Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wise Decisions

It was humorous watching the flock of geese follow that family like they were a collective Pied Piper. I'd follow them too, if they were feeding me. But I don't live on bread alone.

And yes; it's "flock", not "gaggle". For this week's interesting tidbit, read about the difference between the two terms HERE.

I know you were hoping to read about Round 3 with the tree up at West Peak, but I was on-call this week and made the wise decision, as I do MOST OF THE TIME, to stick close to the park in case I needed to leave on short notice for a service call.

As for that tree well, let's just say I've got a trick up my sleeve to make fast work of my adversary. Stay tuned for next week's post to find out if I can finally whup that tree, and how I plan to pull it off.

I parked at the playscape and followed the trails west and over the I-691 walkbridge. Over on the the far side of the bridge, I stepped beyond the fence surrounding both sides to pick up litter.

Directly opposite that fence entrance, someone painted a shoddy arrow on a tree.

Unsightly, despite the good intentions of the painter. I removed it with a wire brush.

Yes; that's a nail my brush is hanging on. No idea how long or why it's there. This tree was struck by lightning several years ago and is obviously dead.

I turned around at this point and followed other trails back to the park. Enroute I cleaned up the gravel parking area in the northwest corner of Mirror Lake.

I then turned my attention to the triangle of road around the Soap Box Derby track and the retention ponds.

As I walked the road toward the gate, my work phone rang, which meant a service call and time to leave. So my decision to stick close to the parking lot today was a wise one.

As I approached the gate, which is closed to vehicles for the season... (the following pictures were taken Sunday, when it wasn't quite as sunny or warm).

...I watched two men on motorcycles try and squeeze their bikes through the pedestrian gate.

I just stood there from 30 feet away and watched these two, who were inconsiderate of the fact the road was closed for the season AND there were people on the road enjoying the weather, and the lack of cars. Not a wise decision on their part.

Well, the first rider took umbrage at my presence and gave me his toughest "You got a problem?" I didn't say anything but got the middle finger from him anyway.

Fortunately, the bollard design did its job, and he couldn't fit his motorcycle through the gate. They turned around and left.

I returned to the parking lot and dropped off my bag of litter for the week.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tree: 1, Peter: 1

Hubbard Park was teeming with people on Sunday, enjoying a January Thaw day, which in case you didn't know, is an actual meteorlogical phenomenon. Click on the link to read about it. The playscape and the trails/road around Merimere Reservoir were also being used by people seeking treatment for cabin fever.

Visit #1119, Sunday 21 January 18, 10:40AM-1:40PM, 6.2 miles.
Temps in the mid-40's, sunny.

From the photo above, it's obvious there was skating on Mirror Lake on Sunday. It was the first time in more than 10 years. Kinda didn't match the barren ground, though.

It looked like fun, but I had a fight to finish with a fallen tree on the Blue Trail just below West Peak. The tree went the distance with me and my chainsaw last week. I ran out of fuel and failed to reopen the trail.

As I started out on the trail behind the bank of daffodils, I was surprised to find a newly fallen tree.

In last week's post I complained that it was either my poor chainsaw sharpening skills or the type of wood I was cutting that caused me such anguish. Here was my chance to test my skills against a different type of wood; freshly fallen oak vs. some dead tree of unknown type.

It was a beautiful, square cut and my chain traveled through it like a colonoscopy prep. If you've done one, you're laughing.

The curly shavings were a thing of beauty. Now my chainsaw was rockin'. Wonder how it will fare on my real adversary, which awaits near West Peak.

At the walkbridge over I-691, I found this empty pack of cigarettes and had a chuckle.

You see, on the back it reads, "Respect For The Earth" but I guess that only pertains to an all-natural product. As far as what the smoker does with the box, no respect is required!

I hiked over I-691 and up to the Blue Trail. At the trail intersection I came upon my Find of the Week.

