Hiking Ramapo Valley County Reservation!


 

Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

Welcome to Ramapo Valley County Reservation! At 4,000 acres, Ramapo Valley County Reservation is Bergen County‘s largest park. The park has Ringwood State Park to the west and Ramapo Mountain State Forest to the southwest (both which are accessible by trails found in the park).

Ramapo Valley County Reservation Land Usage

Ramapo Valley County Reservation Land Usage

Ramapo Mountain County Park is located in the Ramapo Mountains which are a part of the NY NJ Highlands geographic region (Ramapo is said to be Lenape for “Round Ponds”).

Virtual Hike

Today’s hike will be an estimated 4.2  miles. We will be using this Trail Map to help us find our way through the woods.

Today’s virtual hike will take us pass a lake, the Ramapo River, ruins, scenic overview and a waterfall!

Ready to begin?

Ramapo Valley County Park Kiosk

Ramapo Valley County Park Kiosk

From the parking area just past the kiosk marks the start of the Orange Blazed 6.5 mile Shuber Trail (the longest trail found in Ramapo Valley County Reservation) and the .8 mile Silver blazed trail (All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference)

Shuber (Orange) & Silver Trailhead

Shuber (Orange) & Silver Trailhead

Heading west on the combined orange blazed Shuber and the Silver trail a bridge appears ahead crossing the Ramapo River.

Bridge over Ramapo River

Bridge over Ramapo River

The Ramapo River eventually flows into the Pequannock River to form the Pompton River which is a major tributary of the Passaic River. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

Scarlet Oak Lake

Scarlet Oak Lake

Continuing west, scenic Scarlet Oak Pond (once part of a former gravel quarry) appears to our right. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people we will see on our hike will be found here walking their dogs (as this is an extremely popular park to bring your dog) around this beautiful pond.

Shuber Trail Left

Shuber Trail Left

Come on, let’s leave the crowds and take the path less traveled. Keeping our eyes peeled to the left we follow the Orange Blazed Shuber Trail as it leaves the Silver Trail heading south west following the Ramapo River through a floodplain forest where Red Maple is the staple tree.

Ramapo River

Ramapo River

We are lucky today. The trail which travels alongside the Ramapo River is relatively dry. During times of snowmelt and rainstorms this path would be inaccessible.

Shuber Trail passing Blue Trail end near bridge over MacMillan Stream

As we continue heading west on the orange blazed Shuber Trail we pass  the 3.0 mile Green on White Blazed Halifax Trail trailend to our right and cross over MacMillan Brook on a wooden footbridge.

Orange Trail Bridge Crossing

Orange Trail Bridge Crossing

At this point as you take in your surroundings you might start to question a couple of items. Is all this beauty actually in New Jersey? In Bergen County? The answer is a resounding yes!

But wait, what’s this before us? Old ruins of a stone cabin built by a camp which once operated here appears as we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail.

Cabin Ruins Orange Trail

The orange blazed Shuber trail starts climbing to the northwest of the Ramapo River. But don’t get discouraged by the climb, we are in a for a treat! Scenic cascades and pools of the Macmillan Brook parallels the trail to our right.

Cascades along orange trail

The Macmillan Brook is a tributary of the Ramapo River.

Orange Trail Silver Trailend

Orange Trail Silver Trailend

As we continue past the cascades we meet up with the trailend of the .8  of a mile Silver Trail we had originally started with the Shuber trail. As we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail, our footpath turns to an asphalt road.

Yellow Silver Trailhead

Yellow Silver Trailhead

Leaving the asphalt road and continuing on the orange blazed Shuber trail, the  1.6 mile Yellow Silver Trail appears to our left which traverses an area known as Matty Price Hill.

Macmillion Reservoir

Macmillion Reservoir

Passing the trailhead of the Yellow Silver Trail and continuing on the Shuber trail we pass a dam and outlet of Macmillan brook and see the beautiful estimated 13.11 acre MacMillan Reservoir to our  right.

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Marsh Loop Trailhead

Continuing west past the reservoir the red blazed .3 mile Marsh Loop Trailhead appears to the south. Passing this trailhead we continue on our way traveling through an area of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Middle Valley.

Ridge Trail Trailhead

Ridge Trail Trailhead

A short distance ahead the 1.9 mile Blue Blazed Ridge trail appears to our right. Let’s take it!

Ridge Trail Macmillan Stream Tributary #1

Ridge Trail Macmillan Stream Tributary #1

Heading north and leaving the Shuber trail behind us we carefully walk on rocks over a couple of Macmillan Brook tributaries. I should probably mention here that these rocks and the Ramapo Mountains themselves are situated in a geologic area known as the Highlands Region. Dating from the pre-cambrian time period, these rocks are probably as old as the Earth itself.

Ridge Trail Stream 2

Ridge Trail Stream 2

Turning  right and heading southeast on the Ridge Trail the .8 Blue on White Havemeyer Trail appears to our left.

Ridge Trail & Blue on White Trailhead

Ridge Trail & Havemeyer Blue on White Trailhead

While we will be continuing on the Ridge Trail, the Havenmeyer trail explores a section of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Monroe Ridge. Though we can’t see it, an abandoned mine known as the Nickel Mine is found to the right of the Ridge Trail. The Nickel Mine is said to have been associated with the Hopkins and Dickinson Manufacturing Company which had operations producing bronze locks and iron castings in the 1870s along the Ramapo River. The Nickel Mine was created by digging two pits (both now are filled with water) in a search for nickel-bearing rock (hence the name Nickel Mine).

Ridge Trail Chestnut Oak Forest

Ridge Trail Chestnut Oak Forest

As we continue our walk on the Ridge Trail with the Monroe Ridge to our north we have left the forest of Birch and Beech we were passing through and have entered a Chestnut Oak Forest. Chestnut Oak Forest canopies are up to 65% dominated by its namesake species. Associate plant communities of Chestnut Oak Forest include:

Ridge Trail White Trailend

Ridge Trail White Trailend

Continuing southeast on the Ridge Trail we come across the trailend of the 1.0 mile White Trail which traverses across the Monroe Ridge which is located north of where we are now.

Ridge Trail Overlook Sign

Ridge Trail Overlook Sign

Heading south on the Ridge Trail a sign for a Scenic Overlook appears. Let’s take it!

Overlook

Overlook

Following a brief Red Triangle on a blue background we come to outcrops. The outcrops  are  “basement rocks” as the younger rocks which originally had covered them eroded away over time. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.  Enough geology for now, let’s take a look at the view!  Here we have a great eastern view of the surrounding Ramapo Mountains along with Campgaw Mountain. Though we cannot see it today due to hazy conditions in the distance NYC may be seen on a clear day.

RidgeTrail End Silver Trail

RidgeTrail End Silver Trail

Heading back to the blue blazed Ridge Trail we turn south where the Ridge Trail ends at an intersection with the Silver Trail. Heading South on the Silver Trail we see a sign advertising a waterfall. Let’s check it out!

Waterfall

Waterfall

After a steep descent we come to the base where we have terrific views of the waterfall.

Waterfall Rocks

Waterfall Rocks

Whew! Believe it or not but we are almost done and it seems like we just got started! Alright, let’s head back to the Silver Trail.

Scarlet Oak Lake Return

Scarlet Oak Lake Return

Heading south on the the Silver Trail we pass scenic Scarlet Oak Pond where the orange blazed Shuber Trail joins us.

Silver Trail & Shuber Trail End

Silver Trail & Shuber Trail End

Well we have come to the end of the jointly blazed silver and shuber trail back at the parking lot where we began our hike. I hope you enjoyed our virtual hike and that it inspires you to check out Ramapo Valley County Reservation for yourself! Thanks for reading!

Wanna Hike Ramapo Valley County Reservation? Click Here for Directions!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1.Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

2. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

3.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

4. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

 

 

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Exploring Westchester County’s Lenoir Preserve!


Lenoir Preserve Kiosk

Lenoir Preserve Kiosk

Welcome to the Lenoir Preserve! Located in Yonkers, New York, the estimated 40 acre preserve features upland woodlands, a large lawn, nature center, butterfly garden, an old mansion and old ruins scattered throughout.

The preserve opened in 1978 and is part of the Westchester County Park System. The property was acquired in two purchases in the 1970’s.

Virtual Tour

You Are In An Incredibly Important Place

You Are In An Incredibly Important Place

Welcome to the Lenoir Preserve! Before we start our hike let’s head over to the nature center to check out the displays and pick up a trail map.

