Sunday, September 28, 2014

Merged Priorities

Autumn's arrived and the leaves are beginning to fall.

Visit #901, Sunday 28 September 14, 4:30-7:05PM, 6.2 miles.
Temps in the 80's, sunny.

I received a call earlier this week from a local hiker telling me both parking lots, at Castle Craig and at West Peak, were looking pretty bad as far as trash goes. A day later I toured both locations on my mountain bike to size up the problem, and rode a trail back down to Merimere Reservoir, where I discovered a hemlock had fallen.

I had a choice of 2 agendas this weekend; either clean up the both parking lots, or tackle the fallen tree. My upcoming schedule would mean leaving one task or the other for some other time. I managed to mostly merge the two and came away satisfied with my productivity.

Time was tight and sunlight short when I started, so I hiked a route directly up to West Peak and cleaned up the area and the surrounding parking lot. I left a bag of trash there and will contact the Meriden Parks Department to pick it up.

I then turned toward the trail with the fallen tree.

But this wasn't the tree and this wasn't "fallen". This was Len's work. I still can't seem to stop him completely.

Shortly beyond this, I found a couple abandoned bags of mulch in a most unusual spot, weighted down by debris.

I tore open the bags, dumped the mulch, and took the bags.

My find of the week:

Proof that underwear DOES grow on trees.

Here's one of the few abandoned cars in Hubbard Park. This is a Ford Pinto wagon. This seems like a new addition to the park because there's no vegetation growing around it as if it were there since the Ford Pinto era. Then again, with today's value of scrap metal, I can't imagine anyone dumping a car in the woods as it would be akin to throwing money away, so maybe this IS an long abandoned car.

Further down the trail I reached my tree objective.

I sliced out the middle with my chainsaw and opened up the trail.

I removed about a dozen more, smaller trees as I hiked down toward Merimere Reservoir. Here are just a couple:

Back on the road I had little time and daylight to spare so I hustled back to the park and deposited my second bag of trash.

My only failure is I wasn't able to clean the parking lot at Castle Craig. I hope to put that on next week's list.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shamed-By a 10 Year Old?!

One of these 4 cyclists actually WANTED to ride in the rain, like a true Belgian Hardman. The other 3 had no choice but to show up or be called a wuss. Can you guess who was who?

Visit #900, Sunday 21 September 14, 3:25-5:05PM, 3.2 miles.
Temps in the 70's, cloudy, muggy, and threatening rain.

Cycling pal Bob, far left in the photo above, was hosting his nephew Cooper for the weekend. Cooper caught the cycling bug real bad from Uncle Bob. So bad in fact, that he wanted to go for a ride on Sunday morning, IN THE RAIN.

Now I have to ask; what kind of 10 year old would rather ride a bicycle in the rain than stare at his iPad? I swear the kid's mind has been taken over by aliens.

So when Cooper proclaimed Sunday's bike ride was still on despite the weather, what could I do? It was either show up or hide in shame-FROM A 10 YEAR OLD! I could have easily stayed home nice and dry and bagged today's trail work as well, but the Cloud of Shame would have hung over me.

After enduring the scattered showers and downpours of the morning ride, I'd had enough and dreaded heading out again to Hubbard Park. Fortunately, I didn't have to test my mettle against that of a 10 year old Belgian Hardman in the afternoon as the rain abated.

I hiked a counterclockwise loop of the trails below Castle Craig. I immediately ran into something interesting.

This pin, which helps lock the gate at the end of the road leading to Castle Craig, was cut clean through. I can only imagine this was done with a battery powered die grinder. Little did I know, I would soon learn the REAL backstory.

With the pin cut there was no way to secure the gate, so the parks department resorted to a padlock and chain.

I hiked my way up to and past the Halfway House, where I ran into some hanging vines which needed clearing from the trail. A few snips with my loppers and we were good.

It was about then that I ran into local hiker Bill. We began to chat and he told me the story of the cut pins.

It seems Bill was hiking in Hubbard Park last week around 7PM, returning to the park when he encountered a man outside his car USING A HACKSAW to slice through the pin. Somehow the guy got caught on the road from Castle Craig after the gate was locked and he wasn't interested in calling the police to let him out. He was going to try and save the fines and cut his way out.

Bill told the man 2 things-1: What he was doing was illegal. 2: He was cutting through the wrong lock!

Well, we all know criminals aren't the brightest people, but this hacksaw wielding genius was cutting through the pin on the gate just south of the water treatment plant. Even if "Einstein" successfully cut through that pin, he'd have to drive his car down the Soap Box Derby track and cut through another lock. Had he driven all the way down the road toward the park, our nefarious neanderthal would only have to cut through ONE lock.

