Sunday, May 20, 2018


Last week's storms, tornadoes, and microbursts exercised the brunt of their force south of Meriden, but the city didn't entirely escape. The trails in Hubbard Park have new low hanging branches as a result. In time, I'll take care of them, as I inspect the trails in the coming weeks for damage.

Visit #1136, Sunday 20 May 18, 1:00-2:30PM, 1.9 miles.
Temps in the 70's, cloudy with tropical humidity.

First, the important news: The winner of last week's contest!

The item I asked you identify was an indoor TV antenna!

I still use a similar antenna today for FM radio.

The spiral wire on the contest antenna is used to receive UHF channels. The VHF radials you see in the photo above were missing on the contest antenna.

There was only one correct answer, and the winner was Joe Murray of Wallingford, CT. His prize-a $25 gift certificate to Trackside Brick Oven Pizzeria of Wallingford! Thanks to all who participated.

Joe tried to decline the prize but I'm someone who tries to keep his promises and Joe graciously accepted.

And after discovering new graffiti last week and promising to return this week to clean it up, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep that promise. The harsh weather of last week persisted into Saturday evening, and Sunday morning was foggy and way too humid to paint. I impatiently waited until skies appeared to clear and some drier air moved in before I ventured to Hubbard Park.

I started at the gate and walked straight to the building in question, picking up litter along the way.

What I didn't count on was moisture lingering on the brick. It caused the paint to run slightly. I wasn't bright enough to try and wipe up the drips even though I had a rag with me. It's hard to find good help these days...

I followed the shapes of the brick to add a little organization to the patches, unlike the brown on the door which I'd painted previously and looks vaguely like a handgun.

As an aside, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, which maintains many of the trail networks in Connecticut, recently sent me an e-mail suggesting a donation. They have actually calculated how much it costs to maintain a trail. Here's the breakdown:

$25 supports 1/10 mile of trail
$50 supports 2/10 mile of trail
$125 supports 1/2 mile of trail
$250 supports 1 mile of trail

I presume that's on an annual basis.

Considering Hubbard Park contains roughly seven miles of trails, that means it costs $1750/year to maintain the trails. I definitely don't spend that much in trash bags, paint, and whatever else wears out in a year. Either my expenditures are extremely low, or I don't charge the City of Meriden enough... ;-) (This is tongue in cheek; the numbers above are accurate but I'm not pandering for money. I promise!)

I packed up the paint and returned to the park via the Soap Box Derby track, and turned westward toward the I-691 walkbridge. Seems someone stole the American Flag over the eastbound lanes. It had just been replaced in late April 2018. I removed the grommets and tyraps that held it to the fence.

After cleaning up the trails, I returned toward the park and cleaned up the parking area in the northwest corner of the park. While doing so, I came upon my Find of the Week.

Now, I see a Cinderella story here: If I find the woman who fits this hoodie, she'll turn into a princess, marry me, and we'll live happily ever after.

I put the hoodie into my trash bag instead. Any princess that wears a hoodie uh, no thanks!

I returned to the parking lot and dropped off my bag of trash.

I just discovered this week that my backpack, while also designed to conveniently hold a chainsaw or a gallon of paint, has holders specifically for handled tools like a shovel, rake, or the paint brush extender you see. Neat!

Another reason I planned for my afternoon start today was to take advantage of the Food Truck Festival being held this weekend in Hubbard Park. Waiting until I was done with my work, I was sure to have an appetite for some fried, decadent food truck offerings.

I walked toward the John Barry Bandshell and...

Do you see any food trucks?! Neither did I. Somebody broke THEIR promise.  ;-(

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Contest Time Again!

Gray, brooding skies were holding water, ready to give it back to Merimere Reservoir on Sunday.

Visit #1136, Sunday 13 May 18, 8:55-11:50AM, 4.4 miles.
Temps in the high 50's, cloudy skies with scattered showers.

Weather-wise this weekend it was going to be a gamble. Saturday's forecast of rain came true which meant I stayed home and dry, praying Sunday would be better weather, despite a forecast offering little hope.

Sunday's skies restrained themselves and I averted assured misery.

I got a relatively early start so I would be able to walk the road in peace and quiet and unencumbered by cars. I walked the road all the way from the gate, to the north end of Merimere Reservoir. Enroute I stopped at the brick outbuilding below the water treatment plant, to inspect some new graffiti.

I had previously painted over other graffiti on this building as you see on the left of the photo, and on two other sides. Unless the Meriden Water Department gets to it first, I'll take care of it next week. Who's betting against me painting it before the water department?!

With the road to the peaks now open for traffic, There's much more litter, enough to leave a bag at the water treatment plant so soon after beginning my day.