Lenoir Preserve Nature Center

Lenoir Preserve Nature Center

The Lenoir Preserve Nature Center displays natural exhibits throughout and is also the meeting point of the Hudson River Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Inside Lenoir Nature Preserve

Inside Lenoir Nature Preserve

Heading out, we pass a picture of a map of the preserve including the route we will be taking today.

Lenoir Preserve Trail Map

Lenoir Preserve Trail Map

Ready to begin?

White Trail Trailhead

White Trail Trail-head

Heading west from the nature center we find the trail-head of the estimated .70 of a mile White Trail under a stand of dense evergreen trees.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Tree

Heading southeast into the forest we pass by the trunk of a massive Tulip Tree. Found throughout the forest of the Lenoir Preserve, the Tulip Tree is native to the Eastern United States and is one of the tallest trees found on the eastern seaboard.

Building near White Trail

Building near White Trail

Continuing southeast on the white trail a large apartment building appears straight ahead through the trees. This will be the last reminder of the modern urban environment as we trek through the woods.

Old Manmade Pond

Old Manmade Pond

Continuing our walk we find an old man-made pond. The pond still fills with water from an old pipe buried underground.

Wineberry

Wineberry

As we walk a twisty looking plant known as Wineberry is found all around us. Wineberry is native to Asia and an established invasive plant in the United States.

Hudson River View White Trail

Hudson River View White Trail

Continuing our walk heading south we spot seasonal views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades through the trees.

 

White Yellow Trail

White Yellow Trail

A little further on a yellow trail has joined the White Trail from the west.

 

Stone Steps Wooden Bridge

Stone Steps Wooden Bridge

Let’s head west briefly on the yellow trail for a moment to see where it goes.

Croton Aqueduct

Croton Aqueduct

The Yellow Trail leads right to the Croton Aqueduct trail which is a New York State Park. This trail goes over a huge old masonry water tunnel which once provided water to thirsty New Yorkers until 1965.  The trail was created in 1968.

Stairs Yellow Trail

Stairs Yellow Trail

Leaving the Croton Aqueduct and heading east we temporarily pass the White Trail. Old stairs appear to the east leading to terraces. Let’s go take a look.

Archway Yellow Trail

Archway Yellow Trail

An ancient Archway appears near the end of the yellow trail. I don’t know about you, but I feel a pair of eyes watching us.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

It’s a Song Sparrow! Song Sparrows favor brushy areas such as where we spotted this one or should I say it spotted us.

Yellow Trail Beginning

Yellow Trail Beginning

Let’s head back down the Yellow trail to continue our journey on the white trail in Lenoir’s forest.

White Trail Rock Path

White Trail Rock Path

As we walk more ruins appear as the sun filters through the leafless trees.

White Trail Ruins

White Trail Ruins

This may have been part of a fireplace of the destroyed “Ardenwold” Mansion which once existed in the site. The Ardenwold Mansion was destroyed by fire in the 1970’s.

White Blaze on Black Birch

White Blaze on Black Birch

Nearing the southern border of the Lenoir Preserve the White Trail turns east.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

We’ve been spotted and the alarm has been sounded! A Northern Mockingbird is keeping careful watch over the woodlands of the Lenoir Preserve.

Alder Mansion

Alder Mansion

Leaving the woodlands an old ruined wall with an ancient looking gazebo gazes mournfully at us. We have reached the southern border of the Lenoir Preserve. The ruined wall and gazebo are part of the Alder Manor which was built around 1912 by William Boyce Thompson. The manor is private property operated by the Tara Circle, an Irish Cultural Center.

Alder Mansion Garden

Alder Mansion Garden

Peaking through an old iron gate we see an expansive old garden.

Crows Chasing Hawk

Crows Chasing Hawk

Leaving the White Trail and heading north to the Great Lawn we spot some commotion in the open sky above. American Crows are chasing an unidentified Hawk.

Lenoir Mansion

Lenoir Mansion

Now heading north through the great lawn, the expansive Lenoir Mansion appears to our right. The mansion was built between in the mid-to late 1800’s for presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden from granite quarried on site.The mansion is named after Lenoir, North Carolina by a later owner by the name of C.C. Dula who added additional wings to the mansion.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

As we walk pass the Lenoir Mansion heading north a mournful sound fills our ears. It’s source is this Mourning Dove keeping watch over us as we walk.

Gazebo

Gazebo

An old stone gazebo appears just north of the mansion as we walk. What’s that sound?

Blurry Deer

Blurry Deer

White-Tailed Deer! They spotted us long before we spotted them.

Beverly E Smith Butterfly Garden

Beverly E Smith Butterfly Garden

Just west of the gazebo is a massive butterfly garden  which was created in 1995 by volunteers of the Hudson River Audubon Society. The garden is named after a Beverly Smith who came up with the idea to plant the garden. The garden has showcased a rare Rufous Hummingbird in the past. The Rufous Hummingbird normally occurs in the far west of North America and winters in Mexico.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Heading back towards the nature center a curious looking spotted bird is seen on the ground. It’s a Northern Flicker! Northern Flickers, such as this one, spend a lot of time searching for food in the form of ants and other insects on the ground.

 

Bird Feeders Rain Garden

Bird Feeders Rain Garden

We’ve reached the back of the nature center where bird feeders tempt hungry birds and a rain garden is present during the growing season. With that we’ve concluded  our walk of the preserve. Thank you for joining me today. It is my hope that this virtual tour inspires you to visit the Lenoir Preserve to check it out for yourself!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

3.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

4. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

 

Hiking Disney’s Wilderness Preserve!


The Nature Conservancy's The Disney Wildnerness Preserve

The Nature Conservancy’s The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Welcome to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve!

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Disney Wilderness Preserve

The core of The Disney Wilderness Preserve is comprised of what was once an 8,500-acre cattle ranch situated at the head of the Everglades watershed. In the early 1990s, the ranch was slated for extensive development which would have destroyed wetlands found on the site. Walt Disney World in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy purchased the property to offset further development of the Walt Disney World Resort. The purchase is considered to be one of the earliest and largest off-site wetland mitigation projects in the United States.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

An additional 3,000 acres were added in 1995 by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to help mitigate ongoing expansion at the airport bringing the Disney Wilderness Preserve to its current size. Today the Disney Wilderness preserve consists of 12,000 acres including an estimated 4,000 acres of enhanced wetlands

Healthy Central Florida Ecosystem

Central Florida Ecosystem

The Disney Wilderness Preserve provides habitat for an estimated 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians including:

The Wilderness Trail Virtual Tour

Disney Wilderness Preserve Trail Map

Click Here for the DWP Trail Map

As the winter of 2013-2014 has been especially harsh, it’s time to take a virtual tour somewhere where it is always green: Central Florida’s Disney Wilderness Preserve! Let’s go!

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Before we start our walk, let’s head inside the visitor center to check out the displays and sign in (we’ll need to sign out too).

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Heading northeast, we see a sign for the Wilderness Trail entrance. Let’s not fool ourselves, the paved sidewalk will end soon.

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

The blazes we will be following have the Nature Conservancy logo.

Disney Wildnerness Preserve Pond

Disney Wildnerness Preserve Pond

Walking northeast from the visitor center a scenic pond appears to our right. Let’s pause a moment to see if there is anything poking around.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Take a look! There’s a Wood Stork!  Found throughout Florida, the Wood Stork’s preferred habitat includes grasslands and wetlands. The Wood Stork rookery found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve is thought to be the most studied in the world.

Cypress Dome

Cypress Dome

Straight ahead of us is a unique stand of trees known as a Cypress Dome. A Cypress Dome are dominated by Pond Cypress and Tupelo trees among other species.  Pond Cypress trees are often tallest in the center of the Cypress Dome which gives the appearance of a dome when viewed from a distance hence its name. Heading southeast for the next .27 of a mile the Cypress Dome will appear to our right. After walking .27, the trail splits heading straight and to the right. If we turn right, the trail will take us back to the nature center. I don’t think we are ready to quit just yet, we just got started! Let’s continue straight.

Lake Russell This Way

Lake Russell This Way

Continuing straight another estimated .10 of a mile we see a sign directing us  to the Lake Russell Trail. Let’s take it!

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss

As we walk towards the swamp forest surrounding Lake Russell, something dangling above our heads catches our eyes. It’s Spanish Moss, which is not really a moss at all but rather a flowering plant!

But wait, there’s something else dangling above our heads….

Massive Spider

Massive Golden Silk Spider

A massive Golden Silk Spider! Let’s keep moving!

The estimated .14 of a mile trail takes us through a dense Cypress Wetland Forest which surrounds the lake on all sides (a rare sight in Central Florida!)

