Thursday, April 3, 2014

Heavy Haulin'

 Several weeks ago, mainly due to unsafe conditions, it was decided to disassemble and remove the fisherman's arch bridge built last year as an Eagle Scout project on Hope Lake (see "Ice Capades at Hope Lake"  blog of February 1). The lumber recovered is valuable and will be recycled for future projects. Shelton Trails Committee members and volunteers moved what seemed like tons of lumber from the bridge site to a secured location.

Click on photos to enlarge

The remains of the bridge were left on site, a short distance from the closest road.

The John Deere Gator was helpful in hauling out the shorter lengths

Josh and Jonathan haul two of the 15 footers, which made up most of the lumber, out to the road
Jim and Mike unload the Gator (Richard drives) as Sheri and Bill prepare the truck bed
Tom's truck was able to handle the 12 and 15 foot lengths for the move

At the storage location, the group works on unloading the truck
"Don't just stand somethin'!" Terry kids daughter Emma
Mike, Bill, and Terry formulate the most efficient lumber stacking plan
The Moving Crew: Thanks to Committee members and volunteers Jonathan, Bill, Emma, Terry, Tom, Sheri, Mike, and brothers Josh and Zachary. Not pictured were Jim, Richard, and Sandie, who is not pictured because she took the picture
The young men (no, Mike's not THAT young!) volunteered as part of their Community service commitment with their school. Our work parties provide an excellent opportunity for students, both men and women, to not only earn hours toward community service, but also become familiar with outdoor activities in their town and engage in light physical labor in a social atmosphere. We hope to see both new and repeat volunteers on future work parties.

Special thanks to Conservation Commission Chairman Tom Harbinson for providing his truck (as well as his back), without which this move would have been impossible.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wanted: Paugussett Trail Manager

Paugussett Trail at Indian Well State Park
CFPA is looking for a Trail Manager to adopt the old Shelton section of the Blue-Blazed Paugussett Trail. This section runs for several miles from the Monroe border at Webb Mountain Park, through Birchbank Mountain Open Space, and ends at the parking area to the falls at Indian Well State Park (see map). CFPA will be holding a spring workshop on the Paugussett in late April to get the trail in shape. After that, the manager would be responsible for walking the trail, keeping it maintained where possible, and reporting any difficulties or issues.  CFPA volunteers put in over 20,000 hours of work each year to maintain the 825-mile CT-Blue-Blazed Trail System. Contact the Shelton Conservation Agent if you are interested - or 203-924-1555 x315.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March Marshmallow March (say that three times!)

So what if the snow did make hiking a bit of a challenge! The end result was a fun time around a campfire, toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. Our annual Marshmallow March brought out the usual nice crowd, returnees as well as some newcomers. All seemed to enjoy the hike, the campfire, and the camaraderie that has made this trail event one of the most popular of our hikes.

Click on photos to enlarge

 Nicholdale Farm is the ideal location for an event like this. Wonderful pastoral setting, clearly marked trails, a real nature retreat. Thanks to the Shelton Land Conservation Trust for allowing us to use the scout camp for our outing.

Jim and Richard, members of the Shelton Trails Committee, head to the camp with the all-important goodies
Richard and Jim get the fire started
 Sandie, also a committee member, could not partake in the hike, and was thus made official event photographer. Seen here with husband Richard
The first arrivals. Was the guy in the sled pulling his dad?
Women, men, kids and assorted fur persons. Nice mix!
The marshmallows were flaming!

The fire provided heat for warming up, drying socks and boots, and most important, burning marshmallows
Don't worry! We didn't burn anyone at the stake!
 These are the feet that belong in those boots

"Can I get this all in one bite?"
" on a sled! It doesn't get better than this!"

"Gotta make sure I get it all!"

"I'm saving the stuff on my nose for later"
Hey! That's no kid! That's Terry!
Trails Committee members Terry, Richard, Jim, and Chairman Bill with his almost invisible friend Teddy
Committee member Lynn (in blue) with friends
Bellies full of marshmallows and chocolate, the trek back to civilization begins
Someone has to put out the fire!
...and some get a free ride back!

Nice weather, a snowy backdrop, and a friendly group all added up to an afternoon of fun with the kids. We hope to see everyone again next year, marshmallow sticks at the ready!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ice Capades at Hope Lake

It's been a slow month for trail parties due to the weather, but Saturday morning the Trails Committee met at Hope Lake to see what steps needed to be done to take down the arch bridge at The Point. Nobody really came prepared with all the tools to take down the bridge since this was more of a recon party, but after some discussion we decided to start using the tools that we had on hand. In the meantime a couple of folks went back to pick up drills with charged batteries, jacks, crowbars, sledgehammers, and other assorted implements of finesse.

We started by jacking up the high side of the bridge to take some of the load off the bolts that were holding the arches together. Having a frozen lake surface to work off of was much easier than wading thru the water.

Bill set up his jack and used an old 4x4 from the Barn to raise the truss. This Rube Goldberg contraption may look hokey (it was), but it did the job and met all the objectives of our safety guidelines (nobody was injured). We even had the first aid kit, Emergency Contacts List, and Go Bucket ready nearby just in case.

Gradually, we slowly removed enough screws and loosened enough bolts that we could separate the arches.

It took a little while but after we removed the first arch we were able to get the other two down without any incident.

The lumber was carefully stockpiled on either side of the trail and will be removed in a future work party. The lumber and hardware will get re-used on future trail projects. It was a shame to have to take the bridge down, because we really appreciate all the hard work the scouts and their dads put into it, but the foundation settled and it was a safety hazard. We had kicked around different ideas to repair the bridge for months, and the consensus was the best course of action was to take it down. An earlier work party in the Fall removed the decking after the bridge was vandalized. Not all trail management is fun or easy, but volunteers do try to keep our trail network safe and enjoyable.

