Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Every once in a long while I'll run into someone, someone who's visited the trails of Hubbard Park countless times and wondered about the origin of some of what they've seen. I fill in the missing blanks and their face lights up like I just revealed the secret formula for Coca-Cola! This was one of those weeks.

Visit #925, Monday 29 December 14, 8:40AM-12:20PM, 4.9 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, sunny.

Visit #926, Thursday 1 January 15, 10:20AM-2:20PM, 5.4 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, sunny with a sharp north wind.

Visit #927, Saturday 3 January 15, 2:55-4:40PM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, snowing.

Visit #928, Sunday 4 January 15, 9:50-11:55AM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, light to moderate rain.

I'll start with a big thanks to Chris Bourdon and the Meriden Parks Department. Chris promptly dispatched a crew to pick up the load of collected trash I left at the playscape last week. In retrospect I should have left it away from there so as not to disturb users of the playscape. I'll take that to heart next time.

The playscape looks much better with the trash gone.

On Monday I continued plugging along with my Five Year Plan, trimming the roadsides from branches and brush. I reached the fork in the road to West/East Peak. This view downhill on the right hand side might give you some idea of the improved clearances without appearing as if it were clear cut.

Once I reached the fork in the road, I took trails all the way back to the parking lot. Enroute, I discovered Len is at it yet again, putting branches across the trail. Unfortunately, I later learned it wouldn't be the last of Len I'd see this week.

Of course, in addition to my roadside trimming I was picking up trash and deposited my bag for the day.

New Years Day was sunny but with a biting wind. Not too bad as long as you were generating heat. I picked up on my Five Year Plan where I left off and completed both sides of the road to Castle Craig.
Below is the last steep pitch of road. There was one tree overhanging the road which I left for another day.

While returning to the parking lot I came upon a hemlock which had fallen across the Green Trail. I cut it up with my chainsaw and restored the trail.

During Thursday's work I collected more trash and dropped it off before I left.

Saturday was going to be the choice day to remove the tree overhanging the road to Castle Craig. Snow was forecasted to begin in the afternoon and Sunday would see rain. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to start until after the snow began. Not a big deal; it just meant I'd meet fewer people on the trails.

I no sooner reached the trail behind the water tank and discovered Len was at it yet AGAIN this week.

Due to daylight constraints, I wasn't able to remove them as "permanently" as I usually do but at least I removed them from the trail.

I made my way up to just shy of Castle Craig and was cutting up a large branch when along came another hiker, one who didn't mind the snowy weather either. After asking what I was doing, he introduced himself as Chris Blake, Meriden police officer and Platt High School's School Resource Officer. 

Apparently, Chris wasn't far behind me and was wondering what was up with the shadows left by the branches I removed, above. Chris has been hiking Hubbard Park's trails for 16 years and during our conversation he began to ask me about the branches that would appear/"disappear" across the trails, who was maintaining the trails, as well as what were the origins of graffiti he'd spotted on the trails such as this which he specifically mentioned, and has been around since at least 2008:

Chris thought the message was meant to be endearing (It's not-It's from Len)! When I set him straight on the history of all he's seen in the last 16 years, he laughed that he finally had the answers to all the questions in his mind which caused all those sleepless nights...

With the snow increasing and daylight fading, I finished slicing up the branch and left moving it for another day. I asked Chris to join me in taking care of that tree overhanging the road. After I dropped it across the road with the chainsaw, Chris used my loppers to cut up the smaller branches-

 I took care of the larger branches with the chainsaw-

Many hands made light work and we cleared the tree from the road quite quickly, then hiked back to the parking lot and the falling snow.

Along the way we discussed many things Hubbard Park such as, "what's the name for the top of Castle Craig: You know, those toothy looking things on the crown?"

Well, today's trivia answer is, the entire wall is called a "battlement"; the toothy looking things are "merlons" and the openings between the merlons where you'd pour your boiling pot of shit onto your enemies are "crenels" or "embrasures".

A tip of the chainsaw to Chris for his help and the great conversation!

Unfortunately, somewhere along the trail on Saturday I lost my waterbottle, which I'd bought only one week ago. Waaaah!

Alas, I wasn't done for the week.

That branch I cut up when Chris came upon me Saturday still needed to be cleared from the trail so I returned in the rain on Sunday to pick up the pieces and toss them down the hill.

 One last piece, and I was done.

Lo and behold, I look down and what do I find-my lost waterbottle!

It turned out to be a good day indeed.

And finally, my tip of the week:

With winter upon us, if you want to hike in the snow like I did on Sunday, or just walk on dicey surfaces in general, get a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes. I have a pair of Stabilicers and while pretty good, with replaceable spikes (buy a set at the same time you buy a pair), the velcro straps are a bit short for my hiking boots, but they work. Otherwise they're a good second choice. The Kahtoola's go on faster and, when not being used can be easily and securely clipped to your backpack with a simple carabiner. Get them at REI or Eastern Mountain Sports, both which gave them a 5 Star Rating.

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