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

The Cypress has a lifespan of hundreds of years and is found throughout the wetlands of the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Lake Russell

Lake Russell

What a view! Beautiful Lake Russell is fed by Reedy Creek which is part of the northernmost Headwaters of the Everglades.

Savannah

Savannah

Heading back out through the swamp forest we find ourselves in the open savannah of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem. Once estimated covering around 90 million acres in the southeastern United States, the Longleaf Pine ecosystem is now reduced to around an estimated two million acres, most of which is found on private land. The Longleaf Pine thrives on poor sandy soils.

Snag

Snag

The Longleaf Pine ecosystem is associated with natural fires which occur naturally every two to four years. Naturally occurring fires reduce the amount of litter on the ground which provides breathing room for Longleaf Pine seeds to germinate. Due to the surrounding development, controlled fires are conducted at the Disney Wilderness Preserve as this burned snag demonstrates. The endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, whose primary habitat is found in the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem, was successfully reintroduced in 2007 in the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

As we walk we know the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is present but we do not see any today. But look up! A Palm Warbler is watching us from its perch.

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto, found all around us, is a common understory plant of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. This tough plant is one of the first to send up new leaves within a week or two after a forest fire.

Shrub Oak

Shrub Oak

Occasionally as we walk a tall shrub appears. This shrub is Scrub Oak. Without frequent fire, Scrub Oak would form dense thickets preventing the establishment of Longleaf Pine.

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Whew! It’s getting hot. Let’s keep our mind off the heat for a moment and think about a bird found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve which is present but we do not spot during our walk. The bird in reference is the  Florida Scrub-Jay, classified as threatened under the endangered species act and is the only bird endemic to Florida.

Pond2

Like a mirage in the distant, the pond we passed when we first started out is ahead and the trail has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed our virtual tour of the Disney Wilderness Preserve and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Address & Contact Information

The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve
2700 Scrub Jay Trail
Kissimmee, FL 34759
Phone: (407) 935-0002
Ferns
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
For more Information on the Disney Wilderness Preserve Check out the Attached!
Ecology Books!
Highlighting the efforts of nine extraordinary leaders, Nature’s Keepers examines the organization’s culture and management, strategy and decisions, and courageous and ingenious individuals who have dedicated their lives to conservation. Click Here for more information!
Introduces readers to the trees and plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, and other species that live in Florida’s unique wetlands ecosystem, including the Virginia iris, American white waterlily, cypress, treefrogs, warblers, and the Florida black bear. Click Here for more information!

Exploring the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary!


Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

Welcome to the Scherman-Hoffman Preserve! Owned and maintained by the NJ Audubon Society, the preserve features a nature center, hiking trails and a multitude of opportunities to view wildlife.

History

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Preserve Land Usage

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary Land Usage

The history of the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary began in 1965 when the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) received  a land donation of 125 acres from a Mr. & Mrs. Harry Scherman. 10 years later Frederick Hoffman of Hoffman Beverage Company donated adjacent acres of land. Upon his death in 1981, the final parcels of the preserve were bequeathed from Mr.Hoffman’s estate.

Field Loop Trail Forest

Today, the Scherman-Hoffman Preserve comprises 276 beautiful acres of meadows, floodplain forest and uplands.

Geology:

Highlands Precambrian Geology

Located in the southeastern corner of the NJ Highlands, the Scherman-Hoffman wildlife sanctuary is south of the terminal moraine of the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) which stopped just north of here around 10,000 years ago. As a result, soil was not scraped away by melting ice and is deeper than the soil found further north in the NJ Highlands. Rocks found here are deemed to have originated in precambrian times.

Virtual Tour

Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education

Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education

As it is currently a cold winter day, our virtual hike will take place in early fall when all is still green. Sound good? Let’s go! After parking, let’s head inside the  NJ Audubon Center and pick up a trail map. Before we begin our hike, let’s head upstairs to the Hawk observation deck to take in the views.

View from Hawk Viewing Platform

View from Hawk Viewing Platform

Leaving the nature center we find ourselves heading south towards Hardscrabble Road. Turning west, we have reached the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail.  While the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail does not have any blazes, the trail is only an estimated 0.3 miles. We won’t need to worry about getting lost!

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Heading north on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail a deer proof fence appears in front of us. The deer fence was first constructed in 1999 on one acre and a half to help promote forest health. In 2005, the deer fence was expanded to 15 acres and native plants were planted throughout the enclosure. The deer fence was constructed due to the presence of an over population of White-Tail Deer.  White-Tailed Deer have decimated the  forest to such an extent that the forest is no longer self-sustaining.

Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry

Outside the deer fence, invasive plants like Japanese Barberry (which deer do not eat) have formed monocultures preventing native plants from becoming established. The Deer Fence helps promote a healthy forest comprising of native plants which helps create a full understory. But most importantly, the deer fence enables the forest to regenerate successfully.

Whitegrass

Whitegrass

As we walk on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail, let’s keep our eyes peeled to the ground for interpretive signage. All interpretive signs are placed near the plants they represent such as we see here with Whitegrass which is found in shady mesic (moist) forest communities.

True Solomon's Seal

True Solomon’s Seal

Here we see True Solomon’s Seal. The name Solomon’s Seal is said to be derived from scars on the leaf stalk which resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon.

Other native plants present on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail as we walk north include:

(Click the links below to learn more about each plant!)

American Beech (the most common tree found in Sherman-Hoffman Sanctuary)

American Beech (the most common tree found in Sherman-Hoffman Sanctuary)

Dogwood Spur Hoffman Center

Dogwood Spur Hoffman Center

As we walk in a northeast direction we cross through the Red Blazed Dogwood Trail  spur which leads south back to the Hoffman nature center we were in earlier.

Field Loop Trail Vernal Pond

Field Loop Trail Vernal Pond

Turning south we’ve come to the end of the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail and the beginning of the Green Blazed Field Loop Trail. We’ve also just left the forest and entered a field. Heading east on the Field Loop Trail, we see a sign advertising a vernal pond heading south. Let’s check it out!

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

Vernal ponds are generally small, fishless water bodies that form in early spring usually from melting snow and are gone by summer. Woodland amphibians such as Wood Frogs and Mole Salamanders depend on vernal pools for breeding purposes. For more information on Vernal Pools check out the excellent book Vernal Pools: Natural History and Conservation.

Field

Turning back to the Field Loop Trail, our feet are thanking us as we walk on a mowed path through a meadow of Goldenrod and native grasses.

Welcome Please Close Gate

Welcome Please Close Gate

Arriving at the eastern exit of the deer fence enclosure, we find ourselves back at an intersection with the red blazed 1.3 mile dogwood trail.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Butterfly

Heading south on the Field Loop Trail we find we are not alone as the meadow is alive with grasshoppers and butterflies among others.

River Trail

River Trail

Continuing south on the Field Loop Trail, we leave the meadow and enter a young forest where a sign appears for the yellow blazed 0.3 mile River Trail heading to our left. Let’s take it!

Passaic River

Passaic River

The River Trail takes us near the Passaic River, the second longest river in New Jersey. This section of the Passaic River, near its headwaters, is clean and cool enough to support trout. Wood Turtles, a threatened species in New Jersey, can also be found in this section of the river. Threatened species are vulnerable because of factors such as small population size and loss of habitat.

Massive Tulip Poplar

Massive Tulip Poplar

As we head north on the yellow blazed River trail we see a massive Tulip Poplar to our left.

River Trail End

River Trail End

Turning west and away from the Passaic River, the River Trail ends at the red blazed Dogwood Trail.

Dogwood Trail River Trail

Dogwood Trail River Trail

Heading west on the Red Blazed Trail we pass a spur of the Dogwood Trail which heads back to the Hoffman center.

Hoffman Center

Hoffman Center

Our trail is taking us into typical NJ Highlands habitat, marked by climbs, precambrian rocks and upland oak-hickory forest.

Geology

Upland Forest

Upland Forest

As we walk south, we see trees here and there with big gaping holes.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

These holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker looking for its favorite food: Carpenter Ants. Pileated Woodpeckers are eastern North America’s largest Woodpecker.

Dogwood Trail Black Birch

Dogwood Trail Black Birch

As we walk, the Dogwood Trail is blazed by both Red Blazes and the NJ Audubon logo. Wait! What’s that sound?

Eastern Chimpmunk

Eastern Chimpmunk

Whew! It’s just an Eastern Chipmunk looking for food.

Hardscrabble Road

Hardscrabble Road

As the Dogwood trail heads southeast and then northeast we catch glimpses of Hardscrabble Road through the trees.

