Log for Millburn-to-Verona Practice Walk 1 - Sept 18th

Over a dozen of us gathering together at around 9:00 a.m. this past Saturday to explore the first third of the Lenape Trail. Surprisingly, the Locust Grove parking area, which only accommodates about 20 cars was already filled to capacity at 8:30. But the Millburn train station’s parking lot had plenty of spaces and parking is free on the weekends.

That day there was some track work being done on the rails, so we waited for the arrival of the westbound train about fifteen minutes late. Once assembled we had a brief overview of the day ahead and started walking at the beginning of the old section of the Lenape Trail at 9:30 a.m.

Steve Marano, the dynamo behind the revitalization of the Lenape Trail was there to review the first few miles of the trail. Dave Hogenauer, the Trail Leader for the South Mountain Conservancy, was to play an invaluable role in guiding us along the trail and proving a wealth of information about the history, geology and fauna along the way.

Hiking the South Mountain Reservation

Our real challenge for the day, however, was to travel through certain sections of the South Mountain Reservation that had not been used in a long time and needed to be cleared and re-blazed (tree marks) so that we would have had a clear walk ahead on October 11, the day of the LENAPE34 walk. This would also serve to revitalize the trail again for others in the future.

Today it was a six mile walk through the South Mountain Reservation, then another six along residential areas and the Eagle Rock Reservation before ending at Verona Park.

South Mountain Reservation covers over 2,200 acres and is the largest in the Essex County System. It was primarily built from land purchases begun in 1895 but has acquire additional land even recently. The property was studied by Fredrick Law Olmsted, of Central Park fame, and delegated to his sons who took over the development in stages over the years. A good deal of construction work--trails, foot bridges, shelters, etc.—was carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.

Almost immediately the trail begins climbing up South Mountain at a fairly hard incline for about one-half of a mile, climbing an elevation of about 300-400 ft. (See my previous blog for additional details on the first mile) The beginning path here is well known and used and has only one problem area where it is not clearly marked to turn left as the path starts to level out at the top of the mountain. Soon we were at the top at Washington Rock and the lookout area where you could see the town of Millburn and the Summit area further ahead. It is said that this area was one of 23 lookout points for the revolutionary militias to view and monitor the movements of the British.

Washington Rock and the paved road, Crest Dr., that leads to it, are popular for people walking and riding bikes and has been closed off to traffic. When the Olmsteds had been commissioned to design a park for South Mountain, the idea was to maintain a large pristine natural environment that people from the popular cities and towns to visit easily as a day trip into the country.

You can still see the rockwork ledge and remnants of a hut in this area. Apparently, the park has seen much use and abuse over the years but is now nurtured by the South Mountain Conservancy and the Essex County park system.

After Washington Rock, the Lenape Trail continues as a typical forested trail for several miles, much as if you were hiking the Appalachian Trail except that the typical trail marker (blaze) is painted yellow. We were fortunate to have Dave Hogenauer with us from the beginning, pointing out historical remnants of old huts and fences most of which were constructed back in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Today there seems to be a lot of criticism for public works spending for economic stimulus while we bemoan unemployment. The CCC’s was one of the first attempts at putting people to work for the public good. There existed in the early part of century a loftier idea of creating a better social good by protecting nature. That ideal became a reality for a while in the development of grand local and national parks. I remembered my faher, who grew up in Jersey City, telling us stories of working for the CCCs in the Pacific Northwest clearing woods to make way for roads while planting new ones - in one of the most beautiful parts of our country. He described his time there as a "real education" that instilled in him his own respect for nature and how to get along with a tough group of guys.

Dave also pointed out certain humped rock outcroppings with polygon markings which he referred to as “turtle back rock”. As anyone familiar with the area knows, there is a popular children’s zoo called the Turtle Back Zoo which is part of the Reservation. What I never knew was that there rock formations that expanded and cooled over 200 million years ago that ended up resembling the backs of turtles, hence the origin of the name.

Probably the most impressive natural site came about three miles into the walk as we passed Hemlock Falls, which is about 25-30 feet high dropping down into a crystal clear pool. Soon we were crossing South Orange Avenue and headed to toward the Mayapple section, a mixed area of developments, trail and unused parkland.

Trail Blazing - Re-discovering the Lenape Trail

The area of a mile or two beyond Mayapple behind the Kessler Institute and further north to Route 280 would prove to be our biggest challenge of the day. My understanding is that there was clearly marked trail at one time but due to lack of use and maintenance, it had grown unrecognizable. There is also some new land here that extended the boundries of the Reservation but needs to be clearly marked. Near O’Connor Park, Dave had scouted out a trail only the day before and did a great job of marking it with orange ribbon. While the trail was not exactly clear, and required walking through brush, it provided a good enough method of navigating the deep woods.

Gwen leadiing us to the next way point.Our biggest problem came next as we crossed a new condo development but needed to get through an even deeper section of woods beyond where there was a low-lying swamp. Luckily, Robert Fouchaux had scouted the area out a few days before with a GPS device and had some data points to work with as we slowly found some landmarks and followed a stream until we could get to Route 10. After crossing route 10, we zig-zagged through a development heading toward the powerlines below Route 280.

