Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by thePompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.
We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!
Blue-Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail
Starting from Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes we will head straight going west at the intersection near the trailhead of the .59 of a mile Pompton Aquatic Park Trail. The entire trail is through fresh water wetlands. Its good we picked the month of August to walk through when it is nice and dry! In fact, if we didn’t look at the vegetation growing we might not even know we were walking through wetlands. Common wetland vegetation growing along the trail as we walk include:
All of the above flora are native except for Purple Loosestrife and Japanese Knotweed which are considered invasive plants, that is, they displace and prevent native plants from growing because there are no natural predators native to the US to stop the spread of these plants.
Intersection of the Blue Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail with the Yellow Blazed Rivercrest Trail
From here we will follow the 1 mile yellow blazed Rivercrest Trail which is the longest trail found in Pompton Aquatic Park. We will head north on this out and back trail (meaning we will retrace our steps). Out and back trails are a good way to verify if you missed something as you walked.
And there is the Pompton River! The Pompton River formed just north of Aquatic Park through the confluence of the Pequannock, Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers. The river above the park is technically still called the Pequannock River. The Pompton River is classified FW2-NT (fresh water non-trout production or maintenance) by the NJ DEP. The Pompton River is a major tributary to the Passaic River.
Painted Turtles in the Pompton River
As we walk along we spot some painted turtles bobbing in the Pompton River. Don’t they have the life! Not a care in the world!
Invasive Mile-a-Minute Plant
We see jumbles of arrow shaped leaves everywhere. It’s a Mile-a-Minute Plant another invasive. It is native to Asia.
We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!
Well, we have made it to the end of the Rivercrest Trail at Joe’s Grill Field (which is part of the Pompton Lakes park system.). Time to head back the way we came to get to our cars. Glad you could make it! It is my hope that this ‘virtual tour’ of Pompton Aquatic Park inspires you to visit and check it out for yourself!
Feel free to comment with any memories, wildlife sightings or any other comments about Pompton Aquatic Park! Thank you and have fun exploring!
The trailhead discussed in this post is located off of Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes NJ.
Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!
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.
Pyramid Mountain contains a wide variety of natural habitats which support the following flora & fauna (among many other species found within Pyramid Mountain):
Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take place in the fall. You are in for a treat today! We’re going to see some views, explore some stone ruins, see a scenic waterfall and head down 100 steps! Ready to begin?
From the parking area we head southeast on a section of the 3.7 mile yellow trail to the 0.7 mile red-dot trail.
Ahead of us is a wildlife blind in front of a large marsh. You might say this is a swamp but that would be incorrect. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas in front of is an open marsh. What’s that noise to our left? A White-Tailed Deer is running away with its white tail held up high. What’s that noise we are hearing? It sounds like Spring Peepers! Spring Peepers in the fall? Yep, it happens! Spring Peepers sometimes sound out in the fall during the period that day lengths and temperatures resemble those that occur in the spring.
Ready to continue? Let’s retrace our steps on the red dot trail back to the yellow trail.
Once back on yellow trail we pass a large wetland to our north as we head southeast. From here we come to an intersection with the 1.5 mile blue blazed Butler-Montville Trail. Let’s take it!
Butler-Montville Trail Bridge over Lake Valhalla Tributary
Heading northeast on blue blazed Butler-Montville trail we cross over a Lake Valhalla tributary and pass a large wetland on our left.
Waterfall Trail Trailhead
From here we will take a right on the 1.5 mile green blazed Waterfall trail.
Lake Valhalla View
Wow! What a view! We have come to the Lake Valhalla overlook. Lake Valhalla is a private lake surrounded by homes.
After resting and taking in the views we continue on the green trail and come to stone ruins. The stone ruins were a cabin which was never completed due to the construction of the nearby power lines. Someone must be waiting for Santa to come down the chimney because we find a mini Christmas stocking hanging up.
Cabin Ruins Fireplace
Near the ruins of the cabin a strikingly beautiful red bush appears. This is “Winged Burning Bush” an invasive plant. Invasive plants have no known predators to keep them in check and can take over a natural area preventing native plants (which native insects and birds depend on) from establishing.
We have now arrived at an intersection with the 0.9 mile Red trail and pass under some massive powerlines.
From here we have a great view of NYC off in the distance.
Let’s continue east on the green blazed Waterfall trail so we can see what this trail is named after! Let’s go!
