Tag Archives: NJ Hiking Trails

Hiking Ramapo Valley County Reservation!


Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

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

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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!

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 Lunch

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 Motorcycle

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!

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!

 

 

Exploring the Pequannock River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

The 2013 Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) Winter Hike took participants on an exploratory hike through the Pequannock River Watershed.  Led by PRC Executive Ross Kushner, the 4 mile hike promised education & exercise.

Pequannock Watershed Forest

Pequannock Watershed Forest

Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provided 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.

Virtual Hike

PRC 2013 Winter Hike

PRC 2013 Winter Hike

Ah, there you are! Welcome! Ready for the 4 mile hike? There’s plenty of snow on the ground to help us look for animal tracks.

Ross Kushner Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition

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

Beginning our hike

Beginning Our Hike!

Right now we are at a small gravel lot off Green Pond Road near Route 23 in the Newfoundland section of West Milford.

Welcome to Rockaway Township

Welcome to Rockaway Township

We will be exploring the area just north of Copperas Mountain in nearby Rockaway Township. Ross has just taken attendance and now we are heading southwest on Green Pond Road and will be heading into the woods of the vast Pequannock watershed!

Blow Downs

Blow Downs

What happened here? These trees appear to have collapsed like dominoes. The fallen trees were part of plantations planted in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and were to be maintained (i.e. trimmed) every 10-15 years. With the onset of WWII the plantations were all but forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, we now have a tangle of trees growing close to one another. Hurricane Sandy came and knocked the trees down. Ross explained that in general other than habitat for Northern Goshawks and Red Squirrels, plantations are a monoculture and do not provide the diversity most wildlife require.

White-Tail Deer Track

White-Tailed Deer Track

Look at all these White-Tailed Deer prints around this fallen tree!

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tailed Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.

Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case

Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case

Leaving the fallen tree and coming to a small field, Ross has just found a curious looking egg pouch attached to a plant in a frozen field.  This is a Praying Mantis egg case.

Praying Mantis Egg Case

Praying Mantis Egg Case

You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.

American Tamarack

American Larch

Heading back to Green Pond Road, Ross points out a stand of deciduous conifers near the side of the road and has identified them as American Larch. American Larch needles turn orange in the fall and fall off in winter.

Phragmites Swamp at Base of Green Pond Mountain

Phragmites Swamp at Base of Green Pond Mountain

Heading back on Green Pond Road, we’re now walking over a Pequannock River Tributary near Deerhaven Lane. The Pequannock River Tributary draining the marsh in the foreground was straightened to drain the marsh. Phragmites, a common plant which thrives in disturbed wetlands, is abundant.

Green Pond Mountain

Green Pond Mountain

Around 10,000 years ago the Wisconsin Glacier piled boulders on the north side and sheared off the southern side of mountains in the NJ Highlands. As the glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, they tended to melt in place. The sheered cliffs visible on Green Pond Mountain were testimony to that theory.

Walking along Green Pond Road

Walking along Green Pond Road

We’re now continuing our journey down Green Pond Road. It’s been about a quarter of a mile but we are now again entering the Pequannock River Watershed forest.

Old Homestead

Old Homestead

What are these ruins we are looking at? Ross is now explaining that when the City of Newark acquired the land in the early 1900’s people were living throughout the watershed property and had been for over a hundred years. Their property was taken by imminent domain to protect the water supply. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s Newark’s population was dying as their water supply was derived from the Passaic River in Newark. This section of the Passaic River was and is severely impaired.

Running Deer Tracks

Running Deer Tracks

Walking a bit further in the snow Ross has suddenly stopped. “Look at the space between these deer prints!” he says. “This guy was flying, but not from us-these are old prints”. There must be 20 feet present between the gaps of the prints!!

Bear Tree (American Tamarack)

Bear Tree (American Larch)

What is Ross looking at? It’s another American Larch tree with a good portion of its bark missing. Ross states “The bark has been taken off over the decades by Black Bears biting and rubbing their backs on the tree. The higher the bite, the bigger the bear. Sort of a territorial thing-every bear that comes by can determine what other bears have been in the area”.

Ross walks a bit further into the woods and suddenly stops.

Mink Tracks

Mink Tracks

Mink tracks! Minks, a member of the Weasel family can usually be spotted by water.