This fully intact Under Armour Draft waterbottle with high tech, complicated flip top spout. Partially frozen contents, with a foam head. I was tempted to try it but who knows what kind of cruel joke could be inside? I opened it up and the tea tag popped out.

It's not my style but maybe I'll reserve it Hubbard Park use only as that's where I found it.

Now let's get to that obstinate tree and that grudge match.

If you recall last week, I had a problem working around the tree due to all the cold, standing water. I vowed to solve that problem this week and was hoping to test my fix. But Mother Nature was having none of it and froze the water so I didn't have to worry about wet feet. But just in case it was liquid underneath, I rigged up anyway.

Yessiree; trash bags and my Stabilicers to hold them in place.

The bell rang and the rematch was on. I completed the first cut I started last week, and dropped the far end of the tree.

But here my chainsaw was making that mealy dust instead of the chips on that oak tree back at the park. Clearly, the type of wood matters.

Now I had to finish the second cut I started last week, and get that sucka' on the ground.

I was successful, but burned through a lot of gas, and made another pile of dust. You can see on the left of the photo I started a third cut; even though the tree was on the ground the trail still was not clear. I managed a fourth cut to separate a small section, but it was too heavy to move alone.

Fortunately, along came a couple passersby who were more than willing to help me roll it out of the way. Now the trail is reopened, but not to my satisfaction.

Again, I ran out of gas before completing the job. This fight isn't over...

I hiked up to West Peak to check for litter and enjoy the views.

Looking south toward Broad Brook Reservoir.

And west toward Mt. Southington. You can clearly see the ski runs.

I walked the road until I picked up the Blue Trail, then made my way past the Halfway House, down to Merimere Reservoir, and back to the park. Enroute I came along Season of the Missing Glove 2018, Contestant #1. Or for the semantically inclined or anal retentive, Missing Mitten.

By the time I returned to the parking lot, there was a lot more activity in Hubbard Park, such as these people walking the road around the reservoir.

According to the definition of January Thaw, people won't be enjoying the weather for long as we'll return to cold temps by the end of the week.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


View from Castle Craig. Mirror Lake in the distance; the Halfway House on the left. You can also see the main trail, with heavy snow runoff, in the foreground.

Visit #1118, Saturday 13 January 18, 10:30AM-2:55PM, 6.5 miles.
Temps in the 20's, sunny and breezy.

Well; last week's 9" snowfall was certainly short-lived. Daily temps last week reached the 50's, resulting in a drastic change in scenery.

With the Tradition Run being scheduled for Sunday, I thought I'd do a nice deed and make sure the road to Castle Craig would be clear of litter and any fallen trees or branches, which would be the result of Friday night's high winds. When I read of some electrical outages due to the wind, I knew it would be prudent to check out the possibility of storm damage. I also planned on removing the fallen tree I found last week on the trail near West Peak.

My hike started facing the wind and it was a raw wind, indeed.

You can see last week's melt retracted the ice sheet over Merimere Reservoir.

Just past Echo Point, I ran into the first tree which was leaning into the road. I'd noticed it previously but didn't consider it enough of an eyesore to require immediate attention. Today was different.

First I got it on the ground.

Then I cut it short.

More massive sheets of broken ice, the result of last week's thawing.

One brook which flows into Merimere Reservoir was flowing massively (cut me some literary slack here!). Usually this time of year it just runs like some senior, post-urinary drip...

Up the road was small branch which had fallen on the guardrail.

While cutting it up, one of the several runners I encountered that day came by. One wonders whether they were reconnoitering in advance of tomorrow's run.

I continue to find massive amounts of religious tracts at various places along the road. These over-zealous religious vandals even bother to bring pushpins to post their wares. I wonder if Jesus' disciples used pushpins?

Up the road I walked, picking up litter revealed now that the snow is gone. Near West Peak I left the road and hiked a direct route through the woods to the massive fallen tree.

