Tag Archive | Vernal Pond

Exploring the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary!


Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

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

History

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Preserve Land Usage

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary Land Usage

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

Field Loop Trail Forest

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

Geology:

Highlands Precambrian Geology

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

Virtual Tour

Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education

Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education

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

View from Hawk Viewing Platform

View from Hawk Viewing Platform

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

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

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

Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry

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

Whitegrass

Whitegrass

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

True Solomon's Seal

True Solomon’s Seal

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

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

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

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

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

Dogwood Spur Hoffman Center

Dogwood Spur Hoffman Center

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

Field Loop Trail Vernal Pond

Field Loop Trail Vernal Pond

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

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

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

Field

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

Welcome Please Close Gate

Welcome Please Close Gate

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

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Butterfly

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

River Trail

River Trail

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

Passaic River

Passaic River

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

Massive Tulip Poplar

Massive Tulip Poplar

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

River Trail End

River Trail End

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

Dogwood Trail River Trail

Dogwood Trail River Trail

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

Hoffman Center

Hoffman Center

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

Geology

Upland Forest

Upland Forest

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

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

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

Dogwood Trail Black Birch

Dogwood Trail Black Birch

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

Eastern Chimpmunk

Eastern Chimpmunk

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

Hardscrabble Road

Hardscrabble Road

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

Scherman Parking Lot Dogwood Trail

Scherman Parking Lot Dogwood Trail

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

Educational Center

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

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary is located at:

11 Hardscrabble Road Bernardsville, NJ 07924.

Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

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

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

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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.

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

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

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

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

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

Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir

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

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

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

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

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

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

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

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

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

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

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

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

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

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

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

Preserve in Natural State sign with Monks Connector Trail

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

End of Monks Connector

End of Monks Connector

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

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

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

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

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

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

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

Beech Brook Tributary

Beech Brook Tributary

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

Beech Farm Information

Beech Farm Information

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

Wild Turkey Sign

Wild Turkey Sign

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

Turkey Feather

Turkey Feather

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

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

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

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

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

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

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

Ross Kushner discussing invasive Plants

Ross Kushner discussing invasive plants

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

Limestone Interpretive Signage

Limestone Interpretive Signage

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

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross Kushner Black Birch

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

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

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

Rock Outcroppings

Rock Outcroppings

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

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

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

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

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

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

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

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

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

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

Highlands Trail Blaze

Highlands Trail Blaze

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

Tributary

Tributary

We are now following a tributary of the Wanaque River.

Eastern Hemlocks

Eastern Hemlocks

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

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

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

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

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

Tributary Stream Crossing

Tributary Stream Crossing

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

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

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

Woods Road

Woods Road

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

Patterson Mine

Patterson Mine

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

Abandoned Motorcyle

Abandoned Motorcyle

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

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

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

Red Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

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

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

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

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

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

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

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

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

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

Hiking Silas Condict Park’s White Trail!


Silas Condict County Park

Silas Condict County Park

Welcome to Silas Condict County 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 this trail map.

Silas Condict Park White Trail Area

Silas Condict Park White Trail Area

Ready? We’ll begin our hike by following Canty’s Lake which will be to our left as we walk  north from the parking area. Before we go any further let’s see what’s hanging around Canty’s Lake.

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’s Lake)

Leaving the shore of Canty’s Lake we walk a bit north and find ourselves in front of the White Trail trail-head. We are going to be following the white trail in a loop fashion. Nice! Loop trails are always my favorite.

Silas Condict County Park Forest

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.

Newly Created Vernal Pond Habitat

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!

White Trail 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-Tail Deer

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

Bear Mountain Silas Condict County Park

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!

White-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. Directions may be found here.

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

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Signs of Spring


Signs of spring have been slowly showing since the end of February when Skunk Cabbage flowers started to make an appearance.

Skunk Cabbage Flowers

And since the winter of 2010-2011 was an especially snowy and cold one, I thought it was important to show by way of photography how nature is renewing itself. Enjoy the spring photography tour!

