Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Birchbank Ramble

It was a wonderful day, perfect for a walk through the woods. Fifteen folks gathered at the trailhead of the Birchbank Trail, off Indian Well Road. This trail is noted, for one thing, for the variety and volume of spring flowers, and we arrived near the end of this Spring's cycle. 

Click on photos to enlarge

Starting out

Terry points out one of the native plants
The group heads uphill
Nature's overpass

Terry highlights some of the landscape
Checking the brook for water critters

"Where's the rest of the house?"

Resting at the old former fishing/hunting cabin

The picturesque stream that led us back down the hill
A quiet pool to explore

A fun hike, an educational experience, and a chance to get away and enjoy nature at her finest.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Boppin' Down Basil Brook

After much planning and fantasizing, and waiting for drier and warmer weather, we were finally able to create a rustic diversion off the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, paralleling Basil Brook and passing through woodlands and Mountain Laurel groves via a winding trail. Our small work party used loppers, a chainsaw and a leaf blower to cut through low brush  and wayward tree limbs to delineate the path in the rougher areas. The new trail starts (or ends) a few hundred feet from where the Rec Path crosses Wesley Drive, cuts down to Basil Brook where it crosses the brook and continues northeast, passing near a picturesqe waterfall, and ultimately emerging at the power lines. A hundred feet or so north on the access trail brings you to the older yellow blaze trail, which in turn runs into the Rec Path (see map). The new trail is approximately one mile end-to-end.

Click on photo to enlarge 

John, Jim, and Richard find the new trailhead
The lower Basil Brook crossing site, part of an old farm stone wall

Some trees had to be removed
Richard and Jim resort to brute strength
The serenity of the brook. It's why we ran the trail this way

Richard, John and Jim at the waterfalls

Jim and Richard of the Trails Committee were assisted by volunteer John on this work party. Sandie was our photographer. The next day, Lynn, also of the Trails Committee, and with the help of 4 volunteers, worked on brush cutting and cleaning up the mess we made. Thanks to everyone for their assistance. We hope to get a greater turnout for our future work parties, as this one was a satisfying way to spend a few hours of a Saturday morning.

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Map Boxes

It was a long, cold winter, so the Trails Committee made some map boxes. But after the boxes were all done, it was still cold and snowy. So Trails Committee member Terrance Gallagher added some artwork with a wood-burner tool.  Enjoy.

The knots in the wood became the ends of logs

CFPA's Role in Shelton

Kiosk at the  Buddington Road trailhead with CFPA map. 
From the 1930's to the 1990's,  there was only one official public hiking trail in Shelton: the Paugussett Trail. Although many old-time Shelton residents speak fondly of their "blue-dot" trail, few are faMiliar with CFPA, the organization responsible for the trail, or realize that the trail is part of a much larger network of blue-blazed trails that run throughout the state. The total length of the state blue-blazed trAil system is now over 825 miles.

CFPA was established in 1895 and is the oldest, private, nonProfit conservation organization in Connecticut. The group advocates for the preservation and proper management of state forests and parks. They created the first Connecticut blue-blazed trail in 1929 with the Quinnipiac Trail, and rapidly expanded the trail system across the state throughout the Great Depression with laBor from the CCC program.  It is in this context that Shelton's "blue-dot" Paugussett Trail was created in the 1930s. For several decades, the trail stretched from Lake Zoar in Monroe tO Roosevelt Forest in Stratford.  The trail was abandoned south of Indian Well State Park in the 1960s due to suburban development acXross the trail route.

1946 CFPA regional trail map (marked up to show changes)
When members of the Shelton Conservation Commission and Trails Committee began planning to restore the Paugussett Trail south from Indian Well, CFPA representatives drove down from Middlefield to go over the proposed routing with us. The Shelton Trails Committee made sure to keep in touch with CFPA as the new trail was slowly extended over the years.  We were careful not to refer to the new trail sections as the "Paugussett Trail" before the trail had been reviewed and accepted by CFPA. We called it the "Future Paugussett" or just the "Blue Trail."

Once the new trail finally reached Buddington Road, CFPA representatives drove down to Shelton once again and hiked the trail.  Several great suggestions were made, leading to some major reroutes. For example, the blue trail originally crossed Shelton Avenue at the powerlines, but the crossing was shifted over towards the Dog Park so the trail could cross the bridge at Silent Waters, adding interest to the route. Many blazes needed to be added as well to ensure that regional hikers not familiar with the terrain would be able to follow the trail.

CFPA Map at the Buddington Trailhead

After the trail was deemed up to their high standards, CFPA took a vote and officially accepted the extension as part of the Paugussett Trail.  Once the trail became official, CFPA mapped the trail with gps, updated their interactive map of Blue-Blazed Trails online, and began working on a beautiful map for the kiosk at the new trailhead on Buddington Road (photo above).  The map includes a QR code that can be scanned with a smart phone in order to learn more about the trail or to download the map onto a phone.

Many thanks to CFPA for all their support!

Paugussett Trail crossing on Shelton Avenue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2015 Marshmallow March and the Endless Winter

Technically it's Spring
Shelton's annual Marshmallow March finally took place on March 22 this year after being rescheduled twice due to deep, slushy snow; the kind of snow for which there is no appropriate footwear, not even snowshoes. Snow hikes are tough to schedule because you just never know what the condition of the trails and parking lot will be.  This year, by March 22, the snow depth had dropped down to a dense 3-5" along most of the trail. A cold front came and made it feel more like a blustery day in January.

Would winter-weary Sheltonites embrace the outdoors in these blustery conditions at the end of March?

Hot Chocolate at the Scout Camp
Yes! We had a good turnout, especially families getting their kids out for some exercise and fresh air. Along with hot chocolate and marshmallows, of course!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Making Map Boxes

Richard and Jim work on a map box.
As the polar vortex or whatever took a little detour into Connecticut, members of the Trails Committee retreated to a relatively warm workshop to build a slew of cedar map boxes. By warm, I mean with three space heaters going, I think the temps eventually got up to maybe 50°.  It was a lot warmer than out on the trails, though!  The map boxes will be attached to the trail kiosks around town. The hard part will be keeping them stocked with maps.

Terry offers some friendly advice. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birchbank Trail Mapping

Most of our trails were mapped back in the 1990s before the proliferation of gps units, and we did it by looking at a topo map and simply estimating where we thought the trail was on that map. Recently, I took advantage of a clear sky and clear canopy to record the trail location with a Garmin gps receiver. Steep hills and rock outcroppings can interfere with satellite signals, an effect called "bounce", and clouds and a heavy canopy can also weaken the signal. 

In the map below, the grey lines are from the existing Birchbank Mountain trail map, while the red line is the route recorded by gps. As you can see, the old-school method of trail mapping was in the right ballpark, and good enough for hiking, but the gps data is more accurate.