Sunday, July 28, 2013

Of Trees That Have Retired

Visit #807, Saturday 27 July 13, 8:45AM-12:05PM, 7.8 miles.
Temps in the low 80's with sun and reasonable humidity.

It was actually so nice in the woods; the humidity was lower than it has been with enough of a breeze that mosquitos and black flies were not a problem. All you needed was a lawn chair and a book...

Paul Bernier joined me again for some serious hiking and trail maintenance. He previously had told me of trees across various trails I seldom visit because they're lightly traveled and for the most part stay clear of trash. So we hooked up today to remove anything blocking them.

While waiting for Paul to arrive I checked out the water fountains at the entrance to the playground. They have a history of extremely anemic water flow such that the fountains should be removed if they're not going to function properly. It's plain bad advertising when people try to take a drink and have to get intimate with the faucet to get any water. Today was no exception.

 Yes; believe it or not, both fountains are running in the photos.

Paul arrived and we began a clockwise loop. Paul assumed photography duties today so you get to see Yours Truly at work. Oh joy.

Our first stop was a trail adjacent to West Main Street.

Crossing I-691 via the walkbridge, I noticed the last of the 2 American flags that were hung from the fencing was now gone.

Up the first climb, then over to the Virgin Mary Trail, we came upon our second tree.

Reaching the road to the Castle, we turned right, then left, and picked up the Red Dot Trail. It parallels the road to the Castle and is an almost constant descent to the reservoir.

We soon encountered our next fallen tree.

While rasslin' this particular branch off the trail, I broke the wrist band of my watch. I cheerfully reunited with my dear Timex which kept on ticking, but the band was lost among the sawdust and the forest floor.

As we descended the trail, the trees kept coming:

To prove I wasn't the only one working, I had to give Paul some camera time. Here he removes a tree I've cut up.

At the bottom of the trail near the reservoir, we turned right and followed the Blue Trail up along the ridgeline back toward the Castle to remove one last fallen branch.

Once we reached the Castle, Paul and I split up and policed the perimeter of the parking lot. We deposited our bags of trash for later pickup by the Meriden Parks Department.

Now it was time to head down and back toward the park.

Last week I reported the gate at the south end of Merimere reservoir was unlocked. The Meriden Parks Department got the word and took care of that issue last week. Thanks!

Paul and I returned to the park via the Soap Box Derby Track. We combined our trash into one bag and called it a day.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Pet Fair Edition

Visit #806, Saturday 20 July 13, 6:45-9:15AM.  5.4 miles.
Temps in the 80's (at 7AM!) and record setting humidity.

The geese were pissed they weren't invited to the pet fair, so since the bars weren't open yet they gathered at the edge of Mirror Lake to commiserate and plot their revenge. I suggest you wear a hat and park your car in the garage.

The Meriden Rotary Club and the Connecticut Humane Society were hosting a pet fair at Hubbard Park, and a couple events included a 5k road race and a dog walk. I figured at least one of those events would head up the road toward the Castle. If I arrived at the park early enough, I could clean up the road prior to either event. Also, I wanted to avoid the crushing heat and humidity of the current heat wave we're experiencing, and I was on-call so my range was limited.

I walked from the park up the road toward the Castle and turned around just prior to the north end of Merimere Reservoir, cleaning one side of the road, then the other. On the return trip I stopped by the south end of the reservoir to inspect the lock on the gate. A few weeks ago I reported the lock was missing. The Meriden Parks Department received my report and promptly installed a lock. Problem is, it's only been a couple weeks since that time and now the lock hangs uselessly unchained around the gate.

I returned to the park and deposited my first bag of trash.

See the upside down Dunkin' Donuts cup in the trash bag? I found it on top of a stone wall as I headed north. Enroute, I ran into a park regular, Pete. Turns out the cup was his!-he finishes his coffee and leaves the cup on the stone wall, collecting it on the return leg of his walk. Who knew?!

Since the round trip to the reservoir's north end took less than 2 hours, I grabbed another bag and pointed myself west to the trails between West Main Street and I-691. Another out and back loop and I was done, all before the Pet Fair opened. Success.

Next week I break out the chainsaw as I count a minimum of 5 trees across various trails that need removal.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Senior Moments All Around

Visit #805, Saturday 13 July 13, 9:00AM-12:00PM, 5.6 miles.
Temps in the high 70's, with 90 percent humidity, 100 percent cloud cover and a brief downpour.

I will not be corecting typing erors this week. My keyboard is failing. A new keyboard is on order. In the meantime, enjoy the less than stellar spelling!

I was joined by Paul Bernier this week which meant there'd be a lot acomplished and no complaining, despite the cnditions.

A couple weks ago I inspected the parking lot at West Peak by bicycle, and could tell it was in sad shape with regard to litter, so my plan was to route my way up there and clean up.

