CT Trails Day 2019

By Matt Conroy

The National Trails Weekend in Connecticut is organised by CT Forest and Parks Association each year and sponsored by REI. Its a weekend of trail work, guided hikes and other events that celebrate our wild, recreational spaces. This year the RMF lead two trail work crews with a combined total of thirty-five laborers at Ragged and Pinnacle. 

Project 1:
Ragged Mountain | June 1, 2019


As I scratch idly at the poison ivy speckling my forearm, I consider how much worse it could have been all things considered. The dam on the Ragged Mountain Preserve is subject to State inspection and thus we work each year to maintain the spillway, cut back brush and keep the rip rap (piled stones) exposed. Since a significant amount of what grows over the dam each year is poison ivy, some fool is required to attack it with a string trimmer. Enter this fool. Some people are born to greatness… I bet those people don’t spend hours string trimming poison ivy.

On the same day a crew got down and dirty in the mud downstream from the dam. The area where the Andrews Street Trail crosses the brook had been flooding badly all season for no apparent reason. It turns out that a helpful neighbor had created a blockage to, as he later told us, keep silt from flowing down steam onto his property. Hours of work later the volunteer crew had removed the blockage, raised the level of the trail and set a few key stepping stones into the stream.

Others worked in the North and South Gullys at Ragged. Cleaning the trail, removing loose stones and digging away soil deposited on the stairs throughout the season. Then moving to the top they painted over graffiti and picked up trash. As they worked, a careful eye was kept out for the abundant copperheads that live in the area. As they say, if you don’t see a copperhead while at Ragged, it’s because you aren’t looking hard enough. 

It was a lot of work but we weren’t done yet. This was just day one of the RMF’s National Trails Weekend Trailwork Bonanza!

Project 2:
Pinnacle Rock | June 3, 2019

Photo: Regina Tamburro

Photos: Regina Tamburro

“Well this is bad” I thought to myself as the small Kubota utility vehicle tilted alarmingly to the side. We were trying to bypass a boulder by driving along the side of a steep wash. It had seemed like such a great idea. Use this outsized atv to carry loads of timber up the washed out road and to the top of Pinnacle. Only I hadn’t counted on just how much the road had deteriorated. Only one thing for it I decided and mashed the accelerator pedal to the floor with a speed born of panic. With a lurch the Kubota surged up out of the wash and Nate, who had been hanging onto the side as ballast, jumped free. This was just the beginning of our day… though the rest did go rather more smoothly.

The Emerald City area at Pinnacle is on the far climber’s left end of the main cliff band. The best access between top and bottom is through something between a gully and a trail that drops down between this area and the rarely visited Lone Pine crag. Having installed a partial stair in the South Gully the previous year, a stair in this North Gully seemed like a logical next step. 

With generous grant funding from REI we had acquired 320 linear feet of pressure treated 4/6, 40 feet of rebar and all the other supplies and materials necessary to make this project happen. Rock Climb Fairfield supplied the labor, shutting down for the day so it could send staff and volunteers. Even with the Kubota it was a lot of work lugging everything to the work area.

Once situated, one team went to pick up trash, another to paint over graffiti, another set to digging out footings for the new steps, while others began cutting timbers and collecting buckets of rocks for fill. 

It was a nice day for it, cool but not cold, sunny, a minimum of flying insects. As the hours stretch on the stair started to take shape. Boulders were unearthed and moved. Bits of bedrock chiseled away, timbers set and leveled and challenges encountered and resolved. Morale wavered from time to time but with twenty volunteers it was easy to set fresh hands to the more tiring tasks. I don’t know if you've ever carried a bucket of rocks up a forested hill covered in downed branches and leaf mold but it’s no easy thing.

At 7:30 that evening we set down our tools and stepped back to consider our work. Thirty-eight steps marched their way up the gully. Some of timber, a few of stone, the penultimate step lurching to the side to avoid a boulder that we had not been able to shift. We were sweaty, filthy, exhausted and very proud. 

I think my biggest take away from these projects is how very much our community cares about protecting and maintaining our wild, recreational spaces. Be they corporate partners like REI or Rock Climb Fairfield or the many willing hands that took time out of their lives to pitch in and get dirty. We are part of a community that is willing to do the work necessary to care for the spaces we value. Because of them the dam will continue to hold back the pond, the stream flow freely and those stairs will see traffic for years and years to come.

My deepest thanks to all those who participated in this year's National Trails Weekend. May all the surfaces you travel on be durable.

Matt Conroy is RMF President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, serving on the Board since 2017.