Thursday, August 27, 2015

South Mountain Reservation and Hemlock Falls

trail map - click here for larger image
South Mountain Reservation was one of my youthful playgrounds. I rode my bike there and walked the trails without the aid of trail maps or blazes 50 years ago.

Back then, there was a deer paddock that held the deer in check and where families came to feed the deer - which were an oddity for most urban and suburban kids. The paddock is gone and the progeny of those deer have spread far and wide around that area.

I didn't know the details but South Mountain Reservation, covers 2,110 acres (8 km2). It is part of the Essex County Park System and portions of it are in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange. It borders South Orange, between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountains.

I liked thinking as I walked along the Washington Rock area that once there were Revolutionary soldiers there guarding a signal fire that would warn General Washington's Army at Morristown that the British were  approaching. It was the site of Beacon Signal Station 9 (of 23) built by General Washington to observe British troop movements quartered on Staten Island and New York City.

From this outlook, on June 23, 1780, the Essex County and Newark Militia were first warned that the British had launched an attack westward toward "the Gap," (Hobart Gap), a natural pathway to Washington's troops encamped at Morris Town. In what was termed a "pincer movement," Hessian troops fought along Vaux Hall Road, while the British advanced along Galloping Hill Road. The Hessians were stopped at the base of the First Watchung Mountain. The British were defeated in Springfield.

Campbell Pond

There are a number of easy to moderate trails. Some are quite rocky and there are a few easy stream crossings that in the heat of summer may be dry creek beds. There is one more significant crossing over the Rahway River. The Lenape and Oakdale trails are probably the most popular.

The Reservation is both north and south of South Orange Avenue with the northern half stretching to Northfield Avenue in West Orange near the Turtle Back Zoo and Orange Reservoir. The southern half extends to Glen Ave. in Millburn and includes Campbell's Pond (where we fished as kids and referred to as Diamond Mill) near the Papermill Playhouse.

There are several trail maps available to you, such as the simple one at the top of this post and even a Google map that shows the Lenape Trail. This suburban wilderness has several parking areas, formal trails, and some woods roads that can be used.

You can find more information and maps in the New Jersey Walk Bookand Hiking New Jersey: A Guide To 50 Of The Garden State's Greatest Hiking Adventures

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