Category Archives: American Chestnut Blight

Plants of New Jersey # 8 American Chestnut


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American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) which is part of the Beech family. The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife including the extinct Passenger Pigeon fed on its chestnuts. American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight  via infected Chinese Chestnut Trees.

View album “Turnure Park”

Typical cankers from the Chestnut Blight on an American Chestnut Tree

The blight is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. It was first noticed in NYC. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information on how this tree may be brought back to life and become the dominant species of the Eastern Forest once more.

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American Chestnut Sprout

American Chestnut once comprised as much as 25% of the forest canopy prior to the blight. Today the tree is part of the understory as a sprout. Oak and Hickory trees have replaced the once dominant Chestnut in the canopy. Where a mature American Chestnut Tree once reached 100 feet before the blight struck, today the sprout only grows to maybe 15- 20 feet or so before the blight kills it. We see these sprouts because the blight affects the trunk of the tree and not the roots.

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American Chestnut

Sprouts of American Chestnut can be found in moist uplands. Farmers once considered the American Chestnut to be a weed tree as it grew fast and often where it wasn’t wanted. There are some mature American Chestnuts that settlers took with them out west far out of their native range and thus far have not been inflicted with the blight.

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut Leaf

The leaves of the American Chestnut are similar to the American Beech but are longer. Check out this resource from the American Chestnut Foundation on how to properly identify American Chestnut — > American Chestnut Field Guide

American Chestnut Turnure Park

American Chestnut Burs

At this point you may be thinking, “this article is rubbish! I get chestnuts all the time from the grocery store“. And here is my gotcha moment! Those chestnuts are either of a European or Asiatic variety. It is said that the taste of the American Chestnut was far more sweeter than any other. A tree that people sometimes confuse for the American Chestnut is the non-native Horse-Chestnut Tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) whose nuts are toxic.

Thank you for tagging along today!

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Hiking Turkey Mountain!


Pyramid Mountain County Park

Pyramid Mountain County Park

Welcome to Pyramid Mountain County Park! Pyramid Mountain is part of the Morris County Park System and contains more than 1,500 acres of preserved open space. The land comprising the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area was set aside as Morris County parkland in 1989 after a long struggle to help preserve these ecologically and geologically diverse acres.

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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 Crossing 1

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.

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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

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-Lined 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

 

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

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 comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Passaic County’s Friendship Park!


Friendship Park

Friendship Park

Welcome to Passaic County’s Friendship Park!

Friendship Park

Friendship Park

The 244 acre park, located in Bloomingdale, NJ consists of deciduous wooded uplands and wetlands.

Virtual Hike

(Trail Map taken from the Passaic County Parks Page)

Friendship Park Trail Map

The 0.9 Orange Blazed Trail (aka Friendship loop) we are going to follow was blazed courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.  Ok, ready to start?

Orange Trail Trailhead

Orange Trail Trailhead

From the parking area head east to the Orange Blazed Trailhead near a wetland.

Rock Formation

 

Turn left heading north on the trail. Immediately you will notice a large outcrop of rocks of precambrian origin. The rocks  are known as  “basement rocks” and were originally covered by soil and other rocks. Through the years due to natural activities such as past glacier action the rocks became exposed. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.

Puddingstone

Puddingstone

Pudding stone rocks, seen above, are common in the NJ Highlands and consist of well-rounded quartz and red sandstone cobbles in a fine-grained red ironstone matrix.

Dry Stream

Dry Stream

After a few minutes, you will pass over a seasonal stream. Wait! Where’s the water? That’s a good question and I am glad you asked it. This stream is part of the wetlands that exist in Friendship park and only flows when the water table located below the surface gets too high such as in heavy downpours in spring.

Fence

 

Continuing on we come to the northern boundary of Friendship park which is seen here as a fence separating the park from an old abandoned golf course. Let’s stop and look around for a second. It seems we are not alone. There’s an American Robin & Eastern Gray Squirrel keeping watch over the forest.

American Robin

American Robin

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Wait! What’s this? It’s an American Chestnut Sprout!

American Chestnut

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. 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!

Black Oak Coppice

Black Oak Coppice

Heading east now there is a slight climb where we see a large coppice Black Oak.  The orange blazed trail now continues on top of a large rock ledge.

Rock Ledge

Rock Ledge

The trail now starts to descend as we turn right and head south.  Be careful to follow the orange blazes here as there are other trails that are not blazed which meander through the forest. According to our trail map, it looks like we left the trail! Let’s head back and find the last blaze.

Back on the Trail!

Back on the Trail!

Whew! Back on the trail! Let’s stop and listen to the sounds of the forest: Sounds like we are hearing a White Breasted Nuthatch & a Blue Jay. Let’s continue on our hike!  Now we have arrived at the bottom of the descent.

Friendship Park Wetlands

Friendship Park Wetlands

Notice how the flora has changed. Before we came down here there was Chestnut Oak  but now we see the ground is wet and tussock sedge and Musclewood have appeared.

Musclewood

Musclewood

Turning right and heading north we are only a short distance from the trail’s end. But before we continue pause and check out those old growth White Oak Trees!