Scherman Parking Lot Dogwood Trail

Scherman Parking Lot Dogwood Trail

We’ve now arrived at the lower parking lot of the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

Educational Center

Leaving the Dogwood Trail and heading up the main road we find ourselves back at the Hoffman Center. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike and that it inspires you to check out the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary for yourself! Thank you for tagging along!

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary is located at:

11 Hardscrabble Road Bernardsville, NJ 07924.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1.Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

2. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

3.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

4. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

Hiking Mountainview Nature Park!


Mountainview Nature Park

Mountainview Nature Park

Welcome to Mountainview Nature Park!

Mountainview Nature Park

Mountainview Nature Park

Located in Central Nyack in Rockland County NY, the 83 acre park features an estimated 2.5 miles of hiking trails winding their way through an Oak-Hickory forest.

Mountainview Nature Park Forest

Mountainview Nature Park Forest

Mountainview Nature Park was acquired as a gift from the Winston Perry family by Rockland County in 1979.

Geology

Diabase Rocks

Diabase Rocks

The land comprising Mountainview Nature Park is part of the Palisades ridge. The Palisades extend from Staten Island NY to Mount Ivy NY. The rocks are known as diabase. Diabase was formed around 200 million years ago by molten magma intruding into softer sedimentary rocks.

Virtual Hike

Mountain Trail Trailhead

Mountain Trail Trailhead

From the parking area on Strawberry Hill Lane we find ourselves at the trailhead of the orange blazed Mountain Trail. At 1.15 miles, the Mountain Trail is the longest trail found in Mountainview Nature Park. We will use this trail map to help guide us. Ready? Let’s go!

Bridge over Hackensack River Tributary

Bridge over Hackensack River Tributary

Heading east on the Mountain Trail, we cross a Hackensack River tributary on a wooden bridge.

NY Thruway

NY Thruway

Dipping south we see (and hear) the NY State Thruway straight ahead near another Hackensack River tributary.

Rock Wall Mountain Trail

Rock Wall Mountain Trail

Turning north on the Mountain Trail we see several old stone walls of farms that existed here at one time.

Goat Trail Trailhead

Goat Path Trailhead

Continuing north on the Mountain Trail the white-blazed trailhead of the .60 mile Goat Path appears to our right. Let’s take it!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker (a bit on the blurry side)

Heading southeast on the Goat Path a large American Crow size bird with a bright patch of red on its head flies over us. It’s a Pileated Woodpecker! This guy is on the ground poking through fallen snags for its favorite food: carpenter ants.

Goat Trail Climb

Goat Path Climb

Leaving the Pileated Woodpecker behind we continue southeast on the Goat Path and start to climb uphill.

Building near Goat Path

Building near Goat Path

Coming to the edge of the eastern border of Mountainview Nature Park with a building visible straight ahead, the Goat Path turns left climbing northwest along the edge of a hillside.

Goat Path Hillside

Goat Path Hillside

Careful! We have to really watch our footsteps here. Whew! We’ve arrived near the top.

Goat Path Chestnut Oak

Goat Path Chestnut Oak

At the top of the mountain Chestnut Oak and Eastern Red Cedar are abundant.

Goat Path Eastern Red Cedar

Goat Path Eastern Red Cedar

From here the Goat Path turns right heading southeast through an Oak-Hickory forest. Trees present in this forest include:

Mountain Trail Intersection

Mountain Trail Intersection

Just ahead we come to an intersection with the orange blazed Mountain Trail we left awhile ago. But for now, let’s head south on the Overlook Spur section of the Goat Path.

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

As we walk on the Goat Path we spot a White-Tailed Deer  to our left watching us.

Goat Path Trailend

Goat Path Trailend

Leaving the deer we continue southwest to the Goat Path terminus.

Palisades Center Mall & NY Thruway with Ramapo Mountains in distance

Palisades Center Mall & NY Thruway with Ramapo Mountains in distance

Let’s take a breather to see the view. Directly in front of us is the Palisades Center Mall with the NY Thruway heading west towards the distant Ramapo Mountains. Ready to continue on? Let’s turn back and head back to the Mountain Trail intersection.

Mountain Trail

Mountain Trail

We are now leaving the white blazed Goat Path and heading east on the Mountain Trail.

Bear Swamp Trailhead

Bear Swamp Trailhead

Just to the left of the Mountain Trail is the western trailhead of the blue blazed .28 mile Bear Swamp Trail loop. Let’s go explore it!

Bear Swamp

Bear Swamp

The Bear Swamp Trail loops around Bear Swamp and will take us back to the Mountain Trail. Bear Swamp, which is seasonally flooded, is a hardwood swamp dominated by Red Maple, one of the more common trees found in the eastern forest. Shrubs such as Spicebush are quite abundant in the understory.

Royal Fern

Royal Fern

Ferns such as Cinnamon and Sensitive Fern are also abundant in Bear Swamp. While they are gone since we are in late fall, we still see the remains of Royal Fern.

Bear Swamp Trailend

Bear Swamp Trailend

Completing our loop, we find ourselves back on the Mountain Trail at the eastern entrance to the Bear Swamp trail. We can either continue heading east (which leads to Mountainview Avenue and the Long Path) or we can retrace our footsteps and head west. Since it’s getting late, let’s head west on the Mountain Trail.

Mountainview Nature Park Mountain Trail

Mountainview Nature Park Mountain Trail

Passing the Goat Path we are now heading west on the Mountain Trail.

Decaying Log

Decaying Log

As we walk we pass by numerous blow downs and old decaying logs. These old logs play an important ecological role in the forest. Decaying logs retain moisture and release nutrients into the ground that aid in new plant growth.

Posted Private Property

Posted Private Property

Heading southwest on the Mountain Trail, we pass near the northern boundary of the park near private property.

Hudson River Mountain Trail

Hudson River Mountain Trail

Walking southwest on the Mountain Trail we can just catch glimpses of the distant Hudson River through the remaining leaves on the trees to our left.

Mountain Trail Descent

Mountain Trail Descent

We’ve now begun our climb down the western border of the hill we climbed earlier on the Goat Path. This trail will take us back down pass the trailhead of the Goat path and back to our car.

Mountain Trail End

Mountain Trail End

We made it back to our car. Thank you so much for joining me today on this virtual hike of Mountainview Nature Park. I hope that it inspires you to visit and hike the park yourself in person!

Directions: (as taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference website)

To reach the park, take NY 303 to North Greenbush Road and follow it to Strawberry Hill Lane. Parking is available off Strawberry Hill Lane.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

3.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

4. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

http://www.nynjtc.org/park/mountainview-county-nature-park

Hiking Ramapo Mountain State Forest!


Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Welcome to Ramapo Mountain State Forest! Today we are going to be hiking near a portion of Ramapo Lake, see outstanding views and explore old ruins!

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest extends six miles between Pompton Lakes and Oakland NJ and is maintained by the NJ Division of Parks and ForestryRamapo Mountain Reservation is located to the east of the park and Ringwood State Park is located to the north. These three parks form a combined 10,000 acres of protected forest.

Virtual Hike

Today’s hike will be an estimated 2.9 miles. We will be using this Trail Map (Note: map is of neighboring Ramapo Mountain Reservation but shows Ramapo Mountain State Forest trails near Ramapo Lake) to help us find our way through the woods. Ramapo Mountain State Forest trails were built by the New Jersey Youth Conservation Corps in 1978 and are now maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference.

Hoeferlin Trail

Hoeferlin Trail

From the parking area off of Skyline Drive in Oakland, let’s head past the kiosk and head to the yellow blazed Hoeferlin Trail. The 6.0 mile Hoeferlin Trail, formerly called the Suffern-Midvale Trail, is named after Bill Hoeferlin, who was a well known north Jersey trail builder and map maker. Ready? Let’s go!

Pond

Pond

As we begin our hike a small pond appears to our right which forms the start of a Ramapo River tributary we will be following (and crossing) as we head south on the Hoeferlin trail.

Witch Hazel in Bloom

Witch Hazel in Bloom

Just past the pond we spot Witch Hazel in bloom off the trail. Witch Hazel is one of the last native plants to flower in the fall and is unusual because it’s conspicuous yellow flowers stay in bloom even after the leaves have fallen off.

Ramapo River Tributary

Ramapo River Tributary

As we walk the only noise we hear besides the crunch of newly fallen leaves under our feet is the sound of the Ramapo River tributary flowing nearby.

Sassafras

Sassafras

Continuing south we find Sassafras in fall colors. Sassafras has three types of leaves: Solid, Three Prong and Mitten Shaped. Click here to view pictures and descriptions of this unique tree! All parts of Sassafras are fragrant.

