Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Welcome to Southington. No Parking Allowed.

Blue Cohosh at the cliff bottom
I said I would return to the back end of Ragged Mountain since I loved that section of trail so much, so I did.  Last time we did a great big loop and parked on Andrew Street here, at a small pull-off next to a big apple orchard.  I remember saying it looked like the spot where people park to steal apples. My son work in a local orchard a few seasons ago and came home with stories of people filling bags of apples, hiding the bags on the edge of the orchard next to a quiet road, then coming back later in their car to snag the bags without paying. But there weren't any signs saying you couldn't park and it's basically the shoulder (ie City property), so we left the car there and had no problems.

One reason we had been doing a big loop is that there is no parking allowed on Carey Street, which is the next road crossing to the south. The rock climbers, who own the cliff face of Ragged Mountain, have a lot of parking issues because their property deed does not allow them to create a parking area on the property.  They have to park far away and walk in, and one of them had passed us walking down Carey Street.

This time around I wasn't doing a big loop and wanted to park as close as possible to the trailhead, which is at the intersection of Andrews Street and Long Bottom Road, located here.   I arrived at the intersection and looked about for somewhere to park.  The big triangular island seemed like a natural spot and I'll pulled in there, but then noticed some tacky 'no trespassing' signs tacked up on the telephone poles there. I almost missed the signs complete. That didn't seem right, and my hunch was, and still is, that a neighbor placed the signs there without permission because they don't like seeing cars parked there. Unsure, I tried to pull up next to the trail, but the terrain was a big steep for my tiny car. After circling around about three times I finally pulled off the shoulder next to the orchard, being careful not to block any traffic (see picture below). Seem reasonable?  The pull-off where we parked last time about about 1000 feet down the road, and was still next to the orchard, so what's the difference, right?

Spirea at the lookout
So off I went, again enjoying this part of the NET.  I scrambled up the beautiful and intimidating cliff, and at the top this time I took the short spur to the overlook. I really couldn't see the cliffs of Ragged Mountain like I hoped, but it was a great view, and I could see Hartford in the other direction as well.   I rambled on for a mile or so, fully enjoying the ridge top hike and view of the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir below.

I found a big beautiful Black Rat Snake sunning himself on the ledge in a crevice.  His body was totally exposed, but his head was jammed into the leaves, and he never even saw me. My silly dog never saw the snake, either, and actually stepped on him.  It didn't seem like a very good survival strategy. Eventually I got him to pay attention so I could get a photo of his face.

Well, hello there. 

And so I headed back down to the car where I found this note on my window:  

And my initial thoughts were along the lines of: First of all, I'm not even from this area, I have no idea what your orchard is called or where your store is located. Second of all, I'm parked on public property, and I'm not causing any type of hazard or blocking anyone, so shut up. Parking on the shoulder is LEGAL as long as you are not on someone's private property, not causing a hazard, and there aren't any 'no parking' signs.  I have the right to park legally without being harassed. Third, I'm parked at the trailhead for a National Scenic Trail and walking up a trail with my backpack and trekking poles in plain site, obviously not causing any vandalism, so spare me the rationale.

Back home, I looked up Southington's excellent online GIS system. The big traffic island is owned by the Town of Southington and really shouldn't be posted with cheesy 'no trespassing' signs. Someone should look into that. The guy who wrote the note telling me not to park on public property happens to live in the house overlooking that spot. I'm guessing he's the one that posted the public property as private. The location of the store where he says I can park is like a mile away or something absurd.  Why on earth would I park there?

Then I checked with the geocachers, because they know everything hiking related. There are a few geocache listings along that part of the trail and the people who listed the caches are telling geocachers to park about 1000 feet down the road, the same spot where we had previously parked, in the remote pull-off that looks like it's for people stealing apples.  There are a lot of online notes from geocachers who parked there and no one has had a problem. So apparently it's OK to park there where a person could steal apples in seclusion.  But not in plain sight of the orchard owner's house, where he can see you get out of your car with your nerdy hiking gear and head up the trail.  And there's your car parked there in full view, clearly visible from his house. Gosh, that must be disturbing to see that car parked there.  I've run into several people, usually elderly women, who run out and leave notes on the windshields of every car that parks in front of their house. Why? They just start to feel like the street belongs to them and they can tell people not to park there. And I guess they have nothing better to do.  Disturbingly, one of the geocachers mentioned that she parked in the "wrong spot" and got a $30 ticket. I wonder where she parked, and whether she got a ticket because she was disturbing someone's view.

Dear Town of Southington, PLEASE designate someplace for people to park. You have a historic National Scenic Trail that travels the entire length of your town, and you have not one single designated parking spot for this wonderful public amenity other than a lengthy access trail at Crescent Lake near the border. I've been hiking this trail all the way up from Guilford and never, until I hit Southington, did I run into this problem. 

Chinese Mystery Snail 
Enough of that, let's head over to Crescent Lake.  This was my first time walking along the shoreline (the NET runs along the ridgetop above).  There's a network of trails in there, green, orange, and red. I followed the green trail with a short diversion down to the pond to take a look. 

There were some really big snails, I've only seen them before at Black Rock State Park, called Chinese Mystery Snails. These invasive snails are used in the aquarium trade and may have been released when someone dumped their aquarium contents into the pond. Bad idea. 

Ducks and floating dead Mystery Snails on Crescent Lake
 There were also a lot of ducks. I mean a LOT of ducks. Duck eat, duck poo, and the algae gets super fertilized. Which explains why I didn't see anyone swimming or any signs about swimming. I then rambled on up the hill to the blue trail and an overlook of the pond. This may be the greenest pond I've ever seen! But maybe that's just because you don't usually get to view pond from above unless you're a pilot, I don't know. It's still a beautiful sight, I just don't think I'd want to swim in there!

Crescent Lake from the NET -- Very green!

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