Ecology

Come for the Popovers, Stay for the Bogwalk: Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

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A view across Jordan Pond from the southeast portion of the loop trail. In the center are the Bubbles; to the right, Pemetic; to the left, Penobscot.

Taking a bit of a break from the graduate thesis writing to bring you my second posting about Acadia National Park, from our trip earlier in the summer. Last time, I told you about the joys of biking up a really steep trail to Witch’s Hole. So this time, I’m taking you down to the southern end of Acadia, to Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond is a glacial lake formed during the Ice Age, so say the geologists. It is framed in on three sides by mountains: the Bubbles to the north, Penobscot to the west and Pemetic to the east. And on the southern edge you’ll find the Jordan Pond House.

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Watching the Warblers at Watchung

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One of the trailheads for the History Trail at Watchung Reservation, near the Trailside Nature and Science Center.

Well, now, trail heads, you’ve probably been wondering where your trail head in chief has been this winter.

I wish I could tell you that I was off on a long-distance hike in Australia or South America, or perhaps off on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Rockies or the Pyrenees.

But the truth of the matter is, between some ghastly weather in New Jersey this winter, a transition into a new job and not one but two graduate school classes this winter and spring, my hiking time has been severely curtailed. And by extension, so has my blogging time.

This weekend, having finally caught up on some things, I packed up my water bottle, binoculars and copy of “Birds of Eastern North America” and headed someplace I’ve not hiked yet: Watchung Reservation in Union County.

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A three-legged rock, a birds’ nest and a visit with Lucy: Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area

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Tripod Rock, a glacial erratic consisting of a giant boulder perched atop three smaller rocks, is one of the most popular natural features on Pyramid Mountain.

How has Tripod Rock not fallen over after all these years?

That was my first thought upon coming across said natural feature at the top of Pyramid Mountain. And if you’ve ever visited Tripod Rock, that has doubtless been one of your first thoughts as well.

That is exactly what it is: a giant boulder perched atop three smaller boulders, deposited there millennia ago by a moving glacier during the Ice Age. The technical term for it, as I understand, is a glacial erratic. And there it has stood, weathering the ravages of time, storms and probably more than one would-be-vandal.

I actually saw a couple of kids and parents who were gutsy enough to go crawling around in the space underneath the main boulder, all the better for taking selfies. I myself would be a bit squeamish about having that much tonnage of rock directly above me.

So, Erin, you may ask, tell me more about where I might find this mammoth Mesozoic monstrosity? Well, sit ye down, children, and I’ll tell you all about it – and some other cool features besides.

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Everything’s coming up wildflowers: Replanting a trail at Bear Mountain

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The new sign for the Trails for People exhibit behind Bear Mountain Inn.

This is a public service announcement from your esteemed blogger-in-chief.

If you’re going to put in new hedging around your house, do NOT plant barberry. Please. Your friendly neighborhood invasive species removal crews will be eternally grateful. (Besides, a couple of states have made it illegal to plant barberry, because it’s such a nuisance of a plant.)

There.

As many of you probably know, it was National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4. I’d joined the Invasive Species Task Force from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference up at Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park in just-barely-upstate-New York the year before. We’d spent an energetic – albeit prickly  – morning removing barberry bushes, a shrub once popular for hedging but now deemed an invasive species, hence the PSA. I was game to try again – and crews would be planting some native species plants along the now barberry-free slope.

My mom was up for a visit and she was game to join in, so Saturday morning found us making the amble up the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

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This one’s for the birds: Forays into birdwatching

I like learning new skills to bring with me when I’m out hiking – how to box a compass, how to recognize different kinds of plants, how to geocache.

And now, your blogger-in-chief is taking an interest in birdwatching.

Some bird watchers are experts; I am of the “I can recognize robins, cardinals and finches, but for anything else I have to go looking through the guidebook” level of birdwatching skill.

Why do so many people enjoy birdwatching?

