Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another Weekend, Another Snowfall


Visit #938, Sunday 22 February 15, 8:45-11:05AM, 5.8 miles.
Temps in the low 30's, tapering snow.

This must be the umpteenth consecutive weekend we've had snowfall. Well, when winter hands you snow, make snow angels, right?

Fortunately the snowfall tapered early enough that driving was no longer just for the foolish, so off to Hubbard Park I went. I was curious to see if last week's high winds had toppled any trees.

The Meriden Parks Department crews were out early and by the time I arrived, the parking lot and surrounding roads were plowed, albeit with a thin layer of snow covering the surfaces.

Snowshoes would be in order for the day, especially with the route I had planned, so on they went. I snowshoed up the steep hillside adjacent to the Soap Box Derby Track to the Halfway House, then broke trail all the way up to West Peak and the radio towers.

The white patch in the upper right of the photo is Broad Brook Reservoir; the white patch in the upper left is Meriden-Markham Airport and the adjacent landfill. In the center of the photo are the streets offshooting from Johnson Avenue.

I turned around and headed toward a trail which is probably the most seldom hiked in Hubbard Park. It parallels the road and meets it at the bottom where there is a sharp corner.

However, I wasn't the one to break trail this morning. Seems the deer were walking in a drunken stupor to and fro before I arrived.

Further down I WAS the first one on the trail.

At the bottom I noticed something new: While in the past I'd seen one individual bat house nailed to a tree, today I noticed there are more than one; there are five.

I picked up the road at the north end of Merimere Reservoir and switched from snowshoes to crampons because the road was plowed, walking back to the parking lot. By the time I returned to my car, the warm, 30 degree air and heat absorbed by the asphalt had taken care of the remaining snow. Spring can't be far behind.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The City Goes To Town

And the snow keeps comin'...

Visit #937, Saturday 14 February 15, 2:05-4:00PM, 5.2 miles.
Temps in the 20's, moderate snow, 3" expected through the overnight.

After last week's report card on how well the City of Meriden maintained the road around Merimere Reservoir and up to Castle Craig and whether the road could be easily traveled by hikers, I decided to see what difference a week made by traveling the road for a second consecutive week. That is, a week with more snow.

First, a tip of the payloader bucket and plow blade to the City of Meriden Parks Department-Last week I reported a mound of snow blocked hiker access to the gate down at the park end of the road. Well, Mark Zebora and his crew took my observation to heart and cleared the snow, making it readily accessible to walkers and others.

Also, the mystery of the open gate at the water treatment plant, also reported last week, has been solved. The Water department finds it difficult to open the gate when blocked by snow so if snow is forecast, they leave the gate open for easy access. I'm Leonard Nimoy, and this is "In Search of..."

More credit goes to the Meriden Parks Department-I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the north end of Merimere Reservoir. Last week I reported finding access to the park from Park Drive in Berlin required walking through about 100 feet of unplowed road. I understood why it wasn't plowed and didn't expect it to be any different this week. However, it was cleared on both sides, for easy access on Saturday.

Traction this week was a little bit more slippery than last week as there was more of an accumulation of snow and it had experienced a couple good thaw and freeze cycles during the week. After a while, I chose to put the crampons on my boots for ease of walking although the unequipped could easily have found better traction on the road's edge.

Despite the cold temps and falling snow, I wasn't the only one on the road. Ignoring the unpredictable slippery spots, a runner passed me, as well as a cyclist on one of those new "fat bikes".

The difference between a mountain bike and a "fat bike" are the enormous tires, as this example shows:

A fat bike would be ideal for riding some of the trails down on a day like Saturday and I was curious whether this cyclist had that in mind.

When I reached the fork in the road to Castle Craig/West Peak I was surprised to find the road to Castle Craig was NOT plowed as it was last week.

Seeing this, I decided to follow the tire tracks of the fat-tired cyclist, which pointed toward West Peak which WAS plowed, to see whether he rode the trails back down. I barely reached half way to the radio towers when the cyclist came toward me. My curiosity met, I turned around and headed toward Castle Craig through the snow.

Of course, if the road wasn't plowed, neither would the parking lot be clear. That meant only the hardiest of outdoors types could take in the views.

And today that didn't include just me. I ran into a couple that snowshoed up to Castle Craig to take photos in the falling snow.

I pointed myself toward the trail downhill, below Castle Craig, where I found a small avalanche had wiped out the path of what few footprints there were in the snow.

Who would have thought you could have a snow avalanche in Hubbard Park?

I walked the trails back to the parking lot. On today's trek, I did happen to find 3 pieces of trash, one of which was unfortunately someone's scarf.

I dropped off my meager findings for the week and called it a day.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Take Requests

Visit #936, Sunday 8 February 15, 6:40-8:05 AM, 4.3 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, overcast with a measure of fog; almost balmy. 4-8" of snow predicted for tonight through Monday.

Occasionally, I'm asked to perform some duty in Hubbard Park which is outside of the norm. If I can oblige and help someone out, why not?