Massive Old Growth White Oaks

Massive Old Growth White Oaks

We have now come to the end of the orange trail and our exploration of Friendship Park.

Orange Trail End

Orange Trail End

Trail Update: There are now three connector trails within the orange loop, blazed red, yellow and blue. (Thanks John!)

Interested in checking out Friendship Park yourself? Check out below!

Directions (as taken from the NY NJ Trail Conference Website)

From I-287 north or south take Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. In 1.3 miles (from Route 287), you will reach a fork in the road. Bear right (following the sign to West Milford), and in another 0.1 mile, turn right (uphill) onto Glenwild Avenue. Proceed for another 0.3 mile to the intersection of Woodward Avenue (on the left). Opposite this intersection, you will notice a dirt parking area bordered by stones on the right. Turn right and park here.

Northern Red Oak Friendship Park

Northern Red Oak Friendship Park

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!

  1. Wetlands
  2.  Plant Communities of NJ

 

Hiking West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain!


Kanouse Mountain

Kanouse Mountain

The 2011 Pequannock River Coalition Fall (2019 Update: Pequannock River Coalition is now defunct) Hike took place in West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain located in the Newark Watershed lands.

Attendees of 2011 PRC Fall Hike near trail entrance off Route 23

Attendees of 2011 PRC Fall Hike near trail entrance off Route 23

The 1,100 foot Kanouse Mountain is located off of Route 23 North near Echo Lake Road in the Newfoundland section of West Milford. Dense woodlands surround the mountain to the north, Echo Lake is to the north east, Kanouse Brook is to the west, the Echo Lake Channel is to the east and Route 23 is to the south and southeast.

Kanouse Brook Tributary

Kanouse Brook Tributary

Kanouse Brook has a naturally regenerating trout population and drains into the Pequannock River.

Attendees of the hike parked off of Old Route 23 near the NJ Transit Park & Ride and walked to the entrance of the trail off of Route 23 North near the entering Newfoundland sign.

Entering Newfoundland

Entering Newfoundland

The hike took place on unmarked wood roads starting in a northeast direction to the summit of Kanouse Mountain where a large star, American flag and outstanding views were present.

Star on top Kanouse Mountain

Star on top Kanouse Mountain

US Flag on top of Kanouse Mountain

US Flag on top of Kanouse Mountain

View of Charlottesburg Reservoir from top of Kanouse Mountain

View of Charlottesburg Reservoir from top of Kanouse Mountain

Views of Route 23

Views of Route 23

View of Copperas Mountain (Foreground) & Green Pond Mountain (Background)

View of Copperas Mountain (Foreground) & Green Pond Mountain (Background)

Charlottesburg Reservoir was formed from the impoundment of the Pequannock River which is given C1 water classification. The C1 classification is used to indicate that the river is relatively unspoiled in comparison to other rivers in NJ.

See the link for how water is classified in NJ –> NJDEP Water Classifications RE 2012-8-8.

As with all Pequannock River Coalition Hikes, Ross Kusher (the executive director of PRC) discussed different points of interest along the hike including ecology and geology. This interesting information makes a hike much more than a physical journey. The information provided by Ross’s expertise boosts the strength of your mind as you learn new aspects of your surroundings.

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

The geology of Kanouse Mountain and the surrounding highlands is estimated to be between 400-435 million years old and thought to be from the Silurian Period of the Paleozoic Era. Past glacier activity courtesy of the Wisconsin Glacier is evident by gentle slopes on the north side of the mountain and a sudden drop on the south side.  As the Wisconsin glacier moved through the area 10,000 years ago it pushed rocks and carved out hillsides creating this phenomenon present throughout the highlands region.

Small trace amounts of copper have been found alongside the much more abundant iron in the highlands region. It is said that nearby Copperas Mountain was named so because of the copper that was once taken from it.

Coyote Footprint

Coyote Footprint

Occasionally the group came across muddy areas when the trail crossed through wetlands. These muddy spots are prime spots to look for animal prints. Ross pointed out this Eastern Coyote print found in the picture above.

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

The group found this Wood Frog near the trail. Though hard to tell from this photo, wood frogs generally look like they have a robber’s mask on due to the dark patch which extends backward from their eye. These frogs are often found in moist wooded areas.

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut saplings were found periodically in the forest. Once a dominant tree in the forest canopy, the Chestnut blight has reduced the tree to the shrub layer. Once the American Chestnut reaches about twenty feet or so the blight strikes and kills it. The tree may die, but the root structure is still alive and sends up new sprouts. The American Chestnut Foundation is working to defeat the blight and restore its former footprint.

Other flora found includes these among others:

Northern Red Oak

Northern Red Oak

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern

Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak

Ground Pine

Ground Pine

Ross explained that Black Bears love the fruits of Shadbush. He once tasted the berries and compared them to wet cardboard. White Oak Ross said was cherished by wildlife for its sweet acorns.

The hike was an estimated six miles and went in a loop fashion so that attendees came out the same way the came in.  What a great fall hike!

Remember, to hike in the Newark Watershed land a permit is required.

For more information on  obtaining a Newark watershed permit click here.

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!