Monday, November 3, 2014

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ - Orange Trail

I know, it says no dogs - will explain in a minute.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (be sure to check web site for hunting closures)

GPS Coordinates 40.706109, -74.467833

View Larger Map
Large paved lot at the end of a dead end road.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Map - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (more detailed map)
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ - Orange Trail at EveryTrail

HIKE DISTANCE: 5.2 miles

Dogs are not allowed on this hike - this is why I picked it:  On Tuesday, October 28, Shawnee woke up, ate breakfast, and other than stumbling a time or two, it was business as usual.  She had a chiropractor appointment in the afternoon so I figured something was out of whack and he could fix it.  As we were getting ready to leave for that appointment a few hours later, she started running into walls, falling down, looked like a drunken sailor in a pinball machine.  The most alarming symptom was her eyes darting back and forth rapidly.  Instead of going to the chiropractor, I raced her straight to the emergency clinic in a panic thinking she was having a stroke.  It was determined she has what is called Old Dog Vestibular Disease.  As someone described it to me - it's like vertigo on crack.  It comes on suddenly for no apparent reason with dramatic symptoms resembling a stroke, is the scariest thing ever, but the prognosis is good and she should recover but it can be a slow process taking anywhere from weeks to months.  She has already improved some but stays in her bed and wears her hiking harness always so I can assist her when she needs to go out.  Her eyes no longer dart back and forth and she eats normally again after having been fed with a syringe early on.  She wags her tail and is not in any pain.  No way could she catch on that I was going hiking without her - she would have been so upset.  This took a lot of planning and preparation.  Trying to outsmart Shawnee is not easy.  I put my backpack in the car and my hiking clothes in the basement the day before.  I changed in the basement on my way out and when I returned home so I walked into the main part of the house with the clothes on that I had left in.  Other than a sniff or two when I returned, she was none the wiser.  Whew, I can't believe I pulled it off!  But I missed her terribly and she was on my mind every single step.
Recovering in bed.

The orange trail starts right at the kiosk in the parking lot.
So many hawks flew over but the only one I got was a turkey vulture.
The silver trail start markers are on a log on the ground.
About 1/4 of a mile in, the silver trail becomes overgrown by impenetrable phragmites and thorny vines.
Heading back on silver.
Further along on orange, the green trail starts to the right on a boardwalk.
A small pond on green.
The beige trail leaves from green.
Some of the prettiest foliage I have seen this season was on the beige trail.
Beige ends at a swamp.
Heading back on beige ...
... to continue on green.
A dragonfly in November!  Turns out this is a geriatric dragonfly.  Apparently they only live one summer as adults then die of old age before winter :(
A gnarly old tree on orange.
Orange ends at the other parking lot.
Heading back on orange.
So many birds but I only managed to photograph a fraction of them.
I swear I find one every single hike.  Ugh.

[  0.00]  Take the orange trail from the kiosk
[  0.70]  Turn right on silver when orange continues straight
[  0.95]  Trail becomes impassible; retrace
[  1.20]  Turn right on orange
[  1.50]  Cross bridge
[  1.60]  Turn right on green on boardwalk when orange goes straight
[  2.00]  Turn right on beige when green goes straight
[  2.45]  Beige ends at swamp; retrace
[  2.90]  Straight on green when beige ends
[  3.10]  Bridge and boardwalk
[  3.20]  Turn right on orange when green ends
[  3.30]  Cross bridge
[  3.40]  Orange ends at other parking lot; retrace
[  3.60]  Straight on orange when green goes left
[  4.00]  Straight on orange when green goes left on boardwalk
[  4.10]  Bridge
[  4.50]  Straight on orange when silver goes left
[  5.20]  Back at parking


  1. OH NO! Poor Shawnee!! I will be thinking of you both!! Hope she will be back on the trail soon! My dog is the same way - I put on my hiking pants and she KNOWS - if I go without her she is so upset too! :) Take care!

    1. Thank you! She does a little better every day. I used to try not to let her know we were hiking the morning of a hike because if she caught on, she would get so excited she would not eat breakfast and she had to eat because I give her Deramaxx on hiking days. No matter what I did (or didn't do), she knew. Come to find out, me pouring my coffee into the go mug was what was tipping her off. I just gave up and started giving her Deramaxx the night before.


  2. We were just out at the GSWR a few weeks ago with the NYNJTC for a trail maintenance class. The GSWR has a group dedicated to maintaining the trails, and now, with proper training, they'll get out there and clean up the overgrown trails and reblaze things like the start blaze on a fallen log. It's a beautiful area. Poor Shawnee. Glad to hear she's on the mend. One of these days, I'm sure that we're going to run into you. We seem to frequent the same trails. I won't know you, but I'll know Shawnee!

    1. That is great that it will be better maintained. It wasn't too bad on this hike other than the silver trail turning out to be impassible but I can imagine that in the summer a lot of the trail is pretty overgrown. I have had people tell me before that they recognize me because of my dog, so I am sure you will recognize Shawnee!


    2. I'm so sorry to hear about Shawnee. I hope she is better soon. We had to stop hiking with our dog this year because it's just getting too tough for her. It makes me sad. I hope Shawnee is back at it soon! And I love your hikes. Thanks so much for doing this blog.

    3. Thanks, Jenn. That makes me sad for you,too. It's something that is on my mind all the time and I know that day will come sooner than I want it to.


  3. Poor Shawnee! I have a 15 year old lab with very bad arthritis. She is staying at my ex-husband's house because in the summer my back went out trying to lift her every time she had to go out. She had a seizure a couple of weeks ago and it scared my ex. We just take one day at a time with her and hope for the best. I know how you feel. Your pictures were beautiful as usual. Thanks for sharing. Joanne

    1. So sorry about your dog, Joanne. It totally stinks that they have to get old so fast. Fortunately I haven't had to carry Shawnee, I just wouldn't be able to. I fully understand the back pain :( Her hiking harness has been invaluable during this time. She is comfortable with me helping her by holding the handle because it distributes her weight so evenly. Put a sling under her and she fights it. We just did a little walk to the end of the block and back. So pleased with her progress - she almost walked a straight line!


  4. Sending wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

  5. One of my beagles has this. She has occasional fits and seizures but they pass after 10-15 minutes which is followed by lethargy. Its looks worse than it is. Scary but manageable. They can do everything they normally do but you never know when an episode will occur. Mine had 1 and then the second was over a year later and the she had 3 in 2 months and none for 2 years. You learn to deal with it. good luck.

    1. Thanks! I am consistently hearing about the same things from people whose dogs have had this so it's very encouraging because yes, is looks VERY scary and hopeless when it is happening.


  6. Your pictures are as gorgeous as usual and I really hope Shawnee gets better soon. It's so weird reading about your hikes without seeing her in it. Wishing for a speedy recovery for her :)


    1. Thanks, Tori! It is very weird for me hiking without her but I am hoping she will be back hiking by the end of the month. She continues to improve every day and no longer needs me to help her with everything like she did early on, only some assistance on the deck steps. She gets to take 5 minute walks every day which makes her very happy.