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.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Annual Pilgrimage

Visit #915, Saturday 22 November 14, 11:05AM-1:30PM, 3.8 miles.
Temps in the 40's, sunny.

Once a year I take to the steep slope below Castle Craig to pick up all the cans, bottles, and sundry items tossed off from the Castle.  It's a once a year thing because of the difficulty crawling along the steep slope, and I prefer to wait until all the snakes are in hibernation. It's not easy to run away on all that loose rock!

As I hiked my way up on the trails, I came across a man carrying what you see below, which he found by walking far off-trail. It's wrought iron of some sort but neither of us could figure out what it was in its day. It certainly was old. The man was going to take it home and make some use of it as a garden ornament.

Once on the slope I got right to work. Here's a view east toward Meriden. The dome of City Hall is somewhere near the center of the photo.

Castle Craig is just above me. This photo gives you a good idea how steep the slope actually is.

After I'd filled my share of bags or at least all I could carry, I returned to the park to drop them off.

Back in August I recommended to authorities in the City of Meriden that they consider blocking the entrance to a particular trail because vehicles can drive down it and park in seclusion to engage in activities unseen. The photo below is one example from a previous blog post:

When I took the photo above, the car was neither rocking nor filled with smoke...

I'm pleased to report City of Meriden Parks Department answered my request a few weeks ago. I was only to take a photo of the results when I took a mountain bike ride in Hubbard Park on Sunday morning.

My intent was to stop 4-wheeled vehicles. I think this should do the trick but I'll keep an eye on it long term.

I then rode a lap of the trails below Castle Craig to finish off my ride and found my task for next week's blog. Here is your exclusive, sneak preview:

Until then, maintain.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A rare view of Merimere Reservoir looking north from the western shore.

Visit #912, Saturday 15 November 14, 7:50-8:30AM, 1.3 miles.
Temps in the 30's, partly sunny.

Visit #913, Sunday 16 November 14, 7:10-9:30AM, 3.3 miles.
Temps in the 30's, mostly cloudy.

Visit #914, Sunday 16 November 14, 12:30-2:30PM, 3.4 miles.
Temps in the 40's, mostly cloudy.

This is the view that started it all:

See that white graffiti on the rock on the far western shore? I wanted it bad...

Several weeks ago I spied that paint all the way from the opposite side of Merimere Reservoir while walking the road north. Such an eyesore. It had to go. What could possibly go wrong?

I had also formed a mental checklist of graffiti I'd spied in various spots in the park and decided to focus on cleaning things up while picking up trash as well.

My tale of woe started Saturday morning. I was on-call.

I parked in the dirt lot at the northwest corner of Mirror Lake and started my walk, picking off graffiti as I went.

Gray spray paint said goodbye to Byron and Mary.

The flower.

I brought along a selection of earth tones. I probably should have used gray.

I reached the walkbridge over I-691.

Sandpaper took care of Alexia and Justin.

About this time, what could possibly go wrong, did. My work phone rang and I had to abandon my work for an after hours service call. The rock at Merimere Reservoir would have to wait.

Sunday morning rolled around and I decided I'd try to pick up where I left off.

Picking at this sticker on Saturday was painfully slow. Fortunately, I came up with a lickety split solution.

With my new technique I was a sticker removing fool.

60 grit sandpaper packed a powerful punch as well.

I was on a roll.

Crossing the walkbridge, I came upon a Find of the Week, an abandoned hoodie.

Say goodbye to Scott and Mariana too.

With all the small graffiti taken care of, I could now turn my attention to that rock on the western shore. With only distance between it and me, I hustled on the trails, picking up trash along the way.

Once on the western shore of a very low reservoir, I walked the western perimeter, eager to take my graffiti removing skills to that rock. What could possibly go wrong?

I never reached the rock.

My work phone rang AGAIN. This time I had to abandon my work to head to Clinton.

I dropped off the bag of trash I'd collected so far.

After completing that service call, I returned to Hubbard Park to put a period on my work.

I picked up where I left off on the western shore of the reservoir. I could smell blood. I reached the rock with the graffiti on it. What could possibly go wrong?

It wasn't graffiti.

It was bird poop. Lots of bird poop. Enough to appear to be paint, from across the entire width of Merimere Reservoir.

But to be sure, I had to see the other side of the rock up close. Which meant I would have to leap across the 4 foot gap between the shore and the rock, above. Then I would have to figure out how to get back to shore without swimming. What could possibly go wrong?

I didn't quite make it.

Afterward, I continued navigating the western shore, picking up trash, presumably from illegal fisherman, along the way. It was treacherous and slow.

Here's unique view of the spillway at the north end.

I reached the road and walked back to the park.

Just when I thought I'd never be able to outdo last week's Find of the Week, I surprised myself.

Wait for it.

Here it comes...

I swear I'm not making this up. The only things missing were the natives, some shrunken heads, and a boiling pot of oil. Give me time and I'm sure I find that stuff, too.

My bag of trash must have weighed 15lbs. by the time I reached the water treatment plant, so I decided to drop it off there.

Hopefully the masks are good juju and will ward off any evil spirits threatening the water. Either that or it will scare away the employees.