Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday Housekeeping

A thin sheen of ice struggles to cover Merimere Reservoir.

Visit #839, Tuesday 24 December 13, 8:10-11:00AM, 5.5 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, mostly sunny.

Visit #840, Thursday 26 December 13, 9:10AM-12:15PM, 6.1 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, mostly cloudy with some light snow squalls.

Visit #841, Saturday 28 December 13, 2:10-4:40PM, 3.0 miles.
Temps in the 40's, mostly sunny.

Christmas Week usually means extra days off. Good time to catch up on some off-season chores in Hubbard Park.

The balmy weather of the last week melted all the snow from December 14th's 6" dump. That worked out great for me.

After reporting of "NAER"'s shenanigans of the past couple weeks, I felt it would be wise to be prepared if they were truly persistent. So, I carried my gallon of paint in my backpack this week just in case.

Well, NAER slacked off and didn't provide me with more work. What DID happen is, with all the snow gone, it revealed the graffiti that was beneath the snow banks at the jersey barriers that I was unable to cover on my previous trips, linked above.

Today's route took me on the road all the way to Castle Craig then back to the park via the trails.

I didn't even think this opportunity would present itself, so this was a Christmas gift if there ever was one.

I went to town and finished the job I began a couple weeks ago.

I then continued walking up the road to the Castle picking up trash. Quiet as can be.

Once at Castle Craig, I made my way via the trails back to the park. On the way down, I performed my annual cleaning of the slope below Castle Craig, since people have a habit of tossing their garbage over the wall. I hardly finished, but did have to use a 30 gallon bag for my work.

I returned to the park on Thursday, walking clockwise, over I-691, scouring a couple lower trails, then working my way up toward Castle Craig. On the way up, I continued my annual cleaning of the slope, collecting another large bag of trash.

At the top I hiked the Blue Trail north, high above Merimere Reservoir. I seldom take this trail because few people do and therefore there's little trash to collect.

Cooler temperatures of the past few days increased the ice layer on Merimere Reservoir.

Once at the north end, I walked the road back to the park, checking on whether NAER was active with their graffiti; no. Passing the gate at the south end of Merimere Reservoir, I discovered that the lock on the gate, which was replaced as recently as two weeks ago, was cut AGAIN. I found both cut locks:

 I'll contact the Meriden Parks Department to let them know what happened.

Back at the park I dropped off my bag of trash.

But wait folks, there's more!

You would think I had enough after two days of just picking up trash on the trails, but Saturday's weather was too nice to pass up.

I had 2 items on my agenda. One was to continue policing the slope below Castle Craig, except today I'd work the high side of the trail.

The other item pertains to graffiti I discovered on this rock a few weeks ago.

A little internet sleuthing revealed who "BJB" was, (here's the obituary) and why others decided to tag this rock.

Cliff's Notes version: A woman committed suicide in Hubbard Park. This rock is adjacent to the trail near where her body found.

This isn't the first time I've found memorials to people in Hubbard Park. I found this a couple weeks after the person's death in 2010.

I painted over the graffiti, then moved on to picking up trash below Castle Craig.

The paint doesn't flow well at 40 degrees but trust me; it looks better from 20 feet. Maybe I'll redo the job in warmer weather.

After filling a large bag with trash, I headed back toward the park. On the Green Trail, almost near the reservoir, I found a couple blankets abandoned in a shallow gully. The location, as well as the way the blankets were arranged, clearly points to someone trying to sleep out in the cold in Hubbard Park. Most likely just one person, and they weren't camping; probably homeless. I'll guess they slept on one blanket and covered themselves with the other.

There are trails within 100 feet of here, in two directions.

I collected the blankets, which were frozen and heavy, and dragged them to the water treatment plant where I left them, along with my trash bag. I'm pleased to report I took a bike ride through the park on Sunday morning and Meriden Water Department personnel had picked up the items by 8:45AM.

Happy 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When A Plan Comes Together

Visit #838, Saturday 21 December 13, 10:45AM-2:20PM, 8.4 miles.
Temps in the 50's, balmy with increasing clouds.

I can smell when something is out of the ordinary. Having dealt with recurring graffiti at the north end of Merimere Reservoir, graffiti which appears to be the work of the same person, I sensed it would be wise to be prepared this week in case "NAER" decided to make a 3rd attempt to immortalize themselves.

To refresh your memory dear reader,  NAER first appeared the week after Thanksgiving. I swiftly dealt with that.

NAER reappeared roughly 4 weeks later. I discovered it, left to fetch 2 cans of spray paint, and used one of the cans eradicating Part II.

So I told myself to be smart and carry the remaining can of spray paint this week in case NAER tries again. My Spidey-senses were tingling.

I love it when a plan comes together.

I was joined by Paul Bernier this week, more for company than assistance. The snow would keep most people off the trails so I anticipated minor littering. Today's schedule would include inspecting a lightly used trail for fallen trees as I did last week, and venturing onto adjoining land outside of Hubbard Park to clear some other fallen trees, hence the long +8 mile hike. I carried the chainsaw again.

In a break from SOP, we parked near the north end of Merimere Reservoir outside the Hubbard Park gate since most of our work would be north of the reservoir. As we entered the park I immediately saw that NAER had tagged the jersey barriers adjacent to the concrete they painted last week.

This would be a non-problem to address since I planned ahead and carried the second can of spray paint. I was all over this like gray paint on concrete!

NAER exhausted his can of yellow paint and left it at the scene.

We hiked up the road then picked up a trail that parallels the road, a trail which terminates near the radio towers. Again, a plan came together as we found a fallen tree whose branches were hanging low over the trail. I cut while Paul pulled them aside.

This was light work and took no time at all. Trail restored.