Dutchman Breeches in Franklin Lakes Lorrimer Sanctuary

Dwarf Ginseng in Ridgewood's Grove Park

False Hellebore Sprouting in Ridgewood's Grove Park

Vernal Pond in Pequannock's Cherry Street Park

Trout Lilies carpeting floor of Hackensack's Borg's Woods

Spicebush blooming in Hackensack's Borg's Woods with understory of Skunk Cabbage

Pink Lady Slipper at Silas Condict County Park Kinnelon, NJ

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

Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park!


Tokaloka Park Entrance at Maitland Avenue and Jefferson Street

Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park is a remnant 10.58 acre deciduous woodland. The preserve is completely surrounded  by dense housing development making the park a true forest island.

Tokaloka Park

Tokaloka Park was once part of 50 acres of land owned by Christian Cole who was one of the township’s first council members. The land that ultimately became Tokaloka Park consists of over 70% of forested wetlands and was considered unsuitable for development when suburban sprawl began in the 1930s. The name of the park was derived from a large pond that once existed in the park called Tokaloka. Tokaloka pond may be gone, but a vernal pond still exists near the western border.

Vernal Pond in Winter

Below is a picture of the same vernal pond taken in the summer months.

Dried Vernal Pond in summer

Many signs exist in this nature preserve indicating that the land is a remnant forested wetland. For example, skunk cabbage is abundant throughout most of the woodland. Skunk cabbage is an obligate plant-meaning that it is found growing in wetlands 99% of the time.

Skunk Cabbage

Another indicator that wetlands abound is the presence of  several buttressed tree trunks. Trees may develop enlarged trunks  in response to frequent inundation.

Buttressed tree trunk

Finally, there were several smaller vernal ponds present in the forest.

Small Vernal Pond

Trail

As of this writing the only official trail is a gently sloping path which leads from the entrance to the park at Maitland Avenue and Jefferson Street to its terminus at Dearborn Street. However, future plans, as indicated in the picture listed below, show a possible trail traversing the northern portion of the preserve including a loop around the vernal pond. This trail is recommended to have interpretive signage which would be a real plus in educating the public the value of this remnant natural area.

Tokoloka Park Trail Map

These changes were proposed in the 2008 Township of Teaneck comprehensive plan for recreation (this plan is no longer available online). The short (estimated .15 of a mile) existing trail only encourages you to really take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of this unique woodland. The forest is always changing as indicated in the pictures below of the same scene taken at summer and winter.

Tokaloka Park Summer View

Tokaloka Park Winter View

Flora

In addition to skunk cabbage, the forest features a nice diversity of plants. They include:

Solomon Seal

Fauna

The most amazing and unexpected event occurred last time I visited. Several White-tail deer were present near the main vernal pond and took off with their white tail in the air as I arrived near them. What a surprise to find in a forest island completely surrounded by development!

Directions:

Click here

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

Ridgewood’s Grove Park


Grove Park Village of Ridgewood, NJ

Grove Park

Grove Park is a 32 acre deciduous forest and wetland owned by the village of Ridgewood, NJ and maintained by the Ridgewood Wildscape Association.

Grove Park

The forest was purchased with Green Acres funding. Grove Park has dense residential development to the west, the confluence of the artificial paths of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and Saddle River to the south, Grove Street to the north and the Saddle River Pathway and Saddle River to the east.

Saddle River Pathway next to Grove Park

In 1996, the Ridgewood Sports Council proposed to destroy a portion of Grove park for a sports field.  Residents from the nearby developments and the Ridgewood Council opposed this proposal as the woodland is environmentally sensitive and the remnant forest was preserved.

Trails

Grove Park Trail Map

The park contains several trails. I found (as listed in the picture above) the best combination is to do a loop trail by combining the .34 of a mile White blazed trail with .28 of the .36 of a mile Yellow blazed trail for a total of .62 of a mile. From the entrance on Grove Street, walk to the white trail which traverses the western portion of the park through a wetland area. I usually spot white-tail deer in this area running away with their white tails upheld high.

Deer Hooves in the mud

Take the white trail until it terminates on a White Oak near the yellow trail to the east of the woods.

