Sunday, December 28, 2014

Busy During The Holidays

Friday dawned unseasonably glorious for December. Sunday, not so nice.

Visit #922, Friday 26 December 14, 7:20-10:10AM, 3.8 miles.
Temps in the 30's, rising quickly to the high 40's, sunny.

Visit #923, Saturday 27 December 14, 7:20-10:10AM, 2.0 miles.
Temps in the 30's, rising to the low 50's, sunny.

Visit #924, Sunday 28 December 14, 7:20-10:10AM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, with a raw, intermittent light rain.

The holidays always mean extra time off from work; no better time to catch up on my projects in Hubbard Park.

On Friday I continued my work trimming the road side toward Castle Craig. This time I used only hand tools and made a fair amount of progress. You can see in the photo some of the brush surrounding the guardrail which has to go. I plan on returning with my chainsaw to remove the larger growth.

Of course, enroute from the park to the north end of Merimere Reservoir to work, I picked up trash. Along the way I found this sign which must belong to the project in progress on the I-691 overpass which divides the park. The sign somehow found it's way into the brook.

At the end of Friday's work I dropped of the trash I'd collected.

Saturday was my annual cleanup of the hillside behind the playscape, bordering I-691. People park their cars along the fence and think it's okay to toss their trash over the fence where presumably it becomes invisible. Actually, it becomes an eyesore-like THIS kind of eyesore:

How bad is it? Take a look at what I gathered in 3 hours:

Along the way I came across my Condom of the Week:

I also found Guillermo's ATM receipt. If he's inconsiderate enough to toss his receipt on the ground in Hubbard Park, then he deserves his account balance be made public information.

In the process of cleaning up the hillside, I began to wonder why sound abatement barriers were never erected to isolate Hubbard Park from highway traffic noise. I think it would substantially add to visitors' enjoyment of the park, particularly near the playscape. I'm not just thinking of the area in the photo below, but also the land to the left, directly in-line with Mirror Lake. In fact, ideally the entire length of Hubbard Park would be separated from the highway for maximum benefit. Since that distance appears to be less than 3000ft., the cost would be well under the $1.5 million dollars/mile my casual internet surfing says it would cost. I e-mailed my suggestion to all of the Meriden city councilors in the hopes it gains some traction. I'm sure it's something that doesn't happen overnight, but it would be a nice, long term goal.

Anyway, to cap off my holiday weekend, I returned to Hubbard Park on Sunday morning to continue trimming the road side toward Castle Craig. The day dawned not nearly as nice as Friday. Castle Craig was nowhere to be seen.

At least I had the road to myself.

Since Friday, each time I walked the road to and from the north end of Merimere Reservoir, I'd pass this branch which had fallen into the road. Rather than let the City of Meriden Parks Department contend with it, I used my tools at hand and took care of it myself.

I returned to the park and added my bag of trash to the long line and ended a productive holiday weekend.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Penguin of M(eriden)adagascar

Visit #921, Saturday 20 December 14, 8:30AM-12:00PM, 5.2 miles.
Temps in the high 30's, cloudy.

Sorry for the dearth of photos this week; I left my camera at home.

I continued my work toward completing my 5 Year Plan. I had about 200 yards of roadside to clear from the north end of Merimere Reservoir up to the sharp bend in the road where the ascent to Castle Craig/West Peak begins. I brought my loppers and chainsaw. In the process, I felled a couple smaller trees hanging low over the road.

I also picked up a surprising amount of trash despite the road being closed since November. I imagine much of it was uncovered as the leaves blew around.

While picking up trash I also came across my Find of the Week:

I can't explain it; I just pick it up...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Real" Trail Work

Visit #920, Saturday 13 December 14, 12:30-3:30PM, 5.9 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, sunny.

Thanks to Paul Bernier who joined me on Saturday's adventure.

Paul called me earlier in the week to inform me there was a hemlock tree which had fallen across the Blue Trail along the western side of Merimere Reservoir. After performing "make work" for the last few weeks with my 5 Year Plan, it was good to put myself to use for my primary calling; keeping the trails of Hubbard Park in shape. Paul offered to assist me in the work.

With my day's plan focused on the north end of Hubbard Park, it was practical for us to park in Berlin near the end of Park Road and walk from there. Our first objective was to clear the fallen hemlock from the trail while I had a full tank of gas in my chainsaw.

