Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Season of the Missing Glove Begins

Winter reminds Merimere Reservoir who's boss.

Visit #1170, Saturday 8 December 18, 10:00AM-1:00PM, 4.9 miles.
Temps barely cracking 30, sunny.

I had the deluxe pleasure of being joined by pal Jeff as official photographer and assistant garbageman on this week's excursion. It was cold to start, but quite pleasant once you were moving.

While cleaning the slope below Castle Craig just after Thanksgiving, I noticed a newly fallen branch lying trailside. It was an eyesore to me and too close to the trail, so this week I brought my chainsaw to remove it.

Jeff and I left the parking lot and walked the Soap Box Derby track, then the road, to the south end of Merimere Reservoir where we picked up the trails.

I shortly came upon 2018/19 Season of the Missing Glove Participants #1 and 2.

I had enough brains to save these rather than toss them in my trash bag. I'll drop them off at Goodwill after washing. That pretty much used up all  my common sense for the day!

Reaching the fallen branch, I went to work.

I may have been able to just pull the large branch downslope, saving time and avoiding the use of the chainsaw, but I already used up all my common sense with the mittens and besides, why would I want to spoil the fun of using power tools?

An "artiste" inspects his work.

When Jeff and I reached the top of the trail, we turned right onto the Blue Trail along the ridgeline and the western edge of Merimere Reservoir. I wanted to follow this route because it's rare I take this lightly used trail, but in the off-chance there was something that needed the services of a chainsaw, I would be prepared and not have to make a return trip.

Jeff admires the view east, while I'm already thinking about lunch...

As we hiked along the ridgeline we came upon these climber's web straps secured to these trees. I can only imagine the rock would be cold to hold onto today. We saw no movement on the straps so we hollered to get the climber(s) attention, but received no response.

Near the end of the trail, my decision to hike this direction with my chainsaw paid off, for we encountered a tree across the Blue Trail.

Wide enough to fit your momma through.

We reached the road and followed it back to the park.

Another reason I wanted to trek this route this week was to see if Hubbard Park's secret decorators had adorned the tree adjacent to Echo Point with holiday cheer. If so, it would be the third or fourth year of this tradition.

Sure enough...take a walk on the road and check it out.

And it seems the Season of the Missing Glove is off to a roaring start, as I found Participant #3 on the first day of the season.

Looks like a relative of Mr. Hambuger Helper. However, I never found the spoon.

Jeff and I returned to the park to drop off our trash for the week. I hadn't forgotten about lunch...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Making A Difference

Visit #1169, Saturday 1 December 18, 12:10-3:10PM, 3.5 miles.
Temps in the mid-40's, sunny and pleasant.

Once a year I make it my task to clean up the slope between I-691 and Hubbard Park. People park along the fence line and toss their trash over the fence. It becomes unsightly, especially when viewed from the playscape.  I hope it makes a difference in how the park looks to visitors.

But before I did this, I went to Highland Elementary School in Cheshire to participate in a blood drive. The American Red Cross has a motto on their stickers... was from a Boy Scout who's not quite ready to receive his Merit Badge in penmanship. That's probably because all kids know today is how to type on their smartphones, with their thumbs!

When I finally got to lie on the table, the phlebotomist goofed up, and instead of blood flowing into the bag, it flowed onto my left arm instead.

He had to discard the bag and the needle, and computer document the bag's serial number.

Fortunately, I brought my other arm with me; that made a difference as he was able to stab a vein and drain a pint. Final score; Arm 1, Red Cross 1.

The best part of a blood drive is the canteen. Chowing down on egg salad sandwiches, Welch's Fruit Snacks, oatmeal cookies, and cranberry juice makes errant needle pokes worth it.

Now a little bit lower in blood supply, it was time to get to work.

Semi-dumb move.

Their post-donation instructions explicitly say, "Do not do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for the rest of the day." (Emphasis in the original.)

Eh, what do they know?!

