Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Walk on the Wild (East) Side

A view north from the eastern shore of Merimere Reservoir.

Visit #833, Friday 29 November 13, 1:20-4:05PM, 4.0 miles.
Temps in the mid-30's, mostly sunny.

Visit #834, Saturday 30 November 13, 1:20-4:05PM, 4.0 miles.
Temps in the low-30's, mostly sunny.

Last week I cleaned up the western shore of Merimere Reservoir. This week I planned to finish the job and police the eastern shore of the reservoir.

On the way up the road from the park, I picked up a frozen pair of sweatpants. They were heavy. Expecting to find a lot of trash today, it wasn't worth lugging a heavy trash bag around so early in my day, so I dropped my first bag of trash at the water treatment plant.

As with last week, I started at the south end of the reservoir and made my way north. Walking on the slope was difficult at times, but at least I didn't wind up in the water. In some spots it was almost like the coast of Maine.

Near the north end, the land mass juts out and disrupts the oval perimeter of the reservoir. It is at this point, some distance and sheltered from the road, that I found a campfire spot. From the trash around the area, it was from a party.

I never reached my goal on Friday; the sun was setting and my trash bag was full, and heavy. I would have to return to complete the job. I walked the road back to the park carrying my haul with 2 hands, depositing it with the first bag at the water treatment plant.

I'd like to thank the Mark Zebora and Meriden Parks Department. The trees I'd reported last week that fell into the road had been removed.

I did return on Saturday to complete the mission. I started at the soap box derby track and it didn't take long for something to put a smile on my face.

Ka-CHING! I spotted a five-er among the leaves. By my accounting, I've made fifteen bucks in Hubbard Park in the last month!

I returned to the plot at the north end of the reservoir and resumed operations. After I was done, I took a short jaunt to the north end of Percival Park Road to the gate and cleaned up. In 2nd place of the Unusual Things I Found Today category (the five-spot was #1), I found a chef's white's shirt with a patch from the CT Juvenile Training Center (CJTS on the patch) in Middletown. The school's culinary arts program was restored in 2009. Why the shirt, along with a frozen, filled diaper, were cast aside in this open area is a mystery to me.

As I returned toward the park, I found this SUV parked on the side of the road which wasn't there when I entered the woods roughly 45 minutes prior. How it got past the locked gate at the park is the second mystery of the day.

I now had to lug two 30 gallon bags of trash back to the park. Due to their weight, I had to play a game and walk 100 steps then stop, take a breather, and resume. Along the way I was met with the kindness of a woman who introduced herself as Rebecca. She enthusiastically assisted me by carrying one of the trash bags. Thanks to her, we made it back to the water treatment plant in good time, where I added the bags to Friday's collection.

Now I can check off "the shoreline of Merimere Reservoir" from my cleaning bucket list.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Walk on the Wild (West) Side

The view north from the western shore of Merimere Reservoir.

Visit #832, Sunday 24 November 13, 7:50-10:20AM, 4.4 miles.
Temps in the low 20's, with a biting wind from the north.

Has winter come early, or was today just the trailer for the upcoming movie?

The wind from the north was raw and whipping.

Today I did something I'd never done before; I walked the perimeter of Merimere Reservoir. Well, at least I TRIED walking the perimeter.

I had been told stories of people fishing off the western shore of the reservoir, and adventurous outdoorsy types would also tell me of litter left by said fishermen. Today I decided to see for myself and pick up what litter I could find.

I chose today because the water level at Merimere Reservoir has been unusually low for some time, exposing enough shoreline to make traversing the perimeter possible.

It's a unique vantage point that few people get to experience. I'll save you the treacherous walking and let you view the photos instead.

For an area that lacks a defined trail and is simply steep, rocky terrain, you would think few people would venture out here. Yet from the trash I collected, I concluded otherwise. I found so much trash I had to transfer it from the 13 gallon bag you see in the photo above, into a 30 gallon bag, which I subsequently filled before I reached the north end of the reservoir.

I had too much trash to continue walking the perimeter in the southerly direction; maybe next weekend.

At the north end, I checked on my handiwork from last week to see if the the graffiti artist(s) returned and I'm pleased to say, no.

Following the road back to the park, I found a couple hemlock trees have fallen into the roadway. I'll notify the Meriden Parks Department.

Further on, back toward the park, I had a happy surprise. I'd lost a waterbottle many, many months ago while cleaning a particular section of the woods by the roadside. With all the trees bare and foliage dead, my long lost waterbottle was spotted and is now reunited with its owner. The water was still in it!

I walked the road all the way back to the park, dropping my trash bags into a can after I photographed them.

I'll leave you with a reminder: Should you eat too much on Thanksgiving, Hubbard Park is a perfect location to walk off the extra calories!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Money, And A Place To Put It?