As we walk east on the green blazed Waterfall trail the 3.7 mile Yellow trail joins the Waterfall trail from the south. From here we will take the joint Waterfall/Yellow trail heading north to the North Valhalla Brook waterfall.
As we approach the North Valhalla Brook waterfall the 3.7 Yellow trail branches off heading northeast.
North Valhalla Brook Waterfall
Nice! The recent rains in the past few days have turned the North Valhalla brook waterfalls into a raging rush of water!
North Valhalla Brook
After enjoying the scenic waterfall we turn left on the green blazed Waterfall trail heading northwest and start to climb with North Valhalla Brook to our right. North Valhalla Brook is a tributary to the Rockaway River which in itself is a tributary of the Passaic River. North Valhalla Brook (aka Crooked Brook) is labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as FW2-NT (C2). What this means is that North Valhalla Brook is non-trout (NT) and is a freshwater stream.
As we walk through the Highlands Forest, let’s discuss a bit about the forest found all around us. Historically, this forest was termed an “Oak-Chestnut” forest until the demise of the American Chestnut over 100 years ago. Today, despite Hickories being a more minor part of the forest, this forest is a “Oak-Hickory” forest. The most common Oak trees found in the New Jersey Highlands include:
We have now come to the end of the yellow trail. We are 890 feet above sea level, just two feet shy of the top of Turkey Mountain! We are an intersection with the red trail. We are going to head to a section of Turkey Mountain known as the “100 steps”. Here we take a right on the red trail to continue our journey.
That was a quick walk!
We are now at the intersection of the blue blazed 1.5 mile Butler-Montville trail and the beginning of the 100 steps. We are going to take a right on the Butler-Montville Trail heading west.
Above us and all around are massive powerlines. The good news is powerlines create permanent shrub habitat which is useful for many species of birds.
After carefully going down the rocks we arrive back at Boonton Avenue and to our car.
Thanks for walking with me on our virtual exploration of Turkey Mountain!
I hope that it inspired you to check out Turkey Mountain for yourself!
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!
Despite its close proximity to the Ramapo Mountains which are comprised of Highlands “basement” rocks, Campgaw Mountain comes from a different geological background. With a ridge expanding two miles Campgaw Mountain is comprised of basalt and is part of the Watchung Mountains. Elevations range from 300 feet to a maximum elevation of 751 feet atop Campgaw Mountain.
Campgaw Mountain contains several ecological communities including upland xeric (dry) deciduous forest, mesic (moist) deciduous forest and deciduous forest wetlands. Meadow habitat can be found along the power lines within the boundaries of the park.
The below are a sample of a list of birds that have been spotted within Campgaw Mountain:
Welcome! Today we are going to see eastern views near a ski lift, and explore an interesting pond! Ready? Let’s go!
Let’s start our journey by heading west on the joint .5 of a mile Yellow Blazed Indian Trail and Blue Blazed .90 of a mile Rocky Ridge trail.
Almost immediately the blue blazed rocky ridge trail splits off from the yellow blazed Indian Trail. Let’s take it! We’ll meet up again with the Indian Trail later. On the Rocky Ridge Trail we pass under power lines between two old buildings.
Old Cedar Trail 1
As we walk we go through an intersection with the 2.10 mile Red Blazed Old Cedar Trail.
The Rocky Ridge footpath has now changed to a gravel road which we are climbing. Looking to the sides of the trail we see lots of Japanese Barberry, which has become an established invasive plant in the understory of the forest of Campgaw Mountain.
Old Cedar Trail
As we near the top of our climb the Rocky Ridge Trail has left the gravel road and is now a rocky footpath traveling along the ridge of Campgaw Mountain (hence the trail’s name!) We pass through another intersection with the 2.10 mile Old Cedar trail.
Basalt Rocky Ridge
Turning north on the Rocky Ridge Trail we find the landscape has become even more rocky but pleasant and more open like the environment found among the ridges of nearby High Mountain Park Preserve with basalt appearing now and then.
Dutchman Breeches Rocky Ridge Trail
As we walk on the basalt of Campgaw Mountain, we spot some Dutchman Breeches along with some Hepatica flowers growing to the side of the trail. Dutchman Breeches are named as such because the flowers resembles old-fashioned breeches. Hepatica flowers are named as such because the leaves are said to resemble liver. Both are ephemeral flowers found only in the early spring before the leaves on the trees come back. As we admire the flowers we hear a Red-Tailed Hawk screech overhead.
Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar
Looking at some of the trees as we walk we pass by Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar. We have now arrived in an open woodland. We spot Wineberry, a common invasive plant from Asia sprouting from the forest floor. As we walk we pass several structures for Frisbee golf (aka disc golf) which is set up throughout the park.
Rocky Ridge Trail End
Arriving near the ski lefts the .50 of a mile yellow blazed Indian Trail we left when we first started reappears.
Eastern View with Ski Lifts
Take a look at the view! Here we can see a clear eastern view of surrounding Bergen County.
Leaving the the Rocky Ridge Trail, we now head east on the yellow blazed Indian Trail and pass the green blazed beeches trail to our left and right.
Skunk Cabbage Wetlands
Looking to our left we spot a good amount of Skunk Cabbage as we go down the Indian Trail. Ahead of us is a swamp. Many people think that any wetland they may see is a swamp but this is not the case. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas marshes do not.
From the Indian Trail we turn left on the orange blazed Hemlock Trail. The Hemlock Trail follows along the shore of Fyke Pond which was created from the impoundment of Fyke Brook.
As we walk along we pass several smooth bark grey trees. These are American Beech, a slow growing native deciduous tree of the eastern forest.
American Beech Hemlock Trail
Continuing on we pass to our left two massive boulders made of basalt.
Basalt Boulders Hemlock Trail
As we pass the boulders a sudden cry pierces the ear: a Blue Jay has noticed our presence and is sounding the alarm that we are in its forest.
As we walk we pass by many dead and dying trees from which this trail was named after: The Eastern Hemlock. Most of the hemlocks found in Campgaw Mountain County Reserve are dead or dying due to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Native to East 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.
Take a look! Some turtles have spotted us from a rock in Fyke Lake. Nice!
Turtle Fyke Lake
Near the end of the Hemlock Trail we scare away a male and female Wood Duck.
Hemlock Trail End
From here it’s a short walk back on the Indian Trail to the parking lot where our car is. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Campgaw County Reservation and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!
Campgaw Mountain is located at 200 Campgaw Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions!
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!
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
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.
Central Florida Ecosystem
The Disney Wilderness Preserve provides habitat for an estimated 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians including:
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
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
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
The blazes we will be following have the Nature Conservancy logo.
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.
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.
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
Continuing straight another estimated .10 of a mile we see a sign directing us to the Lake Russell Trail. Let’s take it!
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….
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
The Cypress has a lifespan of hundreds of years and is found throughout the wetlands of the Disney Wilderness Preserve.
What a view! Beautiful Lake Russell is fed by Reedy Creek which is part of the northernmost Headwaters of the Everglades.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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
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.
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
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
For more Information on the Disney Wilderness Preserve Check out the Attached!
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 Herefor more information!
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.
Inside there are dioramas on the Sterling Forest mining industry history, fauna exhibits and a huge model of Sterling Forest itself.
From the visitor center let’s head east into a brief section of forest on a footpath.
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
After crossing Old Forge Road the orange triangle blazed McKeages Meadow Connector trail appears to our right.
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
From here we follow the Sterling Loop trail as it crosses a wetland via an old mining railroad embankment.
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.
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
As we head northwest, the 0.3 Mile Orange Blazed Pine Meadow Connector Trail appears to our right.
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
Our first glimpses of Sterling Lake appears to our left as the trail turns northwest.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Heading south a portion of the Yellow Blazed 6.2 mile Sterling Valley Trail joins the Sterling Lake Loop trail from the north.
Looking down as we walk on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop & Sterling Valley Loop we spot movement. Tiny 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.
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
But, as soon as we spot this turtle it takes off with surprising speed to Sterling Lake…..
…where it quickly disappears under the water.
Leaving the sandy beach and the now vanished turtle behind we cross an earthen causeway separating the pond above from Sterling Lake.
Taking a closer look at the pond reveals an active beaver lodge.
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.
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
As we continue south Sterling Lake now appears to our left and the Yellow Blazed Sterling Valley Trail exits.
Continuing south on the Sterling Lake Loop trail we see beautiful views of Sterling Lake.
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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!
Welcome to the Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve! The preserve features woodlands and wetlands, a master garden and hiking trails. Prior to becoming a preserve the property was known as the Gaisman Estate and was owned by the inventor of the famous Gillette safety razor blade Henry Gaisman. In 1957, Gaisman passed the title of the estate to the New York Archdiocese. In later years, Marion Woods Convent took ownership of 11.5 acres of the estate. The remaining acreage was purchased by the State of New York (who retains 50% ownership of the property) Westchester County and the Town of Greenburgh in 1999.
Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve
Harts Brook Nature Preserve Trail Map
Welcome to our virtual hike! Today we are going to cross brooks, pass interesting rock outcroppings and walk around 2 miles on 5 different trails! Our guide will be the trail map shown above.
Red Trail Meadow
Ready to start? From the parking area, let’s head west briefly entering the forest on the red trail. Paralleling Ridge Road, the Red Trail leaves the forest and walks through an open meadow flanked by enormous Norway Spruce trees.
Norway Spruce Red Trail
As we walk past the Norway Spruce trees we pass a spur of the red trail to our left which leads back to the parking lot. Deciduous wooded wetlands are appearing to our right as we leave the meadow and re-enter the woods. Wait! What’s that sound? Spring Peepers! Spring Peepers are a small frog common in wetlands and are among the first frogs to call out in early spring. Thus, Spring Peepers are a true harbinger of spring! Their Latin name (Pseudacris Crucifer) is named because of a dark cross which forms an “x” on the frog’s dorsa. Because of their size, Spring Peepers are difficult to locate and we do not see any today.
Green Trail Blaze
Continuing south we have come to the end of the red trail and are at an intersection with the green trail. According to our trail map we will come to a pond if we head east on the Green Trail.
Going to the Pond
Let’s go east on the green trail and check it out. After only a few minutes of walking we’ve found that we have left the green trail and are now on the yellow trail. The flora is quickly changing from deciduous forest to evergreens consisting of stately Eastern Hemlocks and Rosebay Rhododendron the closer we get to the pond.
The Hemlocks have an overall healthy appearance with very little die-back from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is an exotic pest from Asia 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.
Yellow Trail Bridge
Crossing a wooden bridge over Harts Brook we come to a bench overlooking the pond and its outflow dam.
Yellow Trail Bench with view of Pond
Let’s pause for a few moments and take in the beauty of our surroundings.
Hart’s Brook Park Pond
After taking in the view of the pond we’re going to continue northeast on the yellow trail following the shore of the pond. As we walk we pass several Wood Duck nesting boxes.
As we continue walking on the yellow trial we pass an old stone warming house which was part of the original Gaisman Estate. Leaving the stone warming house, the yellow trail is taking us east back to a branch of the green trail.
Heading south on the green trail we find ourselves on an orange blaze trail heading east.
Rock Outcrop Orange Trail
An interesting large rock outcrop appears to our left as we slightly climb on the orange trail.
We are now at an intersection with the blue blazed trail and it sounds like we are hearing more music of spring!
American Robins are searching for lunch and making sure we know they are present.
Blue Trail Stream Crossing
Heading east on the blue trail we find ourselves crossing a brook.
Pine Grove Blue Trail
Passing close to private residences the blue trail turns northeast and slightly climbs through a grove of White Pine trees.
As we pass a spur of the blue trail on the left the trail now becomes an asphalt path as we come close to the Maple Avenue entrance to the preserve. From here we follow the blue trail west back to the orange trail.
Blue Trail Stream Crossing as seen from Orange Trail
The stream crossing we did earlier on the blue trail is visible to our left.
We are now back at the Green Trail we left a while back. Let’s head north which will take us back to the yellow trail.
After only a short distance on the yellow trail we have just stepped out of the woods and are by the master garden area of the preserve. We are now back at the parking lot where we began. Thank you for joining me today on this virtual hike! I hope it has inspired you to check out Hartsbrook Nature Preserve for yourself!
The preserve is located at 156 Ridge Road, Hartsdale, NY.
Silas Condict Park was dedicated at 200 acres in 1964. In 2005, additional purchases of adjacent land brought the total acreage to 1,581. The centerpiece of the park is Canty’s Lake which is formed from an impoundment of a Stone House Brook tributary (which itself is a tributary of the C1 classifiedPequannock River, one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey)
Silas Condict Park White Trail Virtual Tour
Today we are going to explore the Bear Mountain area in the southern section of Silas Condict Park via the estimated 3 mile White Blazed Trail (aka “the Bear Trail”) following this trail map.
Silas Condict Park White Trail Area
Ready? We’ll begin our hike by following Canty’s Lake which will be to our left as we walk north from the parking area. Before we go any further let’s see what’s hanging around Canty’s Lake.
