now abandoned trail route followed part of this abandoned section of Indian Well Road. 

The old highway from 1867

Another track revealed on the Lidar image above has been highlighted in yellow. This corresponds to the main highway shown on a Shelton map from 1867.  The old road has an impress amount of earthwork associated with it. It was a big, wide cart path. The new Paugussett route runs below the base of this road for a ways before climbing the embankment to follow it briefly before turning up the hill towards Route 110. 

It's a peaceful spot. But it didn't used to be. This is where the former Leavenworth Landing was located in the 1700s. There was a shipyard and port and it was the busiest part of Shelton (technically, there was no Shelton yet - it was known as the Ripton Parish section of Stratford at the time). There was a bridge across the river at one point, although it washed out and was replaced by a ferry. All this was happening at what is now Indian Well State Park and the "Derby Narrows" where the river is constricted below what is now Osbornedale. By 1812, the shipyard had closed down.  The Lidar image shows the old highway going south towards the river near the Derby Narrows before it disappears under probable piles of sand washing down the embankment. One can imagine carts loaded with trade goods from the White Hills heading for port. 

Switchbacking on the slope to Rt 110

The drawback to this new route is the steeper climb up the hill to cross Rt 110, although it goes pretty quick. The old route was more gradual, while the new route stays near the bottom of the slope as long as possible (for the peace and quiet) before switchbacking up the slope to Route 110.  Road noise gets a lot louder as you climb the hill, but when you get up to the road you're already at the junction of Route 110 and Indian Well at the big park sign and the standard CFPA blue oval sign marking the trail crossing. You just cross Route 110 (carefully!) instead of walking along Indian Well Road like you used to. Less road, more quiet woods. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

It's a Bad Time to be a Beech Tree

The beech trees are dying.

Only three years after the first instance of Beech Leaf Disease was spotted in Connecticut, many of the Beech trees in Shelton are dying.  An invasive parasite is causing the tree's leaves to wilt and drop off, leaving it susceptible to other infections and ailments.  A recent walk thru the Boehm Pond Trail system showed a lot of dead and dying beech trees.

The usually shady canopy along Boehm Pond Brook was open and sunny.  Many of the Beech trees had large sections of bark missing.

There were blowdowns across the Yellow trail.  More work for volunteers to clean up.  Sadly, we are going to lose yet another key tree in Connecticut's forest.  First it was the hemlocks, then the ash, and now the beeches.  CT property owners and municipalities are going to go thru another round of storm damage, power outages, and increased expenses to clean up the falling trees.  In many cases they are older growth hardwoods that are the dominate species in some areas.

Next time you walk on a favorite shady trail and notice that it seems too sunny, take a look around and look up.   It may be time to say goodby to another of our State's trees.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

It was a Jungle at Silent Waters (Mind the Hornets)

 It is was a jungle along the RecPath at Silent Waters.  Thankfully, a crack crew of trails volunteers fixed that problem.

This is the "Before" picture at Shelton Intermediate School  when everybody was fresh, clean, and un-wounded.  Then we got to work.

A group took off and went in at the Turkey Trot kiosk and another went in at Rt. 108 by the crosswalk.  Our goal was to cut back all the jungle that was growing into the Recreation Path while we had been working on other trails in June.

It was getting pretty hairy by the last week in June.  It was worse by the end of the first week in July.

It was a busy morning with a lot of active trail users enjoying the RecPath.

We had a fine crew of Shelton students helping with cutting brush and clearing the Path.

The overlooks of Silent Waters were cleared at the dam.  Matt was trying to fix the fences.  We'll have to come back to work on some of the missing rails.

Some of the fence sections need work.  Sigh!.  Again.  Please be a little careful and don't fall off the top of the dams in those spots.

The beavers seem to have abandoned Silent Waters, and the water levels have dropped.

The lily pads at Silent Waters looked good though.

The buttonbush by the canoe launch looked really good.  There were lots of bees working the flowering shrubs.

We had a good work party, marred only by Val getting into a hornet nest on the downhill side of the main dam.  She took a lot of hits, dropped everything and ran, but she is recovering.  She's tough.

Thanks to everyone who came out: Myisha, Sam, Ethan, Noah, Luis, Graham, Matt, Ellen, Mark, Terry, and Val.  Maybe Val can give some safety pointers class at the next work party on how to deal with bee stings.  We're going into wasp season and it's one of our main safety risks doing trails work (that and driving to the work parties).  

And poison ivy too.  One of our volunteers is still recovering from poison ivy from the last work party.  Please remember to was with rubbing alcohol and a rough cloth to get all the invisible poison ivy sap off of you after washing.  There was a lot of it along the RecPath on Saturday.

Thanks again to Shelton's volunteers, they should get hazard pay.  There was a lot of poison ivy along the RecPath in the sunny spots, but there's a bit less today thanks to the volunteers..  The hornet nest was flagged with pink ribbon, walk briskly as you pass by.  And enjoy Silent Waters, it's worth the visit.  Check out the buttonbush.