A backpacking adventure, close to home

An overnight backpacking adventure — with the added comfort of cell service and a quick ride back home— are a few of the benefits of traversing the roughly 13-mile Paugussett Trail, also known as the “Blue Dot” Trail, from Shelton to Monroe.

Just ask the City’s Natural Resources Manager, Teresa Gallagher, who recently hiked and camped overnight at Webb Mountain Park, documenting it all for a Shelton Trails Committee blog.

“There really are no other distance trails that I know of in Fairfield County where you can legally camp,” Gallagher said. “It’s perfect if you want to ease in to backpacking and you come across a lot of the terrains you would encounter up north.”

There are few things you need before setting out, including a $10 permit to camp at Webb Mountain from Monroe Parks and Recreation. Camping is open through Nov. 1. Trails maps are also a must. Updated maps of the Shelton sections of the trail are available from SheltonConservation.org and Monroe sections can be found in the Connecticut Walk Book. MonroeRec.org has a map of Webb Mountain available.

Gallagher is familiar with the various sections of the trail but had never before camped out or done the entire stretch at once. She likened the hike to a “strand of pearls” on her blog, “because some parts of this type of trail include road walks or portions that would not be a destination hike on their own, but which give you a connection to prime hiking areas (the "pearls").”

Gallagher started the journey at the Buddington Road trailhead in Shelton and headed north through Shelton Lakes, where the trail passes through Eklund Garden and follows the shoreline of Hope Lake, crosses Route 108, and joins the wide gravel Recreation Path.

Along the way, Gallagher found items marking the area’s history, including a quartz arrowhead on a Shelton section of trail.

“Quartz arrowheads on trails are not uncommon,” she said. “The Native Americans in this part of the country used quartz because we didn’t have flint.”

“The Paugussett turns sharply off of the Rec Path, and the turn is easy to miss if you're not paying attention to the blazes,” Gallagher writes in her blog. “You'll need to be able to follow the trail blazes carefully and be prepared in case a blaze is missing or a part of the trail is blocked, because that can happen on any long distance trail. Have a map, and perhaps a gps unit or a smartphone. For beginners, this is a good trail to practice your blaze-finding skills because you can't get truly lost in this area.”

The trail leads to Indian Well State Park, where Gallagher notes backpackers can also choose start the journey.

Just past Indian Well, the trail starts to resemble sections of the Appalachian Trail up north, according to Gallagher. There is a bit of scrambling over rocky sections and a hiking stick is recommended.

“I did the Connecticut section of the Appalachian trail and the section of Paugusett through Indian Well and Birchbank is rugged and rocky — it’s a lot like the trails up north,” Gallagher said.

When hikers reach the Birchbank Mountain overlook, stop to sign in at the trail register and have fun reading the other entries. From there, it’s a mostly downhill journey to Webb Mountain, a total of about 9 miles on the route Gallagher took.

Once at Webb Mountain, Gallagher writes that “to reach the main part of the campground from the Paugussett, you'll need to take a detour onto an unmarked trail that follows a brook going upstream, with the path becoming orange-blazed. Cross a bridge and continue straight on the red trail and the camp will be right there,” she said. “This is simpler than it sounds and it's not far at all.”

Gallagher said to keep your camping permit handy as park rangers come to check.

“Facilities at the campground include a port-o-let, picnic tables, fire rings. And there was free firewood as well,” she wrote “There is a nearby stream if you have water-filtering capabilities or need to wash up.”

After setting up camp, a short walk up the Red Trail to Goat Rock is a must, according to Gallagher, who writes it is the is the best overlook of the entire hike.

After a peaceful night and morning, they continued the hike to the end the end of the trail — mile 12.9 — at East Village Road. A quick walk to the intersection of East Village and Barn Hill Road is a good spot to have a ride pick you up to head back home.  

Gallagher suggests backpackers avoid the hike if it’s too wet. She notes some areas would have been more hazardous if it was too wet.

Overall, the trail is the perfect short backpacking trip for a beginners or someone testing out their camping plans.

“It’s a great way to work out the kinks if you’re planning a longer trip,” she said. “You have the cell phone coverage and you’re close enough to home that, if you hate it, you can just call for a ride.”

For more on the trail, links to maps and more information, click here for Gallagher’s blog.