We got company! Ring-Necked Ducks! You would think this duck would be called the Ring-Billed Duck due to a white band around its beak but the duck actually has a chestnut colored ring around its neck which is only visible at close range.
While we are chatting about Ring-Necked Ducks a bird just flew by with white tail feathers. It’s a Dark-Eyed Junco! Dark-Eyed Junco belongs to the Sparrow family and prefers forest and shrub lands. The Dark-Eyed Junco stays in New Jersey for the winter and migrates further north during the growing season.
White Trail Trailhead (Near Canty’s Lake)
Leaving the shore of Canty’s Lake we walk a bit north and find ourselves in front of the White Trail trail-head. We are going to be following the white trail in a loop fashion. Nice! Loop trails are always my favorite.
Silas Condict County Park Forest
Let’s enter the forest and leave civilization behind for a bit.
Mountain Laurel greets us as soon as we enter. The deciduous forest of winter is primarily colorless other than evergreen shrubs such as Mountain Laurel and the American Beech tree. American Beech (particularly young American Beech) hold onto their leaves until spring when new leaves emerge. As we walk we hear the paper like leaves blowing in the wind.
We are proceeding in a southwest direction and climbing in a zig-zag fashion on the White Trail. American Crows are sounding the alarm that we are in their forest. White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouse are having their own conversations as we start to climb on the trail.
East Facing View
We’ve come to the first viewpoint! Here, we are looking east. Though it’s covered with snow, we can take a seat if we want to rest after our brief climb to this view. After taking in the views we descent passing interesting rock formations.
Numerous fresh blow-downs are present throughout the forest which most likely fell during Hurricane Sandy.
Newly Created Vernal Pond Habitat
We may feel sad seeing big trees toppled over but the good news is the hollowed out area where the root structure was now becomes prime vernal pond habitat. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are free of fish and provide valuable areas for amphibians such as Wood Frog to lay eggs.
As we walk Mountain Laurel becomes abundant with adjacent Chestnut Oak.
Chestnut Oak Mountain Laurel
Proceeding through the Mountain Laurel, we have entered a Chestnut Oak forest punctured here and there with Pitch Pine, a tree normally associated with the NJ Pine Barrens.
Pitch Pine grows here on thin, dry and generally infertile soil. These Pitch Pines found on this mountain are exposed to frequent ice storms in winter and strong winds year round.
Chestnut Oak is usually found on dry slopes at high elevations such as where we are right now. Shrubs such as lowbush blueberry and black huckleberry are common in Chestnut Oak forests. However, given we are in late winter, the only shrub we are encountering today is the abundant evergreen Mountain Laurel.
We’ve now started our second climb up a snow covered path.
Our efforts are rewarded with a wonderful western view of the NJ Highlands!
Pitch Pine Western View
The western view is continuous as we continue south and pass an interesting balanced boulder with the White Trail Blaze painted on it.
Balanced Rock with White Trail Blaze
We now start to descend as the trail turns east. It’s a bit tricky going down the snowy trail so be sure to watch your step!
White Trail Blaze leading to Rock Tunnel
As we continue to follow the White Trail we find it is leading us to a rock tunnel.
Let’s squeeze through to the other side!
Looking back at Rock Tunnel
Whew! We made it out! But now we have to watch our footing. We have a snow covered boulder field to walk through!
As we carefully meander through the boulder field we find ourselves following the White Trail on a slippery rock outcrop.
Whoops! We slipped!
Thankfully we’re ok.
Let’s brush ourselves off and keep moving-that Turkey Vulture flying over us seems to have ideas about us.
Trout Brook Stream Crossing
We’ve now arrived at Trout Brook and its surrounding wetlands. Trout Brook drains Canty’s Lake and is a tributary to Stone House Brook. Let’s carefully cross the stream by jumping on rocks.
Bridge over Trout Brook
As we continue on the White Trail we have yet another crossing of Trout Brook-but this time there’s a brand new wooden bridge present which makes for easy walking.
As we leave the bridge we see a massive rock outcrop before us and see the White Trail Blaze lead straight up the outcrop! Let’s watch our step and climb.
At the top we find we have left the footpath and are now following a gravel road (steep in places).
Albino White-Tail Deer
As we walk we are suddenly surprised by a blur of white! An Albino White-Tail Deer! The deer is so white it matches the snow around. Amazing!