We started at the Soap Box Derby Track when I decided to see if Len is still feding the feral cat under the ovrpass. Yes.

Just shy of reaching Merimere Resrvoir, the skies commenced to dumping rain on us. Paul and I decided we'd trust the weather forecast and continue to the Halfway House in the downpour, and wait out the rain.

After last week's fireworks display I figured there'd be some cleaning to do around the Halfway House. The Parks Department did send a crew up there to clean up after the fireworks launching and it was MUCH cleaner than after the Daffodil Festival display, although there was still some trash. Thanks to the Meriden Parks Department for their effort.

So, we step inside the Halfway House and I see a length of "caution" tape on the ground. I reach down,  pick it up, and as I stand up my face comes within a foot of THIS:

I let out my Sunday Best Girly Scream and fell just shy of soiling myself. The snake was unimpressed. It took him a good 5 minutes to decide he was bored and he left for home, underneath the Halfwy House.

We resumed work. Besides the caution tape, I found the inside of the Halfway House littered with over 100 of these plastic pieces presumably from the fireworks assembly:

It was another "Swat Fest". While the rain soaked you, at least it kept the mosquitos away. That is, UNTIL it stopped raining.

Reaching the parking lot at West Peak, Paul and I went to town, cleaning up the perimeter. The result was 6 full bags of trash. If it weren't for the mosquitos, we'd have taken more time and been even more thorough. That may have to wait until autumn.

And I still couldn't get away from snakes. I found this shed skin in the parking lot:

As we descended from West Peak and reachd th main trail below, Paul discovered he'd lost his car and house keys. With all the ground we covered, much of it off-pavement, it would be pointless to retrace our steps to try and find them.

We formulated a plan to solve his predicament and headed back toward the park via the I-691 walkbridge.

I reported last week that someone had stolen one of the two American Flags that were attached to the fencing on the walkbridge. This was the stolen flag:

In my Senior Moment at the time, I wasn't paying attention to what really happened. Looking closer this week, I discovered the flag wasn't stolen, it was TORCHED.

Sorry to report that.

So, we arrive at the parking lot only for Paul to have a Senior Moment of his own. He didn't lose his car keys; he left them in the lock of his car's trunk for the past 3 hours!

Fortunately, his bumper sticker was highly effective in keeping anyone from using the keys to steal his car. In contrast, Paul did not let out any Girly Screams of Joy nor nearly soil his pants at the finding.

I deposited our 7th, and last bag of trash.

Today, Paul and I discoverd a number of smaller trees down across the various trails. I'm on-call next week so I will attend to them with the chainsaw the following week. 

I look forward to typing with a reliable keyboard in the next wk or so and I'm sure you will, too!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Weekend For Power Tools

Visit #804, Saturday 6 July 13, 6:55-8:55AM. 4.8 miles.
Temps in the 80's at the time and expected to top 90, sunny, with brutal humidity.

Whoever is in control of the weather didn't get the memo: we'd like it cooler and drier, PLEASE!

The forecast hasn't changed all week and there was no possibility of it doing so on Saturday, so I got a very early start for my planned activities. Didn't do any good.

I'd toured the trails on my mountain bike earlier in the week and discovered a fallen tree encroaching upon the Main Trail. I decided it was time to break out my chainsaw and tidy things up.

First, upon crossing I-691 via the walkbridge, I discovered someone had taken one of the 2 flags that had been put on display several weeks ago.

Was it a patriotic act? You decide.

Up the trail and around the corner was my first job.



Up around the corner, these 2 trees have been bowing over the trail for some time.



 This is the tree that was the impetus for today's schedule of events:

All clear:

At the same time, the city was using power tools of its own on the trails. I'd noticed a few weeks back that the weeds around the Halfway House had grown dramatically making it look neglected. Fortunately, the Halfway House is the launch pad for tomorrow's fireworks display and needed to be cleared. The parks department did a fine job which served a dual purpose; to accommodate the pyrotechnicians and to make the area attractive again for hikers. Good job. Now, let's see if the fireworks company cleans up after themselves as they failed to do after the Daffodil Festival in April. Stay tuned...

I'd also reported on 23 June 13 that the gate at the south end of Merimere Reservoir was unlocked and has been so for at least 2 years. Mark Zebora at the Parks Department responded to my report and now the gate has a lock on it. Thanks!

Returning to the park, I found one of those tiny zip lock bags that I come across time-to-time, bags intended to hold illicit drugs. Most of the time the bags I find are plain but if you perform a Google search you'll learn the bags are usually imprinted. I suppose that's so dopers can distinguish their drugs from very tiny sandwiches. Well, today I found my first imprinted bag. Sort of like a four leaf clover for me:

 The heat and humidity continue to keep trail activity and therefore littering, low. I also found the 5 gallon bucket you see in the photo, and carried it back to the park. How it found its way onto the trails, I haven't a clue..