Tag Archives: Nature

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.

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

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!

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

Welcome! Today, using the map below, we are going to explore the Swan Lake area of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve!

Trail Map

Trail map listed above taken from NY Parks.

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 in 2013) 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-Pulpit plants!

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. 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

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

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north.

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Swan Lake is now on our left.

Swan Lake to our left

Swan Lake to our left

As we walk, we pass Canada Mayflower to our left in bloom.

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower 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

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

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

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. 2019 Update: Pequannock River Coalition has dissolved.

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.

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

Check out the latest bird sightings at Long Pond Ironworks State Park Here!

Check out the latest bird sightings at Tranquility Ridge Park Here!

Exploring Harts Brook Nature Preserve!


Hart's Brook Park & Preserve

Hart’s Brook Park & Preserve

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

Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve

Virtual Hike

Harts Brook Nature Preserve Trail Map

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

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

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

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

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.

Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock

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

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

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

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.

Wood Duck Box GNC

Wood Duck Box GNC

The nesting boxes were placed here by the nearby Greenburgh Nature Center to provide nesting habitat for Wood Ducks.

Stone Warming House

Stone Warming House

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.

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Heading south on the green trail we find ourselves on an orange blaze trail heading east.

Rock Outcrop Orange Trail

Rock Outcrop Orange Trail

An interesting large rock outcrop appears to our left as we slightly climb on the orange trail.

Blue Trail

Blue 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

American Robins

American Robins are searching for lunch and making sure we know they are present.

Updated Bridge

Blue Trail Stream Crossing

 

Heading east on the blue trail we find ourselves crossing a brook.

Pine Grove Blue Trail

Pine Grove Blue Trail

Passing close to private residences the blue trail turns northeast and slightly climbs through a grove of White Pine trees.

Blue Trail Seasonal View of Hartsdale Lake

Blue Trail Seasonal View of Hartsdale Lake

Looking east we can see views of Hartsdale Lake  (part of Scarsdale Country Golf Club).

Blue Trail Asphalt Path

Blue Trail Asphalt Path

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

Blue Trail Stream Crossing as seen from Orange Trail

The stream crossing we did earlier on the blue trail is visible to our left.

Green Trail

Green Trail

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.

Master Gardening

Master Gardening

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!

Shagbark Hickory

 

The preserve is located at 156 Ridge Road, Hartsdale, NY.

Check below for additional information!

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!

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

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

 

Hiking Silas Condict Park’s White Trail!


Silas Condict County Park

Silas Condict County Park

Welcome to Silas Condict County Park!

Silas Condict Park White Trail Area

Silas Condict Park 

Located in Kinnelon, NJ, the park is managed by the Morris County Parks Department.

Canty's Lake

Canty’s Lake

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 classified Pequannock 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 the below trail map (taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference).

Map

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.

Ring-Necked Ducks

Ring-Necked Ducks

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.

Dark-Eye Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

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 Lake)

White Trail Trailhead (Near Canty 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

Silas Condict County Park Forest

Let’s enter the forest and leave civilization behind for a bit.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

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.

American Beech

American Beech

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

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.

Rock Formation

Rock Formation

Numerous fresh blow-downs are present throughout the forest which most likely fell during Hurricane Sandy.

Downed Tree Creates Vernal Pond

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

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

Pitch Pine

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

Chestnut Oak

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.

Climb

 

We’ve now started our second climb up a snow covered path.

Western View

Western View

Our efforts are rewarded with a wonderful western view of the NJ Highlands!

Pitch Pine Western View

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

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!

Blaze leading to rock tunnel

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.

Rock Tunnel

Rock Tunnel

Let’s squeeze through to the other side!

Looking back at Rock Tunnel

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!

Boulder Field

Boulder Field

As we carefully meander through the boulder field we find ourselves following the White Trail on a slippery rock outcrop.

Rock Outcrop

Rock Outcrop

Whoops! We slipped!

Whoops!

Whoops!

Thankfully we’re ok.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Let’s brush ourselves off and keep moving-that Turkey Vulture flying over us seems to have ideas about us.

Trout Brook Stream Crossing

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

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.

Climb

Climb

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.

Gravel Road

Gravel Road

At the top we find we have left the footpath and are now following a gravel road (steep in places).

Albino White-Tail Deer

Albino White-Tailed Deer

As we walk we are suddenly surprised by a blur of white! An Albino White-Tailed Deer! The deer is so white it matches the snow around. Amazing!

Bear Mountain Silas Condict County Park

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

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!

Trail End

White-Trail 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.

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

Wetlands
Plant Communities of New Jersey

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

Check out the latest bird sightings here!