Still, we did make accomplish much more than we thought we would when we started. Here's Bill, Lynn, and Rich at the end with the cleaned up work site. Jim & Terry are out of the picture. The abutments and ramps still need to be cleared, but that's for another day.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Paugussett Trail Extension Approved

Shelton regained six miles of Connecticut "Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail" in December 2013 with a vote by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA).  The action officially restores the Paugussett Trail from Indian Well State Park south through the Shelton Lakes area to Buddington Road, and increases the total length of the trail to about fifteen miles. The new trail terminus is located near Buck Hill Road, a quarter mile from the original Buddington Road crossing at Old Town Road.
Blue-Blazed Trail System (click image to enlarge)

CFPA established the Blue-Blazed Trail system in 1929 and continues to maintain an 825-mile long network of hiking trails throughout the state. Many of these trails, including the Paugussett Trail, were created during the Great Depression with the assistance of unemployed young men who signed up with the Civilian Conservation Corps, better known as the CCC.  The character of a Blue-Blazed Trails is often challenging, with many trails climbing Connecticut's most prominent ridges, such as the Quinnipiac Trail on Sleeping Giant in Hamden, and the Mattabesett Trail on Mt. Higby in Middlefield.  People who have hiked all the major trails are eligible to become a member of the "Connecticut 400 Club."

A new section of trail skirts a retaining wall built during the
Great Depression at Indian Well State Park. 

Restoration of a lost trail:  The Paugussett Trail (pronounced "PuhGUSSett") once extended from Lake Zoar in Monroe south to Roosevelt Forest in Stratford (see CFPA's 1940 trail map).  However, most of the trail was located on private property and vulnerable to development, and by 1971 the trail was abandoned south of Indian Well State Park.  Over the years, hikers maintained hope that the trail could be restored, and when Shelton's first open space plan was drafted in 1993, a potential greenway corridor was included through which the trail could be extended.

The trail hugs the western shoreline of Hope Lake
Properties along this corridor soon became available for open space preservation, including several hundred acres of surplus watershed land at Shelton Lakes in 1998. That purchase included Hope Lake and Silent Waters, two scenic reservoirs that have become attractions for Paugussett Trail hikers.  Shelton Lakes is now a very popular destination, with more than ten miles of trails, a dog park, fishing, and canoeing.  Another attraction is Eklund Garden, a native wildflower refuge through which the Paugussett Trail passes.

Of the twenty separate properties that the new trail cross between Indian Well State Park and Buddington Road, all but two have been acquired since the 1990s (those two properties were already owned by the City).

Volunteers with the Shelton Trails Committee constructed the trail over many years, starting with sections at Shelton Lakes that have been used by residents since the mid-1990s. Several major Eagle Scout projects were involved, including the construction of bridges, sign kiosks, and a bypass.  The new trail extension is located entirely on City and State property.

Eagle Scout bridge construction near Buddington Road
How to get there: The new trail section can be accessed at Indian Well State Park by parking in the first lot after turning onto Indian Well Road, opposite a brown sign for the access trail to the falls that instructs people not to climb on the rocks. From there, hikers follow blue blazes marked on trees (or other objects if there are no trees) south to stay on the trail as it crosses Rt 110 and slowly rises up the slopes of the Housatonic River to come out onto Mayflower Lane. Hikers must then walk along the road for about 1000 feet, cross Meadow Street, and enter the Wiacek meadows north of the High School. The trail continues south along the powerline corridor, crossing Constitution Blvd North and Independence Drive, before joining the trail system at Shelton Lakes. The Buddington Road trailhead is located near Buck Hill Road under the high tension powerlines.

Trail maps: Maps for the Shelton Lakes trail system which includes the Paugussett from Meadow Street to Buddington Road, can be downloaded at and are also available at the Community Center and City Hall.  CFPA publishes detailed maps and descriptions of the Blue-Blazed Trails in the Connecticut Walk Book, available in most bookstores and online, with updates posted on their website. The older sections of the Paugussett Trail are included in current edition of the Walkbook, and the new sections will be included in the next edition of the Walkbook. A Google map for the entire Paugussett Trail can be accessed online at

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mike Yevich's Project - the Upper Birchbank Bridge

A look back at another fine scout project at Birchbank Mountain.  Mike Yevich of Troop 27 and his team built a very sturdy bridge over Upper White Hills Brook in 2012.

These scouts not only stand behind their work, they stand on it.

This was an area where there was some ATV damage and the bridge allowed hikers to cross the brook during high water.
Concept picture of bridge crossing the brook
Mike and his team had to do a number of steps prior to actually building bridge.  Some of the tasks were to:
  • Decide what project to do and prepare a preliminary design,
  • Get approvals from the Trails Committee and Conservation Commission,
  • Get approval from the Scout Council,
  • Also get approval from the Shelton Inland Wetlands Commission (bridge over a stream),
  • Raise funds for purchasing materials (they held a car wash),
  • Buy the materials and haul the stuff to the jobsite,
  • Build the bridge.
These can be typical steps for many Eagle Scout projects.  There is a lot of behind the scene action in addition to actually building the project.

Fabricating the beams for the bridge
 Access to the site was limited so they fabricated some of the larger pieces on site rather than trying to carry them in.
Braces installed

All told, Mike's team had over 95 volunteer hours invested in the project and raised over $400 to buy materials. The cost of materials was lowered substantially when Lowes discounted a lot of the materials (THANK YOU Lowes).

Decking installation
There was a very nice article in the Shelton Herald on Mike's Eagle Scout Ceremony this Spring with additional pictures and information.

Completed project!
Thank you Mike for all the hard work by you and your team.  Another fine project at Birchbank Mountain  by the scouts.

Engraved decking