Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Bernie Jurale Tradition Run

Walkers participating in the Tradition Run head up the hill toward Castle Craig.

Visit #933, Sunday 25 January 15, 10:00-11:30AM, 5.7 miles.
Temps in the mid-30's, partly cloudy with increasing sun.

Saturday saw a fast moving storm system drop a good three inches of white fun in Meriden. That pretty much ensured I won't have to pick up much trash or pick up after Len until the snow is gone. Wanting to maintain the consistency of my blog and of my activities in Hubbard Park, I chose to wait until Sunday and participate in the Bernie Jurale Tradition Run instead.

I left with the walking group which had to be 75 strong, and departed at 10AM. Despite the label, many took off at a run anyway, which made me wonder why they didn't wait until 10:30AM and participate with the running group?

Conditions weren't as tough as could be for January but credit goes to anyone that goes for a walk outside in the winter. Or for that matter, anyone that does  ANYTHING outside in January!

The participation overall was incredible in my eyes. Parking overflowed to every available spot and then some.

The collective of walking finishers at the top was quite a crowd. The runners were yet to arrive.

I didn't stick around, and immediately turned left after "The End" and hiked the trail down. I wondered whether any of the walkers would follow, but considering I saw no one but myself equipped with the proper footwear, it explained why my trip back to registration via the trails was solo. Too bad, because winter on the trails is nice and quiet.

Enroute, I fulfilled my trash duties for the week with this find:

Passing the start line, I found this crampon which had apparently fallen off someone's running shoe. They obviously didn't read my blog entry recommendation for REAL crampons; ones that will stay on your shoes. I wore my Stabilicer's today and received more than one expression of envy. Follow my blog and listen to the voice of experience, boys and girls!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Poor Prognostication

I promise to not take up a career as a weatherman.

Visit #931, Saturday 17 January 15, 2:35-4:35PM, 4.6 miles.
Temps in the low 20's, sunny.

Visit #932, Sunday 18 January 15, 7:40-9:25AM, 2.4 miles.
Temps in the low 20's. Cloudy with rain developing about 10AM and temps rising to the 40's.

In last week's report I predicted the snow cover we had would be here to stay for the season. Boy, was I wrong. A series of melt/thaw cycles combined with sunny days took away the snow and left the trails with a smooth layer of ice.

I didn't have a specific target for Saturday's work so when that happens I just go with the flow and let the trails create my agenda.

I walked a clockwise loop, covering the trails below Castle Craig. The cold temps didn't keep as many people away as you'd expect, but you know anyone who ventures out in 20 degree temps is a die hard hiker or adventurous.

When I reached Merimere Reservoir I paused for a few minutes to listen to the sound of the ice shifting. Eerie and ambient. I also noticed the scientific testing of the ice layer's strength. For those unaware of the technique, you toss a rock high into the air; if it breaks through the ice, it's not thick enough.

Heading back toward the park I found the remains of a sled. I guess when it's no longer of use, it's okay to leave it anywhere you please. Gotta brush up on my etiquette.

At this point I was under my self-imposed minimum hike of two hours. In order to stretch it out, I added a little work on my 5 Year Plan and trimmed the brush away from the fence and guardrail on the road side under I-691. Long term, I hope to clear the entire length. For today, twenty feet or so would have to do.

The sun was rapidly setting when I dropped off my trash collection for the day.

I chose Saturday as my work day because rain was forecast for Sunday after 10AM. However, during Saturday's duties I spied a tree leaning low to the ground by the small parking area across the street from Belmont Avenue. It bugged me. I figured if I could get to it before the rain began Sunday morning, I'd be all set. Also, an early morning start would ensure no cars would be parked there to prohibit dropping the tree.


I drove by the parking area at 7:30AM only to see a vehicle already parked there! Someone else had the same idea I had and wanted to avoid the rain. So I stalled for time by using my chainsaw to trim leaning trees and other woodsy intrusions on the small network of trails on the south side of I-691.