Despite expending all the remaining fuel in my chainsaw, I could not complete the two cuts I made in an attempt to drop the tree to the ground. This dead, "punk" wood doesn't cut easily, either. Not only was the tree larger than my 16" chainsaw bar, I was also constrained by the water surrounding the trail as I didn't want to get my feet ice cold wet. So I left the job unfinished. I do have a plan to return next week, AND keep my feet dry in the process. Stay tuned.

I returned to the road and walked to Castle Craig. As I cleaned up the area, I came upon my Find of the Week.

I found this ham radio antenna, complete with coax cable and tuning capacitor, nestled in the rocks near the flagpole. I usually have a higher opinion regarding ham radio operators. After this, I'm not so sure. I moved the antenna to the spot you see so hopefully it will be collected in the morning in advance of the Tradition Run.

Taking the trails down from Castle Craig and back to the park, I continued to find religious tracts from our misguided evangelical.

Obviously not confident enough in their faith to leave their mailing label with their name and address attached, so I could contact them and discuss religion further.

Animals still need to eat during the winter.

I returned to the parking lot surprised at the massive amount of litter I picked up, considering the time of year and seasonal weather.

As I sit here typing, I see temps for the Tradition Run will be in the teens. The road to Castle Craig will sure be clean, but it will be cold, too!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Use 'em If You Got 'em

West Peak as viewed from the Blue Trail, below.

Visit #1117, Sunday 7 January 17, 12:30-2:50PM, 6.5 miles.
Temps in the low teens, sunny.

All week Meriden saw near-record setting low temps and the wind chill factor didn't help. Sunday was supposed to be the warmest day this week, and I waited until the warmest part of the day to enjoy it.

Meriden was also hit with 9" of snow on Thursday; a good base for snowshoeing. Use 'em if you got 'em!

I hiked west, and over the I-691 walkbridge. With the snow on the ground, it was hardly necessary to stick to the trails, and a good time to check out alternative views (not to be confused with "alternative facts"!) of Hubbard Park. So I pointed my feet off-trail and up.

I entirely avoided the walkbridge you see over the stream, and hiked straight up-slope. At the top, I picked up the Blue Trail to West Peak, where today's opening photo was taken.

Good thing I took this trail as, when I reached the top, I found a large tree fallen across the trail. I also found some previously unnoticed graffiti.

While the graffiti will have to wait for more paint-friendly weather, the tree I might tackle next week. So far, the coming week's forecast is for temps through Friday rising to the 40's, which would be nice for tree cutting. We'll see.

I continued to avoid the trails and bushwhacked through the woods to the road.

But only for a brief stretch. I left the road and followed a draw/stream bed all the way to the bottom near the north end of Merimere Reservoir.

While the temps were well below freezing, snowshoeing worked up a head of steam. This icicle formed on the left side of my hat visor, proving I'm a left brained person due to the lopsided heat generation. That there's scientific proof, folks!

Back on the road, I hiked back toward the parking lot. Enroute, I stopped to notice our holiday tree decorators haven't taken their decorations down yet.

As I walked south, I could feel the sun's radiant energy doing a nice job of reminding me warmer days, and springtime, are inevitable.

Tip of the Week: I participate on a bicycle forum on the internet, where the recent discussion was how to keep your waterbottle from freezing in weather such as Meriden experienced last week. My suggestion was to slip a wool sock over the waterbottle, which might prevent the water from freezing for a couple hours; long enough for virtually all bike rides this time of year.

To verify my theory, I filled a waterbottle with tap water and slipped a doubled-over thin wool sock on the bottle. The bottle was in my backpack in an outside pocket. Usually, in below-freezing temps the bottle will ice over in an hour or so, and turn to slush if not frozen solid.

I'm here to report my unscientific, one time experiment WORKED! The water wasn't even brain-freeze cold after 2 1/2 hours. Thank me now or thank me later; just don't tell me it didn't work for you. ☺

Kinda looks like a turtleneck sweater for a waterbottle...