Our last big challenge was heading to the powerlines where we were to find the trails intersection for the east-west junction. The western direction is the new Lenape Trail heading toward East Hanover and connecting the big state-wide Liberty Water Gap Trail. We wanted to head east and down about a ½ mile hill, descending at least a couple undred feet, toward Mt. Pleasant Avenue and underneath Route 280. The beauty of this spot at the top of the hill is that you can now see ahead to Mount Pleasant and it was downhill! The problem that we soon realized was that the grass had grown waist high and left a vague image of where the double track trail had been. Al King had clearly marked the trail but it was easy to see we simply needed to follow the powerlines. Once you started to descend the hill with even high grass disguised a rutted trail bottom that was uneven and required careful walking as you made your way down. At this point about 8 of us were left and we were sure glad that we had made it without any major problems.

Back to Civilization

After going under Route 280, the Lenape Trail meanders through some neighborhoods on its way to Eagle Rock Avenue at Mayfair Farms caterers. All we needed to do was to head east on Eagle Rock toward Pal’s Cabin and then Eagle Rock Reservation for our last major leg of the walk. Dave broke off at this point with a ride from his wife and took Mel and Barbara back to Millburn. Both Jon Stout and Gary Sanderson had walked most of what we had left to finish so we quickly picked up speed and entered the Highlawn Pavilion area of Eagle Rock. Being already over an hour late we passed up taking in the magnificent NYC view at the lookout and proceeded quickly through the Reservation and into the West Orange/Verona neighborhoods behind it. Living in Montclair, Robert litteraly dropped off our trail and down another to his nearby home.

The Lenape Trail signs are pretty thorough throughout this area and easy to follow. This led us to Verona Park and the end of our trip. Both Jon and Gary had volunteered to help carpool our walkers back but we only needed one car, so I took back Nancy, Marcos, and Marc back to Millburn for their return home.

Summary of the Walk

We already knew going into this walk that this would be the hardest segment. Traveling through natural trails requires more care and a slower pace of about 2 miles per hour. We found out that the rough area above Mayapple, while temporarily marked with ribbon is still rough and slows the pace. But the last rough section before the powerlines was not marked and needs to be laid out so that it follows the permitted property lines and cleared. The powerlines trail also could use clearing to avoid a possible accident due to the ruts that are not easily visible with the high grass. I would recommend that we bypass this last mile above Mayapple and look to use residential streets or walk along Pleasant Valley Way to the Route 280 underpass. That would insure that we will remain close to our anticipated schedule to complete the 34-mile walk on Oct. 11.

Views: 511


You need to be a member of FreeWalkers to add comments!

Join FreeWalkers

Comment by Paul Kiczek on September 26, 2010 at 8:56am
Robert, corrected this.
Comment by Robert Fouchaux on September 24, 2010 at 4:45pm
One Correction: Al King marked under the Power lines. I recently remarked the already existing route from there into Eagle Rock Reservation as one of Steve's group of NYNJTC volunteers.


Recent Events

Roebling Ramble 

June 17, 2017 - This event combined the history of the Roebling family (built the Brooklyn Bridge and many others) and their rise and fall and the town they created that represented an immigrant's dream 100-years ago.

Our 34 FreeWalkers continued another 13 miles to Trenton to experience a unique festival called Art All Night which offered a huge stage to experience live visual and audio art along with caravan of food trucks for 24-hours straight. The entire day was a unique and interesting experience in history and art.

Hudson River Loop 

June 10, 2017 - It turned out to be a great day for a great event. Our largest event yet with 125 participants. Many making it all the way to the end of 30-miles. If there was any particular challenge it was the heat building up but with some breeze to help as it reached the mid-80s.

This year to accommodate more challengers we expanded the support providing improved signage and a support stop near the GWB. Our thanks to the Hudson River Walkway Conservancy, East Coast Greenway, Shorewalkers and Metrotrails for helping make this a huge success for FreeWalkers and our United Walking effort.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

Photos here

The Big Walk 2017

May 20, 2017 - Rain at the crack of dawn did nothing to stop 40+ FreeWalkers' at this 8th annual premier long distance event. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, mostly, and we had 11 finish the maximum 50-miles.

The walk from Metropark station to Penn Station NYC is a diverse challenge with many obstacles which draw the best of our long distance walkers.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

Photos here

Between Walk 2017

April 15, 2017 - With a good temps but overcast skies 23. FreeWalkers walked the 12 miles from New Brunswick to Metropark station. This year's events included a new free bagel stop at Ruthie's in Highland Park and a great personal tour of the newly renovated Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park.

Jack Shi's Excellent Adventure

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey

Photos here

Great Canal Walk 2017

April 8, 2017 - It was a beautiful day for a walk with a taste of spring. FourWalkers walked the 40 miles from Trenton and 29 walkers favored the shorter, yet challenging 28 miles from Princeton to New Brunswick.

Website Update here

Survey results. Take Survey

Photos here

Spring Ahead 2017

March 19, 2017 - Eight FreeWalkers walked the 12-miles from Trenton to Princeton on a day when winter would not let go. Snow covered trail and cold temps slowed down the trek but sun and good spirits were plentiful. 