Mile-a-Minute

Mile-a-Minute

Continuing south we cross over the Ramapo River tributary and find some Mile-a-Minute weed growing at our feet. Native to eastern Asia, Mile-a-Minute is an established invasive species in New Jersey and is capable of forming a monoculture excluding native plants.

Hoeferlin-McEvoy Combined Trail Blazes

Hoeferlin-MacEvoy Combined Trail Blazes

Continuing south the Hoeferlin trail briefly becomes combined with the blue blazed MacEvoy trail coming from the east.

MacEvoy Trail

MacEvoy Trail

The MacEvoy trail is named for Clifford E. MacEvoy who was a wealthy contractor of large public works. MacEvoy helped conceive and construct the nearby Wanaque Reservoir.  In the 1920’s, MacEvoy bought property in the Ramapo Mountains to form the Bergen County Hunting and Fishing Club. MacEvoy’s estate was sold and purchased by the State of NJ using Green Acres and federal funds in 1976 and became what is now known as Ramapo Mountain State Forest.

Ramapo Lake

Ramapo Lake

Heading northwest on the dual blazed Hoeferlin/MacEvoy trail we see Ramapo Lake before us. Here the Hoeferlin trail leaves to the south and we continue on the Blue Blaze MacEvoy trail which becomes a paved road. The 120 acre Ramapo Lake is the centerpiece of Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Fish such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Pickerel among other species are found in the lake. Ramapo Lake was originally a 25 acre pond known as Roten Pond. (“Roten” is Dutch for Muskrat). English translation corrupted “Roten” to  “Rotten” Lake. The pond was later dammed to form the present Ramapo Lake.

Cannonball Trail Blaze

Cannonball Trail Blaze

After passing a private residence and the Cannonball Trail to our right we come to the 1.0 mile White Blazed Castle Point Trailhead.

Castle Point Trail

Castle Point Trail

Leaving the MacEvoy trail we turn right to head north on Castle Point.

Castle Point Trail Climb

Castle Point Trail Climb

Almost immediately Castle Point proves to be an uphill challenge.

Wanaque Reservoir

Wanaque Reservoir

Stopping we can see glimpses of the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. The Wanaque Reservoir was constructed in 1928 and is the second largest reservoir in NJ. Water is received from the Pompton, Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers. After enjoying the view, let’s continue our climb on Castle Point.

Castle Point Climb over Old Wall

Castle Point Climb over Old Wall

As we walk, a wall appears with the white blaze of the castle point trail. Let’s carefully climb the wall over the rocks.

Castle

Castle

Wow! What’s this? A medieval castle in the middle of the woods? The ruins we see before us were known as Van Slyke Castle. The ruins stand 350 feet above Ramapo Lake on Fox Mountain.

Ramapo Lake View near ruins

Ramapo Lake View near ruins

The Castle (aka Foxcroft) was a stone mansion built by a William and Alice Porter in 1909 as their summer home. William died in 1911 and Alice died in 1940. The mansion sat empty for years until vandals broke in and torched the mansion in 1959 giving the appearance we see today.

Nature reclaims castle

Nature reclaims castle

Castle Point Blaze on ruins

Castle Point Blaze on ruins

Leaving the castle behind, we head north on the Castle Point Trail.

Ruined Swimming Pool

Ruined Swimming Pool

A short distance from the ruins of the castle we come to the ruins of the castle’s swimming pool.

Water Tower

Water Tower

Leaving the pool behind we arrive at the Ramapo Water Tower which provided water to the Van Slyke Castle. The water tower is still in great shape.

Ramapo Lake View

Ramapo Lake View

Stopping to catch our breath we look behind us to see the distant Ramapo Lake.

New York City from Ramapo Mountain State Forest

New York City View from Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Looking east we see the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance just visible to the right of High Mountain.

Ramapo Lake View

Ramapo Lake View

Heading northeast on the Castle Point Trail we turn around one last time to say goodbye to Ramapo Lake which appears even further in the distance.

Castle Point Trail End

Castle Point Trail End

We’ve now arrived at the end of the Castle Point Trail. Ahead of us is a paved road leading to private residences nearby. Let’s turn right heading south on the paved road skirting the Cannonball Trail.

Red White Trail Head

Red White Trail Head

A Red and White Trailhead (Skyline Connector Trail) appears to our left. This is our route back to our cars!

Red White Trail

Red White Trail

The Red White Trail is a brief pleasant trail…

Red White Trailend

Red White Trailend

…which ends too soon at the parking lot where we began. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Ramapo Mountain State Forest and that it inspires you to check it out for yourself!

Directions (As per the NYNJ Trail Conference webpage)

Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and proceed north on Skyline Drive for about one mile to the upper parking area for Ramapo Mountain State Forest on the left side of the road, just beyond milepost 1.4, opposite the entrance to Camp Tamarack.

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1.Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

2. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

3.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

4. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Sterling Lake!


Sterling Forest State Park

Sterling Forest State Park

Welcome to Sterling Forest State Park! Established in 1998 and located in Tuxedo and Warwick NY, the park is one of the newest additions to the New York State Parks in the past 50 years. Most of the woodland is located in NY State but a portion of it extends into NJ and is known as Tranquility Ridge County Park.

Sterling Forest

Sterling Forest

The almost 22,000 acre park features diverse ecological communities including:

Welcome to the Sterling Forest Bird Conservation Area

Welcome to the Sterling Forest Bird Conservation Area

These diverse habitats have earned Sterling Forest State Park the designation of Bird Conservation Area by the NY DEP.

Birds found in Sterling Forest State Park include the below among many others:

Virtual Hike

Foot Trail Maintained by Volunteers NY-NJ Trail Conference

Foot Trail Maintained by Volunteers NY-NJ Trail Conference

Today we are going to hike the estimated 4.2 Blue Blazed Sterling Lake trail  (maintained by volunteers from the NYNJ Trail Conference) which starts at the Sterling Forest State Park visitor center.  The visitor center is named for the late Frank R. Lautenberg who helped preserve the forest for future generations. The Sterling Lake Lake trail loops around Sterling Lake, a natural lake formed during the last ice age.

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center

Let’s head inside and grab a trail map.

Sterling Forest State Park Model

Sterling Forest State Park Model

Inside there are dioramas on the Sterling Forest mining industry history, fauna exhibits and a huge model of Sterling Forest itself.

Trail

From the visitor center let’s head east into a brief section of forest  on a footpath.

Old Forge Road C

Old Forge Road Crossing

After rambling through this portion of the trail we follow the Sterling Lake Loop trail east crossing Old Forge Road near private residences.

McKeages Meadow Connector

McKeages Meadow Connector

After crossing Old Forge Road the orange triangle blazed McKeages Meadow Connector trail appears to our right.

Truck Trailers Sterling Lake Loop

Truck Trailers Sterling Lake Loop

Continuing straight ahead on the Sterling Lake Trail, the trail turns from a footpath to a woods road as we pass old trailers to our left near private property.

Old Railroad Causeway

Old Railroad Causeway

Wetland

Wetland

From here we follow the Sterling Loop trail as it crosses a wetland via an old mining railroad embankment.

Second Old Forge Road Crossing

Second Old Forge Road Crossing

Long Meadow Road appears ahead but the trail turns north just missing the busy road. Crossing Old Forge Road for the second time we find ourselves heading north climbing.

Dead Hemlock

Dead Hemlock

We have reached an Eastern Hemlock dominated forest but unfortunately many of the Hemlocks are dead or dying due to the Woolly Adelgid, a non-native pest from Asia. The Adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees.  This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.

Pine Meadow Trail Connector Trailhead

Pine Meadow Trail Connector Trailhead

As we head northwest, the 0.3 Mile Orange Blazed Pine Meadow Connector Trail appears to our right.

Sterling Lake Loop Grassy Trail

Sterling Lake Loop Grassy Trail

Our feet are in for a treat as the trail becomes a soft grassy road as we continue heading north on the Sterling Lake Loop.

First view of Sterling Lake

First view of Sterling Lake

Our first glimpses of Sterling Lake appears to our left as the trail turns northwest.

Sweetfern

Sweetfern

Whew! Let’s take a quick breather and take time to look at some of the vegetation growing near the trail. Here’s some Sweetfern native to the Eastern US. Its name is misleading as Sweetfern is not a fern at all but a deciduous shrub. The “sweet” in Sweetfern is correct as the leaves give off a sweet odor when crushed. Sweetfern typically grows in dry upland habitat.

