Sunday, June 29, 2014

In Search Of Some Motivation

See if you can find the turtle in the photo.

Visit #878, Saturday 28 June 14, 9:00AM-12:00PM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 80's, sunny, dry, and pleasant.

I was hard pressed to find a project to focus on for this week's activities. Why, I couldn't even come up with a route I wanted to travel. I was just lacking motivation.

To the rescue came local hiker and occasional volunteer assistant Paul Bernier. He called me looking to offer his services picking up trash and whatever I could dig up this weekend. Together we hatched and executed a plan.

With a pet fair and 5k run scheduled for the morning, we wanted to avoid the parking lot and the crowds, so we parked and entered Hubbard Park from the Park Road gate at the north end of Merimere Reservoir. The turnaround for the 5k race was here as evidenced by the cones.

I don't know about you, but I could potentially get lost in that maze and never exit. I was wise enough to walk around it, for my safety.

Paul and I walked up the road to West Peak and the radio towers, cleaning up both sides of the road. However, we didn't pick up EVERYTHING. Some things are best left alone.

In last week's post, I cut away some branches blocking the view of a sign indicating the sharp curve ahead. I wasn't satisfied with my work and returned mid-week in an undocumented visit to further trim back the fallen/bent trees.

All I brought with me were a bow saw and a pair of loppers. It wasn't pretty but I got the job done.

This led me to my next discovery; there's another sign warning of the dangerous curve which precedes the above sign on the downhill leg. It too, was obscured by trees.

Gotta do something about that. Paul climbed the tree, adding his weight and forcing it to bend so I could trim the branch as high as possible. His efforts paid off; perhaps the now visible signs will save someone from certain doom.

Paul and I reached West Peak, policed the parking lot and adjacent trails, and left a couple bags of trash at the end of the parking lot. I'll contact the Meriden Parks Department to pick them up.

The Parks Department deserves my thanks as they picked up the computer monitors I extracted from the woods last week as I learned from my mid-week visit.

We turned around and walked the road to Castle Craig. We reached the parking lot and cleaned up the area, leaving a second pair of trash bags to be collected later on.

We returned to Merimere Reservoir via a trail that parallels the road. On the way down I discovered for the second time mountain bikers building stunts on the trail. As a mountain biker myself, I find this unacceptable; something hikers shouldn't have to look at or contend with. I dismantled it.

It was essentially a berm backed up by logs from a tree I'd cleared from the trail in April. The berm terminated in a jump built from one of the log sections partially buried in dirt. Well, it WAS buried in dirt.

Paul and I reached the bottom of the trail, picked up the road, and returned to the car on Park Road.

Find the turtle yet?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Annoying The Rude As A Hobby

A third Utopian outing in Hubbard Park in as many weeks. I'm running out of adjectives to describe such weather.

Visit #877, Sunday 22 June 14, 5:00-7:40PM, 5.3 miles.
Temps in the low 80's, dry and sunny.

In March 2013, pre-blog, I reported how someone found the hollow post of the gate near the water treatment plant an attractive place to put their empty coffee cups.

I decided to rain on their parade. I got the brilliant idea to fill the post with Great Stuff foam.

Well, I must be playing whack-a-mole with whoever is using the post as a trash can because a few weeks ago I discovered the same problem at the gate at the north end of Merimere Reservoir. Today's fun would include annoying whoever they may be.

I walked the road from the park to the north end of the reservoir and picked up trash as I went along.
When I reached the gate, I assessed the situation. Could be the work of a new villain because the coffee cups are different. Here's the scene of the crime.

Of course, if you remove the top coffee cup... merely find another.

And on it goes. I broke out my tool of the trade. I left the rest of the stack of coffee cups in the post as "filler" to build my base upon. Otherwise I'd spend a small fortune to fill the entire post.

I emptied the entire can in the post and was surprised to see I didn't get the nice muffin top I wound up with the last time I tried this trick.

Slightly disappointed, I moved on up the road toward Castle Craig. On the way up the hill, I spied something new. Someone had dumped two CRT monitors in the woods. I pulled them out and left my bag of trash with them so they'd be easy to spot. I'll notify the Meriden Parks Department to pick up the junk.

At this point I decided to turn around and take the road back to the park. On the way down, I noticed the sign warning of the sharp bend in the road was obscured because a tall but slender tree had split and fallen over.

The sign was even less apparent than the photos would suggest. Fortunately, I had my loppers with me and was able to restore the sign's visibility from a distance.

I retraced my route and when I arrived at the gate again I was pleasantly surprised.

There was my muffin top, baby! I'd forgotten the foam continues to expand for a while after being dispensed. I suppose it really won't annoy our coffee cup depositor; they'll probably just toss it on the ground now instead. But hey; I can dream, can't I?!

At the south end of Merimere Reservoir I diverted myself from the road and took the trail behind the water tank, trimming it as I did another trail in last week's report.

Back on the road, I walked the Soap Box Derby track and back to the park, depositing my last bag of trash.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Little Things

The top section of the Yellow Trail on a perfect Sunday in June.