At the north end of the reservoir we crossed the brook and picked up the Blue Trail. We reached the tree in roughly 15 minutes and went to work.

Paul and I worked efficiently together, and the trail was restored in no time. Look closely and you can see the north end of Merimere Reservoir in the background.

We hiked the remainder of the Blue Trail up to Castle Craig, the walked the road over toward West Peak to continue with my 5 Year Plan of trimming the roadsides. Besides my chainsaw, Paul and I both brought loppers as well, to cut smaller branches.

Just prior to reaching our turnaround point we came upon the trail entrance the Meriden Parks Department blocked off at my suggestion. It seems "someone" can't stop being a nuisance in Hubbard Park by engaging in this persistent behavior. Frankly, due to my long time experience with this vandal, I expected this to happen sooner than later anyway and it didn't really surprise me when I saw it. I'll contact the Meriden Parks Department to recommend a more permanent solution.

Paul and I turned around at the entrance to the West Peak parking lot and began trimming the south side of the road. While it may not be obvious to you, I've already completed all you can see on the left side.

Due to time constraints, we stopped at the fork in the road to East Peak/West Peak even though I had plenty of gas left in the chainsaw. The walk down the road and back to the car was enjoyable, knowing our work for the day was done and we had made good progress.

We did manage to pick up some trash today but not much, perhaps because I had walked the road and picked most of it up in the last 2 weeks.

I hope to continue with my 5 Year Plan next week, and as of now the weather looks like it's going to cooperate.  Until then, maintain.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My 5 Year Plan, Part II

My "5 Year Plan" continues.

Visit #918, Saturday 6 December 14, 12:30-4:45PM, 6.1 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, steady rain.

Visit #919, Sunday 7 December 14, 12:45-2:50PM, 4.6 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, sunny with a sharp north wind.

With low trail traffic and therefore less trash to find, I'm planning on continuing my "5 Year Plan" to spruce up the roadsides to East and West Peak. While I call it a 5 Year Plan I hardly expect it to take more than a year to complete. This week was sort of ideal (except for the rain) to plug along with the project.

Last week I was given a heads up regarding where my work could begin this weekend. A tree which had fallen splayed some branches across the lower end of the Blue Trail.

Unstable person that I am, I chose to work Saturday despite the cold rain. Rain pants and latex gloves kept me reasonably dry and warm. The forecast called for the rain to increase as the day progressed and for once, the weatherman was spot on.

I reached the first tree and took care of business.

The top of this trail meets the road to Castle Craig. Up top, I found a large branch in the road, which I removed.

Then it was time to continue my 5 Year Plan by walking down the road, clearing away any branches or trees which are encroaching into the roadway. Here's a sample of the types of trees I was felling.

And here's a somewhat extreme example of the flora reaching into the road which I'm removing.

If I execute my plan properly, you'll never know I've been there, but clearances for hikers and sight lines for cars should be significantly improved.

In addition to the photos above, the view from the north end of Merimere Reservoir should give you a better idea how much it was raining.

I actually ran out of daylight before I ran out of gas for my chainsaw. I was about a 1/4 mile shy of reaching Merimere Reservoir, my planned goal.

All along today I didn't neglect my trash collecting duties either

All those Christmas lights in Hubbard Park obviously put someone in the holiday mood as evidenced by what I found in the parking lot. I'll keep the picture small so you don't get nauseous.

Well, with half a tank of gas left in the chainsaw from Saturday and having failed to reach my first goal, I decided to return on Sunday under sunny skies and warmer temps. This time however, I had the assistance of pal Dave. He was going to be my chainsaw man while I operated the loppers.

We walked the road around Merimere Reservoir north and began trimming brush along both sides of the guardrail. Dave's an experienced hand with a chainsaw (note the safety gear) and volunteers regularly at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown maintaining the surrounding trails and woods. We worked together like the June Taylor Dancers except without the skimpy outfits; way too cold for those.

Dave worked the woodsy side of the guardrail while I used my loppers from the road side. The plan was to work until the chainsaw ran dry. When I saw how quickly and efficiently we moved along as a team, I regretted not filling the chainsaw's tank as our progress was greater than the sum of two workers. My hat's off to Dave for joining me.