White Trail Terminus on White Oak

Follow the yellow trail north back to the entrance on Grove street. Be careful, during my last visit there were several large blowdowns blocking the trail. I just ducked and went under some and crawled over others.

Blowdown on the Yellow Trail

The interesting thing about blowdowns is eventually all that dirt that surrounds the root structure will eventually come down and form a sort of pillow near the tree. These pillows, if left undisturbed, can last hundreds of years and are a way to determine if a forest is old growth. A forest that lacks these pillows was most likely farmed within the past hundred years or so.

Another way of reading the forested landscape is looking at bizarre tree formations. This American Beech tree in the picture below (found on the White Trail) was tipped by the wind and eventually was able to righten itself.

Wind-tipped American Beech (White Trail)

Grove Park provides much needed habitat for the fauna that inhabit this densely developed area of north jersey.  Just like with the deer prints, I found evidence of raccoon prints (which look like little  hands) in the mud.

Raccoon Prints

Plus I’ve have seen these other characters during my travels in this urban woodland:

Mallards on Vernal Pond

American Robin

Eastern Chipmunk

Red-belly woodpecker

Red Tail Hawk

Salamander

Grove Park features quite a diversity of flora. Flora I’ve found include:

False Hellebore

White Wood Aster

Trout Lily

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!

The entrance to this park is available from Grove Street or off of the nearby Saddle River pathway. Parking is available on Berkshire Road which is located to the west of the park and is a quick walk away from the entrance. Click here for directions.

Local Ecology/Environment 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 e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Leonia’s Highwood Hills Natural Area!


Highwood Hills A Green Acres Natural Area

Leonia’s 14 acre Highwood Hills natural area was acquired by the Borough of Leonia using Green Acre funding in 1972 and 1980.The nature preserve is bordered to the east by the Plaza West Shopping Center, to the south by the borough of Palisades Park, and by dense residential housing to the north and west.

Highwood Hills Leonia Green Acres

The property was acquired through the efforts of the Leonia Environmental Commission, mayor and council and citizens. The Leonia Environmental Commission, scouts and volunteers sponsor educational activities, clean-ups and special programs on occasion at Highwood Hills.

Trails

Highwood Hills Trail Map

Trail

The preserve features 6 trails. The Main Trail goes in a north to south direction across the perimeter of the preserve and parallels a seasonal stream.

Sensitive Fern around seasonal stream

Sassafras saplings were found throughout the main trail. These trees grow well  in open woods on moist, well-drained, sandy loam soils. This tree has three basic leave patterns making it a really interesting tree to look at. One of the types of leaves even looks like a mitten.

Sassafras

There are five trails which branch off the main trail. The Lizard Pond trail branches to the west of the preserve in a loop fashion. The pond leads to a vernal pond (Lizard Pond) which was mud at the time of my summer 2010 visit.

Lizard Pond (Vernal Pond)

The Birch Trail, which heads to the east of the preserve in a loop fashion from the main trail, features a railroad tie staircase and bridges over the seasonal stream.

Railroad Tie Stairway

Bridge over seasonal stream

The Chestnut trail branches off the main trail at the extreme southern extent of the preserve. The Chestnut trail leads to the Gulch Trail or back to another railroad tie staircase. It was along this staircase that I found some cool turkey tail fungus on some old logs.

Turkey Tails on some old logs

The Gulch Trail either leads back to Lizard Pond Trail or the Douglas Spur Trail which connects back to the Main Trail. Each trail, regardless of the length, has character and is worth exploring.

Beautiful Highwood Hills

The preserve is a unique remnant palisades forest located just minutes from the George Washington Bridge.

Contact the Leonia Environmental Commission for more information. The entrance to the preserve is located on Highwood Avenue in Leonia, NJ or off of Roff Avenue, Glen Avenue or 4th street in Palisades Park. Parking is available on Highwood Avenue near the entrance or on Roff and Glen Avenue.

Eastern Gray Squirrel in Leonia's Highwood Hills Natural Area

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

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