Here are just a few before and after shots. See if you can spot the trees I removed:

When I reached the parking area across the street from Belmont Avenue, the SUV was still parked there. As luck would have it, while considering my options, the owner returned and drove away, leaving me free to drop the tree.

The branches were actually low enough to brush the roof of the SUV as it drove away.

Once on the ground, I diced it up and reclaimed the space.

During the last half of my activities, a light rain began to fall. Temps were hovering just around freezing. Traffic on I-691 slowed to a crawl as the rain froze on the roads and I heard a car or two hit the guardrail, or each other. So even the REAL weatherman was wrong. Now I don't feel so bad.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Base Coat For Winter

The first snow of the season that looks like it's gonna hang around.

Visit #929, Saturday 10 January 15, 11:50AM-2:20PM, 5.0 miles.
Temps in the low 20's, sunny.

Visit #930, Sunday 11 January 15, 2:35-4:20PM, 6.0 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, cloudy with precipitation forecasted for Monday.

Saturday was a good day to tackle another one of my "lingering projects".

The tree below folded in half during a fair weather storm several years ago. While not obstructing a trail or the road where the Soap Box Derby is run, it WAS inside the fence line and just looked plain ugly. It needed to be removed.

Using my chainsaw, I made sure to drop it in such a fashion as to minimize the possibility it would damage the fence. I was successful. Dropping the tree in the opposite direction wasn't going to happen.

It took 45 minutes to chop the tree up and toss it back over the fence. Things looked good as new when I was done.

Here's another angle from when I returned to Hubbard Park on Sunday.

I packed up my gear and proceeded to hike a loop of the trails below Castle Craig. Along the way I spied some people daring to cross Merimere Reservoir onto Miner's Island despite the fact the entire reservoir wasn't frozen. Oh well...

I picked up what little trash I found at the Halfway House and continued on. Knowing Len, I expected to find some of his hijinks somewhere along the trails. I wasn't disappointed.

You may remember I reported finding this tree fallen across the trail and returning with my comealong, then my chainsaw, to remove it. Gee; I wonder how those logs found their way back across the trail?

After seeing this, I suspected there might be other evidence of Len's work elsewhere, but I would have to pursue it tomorrow. For today, I returned to the parking with my little bag of trash.

On Sunday I walked the road from the playscape all the way to Castle Craig, then over to West Peak. Enroute, I sniffed out more of Len's work.

As I walked over to West Peak, I wanted to see if the Meriden Parks Department had replaced the telephone pole blocking the trailhead that SOMEONE rolled away. Yes, they did. Thanks!

All during my walk on the road, by observing footprints in the snow, I'd been seeing signs of someone wearing ice grippers on their shoes. Unfortunately, I recognized them as a less-substantial style and would soon find out how less-substantial they were.

As I made my way down from West Peak, I found my proof:

Remember boys and girls, when I recommend a product as I did last week, seek no imitations!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Every once in a long while I'll run into someone, someone who's visited the trails of Hubbard Park countless times and wondered about the origin of some of what they've seen. I fill in the missing blanks and their face lights up like I just revealed the secret formula for Coca-Cola! This was one of those weeks.

Visit #925, Monday 29 December 14, 8:40AM-12:20PM, 4.9 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, sunny.

Visit #926, Thursday 1 January 15, 10:20AM-2:20PM, 5.4 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, sunny with a sharp north wind.

Visit #927, Saturday 3 January 15, 2:55-4:40PM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, snowing.

Visit #928, Sunday 4 January 15, 9:50-11:55AM, 4.2 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, light to moderate rain.

I'll start with a big thanks to Chris Bourdon and the Meriden Parks Department. Chris promptly dispatched a crew to pick up the load of collected trash I left at the playscape last week. In retrospect I should have left it away from there so as not to disturb users of the playscape. I'll take that to heart next time.

The playscape looks much better with the trash gone.