I continued to follow the road around Merimere Reservoir, collecting enough litter to leave a second bag on the roadside just as the road pitches up. I'll ask the Meriden Parks Department to pick it up.

It's at this point I left the road to meet my trail objective of the week. There was a small tree across this trail that I would remove with my bow saw.

As I started the trail I came upon some low hanging vegetation which I removed.

It was while trimming the low branches that I came upon my Find of the Week and this week's contest.

I spied it just as you see here, hanging from a tree branch.

It was definitely old, and had the heft of something vintage (solidly built). I wonder how long it was hanging there?

This week's contest is: Correctly identify the object and win a gift certificate to a local eatery. Out of state participants-guess anyway and I'll figure out a prize. Winner will be selected from all correct answers. E-mail your answer to me no later than midnight Friday, 18 May 18.
No correct answers-I treat myself!

Here's another photo, and a clue: It has no use in the woods, which makes me wonder how it made its way so far from where it would be useful.

I hiked up the trail to a tree which was across, and swung it out of the way.

Eventually I reached the fallen tree. Two cuts and the trail was cleared.

The trail ended near West Peak, so I cleaned up litter in the parking lot, then followed the trails down to the I-691 walkbridge and back to the park, depositing my last bag of litter.

I'd like to point out a pleasant surprise: As I arrived at Hubbard Park this morning, I noticed the City of Meriden marked the parking lot for spaces. It looks nice and organized. Good job.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Getting Schooled

Visit #1135, Saturday 5 May 18, 10:00AM-12:30PM, 3.2 miles.
Temps in the low 70's, sunny.

Saturday was Meriden's annual Clean Up Day. Volunteers throughout the city spiffed up areas that needed spiffing. A pal and myself engaged in a little renegade cleanup in Hubbard Park.

After reading in the Record-Journal last week about recent graffiti vandalism at Castle Craig, I decided I better check the rest of the known graffiti hotspots in Hubbard Park in case there were other areas to be sanitized.

So on Wednesday I rode my mountain bike up to West Peak and the trails below East/West Peak and I'm pleased to report I didn't find any more graffiti.

However, what I DID find was a large fallen branch across the Main Trail leading to the Halfway House.

I now had my work laid out for me this weekend.

I had the great fortune to be assisted this weekend by a Maloney High School classmate, Jeff. Not only was Jeff cheap labor (he bought lunch, too!), he schooled me as well.

We started at the Soap Box Derby track and walked toward Merimere Reservoir.

While I stooped down to pick up trash as is my routine, Jeff employed a sharpened nail on the end of a broom handle to do the stooping for him. I argued that my stooping burned more calories and thus was better for health and exercise. Jeff contended he was more efficient. In the end, I was schooled on the finer points (get it?!) of picking up trash. Don't be surprised if you see me with a Jeff-autographed Sharpened-Nail-On-The-End-Of-A-Broom-Handle, in the future.

 Enroute, we picked up enough litter, some left behind from last week's Daffodil Festival, that we left our first two bags of trash at the water treatment plant.

Shortly thereafter we picked up the trails at the south end of Merimere Reservoir and followed them to the fallen branch, where I was reminded I continue to need schooling on chainsaw sharpening or my choice of saw chain. I failed to remember my previous lesson, leaving the Stihl Rapid Super chain at home. Consequently, cutting up the branch was a slow, laborious process. That's why I let Jeff do it, while I supervised ;-) .

It should not have taken an entire tank of gas to do away with this branch, but it was gonna be close. Then Jeff showed me an alternative method of removing the remaining heavy wood.

You see, Jeff and Archimedes were drinking buddies in college, where "Archie", as he was known to his friends, once said to Jeff, "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” At the time, Jeff just thought that was drunken talk, but on Saturday Jeff put Archie's beer wisdom to work and used a cut branch to lever the remaining piece off the trail. Again, I was schooled.

We followed the Main Trail toward the Halfway House where I had previously found graffiti which, while being less of an eyesore than that found at Castle Craig, still had to go. A little brown spray paint...

Further up the trail was more of the same.

It was smooth sailing down and over I-691 where we stopped to cut away another, smaller branch which I found on my bike ride earlier this week.

Again, I leaned on the shovel while Jeff did all the work.

Here, Jeff ponders how Archie's understanding of leverage applied to loppers.

On a trail several hundred feet from Mirror Lake, we found a brace of ducks protecting their newborn young.

The rule with ducks is, on ground, they're called a "brace" or "badling". On water they're called a "raft", "team", or "paddling". In the air they're called "turd dropping terrors of the sky". I made up
the last one.

Back at the parking lot, we dropped off our second set of trash bags. Jeff insisted his pointed stick be in the photo, noting that it wasn't invented by Archimedes.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Forgotten

Saturday was a perfect day for the Daffodil Festival. While that was going on, I had the rest of Hubbard Park pretty much to myself.

