Sunday, January 29, 2017


A view of Castle Craig many don't get to see-from the Parks Maintenance Facility.

Visit #1057, Saturday 28 January 17, 11:45AM-3:00PM, 3.8 miles.
Temps in the high 30's with periods of sun and clouds and a brisk wind.

Today I performed my annual clean-up of the embankment between I-691 and the playscape area. People park against the fence and toss litter over it, and trash from the highway gets blown down the hill, making such a visible area look unsightly. Too bad the city couldn't get a chain link fence installed at the top of the slope to hold the trash back. I'd suggest a sound barrier, but it's been brought to my attention that would block the view of Hubbard Park from the highway, which would be bad publicity during the winter light festival.

But before I began my work, I had something else to tend to.

Last week I noticed graffiti on the liner of one of the water retention ponds. I walked up the Soap Box Derby track to take care of it.

Sorry Wally; I don't really love you.

My black spray paint actually did a better job than the photos depict; I doubt you'll notice it from the road. The paint went on reasonably well despite the low temps and the breeze.

Now on to the real work.

I repeatedly walked up and down that slope, left to right, picking up trash. Fill a bag, toss it over the fence, and start another. Doing "reps" up and down that hill was a good leg workout.

Find of the Week #1 was this purse.

Nothing of value was left; only some courtesy cards and personal effects. Both checkbooks were empty and the wallet was missing. The purse was obviously tossed there many years ago because anything in print was illegible. Ah, but the owner's identity...

My guess is Donna's purse was stolen and tossed some time prior to the card expiring, unless she kept the card for sentimental reasons.

A better Find of the Week was this sponge, still in its factory packaging. I'm currently removing wallpaper in my condo, so this sponge will come in handy.

In my continuing studies of what people drink at Dunkin' Donuts, I came upon this "also ran" in the calorie department, having only 3 creams. In the sugar department, they were a contender.

Then I found what must be the CHAMPEEN the cream department with ELEVEN! That's 220 Calories in cream ALONE. The "Yellow Sweetener" is actually Splenda. Splenda apparently refused to pay advertising fees to Dunkin' Donuts, hence the generic description. The "yellow" refers to the color of the Splenda packet.

Once done, I schlepped all nine bags of trash, two wheel covers, and some car parts, over to the dumpster at the Parks Maintenance Facility. I think I put on most of today's mileage walking back and forth to the dumpster.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Calling The Maytag Repairman!

Global warming? January thaw? Whatever it is, it was warm today, and it brought out the hikers, playscapers, and other enjoyers of Hubbard Park.

Visit #1056, Sunday 22 January 17, 1:05-3:30PM, 4.7 miles.
Temps in the 50's; a ridiculously warm day for January. Clouding up with rain and high winds predicted for Monday.

As Paul Bernier and I walked down from Castle Craig last week, I noticed the downslope side of the trail had trash which needed collecting. But we had already been out long enough, so I left the task of clean up to this week.

That's not all I noticed.

I started at the playscape and hiked my way to the Halfway House and up toward Castle Craig.

It's easier to work DOWN the slope, so I hiked to the high point and worked my down back down, traversing the talus slope and collecting all the discarded bottles, cans, cups, etc.

My vantage point on Sunday.

The other thing I noticed, which I had long forgotten, was this:

This abandoned washing machine has been in the woods of Hubbard Park for at least 20 years. I'd long assumed it would be too much work to move. That is, until today.

When Paul and I saw it last week, we had talked of making a joint effort of removing it. Many hands make light work; I wanted to see how difficult it would be as a one-man job.

First order of business was to remove the concrete counterweight to lighten my burden.

I'd brought a couple tools of destruction for my job, not knowing what I'd encounter. The hammer was a good choice. Fifteen minutes of beating on it, and the block was liberated from the washing machine.

Next came the fun part; dragging it through the woods. I wrapped my comealong strap through it, and would drag it about 100 feet, then walk back to fetch my bag of trash, and repeat. Eventually I reached the Yellow Trail, and found the smooth surface easier than the rocks, branches and leaves off-trail. So how far was it from its place of rest to the trail, you ask? It was easily 1000 feet. Have YOU ever dragged a washing machine 1000+ feet through the woods? I didn't think so.

I placed it to the side of the Main Trail so the Meriden Parks Department could reach it with a pickup truck. I wonder who will have had the tougher job; me dragging the washing machine through the woods,  the poor guys who  heft it into a truck, or the Maytag repairman who fixes it? I briefly checked it out. Looks like all it needs is a new switch...

I scribbled a note on the washing machine so no one would think it was dumped there. I added a little shameless self-promotion. After all that work, I think I deserved it.

Back at the park, I dropped off my trash for the week.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pre-Tradition Run Tidying

Last week's 5"+ snowfall is gone already, and it didn't make much of a dent in our drought.

Visit # 1055, Saturday 14 January 17, 9:15AM-12:35PM, 5.6 miles.
Temps in the low 30's with mostly cloudy skies.

Thanks to Paul Bernier, who joined me this week in tidying up the route for the Tradition Run on the day prior to the event.