Sunday morning fog hangs over the reservoir. Cloudy skies will prevail for today, leading to rain.

Visit #830, Saturday 16 November 13, 10:00AM-12:20PM, 5.8 miles. Return visit 1:45-2:30PM.
Temps in the mid-50's, sunny.

Visit #831, Sunday 17 November 13, 7:05-7:20AM.
Temps in the 40's, fog.

A sincere thanks to Paul Bernier, who joined me this weekend in keeping the park clean.

A couple weeks ago I found a long, slender tree had fallen across a trail up at West Peak. Today, Paul and I were to walk the road from the park all the way up to West Peak to remove it from the trail.

We started at the Soap Box Derby track, with Paul cleaning up the right side of the road while I took the left.

Along the way we ran into park regulars George, and his German Shepherd "Tess". George sadly reported of some ugly graffiti on a jersey barrier at the north end of Merimere Reservoir, which clearly angered him. The graffiti was painted in the past week because I walked the road last Saturday and it was not there then. George and Tess parted ways with us; Paul and I soon found out how ugly it was.

Now it was festering in my mind how to deal with this.

Just before Paul and I reached the parking lot at West Peak, Paul found this brand new PAIR of gloves. Usually I only find orphans. Not children, GLOVES! Since they were colored Hunter Orange, I get the impression a hunter may have been scoping the area for deer because deer season opens next week. This is common practice with many hunters. While I know hunting in Hubbard Park is forbidden, I've heard stories of it being done.

I had brought the come-along with me to remove the fallen tree but with Paul's assistance we didn't need any tools, and we cleared the trail quickly.

We made our way down from West Peak and back to the park via the Halfway House and the south end of Merimere Reservoir. After we reentered the park proper, I found this thong, which Paul proudly displayed. Oh, if only this thong could speak, the story it could tell!

For our 2 hours + of work, we collected 2 bags of trash.

But what of the graffiti?

Yeah; it was still festering in my brain. With the warm, sunny weather, a rarity for November, I had to seize the opportunity to cover the graffiti. To be fair and give credit where credit is due, after my last report of covering graffiti 2 weeks ago, Mark Zebora offered the Meriden Parks Department's services telling me they have a heated pressure washer which is supposed to be the bee's knees for removing graffiti. I was tempted to take him up on the offer, but rationalized that hey; they're pretty busy putting up the Christmas lights (one account says there's 500,000 of the twinklers), so they may not get to it for some time, and every day the graffiti is there means the artist gets to enjoy their work, which could be construed as a victory for them. I took this personally, and felt like I'd be losing the battle (but I'll never lose the war!).

I may take Mark Zebora up on his offer some other time; it's a good arrow to have in the quiver.

So I drove home, packed my paint kit and loaded my mountain bike on the car. Riding the mountain bike from the parking lot to the scene would expedite operations.

At the north end of Merimere I parked the bike, donned my painter's duds, and went to work.

Thanks to Bob, a cyclist from Berlin, who was passing by on his bike at the time and graciously took the photos.

Here comes the kicker: While I'm painting, a guy whose name I regrettably forget, came up to me and said "Thanks for covering up the graffiti." AND HE GAVE ME TEN BUCKS!

I tried to return the gift but he said "No; go buy yourself more paint!" Little did he know that covering this artwork would drain my paint can matzo ball dry, so his timing couldn't have been more perfect. After leaving Hubbard Park I headed straight to the Sherwin Williams store in Wallingford. The sawbuck came in handy as my gallon cost a whopping fifty bucks! Life's too short for cheap paint!

A sincere thanks to whoever you are.

Which got me to thinking: Maybe I should wear the thong I found whenever I'm doing my Hubbard Park duties, then perhaps more passersby would give me tips since I would then have a place for them to slip their Hamiltons! Makes sense to me!

But wait; there's more.

When I painted over the graffiti, I failed to notice the metal railing was painted as well. At that point it didn't really matter because I was out of paint anyway, but still I felt the job was incomplete. More festering ensued. What to do?

Sunday morning I suited up for a bike ride and rather than schlep a 12lb. gallon of paint and other gear to the north end of the reservoir, I came up with a lightweight solution, but would it work?

The railing is metal, so rather than paint over the graffiti, why not try and sand it off? I packed a selection of sandpaper, some scissors, and gloves, and off I went.

I love it when a plan works. 60 grit sandpaper was so quick and thorough I was giddy with laughter.

I rinsed the area with a little water from my waterbottle and it was practically mint!

I could only wish ALL my plans would come together as well as this one did.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dunkin' Donuts

Don't feed the squirrels; they're growing too large.