Bear Mountain Silas Condict County Park
Leaving the deer and the gravel road we are back on a foot path where we see views of Bear Mountain, which we just finished climbing.
Canty’s Lake View from the White Trail
Continuing on a little further we now find a bench with a wonderful view of Canty’s Lake. We are almost at the end!
We did it! We are now at the end of the White Trail back at the parking lot near where we started!
I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike and that it inspired you to check out the hike in person!
Silas Condict Park is located at 100 Kinnelon Road, Kinnelon, NJ. Directions may be found here.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
The 45 acre park, located in Bloomingdale, NJ consists of deciduous wooded upland and wetlands.
Friendship Park 8.25.12 Hike
The 1.2 Orange Blazed Trail (aka Friendship loop) we are going to follow was blazed courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The actual hike described below took place in August 2012, about two months prior to Hurricane Sandy. Some changes to the trail have taken place since that time. Ok, ready to start?
Orange Trail Trailhead
From the parking area head east to the Orange Blazed Trailhead near a wetland.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.
ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.
ECEC Virtual Tour
ECEC Front Desk
From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)
Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.
After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!
Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond to the trail map pictured below (taken from the Essex County Environment Center Website) which we will review as we proceed.
Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map
The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods.
Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.
Marker 3 Mother Log
Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.
Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.
Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail
The fence was constructed to keep hungry white-tailed deer out so native vegetation may grow.
Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears. While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!
Create a Pond
A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.
Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.
The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game. White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):
White Tail Deer
Eastern Gray Squirrel
After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.
A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).
Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people. Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:
“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”
Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.
Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access
The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building. This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.
Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby. Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.
We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).
Busy Bees at Work
The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!
Marker 12 Lenape Life
Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.
Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.
Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.
Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.
Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig. Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.
Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!
Marker 15 Ferns
Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern. Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.
Bird Lane Trail
We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.
Bird Lane Trail Trailhead
Let’s take a right to go explore it. The first marker on the Bird Lane Trail is #16 the Fox Grape Vine. Birds such as Northern Cardinal enjoy the grapes this vine produces.
Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC. The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.
As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.
Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.
Bird Lane What will you find?
Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!
Bird Lane Trail End
And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself! Click here for directions!
The woods, officially opened to the public circa 2009, were once farmland owned by a local family by the name of Kincaid. Evidence of old farm stone walls can still be found in the woods. The hike is located in the Stony Brook Mountains which are named for the nearby Stony Brook, a tributary of the Rockaway River.
Kincaid Woods Hike 9.19.12
From the kiosk in the parking area, follow the trail as it meanders through a meadow.
Meadow Kincaid Woods
(Please keep in mind I took this hike in September 2012 about a month before Hurricane Sandy arrived. The following describes the hike as I encountered it at the time)
Kincaid Trail Trailhead
The yellow blazes of the Kincaid Trail will appear on wooden posts.
Kincaid Trail Meadow
Enter the woods heading east on the Kincaid Trail.
Bridge over Stony Brook Tributary
Pass over a stream (a Stony Brook tributary) and through wetlands on a raised wooden bridge.
Black Dot Trail Trailhead
From here, be on the lookout for the Black-Dot Trail trail head which will appear on the right.
Head southwest on the black dot trail which passes over an old Kincaid Farm stone wall. From here, the Black Dot trail will begin to loop to the northeast.
Northern Red Oak Kincaid Woods
Come to the end of the Black dot-trail after crossing another old stone wall.
Black Dot Trailend
From here turn left back on the Kincaid Trial heading northwest (turning right on the Kincaid trial leads to Pyramid Mountain).
Kincaid Coppice Red Maple
From here a coppice Red Maple with the yellow blaze of the Kincaid trail becomes visible.
Take I-287 South to Exit 47 (Montville/Lincoln Park) and turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Main Road (Route 202). Continue to follow Route 202 as it turns first sharply left, then sharply right. In 0.6 mile, just before reaching a fire station, turn right onto Taylortown Road and continue for 3.1 miles to a “stop” sign at Powerville Road (after 1.8 miles, Taylortown Road becomes Rockaway Valley Road). Turn right onto Powerville Road (the road is open only for local traffic because a bridge is out ahead, but the parking area for the hike is before the bridge, so you should go around the barricade) and continue for 1.2 miles to Kincaid Road (Powerville Road bears left at this intersection). Turn right onto Kincaid Road and immediately turn right into a gravel parking area.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!