Sunday, December 27, 2015

Trees and Blundering

A peaceful day after Christmas in Hubbard Park. It was good to see the number of people out on the trails doing something other than pursuing day-after Christmas shopping.

 Visit #994, Saturday 26 December 15, 7:25AM-12:30PM, 9.5 miles.
Temps in the 40's, pushing past 50, partly sunny.

Last week I told of this week's plans to remove 2 trees across various trails which had fallen recently.

On Christmas Day I gave myself the best present I could ever want; a bike ride. I pointed myself toward Hubbard Park and up to West Peak, where I discovered 2 more trees which would need dispatching. I now had a route planned in my head and a full-schedule, as you can see by the mileage I walked.

My trash bag grew heavy quite quickly and knowing the journey ahead of me, I opted to leave it at the water treatment plant despite it being nowhere near full.

 Also on my agenda was to "undecorate" the tree at Echo Point made festive by others. Just like those who post "tag sale" signs but never take them down after the tag sale, I wouldn't bet a nickel these ornaments were ever going to be removed unless I did the job. As far as I was concerned, it was after the holiday and I was in the vicinity. My Hubbard Park schedule is unpredictable so there's no telling when I'd be back to clean up the tree, so I did it today.

 And speaking of tag sale signs, soon after passing Echo Point and the tree, I came upon this sign, which belongs in the same category. It too, was removed, for similar reasons.

Further up the road, I discovered our tree decorator didn't stop at trees; wreaths were fair game as well. Pretty creative too, what they did with this kudzu vine.

Along the way up the road, I picked up a discarded Dunkin' Donuts cup. The cup didn't surprise me; but I took an interest in the former contents.

With the number of additives in these drinks, coffee (this cup looks like it was tea) has become the New Soft Drink. And with the number of added calories (FOUR cream, FOUR Splenda which has 4 calories per packet that is; it's not a zero-calorie alternative), it's not like people are losing weight drinking this stuff. Likely the opposite.

Okay, so it piqued my interest and normally that would have been the end of it and you would not have heard a word nor seen a photo. BUT, I kept finding them and the results were the same!

Gee America, would you like some coffee with your sweeteners?!

I've commented on Dunkin' Donuts before. Today's findings have to make you wonder what percentage of Dunkin Donuts drinkers are likely to litter and whether there's a correlation. FYI, I didn't take photos of the clear plastic Dunkin' Donuts cups I found today, which would have increased the count. But they didn't have the menu of additives on the outside so I couldn't add them to the argument.

Anyway, I reached the first tree of the day.

By the debris in the road you can see the tree was across the pavement when I found it on my Christmas Day ride, but someone managed to swing it aside. I finished the job with my chainsaw.

It was just about this time that a Hubbard Park acquaintance walked by and the first words out of his mouth were, "Did you see what they did to that Christmas tree back by the reservoir?!"

When I telling him I did the deed and why, I was then treated to, as Paul Harvey would say, The Rest of the Story.

Turns out the people who started decorating the tree and the wreath are Hubbard Park regulars; a group of retired ladies who walk together on the road. I've seen them very occasionally but don't know them by name. I was assured, and I have no doubt, that they are a respectable group and would have had every intention of undecorating the tree and wreath after the holidays.

After starting the project, they inspired some park regulars to add to the tree/wreath on a regular basis as the holiday approached, hence the variety of ornaments I found.

Boy; did I feel like a cheeseball! I told the bearer of the news to apologize to the ladies on my behalf and tell them next year I'll be the wiser.

I guess I should have bet that nickel...

This cheeseball trudged on toward the top of the road and left a heavy bag of trash for the Meriden Parks Department to pick up.

Upon reaching the trailhead where Tree #2 was, I found a couple of old cooking pans; my Find of the Week.

Tree #2, before and after.

This trail leads all the way back down to Merimere Reservoir, where I picked up another trail leading me back up toward Castle Craig. Enroute to Tree #3, I found a tire lever, used to remove bicycle tires. Since I'm a cyclist, these come in handy and this lever will augment the incomplete set I have at home.

On to Tree #3.

 It wasn't just all hemlocks that were falling.

I reached the trail between East and West Peak and hiked down toward the lower trails nearer to I-691 where I dealt with the largest tree of the day, and it was oak. I had just enough gas in my saw to finish this job.

I hiked over the highway and back to the park. As a result of Saturday's work, my pair of gloves gave up the ghost. No matter; I found these gloves a few weeks ago while on a bike ride so they didn't owe me anything. They followed the trash bag into the dumpster.

See you next year!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


December views from West Peak.

Visit #992, Saturday, 19 December 15, 10:00AM-12:30PM, 5.2 miles.
Temps in the high 30's, sunny.

Visit #993, Sunday 20 December 15, 11:00-11:30AM, mileage n/a.
Temps in the mid-30's, sunny.

Thanks again to Paul Bernier, who joined me for the third consecutive week in maintaining Hubbard Park's trails.

I hadn't hiked a long route in many weeks so this would be a chance to catch up. We hiked in a clockwise direction, over I-691 and up to West Peak, where today's opening photos were taken. We cleaned up the area and the parking lot, then walked the road over toward Castle Craig.

Enroute, we discovered the Meriden Parks Department has added a couple small tree trunks to the telephone poles at a trailhead to keep SUVs and trucks from driving down there.