Climbing up the slope as I picked up trash definitely had me bending over wondering why the earth was suddenly rotating so fast.

Once I eased off on my effort I was able to keep things under carousel speed.

But I wasn't the only one spinning. While tossing a bag over the fence, I was given a "Nice job!" by a couple Cheech and Chong stoners who obviously just returned from Northhampton, MA and were leaving a trail of reek as they drove by.

One of my best finds of the day:

One reader of this blog, "Big Mig" C., collects license plates and will the lucky recipient. Hey Mike; don't say I didn't get you anything for Christmas!

Parts of the rest of the vehicle were soon to follow. It must have been some serious crash for the front bumper, 4 hubcaps, and various underlying parts to make it over the guardrail and down the hill.

As I collected trash I would drop it over the fence and open a new bag.

Once done, I put all ten bags, a charcoal grill, and the various Chevy car parts into a pile.

But I couldn't leave the junk there. People cruising through the park to enjoy the Christmas lights would see an eyesore. Removing the trash would make a difference in people's experience and their perception of Hubbard Park.

Here's where I gained most of today's mileage.

I carried everything over to the dumpster at the Parks Department facility, roughly 1/3 mile each trip. I made ten trips, which in my blood depleted state was a workout in itself.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Burn Off That Turkey!

Visit #1168, Saturday 24 November 18, 11:00AM-1:30PM, 3.2 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, overcast.

Alright dear reader; Thanksgiving is over.  While you gorged on the traditional Thanksgiving trappings; turkey, cranberry sauce, and that Syrup of Ipecac substitute, Green Bean Casserole, I pointed my appetite in another direction.

I hate tradition, but figured I'd be jailed if I didn't try to fatten myself up during the holiday due to some violation of American law. So I made my own homage to gluttony.

Elvis Banana Bread!

The batter included bananas (of course), peanut butter, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, bacon fat, and crumbled bacon.

But I wasn't done there.

The frosting: More peanut butter and more crumbled bacon!

Eating that put me in a position requiring I burn off those calories, so on Saturday I ventured to Hubbard Park.

The temperatures, and the weather made it ideal for my annual purging of the slop beneath Castle Craig of all the bottles and cans tossed over the wall in the last year.

But first I had to burn a few calories to reach the slope.

I started at the Soap Box Derby track and as I passed under I-691 I found this large section of drainage pipe.

How or why it wound up there, I don't know. I dragged it back to the pack and tossed it over the gate so the Meriden Parks Department would carry it away later.

This photo gives you a better idea of how large and long it was.

Then I headed to my task for the week, and returned via the same route. I left my trash bags at the water treatment plant as they were too heavy to lug back to the park.

After burning all those calories crawling around on the slope, I went home to replenish and refuel, with my holiday leftovers.

I hope you had a plan to incinerate all the calories YOU ate on Thanksgiving; your couch does have a weight limit, you know.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

To Do List

A mere 48 hours after our first snow of the season, and a significant 6-8" snow too, the trail shows the conditions didn't deter hikers from enjoying Hubbard Park.

Visit $1167, Saturday 17 November 18, 12:10-2:20PM, 4.9 miles.
Temps in the 40's, sunny and comfortable.

Last week's foray into Hubbard Park left me with a To Do list, so this week I would hike through most of the same locations tracking down and checking off items needing attention.

The early season snow was melting quickly. This, combined with the not quite yet frozen ground, meant a sloppy mix and slippery going. But with my new boots on, at least my feet would remain dry.

I hiked over I-691 and followed the trails up to West Peak. Here's a view from the trail below West Peak. Yes; it really is that steep.

I took in the view at the top.

I also checked the rock faces for any recent graffiti and unfortunately, I found some.

But this week I carried with me a new graffiti removal formula, which I intended to debut later but the opportunity presented itself so...

It's effective, and it's fast. The only drawback is, wiping the rough surface is not easy. This liquid removal technique is better applied on smooth surfaces, as we shall see.