Hog Peanut

Hog Peanut

Hey! Is this Poison Ivy? It’s got the whole “leaves of three leave ‘em be” look. Nope, it’s a vine known as Hog Peanut. Hog Peanut is a member of the Bean Family (unlike Poison Ivy which is a member of the Cashew Family) and helps out plants growing nearby by correcting Nitrogen levels in the soil. Hog Peanut is common in both dry and mesic (moist) forest types.

American Chestnut

American Chestnut

Here’s American Chestnut. The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife fed on its chestnuts. Mature American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight from Asia. The blight,  imported to the US via Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. American Chestnut now survives only in the understory as shoots sprouting from old roots (which are not affected by the blight). The American Chestnut sprouts reach about twenty feet before the blight strikes. The roots then shoots up new sprouts and the process repeats itself. The American Chestnut Foundation  is currently working to restore the once great American Chestnut back to its native range. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information. Click here!

Powerline Cut

Powerline Cut

Milkweed in Bloom

Milkweed in Bloom

Continuing north we reach a Powerline cut in the forest. Powerline cuts create permanent Shrubland which provides habitat for flora such as Milkweed, an important wildlife plant (especially for Monarch Butterflies) which does not grow in the dense shade of the forest floor.

6.01 (46)

Heading south a portion of the Yellow Blazed 6.2 mile Sterling Valley Trail joins the Sterling Lake Loop trail from the north.

Tiny Toad

Looking down as we walk on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop & Sterling Valley Loop we spot movement. Tiny toads!

Little Toads

Little Toads (Most are circled-see if you can find ones I missed!)

Let’s carefully and slowly proceed west on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake/Sterling Valley trail watching where we step.

Sterling Lake

Sterling Lake

We have now arrived at the northern tip of Sterling Lake.

Approaching a small sandy beach we spot a turtle digging in the sand.

Turtle heading back to Sterling Lake

Turtle heading back to Sterling Lake

But, as soon as we spot this turtle it takes off with surprising speed to Sterling Lake…..

Turtle back in Sterling Lake

…where it quickly disappears under the water.

Pond

Pond

Leaving the sandy beach and the now vanished turtle behind we cross an earthen causeway separating the pond above from Sterling Lake.

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Taking a closer look at the pond reveals an active beaver lodge.

5-Line Skink

5-Line Skink

Continuing west past a former boat launch a movement on a rock catches our eye. A 5-Line Skink! Native to the Eastern US, the 5-Link Skink is one of the most common lizards found in the Eastern Forest.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Heading south on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop and Sterling Valley Loop we spot some blueberries growing along the side of the trail.  The blueberries provide a refreshing treat as we continue our hike.

Sterling Valley Trail Exits

Sterling Valley Trail Exits

As we continue south Sterling Lake now appears to our left and the Yellow Blazed Sterling Valley Trail exits.

Sterling Lake View

Continuing south on the Sterling Lake Loop trail we see beautiful views of Sterling Lake.

Sterling Forest Fire Tower Connector Trail

Sterling Forest Fire Tower Connector Trail

As we walk we find the woods road the trail has been following has ended and the trail now follows a paved road (West Sterling Lake Road) passing the Fire Connector trail to our left.

Lakeville Ironworks Trail

Lakeville Ironworks Trail

Ruins

Ruins

As we walk on the pavement we pass ruins of Lakeville Ironworks and the trailhead of the 3/4 of a mile mile Lakeville Ironworks trail. These buildings are remnants of former mining operations.

More Ruins

Located in the Highlands geologic region, the hills of Sterling Forest were mined for iron ore known as magnetite beginning in 1730 and ending in the 1920’s when the last of the mines shut down.

Help Save New York's Ash Trees

Help Save New York’s Ash Trees

As we walk we notice signs tied to nearby White Ash trees. The signs are in relation to the Emerald Ash Borer, a destructive pest from Asia which threatens all ash trees. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood of ash trees.

Sterling Lake Outlet with Sterling Furnace in distance

Sterling Lake Outlet with Sterling Furnace in distance

Heading east on a footpath back in the forest we are now crossing the outlet of Sterling Lake near its dam. The Sterling Lake dam was originally built in the mid 1700’s to provide water power to the the Sterling Furnace. The dam raised the water level of Sterling Lake by 8 feet. A mine (now completely filled with water) was located directly below Sterling Lake.

Sterling Furnace

Sterling Furnace

Sterling Furnace was used until 1804 to create Pig Iron. Later, raw iron ore was shipped by trail to PA to be smelted using large coal deposits. The furnace was rebuilt by the City Investing Corporation in the 1950’s.

Remains of Lakeville Church

Remains of Lakeville Church

Near the visitor center we pass the  foundation of Lakeville’s Church. Well, we are now back at the visitor center and have completed our virtual hike of Sterling Lake! I hope you enjoyed your journey and that you check out this hike in person! Click here for directions!

Woods Road

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation - This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

3. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

4.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

5. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Wawayanda State Park’s Cedar Swamp Natural Area!


Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Welcome to Wawayanda State Park! Located in the NJ Highlands, Wawayanda State Park was one of the first major acquisitions by the New Jersey Green Acres program. Wawayanda State Park was purchased in 1963 from the New Jersey Zinc Company which had proposed development for the property. The name “Wawayanda” is of Lenape origin and is said to mean water on the mountain. Many prefer to call it “way way yonder” since the park is located in a remote area of northwestern Passaic and southeastern Sussex counties.

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park is home to a multitude of wildlife including state threatened Red-Shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl and Bobcat. The park is also a strong hold for Black Bears in NJ.

Trails

Trail

Today we are going to explore a portion of the 2,167 acre Wawayanda Swamp Natural Area-home to a globally rare inland Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and the largest natural area present in the park.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Wawayanda’s Atlantic White Cedar Swamp formed around 15,000 years ago and sections of the swamp have remained unchanged since the last ice age.

Wawayanda Lake

Wawayanda Lake

Using this trail map, let’s start our journey by heading to the trail-head of the 1.6 mile yellow blazed Double Pond Trail near the camping areas of Wawayanda State Park. Double Pond Trail is named after the original name of nearby Wawayanda Lake which was once two bodies of water separated by a thin strip of land.

Wawayanda Furnace

Wawayanda Furnace

On our way to the Double Pond Trail we pass the ruins of the Wawayanda Furnace, a 37 foot tall charcoal blast furnace where pig iron, a crude form of iron, was produced for railroad car wheels. The charcoal blast-furnace is a remnant of a once-thriving village and was last used in 1857.

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Leaving the furnace behind, let’s head east to the start of the Double Pond Trail.

Entering the forest we find Indian Cucumber growing alongside American Beech. Indian Cucumber is an indicator of rich moist woods. The plant can grow up to 30 inches high.

Indian Cucumber

Indian Cucumber

As we walk there are several rock outcrops comprised of ancient granite whose age is likely around 1 billion years old.

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Here we see Mayapple sprouting near the base of one outcrop. As we continue closer to the Cedar Swamp we find an interesting small tree known as Striped Maple with bark striped green and white.

Striped Maple

Striped Maple

Striped Maple is a common understory tree of cool mesic forests.

Striped Maple Leaves

Striped Maple Leaves

After walking about .4 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we have reached a bridge crossing a creek.

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Swamp

After checking out the views, let’s take the trail back into the forest passing the trailhead for the Red Dot Trail to our right.

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail

Double Pond Trail

Continuing on the Double Pond Trail dense Rhododendrons are appearing to the side and branching overhead forming a tunnel in places mixed with Eastern Hemlocks making this part of the park appear to be a jungle.

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

After traveling about .9 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we find ourselves at the Trail-head of the 1.5 mile Blue Blazed Cedar Swamp Trail appearing to the right. This trail will take us right into the center of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp! Today we will hike only about half a mile of the Cedar Swamp trail since there has been much rain causing the water levels in the swamp to rise and flood most of the trail.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

After walking a short distance through more Rhododendron tunnels we find planks of wood have been placed over permanent flooded sections of the trail.

Frog Tannin Stained Water

Frog Tannin Stained Water

We have arrived in the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. The water is shallow and tannin stained and filled with frogs.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar occurs on hydric soils in low nutrient water usually on or near the coastal plain. This is what makes finding this pocket of thriving Atlantic White Cedar located so far away from the coastal plain so special.

Other common tree species found in Atlantic White Cedar Swamps include:

Abandoned Car

Abandoned Car

About .05 of a mile into the trail we find the remains of an old car that has been here for many years. Nature is reclaiming the car for its own. As we proceed slightly further we find the boardwalks have ended and the trails are flooded due to the recent heavy rains.

Frog

Frog

Turning around on the Cedar Swamp Trail we head back to the boardwalks and see numerous frogs in the tannin stained water of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.