I had requested the telephone poles some time ago and was disappointed when the poles delivered were considerably shorter, and easier for vandals to move, than expected. And that's exactly what happened a few times since installation. I expect these will be similarly displaced. Anybody want to wager a bet on how long before they're moved?

This fall I asked for a couple truckloads of leaves be dumped on top of the telephone poles since the city was picking up leaves city wide and they have to dump them somewhere, but that didn't happen. Oh well...

Nearer to Castle Craig, while picking up some trash discretely hidden behind a tree, Paul made our first discovery of the week:

I took it home and charged the battery; it powers up but the touch screen doesn't work, which may explain why it was discarded.

After cleaning up the area around Castle Craig, Paul and I hiked down to the Halfway House then down to Merimere Reservoir, where Paul made our next discovery.

Considering the temps, this beer was ice cold and ready to drink.

I'd received notice that the Parks Department was "thinning the brush along the water on Tower Drive", which is the road around Merimere Reservoir. I was eager to discover whether it was clearcut or more selective. Paul and I were pleasantly surprised at how good the shoreline looked and as he said, it gets the Paul and Peter Seal of Approval®! Below are "close enough" Before and After photos.

The new view has it's pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it reveals the vista of the mountain. On the minus side, it enables people to throw their trash farther, possibly landing in the water, and the tree canopy did contribute to the appeal of walking the road. The trimming doesn't reach very far up the road and I'm not sure how far the Parks Department intends to trim. Stay tuned for updates.

Paul and I turned around and walked the road back toward Hubbard Park, where I scored the best discovery of the day, spying it from about 75 feet away.

Lunch money!

Back at the park we dropped off our trash for the day.

But I wasn't done for the weekend.

While passing the Halfway House on Saturday, I discovered some new graffiti. Looking for a place to take a bike ride on Sunday, I opted to ride my mountain bike to the Halfway House at Hubbard Park to take care of it.

Looks suspiciously like Grumpy Cat. Hey; just Google it!

Fortunately, I keep a can of flat brown spray paint on hand for just this occasion. But frankly, it doesn't flow that well in 30 degree temps.

While I was at it, I took a short ride on the other nearby trails. Good thing I did.

Shortly after discovering this tree across the trail, I met another hiker who told me of another tree which has fallen across another trail. I plan to take care of both trees next week.

Looks like I've got my work "cut out" for me. Yuk yuk!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On The Slopes, Part II

Yes, it's Christmastime, even in Hubbard Park! Someone decorated this tree adjacent to Echo Point, complete with ornaments and bows. Take a walk along the road and check it out!

Visit #991, Saturday 12 December 15, 9:10AM-12:00PM, 4.5 miles.
Temps in the 50's, partly sunny.

Paul Bernier joined me for my annual cleaning of the slope behind the playscape. Below is an archive photo from last year to show the area.

I no sooner parked my car when I came upon the first of many Finds of the Week.

Found this in the parking lot. It had definitely suffered some road rash.

Paul and I scoured the hillside for trash. While I was near the top, adjacent to I-691, I came upon a most unusual Find of the Week:

If I didn't know better, I'd say that is a bona fide cherry tree growing almost inside Hubbard Park-you can see I-691 East in the background. If I think of it, I'll try and harvest some of those cherries next spring. If it turns out worthwhile, I might even prune the area around the tree for it's future growth.

Due to our annual efforts in maintaining this slope, it doesn't take as long as in past years. With time left over, we collected all the trash and left it in one spot along the fence line for the Meriden Parks Department to pick up, and used the remaining time to walk the road north toward Echo Point to clean up the roadsides.

I have got to stop looking down at the shoreline of Merimere Reservoir. I continue to find things that are unbelievable, and take some effort to retrieve.

This Merimere Reservoir Find of the Week was part of a steel guardrail.

Paul and I walked to Echo Point and turned around. We picked up the guardrail on the return trip and dropped it off, along with a couple trash bags, at the water treatment plant.

With the continuing mild weather this week, it's worth a walk up the road to enjoy the quiet, the scenery, and to see if you can spot the Christmas Tree!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

On The Slopes, Part I

This is December?!

Visit #990, Saturday 5 December 15, 10:00AM-12:00PM, 4.8 miles.
Temps rising to 50, sunny.

Thanks to Paul Bernier, who joined me this week in keeping the trails of Hubbard Park clean.

Once a year I traverse the steep talus slope below Castle Craig, picking up litter people toss over the wall. Walking is difficult on the loose rock. I learned this year I should wait a few more weeks for the ground to freeze and hold some of the rocks in place and firm up the soil. Let's hope I remember for 2016.

Paul and I started at the parking lot and hiked the trails up the Castle Craig, collecting trash along the way. Arriving at the Castle parking lot, we cleaned up the perimeter and left a bag there for later pickup.

The weather was spectacular for December and afforded us balmy views in all directions, including back down to Mirror Lake.

All our previous years' work must be paying off for we didn't collect as many bags of trash as in the past. This is a good thing because crawling around on the slope to reach it is a pain.

Paul and I finished and returned to the park, leaving our bags of trash at the water treatment plant because it was occupied and we figured it would be picked up quickly.

Next week I hope to work on an easier slope. Stay tuned.