There was enough common sense in this cretin to take Bill's info internally and he abandoned cutting through the first gate and proceeded to drive down the road and cut through the other pin, which he was successful in doing.

Here's a photo of the pin he failed to sever since his cut spiraled:

To Bill's credit, he called the police who told him they already received a call about the vandal but were too busy to free up an officer to catch the man. The dispatcher never asked for a description of the individual or license plate so there's no telling whether they already had the information or if they caught him. Perhaps one of my blog readers can shed some light on the outcome?

Anyway, after getting the backstory from Bill, I completed my loop and dropped off my bag of trash for the week.

To end this week's report, from the Department of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:

I arrived home from my weekly activities in Hubbard Park and proceeded to take a shower. It was then that I discovered I'd picked up a tick somewhere in my travels that afternoon. Problem is, the tick was attached somewhere where I couldn't see it even with a mirror and some strange yoga poses. With no one to examine this "very private body part" I had no choice but to seek professional help. How embarrassing. An hour and a half, and a large deductible later...

... I was tick-free and dosed with doxycycline.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Four-Peat Pete

A rarely seen view of Merimere Reservoir. Read on and discover why.

Visit #896, Monday 8 September 14, 6-7PM, mileage n/a.
Temps in the mid-70's, cloudy.

Visit #897, Thursday 11 September 14, 6-7:30PM, 3.6 miles.
Temps in the 70's, cloudy, humid, threatening rain.

Visit #898, Saturday 13 September 14, 6:50-7:40AM, mileage n/a.
Temps in the 50's, cloudy.

Visit #899, Saturday 13 September 14, 12:40-3:10PM, 3.9 miles.
Temps in the low 70's, cloudy with impending rain.

Four visits in one week?! As long as I can throw some cycling in the mix then it doesn't feel like a job, but fun.

It began on Monday. During last week's trail clearing and tree dropping, I neglected to take the cut pieces and line the trail as is my long term plan. But the heat and humidity of last week can make you cut corners just to get out of there. So I felt my work was incomplete. I returned via mountain bike on Monday to arrange the logs appropriately. This particular trail is not rideable for mountain bikes so there was a lot of hike-a-bike. Once on site, the task took a mere 5 minutes. You can see my bike in the background.

Finished, I pointed myself back in the direction I came from, toward the road at the north end of Merimere Reservoir. Enroute, I could see the eastern shore of the reservoir and spotted something you would not see from the road. Time to investigate.

What I spied was the tarp you see above. The tiny peninsula offers a secluded spot to camp on the shore of Merimere Reservoir without being seen unless you were on the Blue Trail on the western hillside. The introductory photo to this week's blog shows the view south from the campsite.

Lacking the gear to clean this up, I vowed to return later in the week.

So that's what I did on Thursday. After work, I walked north along the road and picked up trash on one side. Just shy of the north end of the reservoir I ducked into the woods and to the camp site where someone had used the "wind curtain" to create a lean-to, then abandoned it.

This area is apparently well-known considering the amount of trash I picked up in such a small area. When I was done, I left 2 bags at the north end of the reservoir, which were promptly picked up the following day by the Meriden Parks Department, thanks to Chris Bourdon.

My find of the week occurred on this outing:

I'd be excited if I were a beer drinker, but I'm not.

As I walked the road back to the park I picked up trash on the other side of the road and deposited the bag before I left.

Now I was free to pursue my original plans for this week.

Last week, I detailed my approach to dealing with graffiti on the I-691 walkbridge. Sandpaper was effective but somewhat time consuming. I wanted to see if I could expedite the process. The squeeky cogs in my brain began to turn and I came up with a series of options I would field test to find a winner.

So early Saturday morning I once again grabbed my mountain bike and rode to Hubbard Park for a face-off between solvent, spray paint, and sandpaper. Here were the contestants:

I'd previously tried covering up the silver graffiti with my magic marker when I ran out of time and patience. The results were less than satisfying to me, hence the comparison test.

First, I hit the art with acetone.

All that did was partially remove the magic marker.

Next, I tried the sandpaper, starting with the 60 grit.

I didn't do a complete job because I figured the spray paint would surely cover this quickly and thoroughly. Wrong.

You can see some of the art bleeding through and the color is less than an ideal match.


I finished the session by removing a couple other spots of graffiti.

I was done and outta there even before the early risers.