As you probably already figured out, I planned to pick up trash along the route of tomorrow's Tradition Run, so Meriden could look its best for the event. I think Paul and I did a fine job.

Considering Paul and I cleaned this route a mere two week's ago, we collected a considerable amount of trash.

By the time we reached the water treatment plant, we decided to combine our trash bags and leave them there, because they were already getting heavy and we had a long way to go.

As we walked the road north, I couldn't ignore the low water level at Merimere Reservoir despite last week's snowstorm, and this past week's rain.

By the time we reached the north end of Merimere Reservoir, we had to combine another pair of bags, and left it there for the Meriden Parks Department to pick up, hopefully before tomorrow's event.

While walking the road up, Paul and I were surprised to see the city of Meriden was starting to cut down the hemlocks alongside the road which were dying. That's a good thing; Paul was constantly voicing concern that one of those dead hemlocks might fall on a passing car or possibly even a hiker.
The city appears to have reached halfway up the road with their project. The city did a good job; preserving the tree canopy and only dropping dead trees.

Below is merely a sample of the trees dropped.

At Castle Craig, we cleaned the parking lot and surrounding area, then headed down to the Halfway House and back toward the park.

Down near the reservoir, I came upon my Find of the Week, a Gigawire Media Player.

Things got even more interesting with Find of the Week #2, a grocery list, and a pretty detailed one, too; they even specify brands and flavors, once you understand the shorthand. Maybe the author sent out minions to do their shopping.

Not to be outdone was our winner of the Find of the Week contest, this boxing heavy bag. So heavy was it in fact that I had to drag it back to the park for disposal. You can see my rope attached to the D-ring on the bag.

While I was dragging, Paul carried our last trash bag, which we deposited in the trash can back at the park.

The weather looks good for tomorrow's event, even though a steady but light snow has been falling from late afternoon into this evening.  If not the weather, at least the road now looks good.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Trust But Verify

Saturday was not a day for amateurs in Hubbard Park. Mine was the only car in the parking lot. 

Saturday 7 January 17, 11:30AM-1:30PM, 4.5 miles.
Temps in the 20's with a 5" snowfall predicted.

Last week I measured the distance of a hike a friend had previously taken in Hubbard Park, to satisfy their curiosity. But that distance was inaccurate because of all the wandering to and fro while collecting litter.

With snow falling Saturday, I didn't expect to find much litter. With less zig-zagging as a result, I could re-hike the same route and gain a more accurate tally of the distance.

I hiked last week's route in reverse and as a consequence, had a biting winter wind from the north, not to mention snowfall, in my face.

Merimere Reservoir is not completely frozen.

The Christmas tree at Echo Point is still decorated. Due to the harsh winter weather, I'll leave it alone until the end of January before I strip it of ornaments. Hopefully the decorators will undress the tree before then.

Once I left the open area and hiked up the tree-lined road, I was completely sheltered from the wind and it was much more comfortable.

I didn't expect to perform any trimming but brought my trail tools anyway. Good thing I did so.

Out came my loppers and I gave the road a haircut.

Castle Craig is still closed for the Holiday. I was hoping to take some scenic shots during the snowstorm.

The hike up the road was slippery UNTIL I donned my Kahtoola Microspikes. Then it became (pun intended) a walk in the park.

With my sure-footed MICROspikes on, the trails were safe to walk on.

I reached the Halfway House where I found the only litter of the day, then turned toward the trails to Merimere Reservoir and back to the parking lot, where I dropped off my massive trash haul for the week. I also found a discarded pet poop bag, in which I deposited my trash for the week.

I end this week's post with my annual announcement: If you want to be removed from my e-mail distribution list, feel free to let me know or you'll be stuck with me for another year. You sure you can handle that?!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How Far is Far?

2016 comes to a close; time to put away the tree! This is the Christmas tree at Echo Point, near the north end of Merimere Reservoir.

Visit #1053, Saturday 31 December 16, 9:15-11:45AM, 5.1 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, mostly sunny, but clouding skies later on.

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

First, some stats for 2016:

87 bags of trash collected.

253 miles hiked.

I was asked by a friend and reader of this blog, what the distance was from the parking lot to Castle Craig via the trails, and back to the park via the road. I thought I'd oblige him and track it this week using my pedometer. Subtract a smidgen for the wandering necessary to pick up litter; the distance of today's route was 5.1 miles. Actually, this was a good, general purpose exercise as I'm often asked this question, as well as the distances to various other landmarks in Hubbard Park. I'll have to make a note of the rest for future use, as I'm often asked such questions by other hikers.

So now that you know today's route, know that it was mostly uneventful.

We barely reached the water treatment plant and collected enough, heavy litter to warrant dropping of the first bag at the water treatment plant.

We reached Castle Craig and walked down the road. Icy patches here and there prompted us to walk in the gutter until the road leveled out at the bottom.

Despite last week's rain, Merimere Reservoir still shows some of the lowest levels in fifty years.

Despite cleaning the road as recently as December 3rd, we still managed to return to the parking lot with 2 more bags of trash.

I look forward to whatever interesting things Hubbard Park will offer up in 2017!