I left West Peak and headed to a trail where a hemlock had fallen across.

I had originally planned to bring a chainsaw but since this was the only tree on the agenda, and it was relatively small in diameter, and a soft wood, I chose to bring my bow saw instead, hoping it would take long to dispatch the tree.

Not bad; it only took seven minutes.

I turned around and retraced my trail steps back to the road. Enroute I came upon the only piece of litter I would find today. Good thing I was looking up, otherwise I never would have seen it.

Reaching the road,  I followed it down to my next task; Hubbard Park's Christian graffiti vandal's 12th work.

This is where my new removal approach is perfect; a smooth surface. It was a matter of a minute or less to remove this.

I continued following the road around Merimere Reservoir and back to the parking lot to deposit one measly beer can.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Say Goodbye... my boots, that is.

Visit #1166, Sunday 11 November 18, 11:50AM-2:50PM, 6.2 miles.
Temps in the mid-40's, sunny and breezy.

My hiking boots have served me well. Two years ago I bought a replacement pair, then got the goofy idea (and I'm cheap) I would wear the existing boots until something failed or I wore a hole in the sole. You can see I came pretty close to the latter! The soles were so thin I could feel every pebble; they were more slippers than hiking boots.

Where they failed was the hole through the leather on the outside of the right boot, in the photo. Water loved to find its way through there.

But the shoelaces are still good so I'll save them-I told you I was cheap!

The new pair, exactly the same brand/model as the deceased pair (Don't mess with what works!), has been sitting in the box for two years; next weekend will be their debut.

This was a welcome sign, for with the road closed for the season it can be enjoyed by foot traffic of all kinds. People took advantage of the closure and the cooperative weather as I saw people all along its length.

I walked the road north around Merimere Reservoir and at the beginning of the road's tilt upward I diverged onto a trail paralleling the west side of the road. I was looking for storm damage from the recent rains and wind. It didn't take long to find something.

This was easily swung out of the way.

The rest of the trail saw mostly small branches down, which I cleared. Nearing the top I found one fallen tree I couldn't move so it will have to be a future project.

I emerged from the trail near the radio towers, and followed the road downhill, essentially retracing my steps around Merimere Reservoir when I reached the bottom of the climb.

But before I hit level ground again I encountered our compulsive Christian graffiti vandal.
This is Exhibit #12 since September 2017.

I think I'll remove it next weekend because I'm itching to try my new technique. Stay tuned.

It was nice to return to the park and see many people taking advantage of the sun and reasonable temps to enjoy the park.

As I approached the gate, I came upon my Find of the Week, which I found as you see them.

I think those are paint scrapers, with the blades removed.

I dropped off my collected trash for the week; my boots will get a PROPER burial, however!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Daylight Standard

High winds and rain brought down a lot of leaves on Saturday but did nothing to diminish the fall color.

Visit #1165, Sunday 4 November 18, 7:50-9:40AM, 3.9 miles.

I brought my chainsaw with me this week as I wanted to cut back a tree which had fallen across the main trail on the south side of I-691 sometime in early October. But I chose to hike the long, counterclockwise route to reach it.

I started at the Soap Box Derby track and hiked up to Merimere Reservoir and on the trails to the Halfway House, where I discovered our Christian graffiti vandal was at it for the 11th time.

But I was prepared, and took some sandpaper to it.

The rising sun was feeling pretty warm right about now, prompting me to shed my fleece layer.

Further on up the trail I found a tree which must have succumbed to yesterday's high winds and rain.
Fortunately I was prepared with my chainsaw.

Unfortunately, I had a Daylight Standard Time Brain Fart (You did remember to set your clocks back, didn't you?) and forgot to take an After photo.

I moved on, crossed over I-691, and reached my original objective.

Nothing major; I just cut it a little shorter so hikers wouldn't bump in to it.

I returned to the parking lot to drop off my bag of trash and set out to enjoy the warmth of the first Daylight Standard day of the season.