At midday I returned for more routine trash and trail duties. I walked a counterclockwise route, stopping at the south end of Merimere Reservoir and hiking over to I-691. From my earlier bike rides through the park this week I knew where I'd find the trouble spots, which is why I hiked this particular route.

Enroute, I found these logs on the Main Trail which I tossed into the woods.

Once over to the trailhead on West Main Street across from Belmont Avenue, I deposited a filled trash bag along with a chair frame and a 55 gallon drum. I'll contact the Meriden Parks Department to pick up the items.

My next objective was a small tree which was leaning across the trail. Because of my earlier recon trips, I brought my bow saw to remove the tree.

Back at the park, I dropped of the last of my trash, including the box you see.

Here's hoping for a more leisurely schedule next week...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lumberjack, Week III

The view south of Merimere Reservoir, while Paul collects trash along the shoreline.

Visit #894, Tuesday 2 September 14, 6-7PM, mileage n/a.
Temps in the high 80's, high humidity.

Visit #895, Saturday 6 September 14, 8:45AM-12:45PM, 8.1 miles.
Temps in the mid-80's, wilting humidity.

As I reported of last week's escapades, I ran into some new graffiti on the walkbridge over I-691. I chose to take on this task on Tuesday while also getting in some bike riding. I grabbed the mountain bike and headed over after work. I did not want to cover over the bridge's original color so I tried something different; I used sandpaper, 150 grit to be exact. It's not as fast as I'd prefer but it's remarkably effective and leaves the original paint pretty much intact-that epoxy is tough. Besides last week's ramblings, here's what I cleaned up.

It's dirty work but somebody's gotta do it.

I ran out of paper and had to resort to my own magic marker to cover the remainder. It's not pretty; I may return another day to properly complete the job.

Saturday would be the third consecutive week using my chainsaw to keep the trails clear. I was fortunate to have the assistance of Paul Bernier on Saturday. He doubled my usual productivity collecting trash and led me to a tree down across a hiking trail his Active Singles group would be hiking on the following day, Sunday.

We started at the playscape and walked the road toward Castle Craig. By the time we reached the north end of Merimere Reservoir, we had collected 2+ bags of trash and left them at the jersey barriers. I'll contact the Meriden Parks Department to collect the bags Monday.

I say 2 PLUS bags because the blue bag in the background came pre-loaded with my Find of the Week, which I failed to photograph. Inside the reusable Goodwill shopping bag was a... 

...Sunbeam Stand Mixer, either unloved or unworking, probably both. There was also a garage door opener. Go figure.

At the north end of Merimere Reservoir, Paul pointed out to me what he calls the "alligator" in the reservoir.

 The alligator only appears when the water level is low.

Once we crossed the north end of the reservoir, I noticed this gate is missing its lock.

I'll notify the Meriden Parks Department of this as well.

When Paul and I reached the fork to East Peak/West Peak, we left our 3rd and 4th bags of trash that we would collect on our return trip.

Then it was over to the Blue Trail high above Merimere Reservoir and a long hike to the fallen hemlock.

Paul is standing in the middle of the trail, which curves up to his left.

I easily dispatched this tree then felled another nearby, dead hemlock, which looked like the next candidate to block the trail. In the photo, you can see the first hemlock after I cut it away behind Paul and to his right.

At this point we performed an about face and made a long trek to pick up our trash bags and return to the park. The humidity was absolutely oppressive on Saturday. If you look closely at Paul's pants, you can see the sweat line of demarcation just about mid-thigh. I doubt there was a perm'd hairdo in the world which could withstand Saturday's humidity. And watch that sweat line creep lower as our hike moved on...

Paul and I hiked down and over I-691 and the trail back to the park, the trail I rode my mountain bike to the walkbridge on Tuesday. Well, on Tuesday the trail was clear but between Tuesday and Saturday a small tree had fallen across it. Rather than cut it up, Paul and I managed to swing it clear of the trail.

The crown of the fallen tree extended well to the left of the photo.

Take a look a Paul's pants now and you'll see the sweat line has progressed considerably. The humidity was a real factor on Saturday. 2-21oz. bottles of water weren't nearly enough.

I planned this route back to the park because I wanted to clean the parking area for the trails which is on the northwest perimeter of Mirror Lake. I had been eyeballing this area for a few weeks and was surprised the city hadn't maintained it. As a result, I managed to fill a 30 gallon trash bag with multiple empty six-packs of glass bottles, among other trash.

Back at the park, I dropped of the last of Saturday's collection.

Thanks again to Paul Bernier for his help. I hope clean, clear trails made a positive impression on the CT Active Singles Group. To get an idea of the group's hike that day, view the photos!