Birds are beautiful (though some might beg to differ in the case of, say, a vulture), often entertaining, and most importantly, vital to a functioning ecosystem. Basically, if you don’t have birds, then you’ve got a serious problem. After all, that’s where Rachel Carson got the title for “Silent Spring;” she noticed, one day, that there weren’t any birds singing. And birdwatching gives you a sense of how many of what kinds of species there are.

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Sugaring Sap and Syrup in the Snowy Swamp: Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, Chatham, NJ

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The view from the wildlife observation deck off the orange trail at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center.

I always figured that Vermont and Canada had pretty much cornered the market on maple syrup. Which is pretty much the case. But New Jersey has a maple sugaring season, too – granted, around here it’s much shorter than it is to the north.

I learned a few things about maple sugaring in late January, when I headed down to the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham for a short group hike and a maple sugaring demo.

The center, near where Essex, Union and Morris counties come together, is part of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

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Castle Vista, Midnight Madness and Blackberries: Ole Bull State Park, Potter County, Pa.

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View from the summit of Castle Vista, the site of Ole Bull’s home in the New Norway colony.

I’d like to share with you a little bit about the last stop we made on the Pennsylvania Park Hop back in the summer; on our last full day, we paid a visit to Ole Bull State Park in Potter County.

There are quite a few hiking trails that run through the park, several of which are also graded as snowmobile trails in the winter. (In fact, in this part of Pennsylvania, you’ll see quite a few road signs marking snowmobile trails.)

The park is included in the Susquehanna Trail System – it’s an entire network of hiking trails running through the Susquehanna River Valley in Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. So you’ll find one of the trails (orange-blazed) running through the park, one of the longer walks here. There are a number of shorter walks, including the Castle Vista Trail, the Daugherty Loop and the Beaver Dam Nature Trail, all three of which we checked out.

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Looking Over the Overlook Trail: Leonard Harrison State Park, Tioga County, Pa.

The Pine Creek Gorge, seen from the Otter View platform on the Overlook Trail.

The Pine Creek Gorge, seen from the Otter View platform on the Overlook Trail.

Well, trail heads, rumor has it that it is officially fall. And considering the sudden plunge in temps that has necessitated getting my turquoise down jacket out of storage, I believe it.

So at this time of year, the blog should be talking about things like fall foliage hikes, winter gear and what the heck is up with that whole pumpkin spice thing. And I’ll get to that, I promise.

But I’m going to give you a last little taste of summer with another feature from last August’s Pennsylvania park hop.

In between Cherry Springs and Darling Run, biking, stargazing and the occasional bear sighting, we paid a quick visit to Leonard Harrison State Park, near Wellsboro in Tioga County.

This park, part of the Tioga State Forest, has a handful of hiking trails – the Pine Creek Rail Trail down at the bottom of the gorge, the steep and winding Turkey Path trail, and the Overlook Trail (which is the one we hiked). But the reason that most people come is the view – and what a view it is.

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Sundown in Tenafly

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Pfister’s Pond in the Tenafly Nature Center, just before dusk.

Tonight’s posting is a short but sweet one, trail heads, a bit of quietness – and I think we could use a bit of quietness after that ruckus today over the alligator being caught in the Passaic River.

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Do you believe things happen for a reason, or do you tend to think in terms of coincidences?

That’s one of the questions a group of hiker friends and I were mulling over as we sat on the banks of Pfister’s Pond at the Tenafly Nature Center early one evening back in June.

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Under Construction on the Appalachian Trail

A view from the black locust footbridge, on the ascent up the Bear Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail.

A view from the black locust footbridge, on the ascent up the Bear Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail.

It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that if you’re going to be taking on the Appalachian Trail, especially the bit that goes through Bear Mountain in New York, you’ve got to be ready to do a lot of climbing. Lots and lots of climbing.

It was National Trails Day on June 6, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference was presenting a series of trail-maintaining activities at Bear Mountain (see my previous posting about the great barberry battle).

One of the conference’s longer-running projects has been a rebuild of part of the six-mile Bear Mountain stretch of the AT, including overhauling some of the many flights of stone steps you’ll find on the mountain. So one of the activities was a hike along the trail, and a visit to the parts that were being or had just been rebuilt.

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