Heading back to the Double Pond Trail we hear a low grunt of a Black Bear nearby alerting us of his presence.

Possible Bear Print

Possible Bear Print

Judging by the above wet paw print on this rock we just missed him!

Wood Ducks and Mallar

Wood Ducks and Mallard

Heading back on the Wooden Bridge catch we glimpses of Wood Ducks and a solitary Mallard out on the water.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

As we leave the swamp and head into mesic (moist) woods, we pass a Yellow Birch tree with its roots exposed. This tree likely began life growing on an old log that has since long ago decayed and returned to the earth.

Red Eft

Red Eft

As we walk we see a bright orange movement on the ground. It’s a Red Eft! Red Efts are juvenile terrestrial Eastern Newts. When fully mature the newt will spend the rest of its life (12-15 years) in the waters of the swamp.

We’ve now made it back to the old iron furnace! I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Wawayanda’s Cedar Swamp and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Wawayanda's Jungle (Cedar Swamp Trail)

Wawayanda’s Jungle (Cedar Swamp Trail)

Directions: (As taken from NJ DEP Website)

Directions:
Take Route 23 north to Union Valley Road. Follow Union Valley Road about 6 miles to stop sign. From Stop sign, go to second traffic light. Turn left, travel to fork in road (about 2 miles) go left about 1/2 mile to Warwick Turnpike. Turn left. The park entrance is four miles on the left.

Great Ecology/Hiking Books!

1. Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

2. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

3. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

4.60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

5. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Exploring Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Swan Lake!


The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Welcome to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! Located in Sleepy Hollow, NY, the 1,000 + acre park features a variety of habitats ranging from open meadows, deciduous forest & wetlands. Rockefeller State Park Preserve is listed as an “IBA” (Important Bird Area) by the National Audubon Society. Over 180 species of birds have been documented in the preserve!

Female Yellow Warbler

Female Yellow Warbler

Common birds (depending on the time of the year) found in the preserve include the belong among others:

Virtual Tour

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Welcome! Today, using the map above, we are going to explore the Swan Lake area of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! (Click here to see a PDF version)

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

The 22 acre Swan Lake was created by impounding a tributary of the Pocantico River (a tributary of the Hudson River).

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The carriage roads we will be walking on were developed by John D Rockefeller Sr & John D Rockefeller Jr between the years 1910-1950. Every winter the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve evaluates which trails need fresh surface material added.  Drainage of trails is completed every spring to ensure carriage roads stay dry. Trail maintenance is a 12 month process!

Virtual Tour

After paying the minimal parking fee ($6 at the time of this writing) let’s walk over to the visitor center.

Japanese Peony

Japanese Peony

After picking up a trail map let’s check out the interesting flowering plants blooming nearby. These flowers are Japanese Peony and are known as the “King of Flowers” in Japan.

Information about The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Just past the flowers and the visitor center there is a  kiosk chock full of information about the Rockefeller State Park preserve.

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Here we can find excellent information regarding common flora and fauna of the preserve. All set? Let’s head towards Swan lake!

Fern Garden

Fern Garden

But first let’s poke around the Fern Garden found just past the visitor center. The fern garden is populated with Cinnamon, Royal & Sensitive Ferns among other species including some rather large Jack-in-the-Pulpits!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Leaving the Fern Garden we follow a brief trail through a forest to get to Brother’s Path.

Brother's Path

Brother’s Path

We are going to be following the 1.1 mile Brother’s Path which encircles Swan Lake.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

As we start out heading south on the Brother’s Path, the trailhead of the .7 mile Overlook Trail appears to our right.

Overlook Trail

Overlook Trail

Let’s take a quick detour from Brother’s Path to walk a section of the  Overlook Path for a few minutes. According to the Hudson River Audubon Society website this area is one of the best spots to view Eastern Bluebirds. Eastern Bluebirds, New York’s state bird, are a small thrush whose habitats include open woodlands and meadows such as where we are right now.  Eastern Bluebird populations have experienced a decline due to strong competition from aggressive non-native birds like the House Sparrow and European Starlings.

Eastern Blue Bird (NY's State Bird!)

Eastern Blue Bird (NY’s State Bird!)

As we ponder the future fate of these birds a blue blur flies by and lands on a nesting box which has been placed in the meadow by a member of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve staff.  Ready to head back to the Brother’s Path? Let’s head back to continue our journey around Swan Lake. Heading south on Brother’s Path we see continuous views of Swan Lake mixed with occasional Flowering Dogwood to our left.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood, native to the eastern United States, is a common understory tree found in forest edges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Continuing south an opening has appeared to our right providing a view of the sweeping meadows we sampled on the Overlook Trail. As we walk Swan Lake is becoming narrower. Turning east we cross over two Pocantico River tributaries draining Swan Lake.

American Beech Trees

American Beech Trees

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

We pass near a few American Beech trees and a Skunk Cabbage dominated wetland.

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north. Swan Lake is now on our left.

Swan Lake to our left

Swan Lake to our left

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower in bloom

As we walk, we pass Canada Mayflower to our left in bloom. Canada Mayflower is part of the Lily family and native to the Eastern United States.

Eastern Chipmunk near it's home

Eastern Chipmunk near it’s home

A sudden squeak makes an Eastern Chipmunk known to us.

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

I’m not sure if the chipmunk is sounding the alarm over us or this Northern Black Racer lurking nearby. Maybe both?

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we leave the chipmunk and snake we hear a sudden “meow” sound and realize that the sound is not coming from a cat but a bird! The bird is  a Gray Catbird. Gray Catbirds are migratory and fly to the southeaster US, Mexico and Central America for the winter months.

Striped Wintergreen

Striped Wintergreen

Continuing north and passing the trailhead to the Ridge Trail, we spot some Striped Wintergreen, a species which is considered vulnerable in New York.

Mallards near Swan Lake

Mallards near Swan Lake

Turtle Swan Lake

We cross over a Swan Lake feeder stream and pass a couple of Mallards and a turtle as we head west on the Brothers Path back to the parking lot to complete our hike. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Swan Lake and that it inspired you to visit it for yourself!

Click here for directions!

Recommended Books:

1) WALKABLE WESTCHESTER – The book covers over 180 parks with almost 600 miles of trails in Westchester County.

Click here for more information!

2) The Nature of New York – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. Author David Stradling shows how New York’s varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state’s culture and economy.

Click here for more information!

3) Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Exploring the Wanaque River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Welcome to the Pequannock River Coalition’s 2013 Spring Hike! The Pequannock River Coalition provides a crucial voice in protecting the watershed of the Pequannock River (one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey and a tributary of the Passaic River) since 1995.

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Meet Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!

Today we are going to explore four miles of the watershed of the C1 classified Wanaque River, a tributary to the Pequannock River.

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

Right now we are at the parking lot on Beech Road in Ringwood, NJ just east of Monksville Reservoir.

Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir

Ross begins by explaining that the Monksville Reservoir was created in 1987 by impounding the  2.8 mile Wanaque River and the .4 mile Beech Brook (a Wanaque River tributary). The land comprising Monksville Reservoir was formerly a river valley. Dead Trees (snags) still poke through the water where dry land once existed.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Looking out at the reservoir a large white bird has caught Ross’s attention. The bird is a Mute Swan, he explains. Mute Swans originated from Europe and are not native to the US. The Mute Swan, according to legend, is silent all its life until right before it dies where the bird sings an achingly beautiful melody known as a “Swan Song“. The real story is Mute Swans are not mute but actually make a deep grunting territorial sound.  Click here to hear a Mute Swan for yourself!

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

Standing near the reservoir Ross points to a stand of Gray Birch Trees across the water. Gray Birch is a pioneer species that is one of the first trees to grow following a disturbance and can be found growing on poor soils. Ross says we’ll see two additional species of Birch on the hike. Let’s begin!

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

As we walk  a Tree Swallow is seen flying erratically over the water. Tree Swallows prefer inland wetland ecosystems and are among the first in the American Swallow family to migrate back after winter. You can hear a Tree Swallow Sing by clicking here!

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

A second after seeing the Tree Swallow a Red-Winged Blackbird makes its presence known. Red-Winged Blackbirds are usually found in wetlands such as those found in the intact woodlands surrounding Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Red-Winged Blackbird!

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Near the northern edge of the reservoir Ross points out an active Beaver Lodge to us.  A beaver lodge is the home of the American Beaver and is created from sticks, mud and rocks. A small opening at the top of the lodge provides air.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

As we walk closer to the woods we stop in front of an old Eastern Hemlock tree which has been punctured with large rectangular holes. The holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker looking for one of their favorite foods: Carpenter Ants. Pileated Woodpeckers are North America’s largest living woodpecker and provided the model for the famous cartoon Woody Woodpecker. Their habitat is large mature forest such as the woods which surround Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Pileated Woodpecker!

