Weekend Adventures

Ted and I hiked at Stokes State Forest Saturday. Great day. We started out at the park office where we picked up a map.¬† Ted has a real interest in the history, plight and prognosis of the famed American Chestnut We hiked up to the Culvers Fire Tower, and a guy from the forest fire service was there and invited us up to the actual station. VERY cool view up there. We actually looked DOWN at the vultures ūüôā¬†We chatted for a few minutes and then “Carl” spotted a puff of smoke. It was easy to see and he talked us through the process of reporting a smoke sighting. That particular puff was probably just some illegal burning. Apparently you can burn in certain places in NJ with a permit, but you have to be registered and can only do it on certain days, so he has a list¬†that he checks to see who is scheduled for burning. Just a couple minutes later he spotted another puff, far off in the distance. This one I couldn’t see no matter how hard I tried, and it was apparently hard to nail down, because we stayed out of his way and quiet for 10 minutes as he called in, gave coordinates, checked again, etc., trying to confirm it with a spotter closer to the site.¬† We had hoped he would be able to finish the call so¬†we could talk more with him, but when it became apparent this one was going to take a while we waved to him and made a quiet exit so he could do his work. As we left I thought about how fortunate we were were that we had that opportunity to speak with Carl and learn about the job of a Forest Fire employee. There were other hikers who arrived as we climbed down the tower who probably didn’t get the same opportunity as us because Carl was busy when we left. The old cliche “right time, right place” seems to fit that moment.

Ted had been here previously and had enjoyed walking along the Appalachian Trail which happened to cross one of the regular trails at the fire tower. I knew of two letterboxes that were down the hill on a couple lower trails and had anticipated finding them.¬† Since we had spent more time than we expected checking out the¬†Blight Resistance Trial area, time had gone by quickly and once we were done with the tower, and after looking at a map, we realized we didn’t have time to do both.¬† After some discussion, and considering Ted had run out of water, we opted for what he thought was the easier option, to find the letterboxes.

We took the lower tower trail down the same route we had traveled the weekend before and again wound up at the intersection of a few of the main trails. We found one box in the vicinity and after debating if we could find the other one and get out of the woodsy trail before dark, we went for it and took off at a quick pace. We were pleased to find the second box in good daylight and were fine on the trail to the road, but by then the sun was just skimming the tops of the trees along the road so our timing was just right. The road itself was about a mile back to our car so Ted was happy that in the end we hiked about 4 miles.

Sunday we didn’t hunt for any letterboxes. I went to church early to practice for worship and Ted joined me during the service. Afterwards Ted bolted out and home to mow our lawn and I drove to Parsippany Library to set up a display for National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Setting up the display took 40 minutes longer than I had expected and I was felt tired when I got done. When I called Ted to tell him I was on my way home and to ask what he wanted to do he had a suggestion that worked well. In a brochure we had picked up Saturday at the park, he saw a “Moonlit Hike” going on that very evening at the Round Valley Recreational Area down near Readington. After resting a couple hours at home we drove down to Round Valley Recreation Area. Round Valley was a reservoir that was created from flooding a valley of farms. The story is a little sad (farmers were “thrown out”), but it is a beautiful park these days. We took nice mile or so walk around part of the reservoir, and then headed back to the parking lot where we met up with a group of people who were there for the “Halloween Moonlit Hike”. It is one of the few times visitors are allowed in the park after 6pm and is done on the weekend closest to Halloween when the moon is at it’s fullest. The group was large, 30 of us, many of them younger children. It was a rather noisy bunch, but the walk was still fun. The moon was just gorgeous and you could see your path by moonlight alone (if not for the kids who insisted on having the flashlights out). We were glad we got out a bit, even if it was a slower pace and the moon was just phenomenal.

Short adventures in the outdoors

Last weekend, my husband and I tried to get outdoors as much as our schedules allowed. On Saturday afternoon we visited a “hawk watch” called Chimney Rock, an interesting vista along a chain of hills. We didn’t see a whole lot there – a bunch of vultures, but I talked to some kind bird watchers and I did make the first spot on a harrier which was pretty exciting for a total beginner. I didn’t ID it of course- it was far away and I admit to having not much clue about who’s who in the air, but it was great learning from people who were experienced enough to figure out who was out there.

Because of some extenuating circumstances Ted and I did not get out of doors until later on Sunday. We did visit the Great Swamp in the afternoon as visitors, and it was exciting that I was able to help some of the other visitors spot some wildlife that they would not have found otherwise. It’s a great cycle- getting to know those more experienced than me, learning from their knowledge and being able to pass down what small amount of knowledge I have to others.

The simple website for Chimney Rock, with directions a couple pictures and bird migration totals is here:  http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~magarell/chimney_rock/.
Great Swamp information can be located here: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/greatswamp/¬†Be sure to check out the link to Friends of the Great Swamp, the volunteer organization that helps the refuge staff and has some great educational and recreational opportunities.¬† Coming up in October is the “Big Sit” and National Wildlife Refuge Week, so look around and maybe I’ll see you there!