Posts Tagged With: Essex County

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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Hanging out at Hemlock Falls: South Mountain Reservation, Essex County, NJ

Hemlock Falls in South Mountain Reservation.

Hemlock Falls in South Mountain Reservation.

Some days when you’re hiking, the goal is to cover as much ground as possible, as quickly as possible. Other days, you just want to find a certain spot out on the trail and linger for a while. And a few weekends ago, it was one of those lingering days when I was out for a romp in South Mountain Reservation here in northern New Jersey.

On this particular day, I had someplace else I needed to be later on. So instead of going in for a full-blown loop hike like I usually do when I’m at South Mountain, I decided just to do a short out-and-back to Hemlock Falls.

The falls – and a nice clearing with some benches set up – are along the yellow-blazed Lenape Trail in the center of the reservation, not far from where the boundaries of West Orange, Millburn and Maplewood come together. The falls are fed by one of the branches of the Rahway River – in this part of the reservation, the river’s more like a brook.

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Turtle Back Trail, South Mountain Reservation: Essex County, NJ

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View of one of the carriage roads intersecting with the Turtle Back trail.

You know how it is, hikers. There are moments, in your day-to-day life, when the burdens of work and/or school and/or family life get to be a little unmanageable, and you feel that the only cure for it all is to get your boots on and get out into the woods.

For me, it had been one of those weeks. Or rather, one of those couple-of-weeks. Between work, graduate school projects and 10 million other duties and responsibilities, I’d been practically chained to my computer. And it didn’t help that I’d spent too many weekends recently catching up on all the things I hadn’t been able to do during the week.

Last weekend, however, saw the kind of fall weather that hikers dream of. Blue skies, temperatures in the high forties (cool enough to require a sweatshirt), and the trees were starting to turn color. So I said to myself, “That’s it. This weekend, I’m going hiking. No excuses.”

I felt like doing something local (or at least something that didn’t involve taking the Garden State Parkway or the NJ Turnpike), and decided to head down to South Mountain Reservation in West Orange. So that Sunday morning saw me making my way down Pleasant Valley Way toward the reservation.

I left my car at the Turtle Back parking/picnic area, started stretching, checked the map, took a swig of water and headed off into the woods.

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West Essex Trail – Verona and Cedar Grove, NJ

View from the southern trailhead on Fairview Avenue in Verona.

View from the trail entrance on Fairview Avenue.

“Is that the trail up ahead?” I ask the two bikers – likely a dad and kid – coming out of the woods on Fairview Avenue in Verona, NJ.

“Yes – right where we came out.” The dad looks over his shoulder back toward the woods.

“Cool – thanks!”

I’d had a co-worker recommend the West Essex Trail to me as a hiking spot of a weekend. My hiking time has been a little limited this summer, due to a sprained ankle that took a while to heal, plus the usual time-eaters (work, grad school). So, having a few spare hours on a recent Sunday afternoon, I drove up Bloomfield Avenue from Montclair to Verona, boots on and backpack in tow.

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