Visit #876, Sunday 15 June 14, 4:30-6:50PM, 4.5 miles.
Temps in the low 80's, sumptuously sunny, warm, dry, breezy, and bug-free.

After tending to some trails for the past six years, I'm starting to see the results of my efforts. Less maintenance is required, particularly mid-season, when plants are in full bloom. The vegetation just doesn't swallow up the trails like it used to.

One trail that did need attention is sandwiched between the bank of daffodils adjacent to Mirror Lake and I-691. I brought my repertoire of lightweight tools with me to trim the trail section back, roughly 200 yards long.

That section consumed an hour of my time then it was off to complete a clockwise loop of the rest of the trail system below Castle Craig. Enroute to the walkbridge over I-691, I found some vines and branches had fallen into the trail. With my toolset I quickly cleared away what was really a minor inconvenience.

I'm pleased to report the two flags attached to the walkbridge are still there in good condition.

There wasn't much trash to pick up as I was expecting more than I found. The worst were the remnants of a small party at the Halfway House which included a campfire, a can of pineapple juice, an empty package of hotdogs, and a condom wrapper. I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere; I just don't want to think about it ;-)

I forgot to mention that, as you can see, my backpack has returned from zipper replacement and it works spectacularly, if you can get excited about such things. I had the semi-circular zipper you see in the photo replaced by Rainy Pass Repair, from Seattle Washington. Worth every penny. If you have any outdoor gear in need of fixin', check them out.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

2014 National Trails Day

Visit #875, Saturday 7 June 14, 8:30AM-1:15PM, 6.7 miles.
Temps in the low 80's, magnificent weather!

It was serendipity that the Meriden Land Trust chose to host a National Trails Day event in Hubbard Park where I execute my volunteer duties. I decided to participate and maybe spread the word and inspire others through what I do.

Dwight Needles of the Meriden Land Trust led the hike along with knowledgeable local host Bob Pagini.

In the parking lot adjacent to the playscape I met Ben, a Meriden college student attending Temple University studying geology. He was participating in the hike for 2 reasons; the geology aspect of the hike, and the physical training as he was scheduled for a summer geology program in Montana which would require traipsing around rocks in that state. I gave Ben a 3rd reason to participate by handing him a trash bag and asking him to join me as we walked the road toward the north end of Merimere Reservoir where the hiking group would assemble.

The 2 of us cleaned up both sides of the road and arrived just prior to the bunch. We hiked to South Mountain, all the time being fed volumes of information from our 2 hosts. There's no "app" that could substitute for the personalized tour our group received.

Everyone in the group saw the trail with different eyes. Some saw the trail, some saw the plants, some saw the wildlife, and I covered the trash, which wasn't much once you left the road.

Your author, a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, clearly missed all the wildlife around him while others could spy the tiniest of creatures camouflaged against the woods. Here are a few:

At South Mountain, all I needed was a lawn chair and a cooler and I would have been set for the day. The group took plenty of time to take in the views and relax, which made beginning the return trip all that much more difficult!

That's my impromptu assistant Ben with the camera.

Perhaps I did inspire someone during the hike. Lisa (far left at the edge of the photo) starting picking up shards of broken glass and throwing them in my trash bag.

Mirror Lake as viewed from South Mountain.

Our group made an about face and returned to the north end of Merimere Reservoir. Ben and I walked the road back to the parking lot rather than catch a ride from the others so he could get in more training miles.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

It Pays To Do Your Homework

No, doing your homework won't get you a beer from me. This unopened can of Bud Light was my Find of the Week.

Visit #873, Thursday 29 May 14, 6:00-6:30PM, mileage n/a.
Temps in the low 70's, sunny.

Visit #874, Saturday 31 May 14, 10:00AM-12:55PM, 3.9 miles.
Temps in the low 70's, variable clouds, some sprinkles.

To form an idea of what my weekend To Do list would include, I took a bike ride to Hubbard Park on Thursday. I  pedaled the road up to Castle Craig and then over to West Peak. Both parking lots had a good amount of trash so after patrolling the trails below Castle Craig I decided both parking lots would be tended to on Saturday. Thursday's homework saved me a lot of aimless hiking, wondering where to maximize my efforts.

As luck would have it, Paul Bernier called to offer his services for Saturday. When Paul calls to lend a hand, I try to address any concerns he might have and fortunately, he noticed the same messy parking lots that I did. With our agendas in alignment, off we went.

We actually drove my car up to Castle Craig. I would stop my car as we went whenever one of us spied a large piece of trash, and Paul would get out and pick it up. Not the most thorough work, but better than nothing.

At Castle Craig, we split up and policed the parking lot and surrounding area, then walked over to West Peak. Our bags were full by the time we reached the fork in the road, so we deposited them there.

Just prior to reaching the parking lot at West Peak, Paul removed a couple small trees which had fallen partially into the road many months ago.

Once we finished with West Peak, we took the Blue Trail down and walked the Main Trail to the Halfway House, then performed an about face and hiked back up to Castle Craig to retrieve the car. We stopped at the fork in the road, collected the first 2 bags of trash, consolidated four trash bags into 3 bags, and returned to the park.

Many thanks to Paul Bernier for assisting me this week.