White Pines

White Pines

We just happen to be by Deerhaven Lake where a number of White Pines are standing. These pines grew naturally. Though we don’t spot any today, there have been reports of Great Blue Heron nests in these pines. Ross turns around and starts heading back to Green Pond Road.

Four Birds Trail

Four Birds Trail

We are back on Green Pond Road on our way to a section of the white blazed 19.4 Mile Four Birds Trail. This trail, maintained by members of the NYNJ Trail Conference, is named Four Birds to represent the ecological diversity that can be encountered on the trail. Wild Turkeys, Red-Tail Hawks, Great Blue Herons & Ospreys represent the “Four Birds” in the name.

Opossum Tracks

Opossum Tracks

Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.

American Beech Eye of the Forest

American Beech Eye of the Forest

It looks like we are now leaving the Four Birds Trail and are walking by a rather large American Beech with marks that look like eyes keeping watch over the forest.  American Beech is considered a climax species in succession and is an indicator that the forest present here has not been disturbed in a long time.

Ross Kushner American Beech Bear Claw Mark

Ross Kushner American Beech Bear Claw Mark

Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.

Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Pond

Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Lake

Looking northwest towards Deerhaven Lake we see a large active beaver lodge with several others in the distance.  Ross stated that the primary predator of beavers is the gray wolf which has been extirpated from New Jersey. Time to stop for lunch!

Northern Red Oak Leaf

Northern Red Oak Leaf

I find the leaf of the Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree) on my seat.

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

After eating our lunch Ross spots a White Oak tree covered with Black Bear claw marks. White Oak acorns are sweeter than other oaks such as Black or Red Oak. Black Bears love White Oak acorns so much that they will go up into the tree to retrieve them before they fall.

Firefly

Firefly

While checking out the claw marks we spot an out of season Firefly on the White Oak. Apparently it was tricked by the abundant sunshine.

Otter Scat

Otter Scat

River Otter droppings containing fish scales were spotted near an outlet of a Pequannock River tributary leaving Deerhaven Lake. River Otters are usually active near the outlet of a beaver pond and the droppings are indicators of River Otter territorial tendencies.

Otter Sliding Marks

Otter Sliding Marks

We even see the slides they made on the ice!

Pequannock River

Pequannock River

Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.

Stonefly

Stonefly

What’s this? A stonefly! Soneflies are a sure indicator of the good water quality found in the C1 Trout Production Pequannock River.

Pequannock River Watershed Forest

Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to explore your local forest.

 

 

Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center!


Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center (ECEC)!

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

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.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Partners of the ECEC include the the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society, Essex County Environmental Commission, Essex County Beekeepers Society & the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

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

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)

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.

Wind Energy

Wind Energy

After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!

Start of Interpretive Trail

Start of Interpretive Trail

Head outside the center and turn right on the Lenape Trail.

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

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

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Sweetgum Leaf

Sweetgum Leaf

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.

Marker 2 Gray Birch

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 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.

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

The fence was constructed to keep hungry white-tailed deer out so native vegetation may grow.

Frog Pond

Frog Pond

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

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.

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall was part of the original environmental center and is still used by the Master Gardeners of Essex County.

Patriots Path

Patriots Path

Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

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

White-Tailed Deer

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk  is raised above the Passaic River floodplain.

Wood Duck Box

Wood Duck Box

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).

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

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

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.

Passaic River

Passaic 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.

Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden

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

Busy Bees at Work

The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!

Marker 12 Lenape Life

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.

Wigwam

Wigwam

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.

Red Oak

Red Oak

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.

Soon after Marker #13 appears Marker #14 (Forest Composition) which describes Musclewood, American Beech & Spicebush.

American Beech

American Beech

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

Spicebush

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

Musclewood

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

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

Bird Lane Trail

We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

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.

Passaic River Floodplain

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.

18 Boulder

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.

Old Equipment

Old Equipment

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 (2)

Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!

Bird Lane Trail End

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!

Check Out the Latest Bird Sightings Here!

Great Ecology Books:

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

Click here for more information!

2. Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State – With people as its focus, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment explores the science underpinning environmental issues and the public policy infighting that goes undocumented behind the scenes and beneath the controversies.

Click here for more information!

3. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

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!