Here Dave clears some of the growth trying to swallow the guardrail.

We ran out of gas about 100 feet shy of reaching my goal, but I was hardly disappointed. I shall return. Here's an idea of what that final stretch looks like.

I'm only tackling one side of the road at a time. I'll continue all the way up to West Peak, then turn around and clear the opposite side of the road. I'll worry about the Castle Craig side later. Snow will be the only thing to delay this project until spring.

I packed up the chainsaw and Dave and I walked up the road and down the trail I hiked up on Saturday. I was able to pick up more trash today, and on the return trip to the parking lot.

Until next week, maintain.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter's Early Arrival

Visit #916, Saturday 29 November 14, 10:30AM-1:20PM, 5.7 miles.
Temps in the 20's, sunny.

Visit #917, Sunday 30 November 14, 11:15AM-3:15PM, 6.3 miles.
Temps in the 50's, periods of clouds and sun.

I left last week with this week's work already planned out; to remove a tree which had fallen across a trail. Pretty straight forward.

First I had to contend with an unusually early winter snowfall. While not deep, the snow had melted and frozen, leaving traction questionable.

I chose to move the tree with my come along rather than cut it with my chainsaw. The tree had other ideas.

Whether it was the frozen snow or the weight of the tree, it wouldn't budge. The only thing that moved was the handle on the come along, which bent under the strain.

A setback for sure, albeit a temporary one.

I disconnected, packed up everything,  and moved to Plan B.

Plan B was the initiation of my "5 Year Plan" which actually shouldn't take 5 years to accomplish.

You see, the road to Castle Craig and West Peak is being encroached upon and narrowed by years of forest growth. Walkers tend to shy away from the road's edge as do cars due to branches and trees extending into the roadway. I have long wanted to trim back the growth in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Today I would begin my project.

As long as snow is held at bay, winter is a good time for this project as there's less trash to keep up with on the trails so I won't be spread too thin between my normal duties and the 5 Year Plan. I might actually complete the 5 Year Plan before spring, 2015.

So I left my fallen tree and hiked up to West Peak.

Despite the snow and cold, you can see many a brave soul enjoys hiking in Hubbard Park, including here at West Peak.

I began my 5 Year Plan sort of arbitrarily on a section of road heading to West Peak. But I soon ran out of food, began to bonk, and put my plans away for now. I walked the road back to Hubbard Park.
Enroute I found some branches had fallen into the road, which I cleared away.

The only piece of trash I found all day made me shake my head. If a bag of dog poop ever looked lonely, that was it.

I returned to Hubbard Park Sunday morning seeking revenge on the fallen tree. This time I hiked to the trails from the opposite direction, reaching the south end of Merimere Reservoir first. I had brought my chainsaw with me today and good thing I did, for I encountered storm damage and trees long in need of removal which I'd forgotten and now would be a good time to tend to them.

This fallen hemlock was a recent addition.

Further up the trail was a tree which had bent in half with the past couple years.  I'd used my loppers to clear the low hanging branches and swore some day, when my chainsaw was with me, to remove the unsightly tree remaining. Today was the day.

Just past the Halfway House was another such bent tree which had long been on my To Do List. That, and the smaller, leaning tree slightly further back.

That done, I could now extract revenge on the tree which bent my come along yesterday.

Pleased with my progress, I proceeded to where I left off on Saturday with my 5 Year Plan, hiking up to West Peak then following the road, to trim back branches and trees.

My work is so surgical that the casual observer would never suspect I had cut anything, and that was my goal. I want to maintain the tree canopy as much as possible.

The fork in the road to East Peak/West Peak is in the background. I was only trimming the right hand side of the road and it was at this point my chainsaw ran out of gas, which was when I'd planned to stop. Considering I had used an entire tank of gas, you can safely conclude I performed A LOT of trimming. While there's much left to do, I can't wait to see the results next summer.

I did an about face and headed south toward the trails and I-691. At the bottom of the Blue Trail where it meets the White Trail I found next week's work already lined up for me.

The small branches of that tree should not be a great chore.

The warm weather of Sunday brought out a lot of hikers and with it, more trash.

I found this Dunkin' Donuts cup particularly funny-I guess holiday "Joy" for some people is littering.

I returned to the parking lot with what little trash I collected and called it a day.