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

At the end of Beech Road, we find ourselves at the entrance to Tranquility Ridge County Park  (part of the Passaic County Park System).

Preserve in Natural State sign with Monks Connector Trail

The 2,100 acre Tranquility Ridge County Park is an extension of New York’s Sterling Forest found just north of where we are now.

End of Monks Connector

End of Monks Connector

Entering the park we are now near the end of the green-blazed Monk’s Connector trail which connects to nearby Monk’s Mountain (part of Long Pond Ironworks State Park) with Tranquility Ridge County Park.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

Barely inside Tranquility Ridge County Park, Ross has spotted our second birch: Yellow Birch. Yellow Birch prefers to grow near streams & wetlands. The tree’s characteristic peeling bark is visible to all. The hairy looking vine growing on the Yellow Birch is Poison Ivy.

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Ross spots a massive tree in the distance branching out in all directions and surrounded by young trees. Ross explains that trees can only grow sideways or to the top but can’t do both.  This “lone wolf” tree will eventually be crowded out by the young trees competing for sunlight.

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

We are now turning left on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. The creation of the six mile Hasenclever Iron Trail was first conceived in 2001 by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks.  The Hasenclever Iron Trail follows an old Woods Road which dates from the 1760’s. The road connected Long Pond Ironworks with ironworks located in Ringwood.  The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks installed nine interpretive signs  along the trail in 2007. The installation was funded with a grant from the NJ Recreation Trails Program. We’ll be passing by historical signs #’s 4 through 1 today.

Beech Brook Tributary

Beech Brook Tributary

After we cross a tributary to Beech Brook Ross tells us that Beech Brook contains a naturally occurring population of Brook Trout. We have now entered the 6,911 acre Long Pond Iron Works State Park.

Beech Farm Information

Beech Farm Information

We have just passed an unmarked trail to our right and historical marker #4. Marker #4 tells us that the unmarked trail leads to Beech farm which has long been abandoned.

Wild Turkey Sign

Wild Turkey Sign

As we walk Ross points out dirt patches in the leaf litter on the ground. This was caused by Wild Turkeys looking for food.

Turkey Feather

Turkey Feather

A turkey feather has just been found in the litter. Given all this Turkey sign Ross takes out a device which makes a female turkey sound that hunters use to attract the male turkeys (toms). Ross used the device but the Turkeys have moved on for now and we do not see any.

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross strongly recommended not to play the device during Wild Turkey hunting season. Want to hear what a Wild Turkey sounds like? Click here to hear!

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross has stopped at another Eastern Hemlock and says this tree has been designated a “marking tree” by an Eastern Gray Squirrel. Squirrels rub the glands found under their chin on trees as a sign of territory to other squirrels in the other area.

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

We are now at historical marker #3 which describes Edward Hewitt, who was a member of the last family to own most of Ringwood State Park before it became state land. The Hewitt family also owned hunting and fishing camps which were built in the area we are now standing.

Ross Kushner discussing invasive Plants

Ross Kushner discussing invasive plants

This hike is taking place in early spring and the only plants we see blooming are invasive species like Japanese Barberry and Winged Euonymus (aka Burning Bush) both of which thrive in disturbed areas. Ross explains that invasive species are non-native species which lack natural predation to control their spread. As a result invasive plants crowd out native plants by forming a monoculture.

Limestone Interpretive Signage

Limestone Interpretive Signage

We’ve now at historical marker #2 which describes the role of limestone in iron making. Limestone was crushed and added to iron furnaces with iron ore where it acted as a fluxing agent to separate impurities from iron.

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross has just found our third and final species of Birch: Black Birch. Black Birch twigs and bark have a strong scent of wintergreen when scraped. Ross is scraping away some the bark of a Black Birch to take a whiff. Wintergreen oil was derived from Black Birch for commercial purposes in the past.

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Ross has stopped in front of an old Shagbark Hickory with an old Grape Vine wrapped around it.  Only mature Shagbark Hickories (such as the one we are looking at here) have actual “shagbark”. Young trees have smooth bark. The grape vine wrapped around the Shagbark Hickory is probably as old as the tree itself. Grape Vines prefers to grow where sunshine is plentiful and prefers forest edge habitat.

Rock Outcroppings

Rock Outcroppings

The rock outcroppings we are passing to our right are part of Big Beech Mountain which is one of the NJ Highlands “Baker’s Dozen”.

After a brief climb on the Hasenclever trail we pass near wetlands to our right.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

The green leaves of Skunk Cabbage are starting to poke through. Skunk Cabbage is one of the first native flowering plants and generates heat to poke through ice and snow. It generally blooms in February. Skunk Cabbage earns its name due to a foul odor emitted by torn leaves.

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

We’ve just reached historical marker #1 on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. This is the last marker we will see today. This marker describes Long Pond Village, a long ago industrial village that supported the nearby Long Pond Ironworks.

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

We are now approaching the Wanaque River. The word “Wanaque” is Native American for “place of the Sassafras Tree”. A good portion of the length of the Wanaque River is impounded to form the Monksville and Wanaque Reservoirs.  Ross tells us that a bridge used to cross the Wanaque River to the old Long Pond Ironworks but was washed away when Hurricane Irene struck in 2011. The NYNJ Trail Conference is planning to rebuild the bridge in 2013.

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

We have now left the Hasenclever Iron trail and are turning north on the joint Sterling Ridge/Highlands Trail. The Blue-on-white 8.6 mile Sterling Ridge Trail leads to Sterling Forest State Park in New York if we kept going straight. Don’t worry! Ross has no plans to take us out of New Jersey today.

Highlands Trail Blaze

Highlands Trail Blaze

We are also sharing the same path with a section of the estimate 45 mile long interstate Highlands Trail.  The Highlands Trail is a project by the NYNJ Trail Conference which highlights the unique characteristics of the Highlands region. The Highlands Trail is still a work in progress.

Tributary

Tributary

We are now following a tributary of the Wanaque River.

Eastern Hemlocks

Eastern Hemlocks

We have stopped just as we enter a cool ravine. Eastern Hemlocks favor this habitat. Indeed, Eastern Hemlocks are all around us!

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

What is Ross holding in his hand? It’s an old piece of iron slag left over from the iron making operations that took place here over a hundred years ago.

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

We are heading briefly off the marked trail and walking towards the Wanaque River. The segment of the Wanaque River seen here is draining Greenwood Lake. What a great spot for lunch! After resting we continue to walk leaving the Wanaque River and following a tributary stream.

Tributary Stream Crossing

Tributary Stream Crossing

Crossing the tributary on rocks we pass the Yellow Blazed Jennings Hollow Trailhead to our left and are now stopped at the base of a Tulip Tree.

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Trees grow straight and narrow with fissured bark. The tree’s leaves actually look like Tulip Flowers! It flowers in Mid-May to early June.

Woods Road

Woods Road

We are now walking northeast on an unblazed woods road. This is the same woods road we passed to our right when we first started out on the Hasenclever Iron Trail.

Patterson Mine

Patterson Mine

As we walk, we pass a deep impression in the ground to our left. The impression is a remnant of the Patterson Mine.  The Patterson Mine last saw operation at the end of the 1800’s. Ore from the Patterson Mine was sold to the local market or supplied ironworks found in the area.

Abandoned Motorcyle

Abandoned Motorcyle

Check out the abandoned motorcycle to our right! It’s pretty old but it is still standing.

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

Off to the left of the woods road is a vernal pond.  Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are free of fish and provide valuable areas for amphibians such as Wood Frogs to lay eggs. Wood Frogs are found further north than any other species of frog. Ross explains that the theory is this: water found in cells will expand to the point of explosion when frozen. Wood frogs have found a way to move water molecules outside their cells when they get frozen to prevent this from happening.

Red Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

We’ve just turned right on another unmarked trail following Beech Brook to our right. Ross suddenly stops. He’s found a Red Velvet Mite!  Red Velvet Mites live in the soil and eat fungi and bacteria. Red Velvet Mites are harmless to humans and are part of the arachnid family (the same family spiders belong to).

Well, we’ve arrived back at the gate and back at our cars! What a great hike!

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Want to check out this hike for yourself? Here are the directions to the parking lot where the hike begins!

Take exit 57 on Rt. 287 to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline 5 miles north to Greenwood Lake Turnpike. Make a right there onto Greenwood Lake Turnpike and follow it about 4 miles to a right on Beech Road. Look for a gravel parking area at the reservoir on the left.

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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