 The rest of our hike was north along the ridgeline away from Hubbard Park, but we did manage to collect some trash as we walked Edgewood Road back to the north gate at Merimere Reservoir.

Part of our trash collection included one of NAER's spray paint cans, so we did manage to fulfill our duties in the park this week.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


The first snowstorm of the season begins to drop its white bomb on Hubbard Park.

Visit #837, Saturday 14 December 13, 7:40AM-12:10PM, 9.5 miles.
Temps in the teens, snowing.

The snowstorm which began Saturday morning preempted the special project I alluded to in last week's post. With snow on the ground there's not much trash to see and therefore USUALLY, not much to report. Was I out of a job for the season?

Fortunately, I found other work to do.

In speaking to a "park regular" during the week, I learned there were some trees down across a couple trails I'd not visited recently. The best time to remove them would be before they get buried in snow, so now I had a project to keep me "blog employed".

First, thanks to the Meriden Parks Department for removing the fencing and stanchions I pulled out of the weeds last week. The trailside looks just a bit cleaner as a result.

I made my way past the Halfway House and to the White Trail just below Castle Craig, to the location of my first fallen tree.

I quickly discovered I had a problem which isn't obvious from the photos; despite sharpening my chainsaw before I left the house, it was duller than television. I was not happy but would have to make do, and I didn't feel like breaking out my files in the cold.

With that cleared, I hiked up to Castle Craig then over to the Red Dot Trail, which parallels the road down.

Good intel makes it easy and efficient to find where the work is. I quickly found my next tree and my chainsaw gummed its way through it.

And one more:

I popped out onto the road at the north end of Merimere Reservoir and walked the road back to the park. I only had to walk a few feet before I saw I wouldn't be finishing today's session without fulfilling my trash collection duties for someone had hung a junked bicycle wheel on the guardrail.

My mood was made worse when I discovered the graffiti I'd painted over just after Thanksgiving had been graffitied over by apparently the same person(s) based on the reference to "NAER" in both tags.

While I admire their persistence and willingness to squander good money on spray paint for such a puerile use, the graffiti has got to go. Due to the weather and the likelihood my brush-on latex paint won't stick in these temperatures, I decided I'd trip over to the hardware store and pick up a couple cans
of spray paint myself and do a little "tit for tat".

Passing the south end of Merimere Reservoir, I noticed someone had cut the lock on the chain securing the gate. I also noticed the gate on West Main Street across from Belmont Avenue is unlocked and ajar. I can only speculate whether snowmobilers have done this in advance of the coming snowstorm so they could have free access to the park.

Just as I crossed the gate at Percival Park road, a truck pulled up, parked, and the driver got out for what looked like a hike. Turns out he wasn't hiking for pleasure.

Don was in the park earlier this morning walking his airdale, "C.C." and when Don wasn't looking, C.C. took off on a wild goose chase. Don was returning to start a search for his dog. Since I know my way around the trails reasonably well, I figured I could be of help. Don and I teamed up and took off in search of C.C., splitting up the landscape between the two of us.

Thankfully, it didn't take long for C.C. to be found and reunited with Don.

The three of us returned to the park and went our separate ways. Don and C.C. went home and I went to pick up some spray paint.

I returned to the park not knowing how long it would last or how well spray paint would work on cold concrete with the snow falling, but I had to at least make the effort.

One can covered everything reasonably well, although I didn't remove the snow piled against the lower half of the concrete wall. So, a more permanent solution will have to wait until spring.

But honestly, between clearing the fallen trees, finding C.C., and the reasonably decent job I did covering the graffiti, today's session was a rousing success.

This snowstorm should lay down a reasonable base to make snowshoeing a blast in Hubbard Park. Are you getting the hint?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Double Duty

Canadian Geese hang out in Hubbard Park on a quiet Sunday morning.

Visit #835, Saturday 7 December 13, 11:00AM-12:55PM, 5.2 miles.
Temps in the mid-30's, partly sunny.

Visit #836, Sunday 8 December 13, 7:15-9:10AM, 4.0 miles.
Temps in the low teens, overcast.

I was on-call this week therefore limited in my range, so I kept my travels to the trails below Castle Craig.

I hiked a counterclockwise loop. At the Halfway House I found an abandoned backpack. At first I thought it was still useable, but after I arrived home and checked it out I discovered broken hardware and seized, YKK coil zippers. The good thing was, I could salvage some of the still good plastic hardware which I tend to break on my own stuff, and sew it on later if needed.

During Saturday's session, I did a poor job removing a small tree leaning into the Yellow Trail, leaving an unsightly stump, and I also found a hemlock which had fallen into the White Trail, encroaching upon it a bit. I also had something else up my sleeve so I decided I'd return on Sunday and finish my work.

First, my trash haul from Saturday:

Sunday I started early and hiked directly to the tree which was encroaching upon the White Trail. This time I brought a small limbing saw.

Five minute's work and I was done.

Next, I made my way over to the Yellow Trail to remove this unsightly stump I left from yesterday. Below is the "before" picture. The lopping shears I used on Saturday weren't large enough to cut the tree at its base.

So what was "up my sleeve"? At the Soap Box Derby track, someone had tossed a couple concrete-base stanchions down the embankment. If left there, they'd just become junk. I decided to haul them up to the pavement and contact the Meriden Parks Department to take them away. Then I got this bright idea: the yellow fencing which was along this stretch of road has been there well past its useful life. It has long since become an eyesore. Time to remove it and have the Parks Department haul it away as well.  Problem was, all those years trailside allowed vines and thornbushes to weave themselves within the fencing, making removal a %^&$!. Good thing I had the limbing saw with me; without it I would not have been successful.

Back at the park I cleaned up an area outside the fence line where people like to toss their bottles and cans. I stopped when I filled up my bag. I hope to continue in this area next week and complete this special project.