I received a request to report on the road conditions to Castle Craig. There's a "park regular" I know that, much like Bernie Jurale's annual Tradition Run to Castle Craig, does something similar except on a monthly basis. Was the road passable? Let's see.

The first dent in my plans was, I was on-call. I planned on checking on road conditions on Saturday, but after hours service calls put the kabosh on the entire day. I rescheduled for early Sunday morning, before things might have a chance to "get busy". I was taking a risk traveling so far away from my vehicle should work call, but I gambled that my luck would hold out.

I started at the crack of dawn to what turned out to be an almost mild morning. I noticed that despite the road being plowed from the gate in Hubbard Park up toward the water treatment plant, a large mound of snow needed to be hurdled to actually begin hiking on the road. Considering the number of footprints in the pile, it's obvious the snow shouldn't be pushed here so walkers and hikers can access the gate freely. If we're lucky, the Meriden Parks Department will read this and take notice.

Up at the water treatment plant, I noticed the gate was open. Since there were no fresh footprints or tire tracks in the snow, I'm guessing the gate was left open all night. I checked the lock on the gate and it was clearly unlatched. Negligence? Mere oversight?

Heading north, I got to savor the quiet of the snowed-in landscape.

At the north end of Merimere Reservoir, where it meets Park Drive in Berlin, snow is piled against both sides of the gate. Hikers entering from Berlin will have to cross about 100 feet of snow.

The good news is, it appeared the rest of the road to Castle Craig was plowed. My original intentions were to turn around at this point due to my on-call status, but adventure and curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out how the rest of the road was. So I ventured on.

Other than maybe 1/2" of snow at worst, traction was reasonably good with no ice patches.

While I was the first person Sunday morning to walk up toward Castle Craig, I wasn't alone this weekend.

After the fork to East Peak/West Peak, I checked on the last steep pitch of pavement. Clear enough for government work. Actually, it was nice that the Meriden Parks Department recognizes the popularity of the road to Castle Craig for hikers and walkers, and chooses to make the effort to maintain it despite the winter weather and the road closure. Thanks are in order.

Just off to the near right in the photo above, I took the trail down, over I-691, and back to Hubbard Park.

The Beehive Fountain still maintains a trickle of water, even in the dead of winter.

Mirror Lake awaits the arrival of yet more snow, starting Sunday evening.

The ducks and geese await the snow, too.

Of course, with the impending snow, road conditions to Castle Craig may change. Next week might be worth seeing just how much...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snow Follies

Visit #934, Tuesday, 27 January 15, 8:20AM-1:30PM, 10.9 miles.
Temps in the 20's, tail end of Blizzard Juno.

Visit #935, Saturday 31 January 15, 8:55-11:15AM, 5.3 miles.
Temps in the single digits with a strong, biting cold wind.

Blizzard Juno stopped by Meriden on Monday night and was supposed to linger on into Tuesday. With work cancelled, I came up with the nutty idea of snowshoeing from my east side apartment, across town, to Hubbard Park and up to Castle Craig. Of course, nutty ideas are just trash talk and daydreaming until they're executed. Time to put up or shut up.

I filled my backpack with a thermos of hot tea, a PB&J sandwich, brownie, homemade rice cake, and some extra clothing in case I got in over my head. I also carried crampons should I find the snowshoes inadequate or unnecessary.

When I left the apartment it was still snowing with a biting wind to my face. As long as I kept moving, I was nice and warm.

East Main Street was empty as I headed west.

I stopped in the doorway of the YMCA to take a "selfie". Pics or it didn't happen, right?

At McDonalds on West Main Street I turned onto the Chamberlain Highway then left onto Reservoir Avenue and up to Hubbard Park. Near the end of Reservoir Avenue, I could see my first rest stop, the Halfway House-the peaked dome shape in the background.

 After I entered Hubbard Park, the real work began as obviously the trails were at least one foot deep of virgin snow. When I reached the Halfway House I sat down for some hot tea and eats.

The morning sun was struggling to punch through the snow as the storm traveled east away from Meriden.

From the opposite side of the Halfway House, I could see my objective waiting.

You haven't lived until you've trudged through knee deep snow up a steep trail like that final leg up to Castle Craig.

I gathered my gear and made the final push, reaching it at about 11AM. Where was the reception committee?

The wind was cold and fierce; no way was I going to take the time to set up another selfie-shot. My poles and backpack would have to do.

I took a different route down and back to the park. Once there, I pretty much followed the same roads home.

Enroute, I noticed both Dunkin' Donuts' I passed by were closed. I wondered how all the coffee addicts were coping? I watched one poor guy pull up in his truck only to leave empty handed.

West Main Street was still deserted as I made the return journey.

Friday night into Saturday morning we were gifted with a few more inches of snow. I returned to Hubbard Park Saturday to hike a few trails that might still be untouched after Blizzard Juno.

This adventure would take me along the ridgeline high above Merimere Reservoir.

I followed the Blue Trail all the way to the north end of Merimere Reservoir, then turned roughly south, up another trail which parallels the road to Castle Craig. I crossed over I-691 and hiked back to the parking lot. As I was packing to leave, I saw another person gather their snowshoes and head out on their own adventure...