Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Preparations

This renegade daffodil avoids the company of his 500,000 homies in Hubbard Park, preferring the solitude of the trail instead.

Visit #1007, Saturday 26 March 16, 4:00-7:00PM, 5.8 miles.
Temps in the low 50's, partly sunny.

Every year the Meriden YMCA holds an Easter sunrise service at Castle Craig. Or at least I think they do; I haven't seen advertising for the event in many years. I thought I'd do a nice deed and clean up the area around Castle Craig on Saturday, assuming the service was on.

Only now, in writing this blog entry, did I bother to confirm that sure enough, the event was scheduled for 6:41AM, Easter morning. Good, then my work wasn't wasted.

I walked from the park to the trail behind the water tank, then up toward the Halfway House, picking up trash as I went.

Guess who is at it again, pushing this dead tree over to block the trail? Now I've got my work assignment for next week.

I reached Castle Craig and tidied up the area, then walked the road to West Peak. I cleaned up that parking area as well, and left a bag of trash for the Meriden Parks Department to pick up later.

In the process I came across my Find of the Week.

I must have passed by this hunk of metal a thousand times. Wonder what it belonged to, as I didn't find it near the parking lot but on a trail. It definitely has the patina of age.

I left West Peak and descended via the Blue Trail. The trail is as steep as it looks.

Back at the parking lot, I dropped off my second bag of trash.

Tune in next week as that log goes bye-bye.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Short and Sweet

I wasn't feeling particularly scenic on Saturday, so there's no introductory photo.

Visit #1006, Saturday 19 March 16, 10:35-11:50AM, 2.9 miles.
Temps in the 50's, sunny with a chilly wind.

I was on-call so I didn't stray far from my van. I managed to have a highly productive session despite the minimal time spent and distance traveled. Besides, after spending the last 3 weeks cleaning up storm damage, I looked forward to a break.

I picked up trash on all the trails south of I-691, and I used my trail tools to prune back those pesky thorn bushes which waste no time reaching into the trails once the sun decides to come back around.

The Season of the Missing Glove isn't over yet. Here is entry #10, as I found it.

I hiked all the way to the trail end at West Main Street across from Belmont Avenue, then turned around. On the return trip, I cleaned up the small dirt parking area in the northwest corner of the park, the walked over to the Soap Box Derby track, and looped around to the other gate.

In the process, I came upon my Find of the Week, this note which I can only guess belongs to either a Letterbox or a Geocache. How it got separated is a mystery. A little sleuthing on the interwebs and I learned what "FTF" means!

Back at the park I was able to drop off my trash bag at the cans inside the playscape, which have conveniently returned for the season. Rips in my trash bag were from those pesky thorn bushes mentioned earlier.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Storm Damage Assessment, Week III

The sun sets on Castle Craig after a wonderful 60 degree March day.

Visit #1005, Saturday 12 March 16, 2:35-6:05PM, 7.3 miles.
Temps in the low 60's, sunny and breezy.

This was to be my last session cleaning up the wind damage across the trails that occurred roughly 4 weeks ago.

I followed the Soap Box Derby Track to the trails, the Halfway House, and up to Castle Craig. Due to the warming temperatures of the last few weeks, it was obvious to me the trails are getting some heavy use because of the amount of trash I collected. By the time I reached the castle I had to leave a bag for later pick up by the Meriden Parks Department, and start another bag.

With today's schedule and waning daylight, I didn't have time to clean up the surrounding area. I immediately pointed myself down the road, taking a slight detour onto a trail.

Last week I found some graffiti I had not seen before, which was obviously associated with other work I painted over in October 2015. This week I carried a can of spray paint to cover it up.

The brown dries flat, and will blend in better once dried.

I returned to the road and walked toward West Peak, picking up the remaining trail to be cleared of storm damage.

First, in December 2015 I found this hemlock had fallen across the trail. I cut it up and rolled away the pieces.

My nemesis Len couldn't keep his sticky fingers away from it and, during a ride on the trail last Sunday, I discovered he blocked the trail by reinserting the pieces into the gap.

No "after" photos, but this time I rolled them farther away from Mr. Sticky Fingers' temptation.

Now down to the main reason for today's work.


Number Two.

Number Three.

Number Four.

Number Five. There's a trail in there somewhere.

Number Six. No After photo.

My first Find of the Week, a small wheel hub cover.

Number Seven.

Number Eight. No chainsaw needed to remove this.

Number Nine.

That was the last of what I would find on the trails. I returned to the road just at the bottom of the hill, and walked asphalt all the way back to the park.

Shortly after hitting the pavement, I was reminded of some long forgotten graffiti I mostly ignored. With my can of spray paint on hand, I took the opportunity to cover it.

Here again, give it a chance to dry and it will look more discreet. If not, I'll revisit and try something else.

I crossed over the north end of Merimere Reservoir, rounded the corner and came upon a fallen tree which, while not blocking the road, was jutting into it enough to annoy me.

I was reluctant to fire up the chainsaw again as I was rapidly losing daylight but I wisely seized the opportunity and took care of it.

I finished as you see it below, but the long piece on the left suspended in air didn't look right, so I doubled back after a few feet and dropped it to the ground. I tossed the other pieces off the roadway.

Most of the remaining walk on the road was uneventful until just past the water treatment plant, where I found this burned ceramic power line insulator at the base of the power pole. Find of the Week Number Two.

I returned to the park at dusk and dropped off my second bag of trash.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Storm Damage Assessment, Week II

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go.

Visit #1004, Saturday 5 March 16, 1150AM-2PM, 5.6 miles.
Temps just reaching 40, sunny.

Last week's assessment of trail damage after high winds and rain, was incomplete. I needed to inspect the trails higher up, and north of Castle Craig. To expedite the process and make more efficient use of my time, I asked a frequent hiker in Hubbard Park if they would hike the trails I hadn't touched yet and give me a report on where I could find downed trees and limbs. They eagerly complied and thus my route for Saturday was set without any guesswork.

My thanks to Paul Bernier who assisted me. Without him to help move the limbs and trees after I cut them, as well as being official photographer, I might still be out there.

We parked out beyond the closed  north entrance to Hubbard Park and crossed the north end of Merimere Reservoir, immediately picking up the Red Dot trail. Thus our work began, and there was plenty of it. 

Mostly what follow are Before and After photos.

The first tree.

Here was a PAIR of trees which fell across the same spot on the trail.

Don't worry; I turned around and removed this tree.

At this point we reached the road 1/4 mile shy of Castle Craig, then walked the Blue Trail down and headed a couple hundred feet on the Blue Trail toward West Peak. I cut down the cluster of small trees you see hanging over the trail. They were bending low and once the leaves appeared, the would hang even lower.

You can also see the stump behind me of another dead tree trunk I removed which was leaning over the trail.

Onward to the trail leading up to Castle Craig. This trail sees a lot of traffic; removing this tree was a must. Note the hikers in the background.

No sooner did I finish when some hikers came along to test my work for clearance.

Paul and I hiked up, then took the Blue Trail along the western ridge of Merimere Reservoir, clearing even more fallen trees and branches.

Both the tree above and this bent tree below were removed.

I removed this dead fallen hemlock.

Throughout  the day we did not neglect our trash pickup duties.

And, I'd like to point out the Season of the Missing Glove, while it should be waning, still has some fruit on the trees. This is #9 in this season's series.

I returned to Hubbard Park on Sunday, riding my mountain bike, to check on the only trail not inspected after the storms. There's more work to be done. Details next week.

Thanks for reading.