Down By the River: Riverwalk Trails, Hartford, CT

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Walking along the Yellow Trail along the Connecticut River’s west bank, looking south toward Hartford’s downtown area.

Well, trail heads, your blogger-in-chief has been a little bit AWOL these last few weeks, mainly because of grad school responsibilities, work (what else is new) and an academic conference: the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) spring convention up in Hartford. But fear not, oh gentle readers, for your blogger-in-chief had her (mental) hiking boots on.

In between conferencing (and wondering just how many times a sane person can use “trope” and “palimpsest” in a sentence), there was time for some outdoors stuff, including checking out some of the Riverwalk walking trails down along the Connecticut River.

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A Mountaintop Perch: Eagle Rock Reservation, Essex County, NJ

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The green trail will take you past this brook along the western edge of the reservation.

Here in the burbs of northern New Jersey, you’d probably expect that it’s hard to find a decent patch of woods in which to go hiking. But thankfully, we have a few such patches, including one that is literally up the hill from me.

Eagle Rock Reservation is perched high up on the ridge of the First Watchung, straddling the town lines of Montclair, Verona and West Orange. Like South Mountain Reservation down in Millburn, Eagle Rock is under the aegis of the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

We finally got a weekend where the temperatures weren’t bone-chillingly freezing, or that it was either raining or snowing cats and dogs. So I spent that Sunday afternoon treating myself to a few hours of light hiking.

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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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Auld Lang Signpost

IMG_5438Another year gone by already – well, that didn’t take long. And it’s apparently that time of year again to reflect on how 2015 was for hiking.

My hiking time this fall was a bit limited, especially due to a rather brain-draining graduate school project that I had to wrap up over the last few weeks. (It’s also the reason why the blog’s been a little quiet of late. So I beg your indulgence on that one, oh trail heads.)

All things considered, it was a pretty awesome year for outdoor pursuits.  I got to take on a short chunk of the Appalachian Trail back in June, during a National Trails Day gathering up at Bear Mountain. Took a first run out on some cool multi-use trails, including the Columbia Trail out in western New Jersey and the Pine Creek Rail Trail out in central Pennsylvania.

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Urban hikes and other ramblings

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Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

Happy December, everyone. It being the last month of the calendar year, I should be getting ready to do the “really great hikes I did in 2015” entry. Or its evil, eerie-in-a-Doctor-Who-sort-of-way twin, the “all the hikes I still haven’t gotten to yet” entry. (Yes, your trail-head-in-chief is a bit of a Whovian: I’ve got the season finale playing even as I type.)

It’s a short-ish entry tonight – it’s not about any specific hiking trails, but rather a few introspective pensées about walking and hiking.

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Ice cream in the Tuileries, mobs of football fans, and other memories of 24 hours in Paris

Now, I’d meant to do this week’s blog posting about what everyone’s favorite trail food and snacks were – and just what the meaning is of that mysterious ambrosia called “gorp.” (Some people think it means “granola, oatmeal, raisins and peanuts,” while other people go for “good old raisins and peanuts.” But that’s neither hither or thither.)

The truth is, the attacks yesterday in Paris are on everyone’s minds, and mine too. So I’m going to devote tonight’s piece to une rêverie parisienne.

I’ve been to Paris exactly once, so far. It was several years ago – the family and I were on a trip to England (mostly London, with side trips up to York and out to Bath), our first trip overseas. We decided, before flying home to the U.S., to take the Eurostar over to Paris and just take in the city for 24 hours.

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Watcher of the Skies: Stargazing in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere)

A view of Scorpius over Coudersport, Pa. in August 2015.

A view of Scorpius over Coudersport, Pa. in August 2015.

It was a good summer for stargazing, it seems like. We had a few conjunctions, with different planets (Venus, Jupiter, etc.) dancing fairly close to the moon. Back in July, I got to join the North Jersey Astronomical Group for a moon-viewing party in Verona. And there was a lot of excitement on the astronomy front about the Pluto flyby photos.

But let’s face it, being this close to New York, as I am, your chances at being able to stargaze are a bit limited.

Earlier in the year, I’d had a co-worker tell me about Cherry Springs State Park out in north-central Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Now, a lot of people come to this part of the Keystone State for one reason: stargazing. And we’re talking stargazing as an Olympic-level sport: this part of Pennsylvania has been designated as Dark Sky territory. What that means is, the levels of light pollution from nearby cities and towns are virtually nil.

So that’s what we did out in Pennsylvania in August, in addition to checking out rail trails and state parks. We’d timed the trip so that it would fall around the time of the Perseids meteor shower in early August.

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It’s fall – what are your plans for hikes?

Close-up of a local maple tree with its leaves in full blazing scarlet.

Close-up of a local maple tree with its leaves in full blazing scarlet.

Just a quick one for tonight, trail heads, since your blogger-in-chief is up to her ears in five million different things.

It’s officially fall around here – the temps are decidedly cooler, the trees are turning to various tones of red, orange and yellow, and the apple tree in the backyard is producing at full tilt. (We’ve been making a lot of applesauce, apple crumb and apple pudding.) On top of that, the annual obsession with all things pumpkin spice is in full swing. (Does half that stuff even contain any actual pumpkin, I wonder?)

But I digress. I now pose you the question: what is everyone doing for fall hikes?

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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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