On Monday I continued plugging along with my Five Year Plan, trimming the roadsides from branches and brush. I reached the fork in the road to West/East Peak. This view downhill on the right hand side might give you some idea of the improved clearances without appearing as if it were clear cut.

Once I reached the fork in the road, I took trails all the way back to the parking lot. Enroute, I discovered Len is at it yet again, putting branches across the trail. Unfortunately, I later learned it wouldn't be the last of Len I'd see this week.

Of course, in addition to my roadside trimming I was picking up trash and deposited my bag for the day.

New Years Day was sunny but with a biting wind. Not too bad as long as you were generating heat. I picked up on my Five Year Plan where I left off and completed both sides of the road to Castle Craig.
Below is the last steep pitch of road. There was one tree overhanging the road which I left for another day.

While returning to the parking lot I came upon a hemlock which had fallen across the Green Trail. I cut it up with my chainsaw and restored the trail.

During Thursday's work I collected more trash and dropped it off before I left.

Saturday was going to be the choice day to remove the tree overhanging the road to Castle Craig. Snow was forecasted to begin in the afternoon and Sunday would see rain. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to start until after the snow began. Not a big deal; it just meant I'd meet fewer people on the trails.

I no sooner reached the trail behind the water tank and discovered Len was at it yet AGAIN this week.

Due to daylight constraints, I wasn't able to remove them as "permanently" as I usually do but at least I removed them from the trail.

I made my way up to just shy of Castle Craig and was cutting up a large branch when along came another hiker, one who didn't mind the snowy weather either. After asking what I was doing, he introduced himself as Chris Blake, Meriden police officer and Platt High School's School Resource Officer. 

Apparently, Chris wasn't far behind me and was wondering what was up with the shadows left by the branches I removed, above. Chris has been hiking Hubbard Park's trails for 16 years and during our conversation he began to ask me about the branches that would appear/"disappear" across the trails, who was maintaining the trails, as well as what were the origins of graffiti he'd spotted on the trails such as this which he specifically mentioned, and has been around since at least 2008:

Chris thought the message was meant to be endearing (It's not-It's from Len)! When I set him straight on the history of all he's seen in the last 16 years, he laughed that he finally had the answers to all the questions in his mind which caused all those sleepless nights...

With the snow increasing and daylight fading, I finished slicing up the branch and left moving it for another day. I asked Chris to join me in taking care of that tree overhanging the road. After I dropped it across the road with the chainsaw, Chris used my loppers to cut up the smaller branches-

 I took care of the larger branches with the chainsaw-

Many hands made light work and we cleared the tree from the road quite quickly, then hiked back to the parking lot and the falling snow.

Along the way we discussed many things Hubbard Park such as, "what's the name for the top of Castle Craig: You know, those toothy looking things on the crown?"

Well, today's trivia answer is, the entire wall is called a "battlement"; the toothy looking things are "merlons" and the openings between the merlons where you'd pour your boiling pot of shit onto your enemies are "crenels" or "embrasures".

A tip of the chainsaw to Chris for his help and the great conversation!

Unfortunately, somewhere along the trail on Saturday I lost my waterbottle, which I'd bought only one week ago. Waaaah!

Alas, I wasn't done for the week.

That branch I cut up when Chris came upon me Saturday still needed to be cleared from the trail so I returned in the rain on Sunday to pick up the pieces and toss them down the hill.

 One last piece, and I was done.

Lo and behold, I look down and what do I find-my lost waterbottle!

It turned out to be a good day indeed.

And finally, my tip of the week:

With winter upon us, if you want to hike in the snow like I did on Sunday, or just walk on dicey surfaces in general, get a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes. I have a pair of Stabilicers and while pretty good, with replaceable spikes (buy a set at the same time you buy a pair), the velcro straps are a bit short for my hiking boots, but they work. Otherwise they're a good second choice. The Kahtoola's go on faster and, when not being used can be easily and securely clipped to your backpack with a simple carabiner. Get them at REI or Eastern Mountain Sports, both which gave them a 5 Star Rating.