Trail volunteers bridge the bog

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A group of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee led by Bob Lyon worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. Photos courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • Loki the lab enjoyed running along the newly installed bog boardwalks on the Lovejoy Trails in Loudon.

  • A squad of volunteers from the Loudon Trails Subcommittee worked on building bog bridges along the Lovejoy Trails. —Courtesy of Martha Butterfield

  • A squad of volunteers built log broadwalks along the Lovejoy Trails to keep hikers out of the mud.

For the Monitor
Published: 11/24/2020 8:56:29 PM

On Nov. 6 at 8:30 a.m. Lyon Lyon, a member of the Trails Sub-Committee under the Loudon Conservation Commission arrived at the edge of the Hunting Swamp to get an early start on planning the placement of some additional bog-bridging along the main section of the town of Loudon’s Lovejoy Trails.

An experienced bog-bridge builder, Lyon had earlier in the year cut and peeled the bark off spruce logs from trees grown on his property and had placed them along the trail during the summer. That was done in preparation for when the Trails Committee members would come together as a team to complete the boardwalk along areas of the trail that tended to be wet in the early spring or after heavy rains.

The Lovejoy Trails were created by the Trails Committee in 2019 on land that was granted to the Town of Loudon in 2005 by a developer who built a housing project on nearby Memory Lane. While most of the Town’s 135.5-acre parcel consists of a large wetland to the east and north, known as the Hunting Swamp, the western portion lies on higher ground where the trails members used existing logging trails and deer paths to create over two miles of hiking trails through the scenic forest. The abundance of stone walls that exist there once bordered open fields and were part of the old Lovejoy Farm, formerly the Batchelder Farm, dating from the late 1700s. A portion of the trails had to pass through the western edge of the Hunting Swamp, requiring several sections of bog-bridging along the way, but after being used for a year, it was evident that more bridging would be needed in some areas.

Lyon was the first of several Trails Committee members to arrive there that morning, all of us retired volunteers from the Loudon community, and when I caught up with him, he was busy arranging the logs for the best placement on the uneven soil. We were soon joined by experienced trails builder Craig Mabie, who was also eager to learn the techniques of bog-bridging, followed by Denis Proulx, also experienced in bog-bridging. Rounding out the group were our Trails Sub-Committee founder and chairwoman Sandra Blanchard, Deb Eastman-Proulx, Nancy Huckins, Laura Vincent and myself, Martha Butterfield.

Bog-bridging starts with a good plan of where to place it, as well as the right materials for its construction. In 2019, we thought carefully about where to locate the easiest and safest crossing over the Pine Island Brook and its surrounding wetland. Once our plan was in place, we next determined what materials would be needed.

Sturdy, long-lasting spruce logs cut from Lyon’s woodlot formed the foundation of the bridging used by our group, topped by a generous supply of stained weather-proofed hemlock boards supplied by Blanchard.

Tools necessary for bog bridging that day included a chainsaw for cutting the materials to fit the marshy terrain, a sturdy pick mattock for digging into uneven soil, a long-handled sledgehammer for pounding logs, loppers for cutting roots, timber ties long enough to attach the hemlock boards to the logs, a battery-operated drill for starting the holes, and hammers for pounding in the nails.

The first of several new bog-bridging sections began at the point where the trail descended to the edge of the Hunting Swamp and where we found that frequent walking the previous spring had produced a muddy section. Lyon, Proulx and Mabie assessed the area and determined where the logs should be placed on the uneven ground.

Whenever Lyon felled a spruce tree, little was wasted, and he cut his logs the same length of about three feet. But the circumference of the log varied, allowing him to select smaller logs for that first section and larger ones for areas further along the swampy trail where the stand of water tended to be deeper. The spacing between the two hemlock boards also needed to be about an inch and a half apart for ease of walking.

Proulx had an eye for properly placing the logs. Once the logs were properly seated upon the soil, the boards also needed to be fitted properly so they would safely lead to the next section of bog-bridging to prevent tripping; thus, the ends sometimes needed to be trimmed slightly or as much as a few inches, depending on the required fit. The trimmings also occasionally served the purpose of helping to reinforce the bracing around a log to make it stabilized.

The boards were then attached to the logs using 6-inch galvanized steel spiral shank timber ties to keep them secure. Holes for the timber ties were pre-drilled first before Blanchard, Huckins, Proulx and Mabie took turns hammering them into place.

After aligning the newest section with the older section, we found that the unevenness of the ground still caused the new section to be wobbly when walking on it. To correct that problem, bracing from two cut pieces of board were added to stabilize that section, as seen in the upper left side of the photo I took a couple of days later while walking our silver lab puppy, Loki. The little fellow loved running along that boardwalk.

Further along the trail, another section also needed to be added because of springtime muddy conditions. In that area, some roots were sticking up out of the ground and had to be cut out by Mabie while Proulx held the log out of the way. Thus far, two new sections had been added, and we still had more sections to include after we crossed over the Pine Island Book.

Further along, a particularly awkward area existed where an old logging trail had cut deep ruts in the soil, creating a hazardous, mucky spot to cross over. That meant a different approach would be needed to diagonally cross over the rutted area and connect with a nearby banking that led to an old ditch, dug long ago by the farmer at the Lovejoy Farm to drain excess water from his marshy field.

Soon we noticed a man walking along the trail who resided in a house that bordered the town’s property. Dave Ives enjoys taking daily walks on the Lovejoy Trails, and we were happy to meet him. Vincent and I chatted with Ives while the others were at work, and Vincent who has a great sense of history around that part of Loudon shared with us some interesting facts from years ago.

Huckins and Eastman-Proulx had gone back over the bog-bridging to add some extra timber ties where they were needed; and when they returned, Ives mentioned he’d seen a downed tree along the upper White Trail, so they left the group and headed up the hill to clean up the fallen tree. Both women always paid close attention to details and were especially safety conscious.

Meanwhile, others were working on the best way to arrange the bridging, and it took some time to place the logs where they wanted them to go. It required a couple of sections to make the job complete, and their hard work produced a nice connection to the banking along the dug ditch.

Our job was finished by around 11:30 a.m., and we headed back out to the parking lot near Lovejoy Road. Before our group returned home, I led them on a short walk across from the Lovejoy Trails along a new trail I was cutting on my own land that also led to a neighbor’s logged wood lot. Not only did our group have a great day for completing our bog-bridging project, we also met a new neighbor and enjoyed a pleasant autumn walk together.




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