Visit #829, Saturday 9 November 13, 11:45AM-1:20PM, 3.5 miles.
Temps in the mid-40's, partly sunny.

I was wondering when the Meriden Parks Department would begin putting up the Christmas lights display in Hubbard Park. From the above photo, I see they've started.

From the mileage for Saturday's trip, you can see I didn't cover much ground. I didn't intend to, as I was on-call.

So, I stuck to the trails on the south side of I-691, west of Mirror Lake.

Most of you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but by far the most common piece of trash I spy while cleaning the trails is from Dunkin' Donuts products. I wonder; does it say something about Dunkin' Donuts customers, or the popularity of their products? My occasional co-volunteer has a saying about this, taking some liberty with the Dunkin' Donuts slogan: "America Litters On Dunkin' ".

Today, I decided to back up my assertion by photographing every piece of Dunkin' Donuts trash I picked up on the trails, and I really didn't cover much ground. Errr, enjoy...

The second most common item is containers of bottled water. Most are empty, but some are tossed while still containing water. That may be the subject of another post.

Anyway, after covering the small trail network in a short amount of time I might add, my first bag was near capacity (from all those Dunkin' Donuts containers ;-)  ) and I dropped it off.

I opened a second bag and covered a small loop from Percival Park Road to the Soap Box Derby track back to the parking lot, just to push my time out to two hours. Good thing I did, because I ran into 2 separate groups of people trying to find their way to the Castle but were clearly lost. I provided both of them with trail maps and sent them on their way.

Back at the park, I unloaded my second bag of trash.

Maybe it's the squirrels drinking all the Dunkin' Donuts coffee...

Sunday, November 3, 2013


A placid Saturday morning Merimere Reservoir reflects the adjacent cliff.

Visit #827, Saturday 2 November 13, 8:45-11:20AM, 6.8miles.
Temps in the 50's, partly sunny.

Visit #828, Sunday 3 November 13, 3:30-5:15PM, 4.75miles.
Temps in the 50's, partly sunny.

The road to the Castle and West Peak is supposed to close to vehicular traffic starting in November. With the rollover of the month, I thought if I picked up trash from the roadsides now, they'd stay cleaner until spring. So the plan was to walk the road from the park up, clean up one side of the road, to just shy of the Castle, take a trail down, and clean the other side of the road on the return leg.

I quickly filled up my first bag and left it at this pull-off spot, with the plan to pick it up on the return trip.

At the north end of Merimere Reservoir, the water level was so low I had the rare opportunity to walk within the spillway and pick up trash. You can see the water level marks on the concrete.

Up the road I went, turned left toward the Castle and walked back down via a parallel trail. On the way down, I spotted this:

Unusual mushroom? Gilligan's hat? YOU decide.

I rejoined the road at the bottom and retraced my route back toward the park. I picked up the first trash bag. By the time I reached the water treatment plant, the second bag was full so  I left both of them there and opened a third bag.

A passerby saw both bags in my hands and expressed his disbelief.

Something else I found:

All I can say is, either this guy was very LUCKY, or very UNLUCKY. And I can't possibly fathom the size of the wallet needed to hold all of them. Just kidding, folks!

Back at the park, I dropped off my last bag.

Just when I thought my duties would be done for the week, I was talking to a person who rides his bike up to the Castle once a month as sort of a tradition. On Saturday he rode up for the 95th consecutive month. Mark commented to me about some unsightly graffiti around the Castle. So on Sunday, needing a destination for a bike ride, I rode my own bike up to the Castle to scope out the situation to see what I'd need to remedy things.

I decided to return on foot Sunday afternoon, timing my arrival at the Castle near sunset so I wouldn't have to work around people walking near the Castle. I walked the road all the way up to the Castle and took care of 2 pieces of graffiti.

On the way up the road,  I couldn't believe I was collecting more trash since I just cleaned it yesterday.

The surprise find was a bag filled with used crack pipes and this odd, tri-panel photo.

I arrived at the Castle and found these two items on the surrounding wall, which weren't there during my bike ride up at 10AM the same morning.

If you can't identify them, one is a Wiffle Ball bat; the other is used to lob tennis balls for energetic dogs to chase.

I went to work on a fleur de lis painted on the floor of one doorway. I used a wire brush to remove it best as I could.

Next was some text, which I painted over. Latex paint doesn't flow well in 50 degree temps, so the job isn't as flawless as I'd prefer. The "A" symbol in the text below is used by anarchists. That's actually the letter "A" surrounded by the letter "O". It means "Anarchy is the mother of Order". Check the Wikipedia entry for Anarchist Symbolism for details.



The sun was dropping over the horizon rapidly and I made my way back to the park in darkness to drop off my last bag of trash.

I leave this week with a colorful view of an autumn sunset viewed from the Castle.