See photos here

Roosevelt Island/Astoria 2017

March 4, 2017 - About 40 braved the mid-teens and walked across town to the tram. We explored the island and the FDR 4 Freedoms Monument and park. Eventually crossing the bridge to Queens for some middle-eastern sights, smells and tastes. Ending it all at the famous Czech Beer Hall. 

See photos here

See survey results here

Kennedy 50-Mile Walk 2017

February 4, 2017 - An event for history buffs and hardcore walkers. Our 4th walk along the C&O Canal in Maryland and West Virginia - just like Bobby Kennedy did in 1963. Chilly weather did not dampen the can-do spirit of 50 fellow walkers at our grand annual event.

Learn more>>
See photos here
See survey results here

TRAINing Walk 2017

January 28, 2017 - It's mid-winter and 75 hearty walkers show up at the Morristown train station. This year we went West to East and ended in a cozy bar called Coda. Special kudos to Madison Honda for their hospitatlity.

See photos here
See the survey results here.

Midnight March on Princeton

January 7, 2017 - The Midnight March was our first all-night walking event and first event for the new year. Six brave FreeWalkers played wannabe soldiers and stayed with the troops into battle.at daybreak.
Read the entire story here
See photos here

See the video!

Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights

December 16, 2016 - About a dozen FreeWalkers braved extreme cold and outmaneuvered rabid fans of the famous Brooklyn neighborhood. Thanks to Nakis Pericleous for leading us to the holiday kingdom.
See photos here

South Orange - Maplewood Walk & Year-end Party

December 4, 2016 - There were 35 FreeWalkers walking the grand and historic neighborhoods of South Orange and Maplewood followed by our year-end party and awards. Thanks to Risa Olinsky and David Ascher for a great day for a walk, celebration party and a start of the holiday season..
See photos here

Gobble-Gobble for MEND

November 25, 2016 - A crowd of about 40 walked off some turkey and at the same time helped the unfortunate in our communities by supporting MEND of Essex County - a food-bank charity that we support. Gobble-Gobble Walkers were asked to bring food and/or donate to help the hungry.
See photos here

Stroll & Roll - Union County

November 6, 2016 - Familes and FreeWalkers enjoyed a great fall day in Echo Lake Park, Mountainside, NJ as we got about 200 participants strolling and rolling. Kids had as much fun as adults enjoying the games, mild temps and colorful leaves on our first-ever family walking event. Thank you sponsors and Risa Olinsky and Yohana Osorio for organizing!
See photos here

Philadelphia Marathon Walk

October 30, 2016 - Charles Upkike led about 20 FreeWalkers along the route of the Philadelphia Marathon, know for its scenery - especially this time of year.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Walk

October 30, 2016 - Rick Mohovich led about a dozen FreeWalkers around the Tarrytown area in a walk that passed through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Wahington Irving fame.

Tour of Brooklyn - Coney Island

October 29, 2016 - 25 FreeWalkers walked from the New City waterfront to Coney Island on our annual tour of a different section of Brooklyn each year. Always popular and interesting, we enjoyed great weather and scenery as we walked the greenway trail, including under the Verrazano Bridge. Thanks leader Nancy Jonap!
See photos here

Autumn on the Delaware Series

October 20-23, 2016 - Four consecutive days, 120 miles. Walking from York PA to Frenchtown. FreeWalkers walked in support of Jim Gregoire, a FreeWalker and man on a mission to walk the entire US East Coast. Charles Updike, FreeWalkers PA Regional director organized this series of walk to keep him company and provide a great reason to visit the Delaware River area.
See photos here

Sailung Nepal Trek

October 3-16, 2016 - Two weeks trekking te foothills of the Himalayas. Sydney Frymire of Trek of Your Life (TOYL), a FreeWalker and experienced hiker and traveler organizes trips to Nepal which include a bit of volunteerism and plenty of incredible sights.
See photos here

Lenape 34

October 10, 2016 - On Columbus Day each year we brave the wilds of Essex County and travel through five reservations, 8 parks a dozen or so towns as we walk from Millburn to Cedar Grove, Montclair and Newark as we follow the Lenape Trail for 34 miles in our most diverse walk.
See photos here

Endless Summer Walk

September 24, 2016 - Once again we tried our best to hold on to summer and made a 30-mile trek along the bayshore and oceanside from Matawan to Sandy Hook to Asbury Park. Great conditions again this year for a beautiful walk and one of our most popular.
See photos here

Tour of Boston

September 17, 2016 - Fran Price, our FreeWalker leader in Boston, put together a great tour of the highlights of Boston. We walked from South Boston to Copley Square, mostly following the water and the historic trail.
See photos here

Providence - Boston Expedition

Providence to Boston July 23 to July 29 - Loredana, Ken and Nancy have finished thier 110 mile week-long expedition on the ECGA.

Read Loredana's story on why she walks the expedition each year.

See Loredana's 7-day Photo Journal

© 2018   Created by Paul Kiczek.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service