Visit #1134, Saturday 28 April 18, 3:50-5:30PM, 2.2 miles.
Temps in the low 70's, sunny.

First, I'd like to wish myself a happy tenth anniversary. I enrolled in the Meriden Conservation Commission's Adopt A Park program in April of 2008. I had already been maintaining the trails themselves for ten years; now I would add litter, graffiti, and whatnot to my repertoire. I get emotional when I look back at that first bag of litter so long ago, which I had bronzed and is hanging from my rearview mirror now.

Here's to another then years!

With the Daffodil Festival occupying the south end of Hubbard Park, there was no way I or anybody else was going to find parking at the park, so I ventured to the Berlin end of things and parked. There were quite a number of cars already parked there; it  was good to see people still wanted to enjoy Hubbard Park's natural offerings and did whatever it took to make it happen.

I was on another one of my special missions this week: There's a short trail near the water tank which for decades has been littered with broken glass and little or none of it is recent vintage.

I'm told there used to be a house situated on the land where the water treatment plant now sits, and it was commonplace way back when to merely toss empty bottles from the house, over the slope. Doesn't sound right to me. I suppose it could have been the result of construction crews from when the plant was built. The reason is irrelevant; it was time to clean it up.

Hundreds of pieces of old style bottles were frequently found. I used a collapsible rake to comb the dirt downslope, and a folding shovel to bag it. It would have been a futile effort to try and sift the glass from the dirt and rocks, so it all went into trash bags.

It wasn't a perfect job but it was a start to something I'd remember and forget every time I'd use that trail. I expect the soil to yield more glass in years to come.

Now I had three VERY heavy bags. I lugged them to the water treatment plant and left them. One water department worker isn't going to be very happy come Monday morning.

Walking the road back to my car, I kept listening to flowers other than daffodils complain to me about being forgotten. "Yo! What about me?! Don't I deserve a festival too, or am I just a weed?"

Best I could do to assure them they were appreciated was to pick up litter around them as I headed north. They still want their own festival...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Accidental "Un"Painter

The Daffodil Festival kicked off this weekend, beginning with a massive tag sale under the tent.

An unintended benefit of the Daffodil Festival, for me at least, is I get  a considerable number of extra visits to my blog as people search for info on Hubbard Park!

Visit #1133, Saturday 21 April 18, 6:45-9:20AM, 2.9 miles.
Temps in the 40's, sunny.

I got an early start on Saturday to avoid any parking headaches in Hubbard Park.

Last week I reported finding some new graffiti on the spillway at the north end of Merimere Reservoir. This week, I wanted to remove the graffiti, but first I would head to the walkbridge over I-691.

Two weeks ago, I found the American flag on the bridge over the eastbound lanes of I-691 had been removed, probably because it was getting tattered with age. Last week while driving along I-691 eastbound, I noticed a new flag was in place and wanted to document it.

So there you go; a nice new flag.

Of course, being daffodil season and in cooperating with the Daffodil Festival, the flowers begin to bloom en masse.

But there's always got to be that ONE FLOWER that marches to the beat of its own drummer. I get a kick out of this daffodil all by its lonesome on the trail, which never fails to strut its stuff proudly despite being a loner. I can relate.

So I reach the bridge, photograph the flag, and before I turn around to leave I'm confronted with a slew of new graffiti on the bridge ironwork. Some of it may be unreadable due to the shadows, so I've provided captions where necessary.

"I'll give you gas $ if you hit me with your car"

That's a lot of ink I didn't expect to encounter and it caused me to recalibrate.

Ah, but I was prepared and excited to try out my refined technique. I now carry both sandpaper of a proper grade to work on graffiti, and I carry Goof-Off.

I sprayed Goof-Off on everything except the first piece of graffiti and while the liquid softened up the enemy, I used plain sandpaper on the first piece. If I sanded the paint while still wet with Goof-Off it would gum up the sandpaper, so I would wipe it with a rag prior to sanding. Worked beautifully, and took about 30 minutes to complete everything on the bridge.

Here's the result after Goof-Off but before sanding.

And another.

After some sandpaper and elbow grease.

Everything else cleaned up nice as well.

I addressed everything, then turned around and headed back to the park, dropping of my first bag of litter.

I then hopped in the van and drove to Berlin and parked north of Merimere Reservoir. I walked in to Hubbard Park from the north end to address the graffiti on the spillway.

My objective:

"I Love America" (Anyone see irony in this?)

I donned my coveralls and performed more unpainting.

My tools laid out for work.

This work went quickly and after I was done, I picked up litter in the area surrounding the spillway, and took it home to dispose of.

Next week the Daffodil Festival will be in full-swing so if festivals are your thing, Hubbard Park will be the place to be!