Sunday, November 29, 2015

Evans Family Forest Preserve and Highlands Ridge Park, NJ

Evans Family Forest Preserve - Chester Township (The trail descriptions refer to a green trail but there is no green trail.  The trail is marked in blue as shown on the map.)
Highlands Ridge Park - Chester Township

GPS Coordinates for Willow Drive Parking - 40.79152, -74.66128
Parking for two cars off of the cul de sac at the end of Willow Drive.

Parkland Trails Map - Chester Township

HIKE DISTANCE: 5.2 miles

Trail Head at Willow Drive
The trail description on the Chester Township site refers to this as a green trail but it is blue.  There are aqua markers along with almost all other colors of trails.
I wanted to go right on blue but did not see the turn so I turned right on yellow instead to connect back to blue.
Yellow ascends ...
... and ends at blue on the ridge.
On the millrace.
Leaving the millrace at Ayers Brook.
All stream crossings had bridges.  (No log bridges as referred to in the trail description.)
The end of blue (which is shown as unmarked on the map) ...
... at white, which also has those aqua markers.
White ends ...
... at red.
Red gets close to back yards ...
... and crosses a colorful bridge ...
... before ending at the South Road parking lot.
To form a loop, turn left on South Road the left just past the guardrail...
... and look (very hard) for blue.
It's unused and overgrown so you just have to find your way parallel to Ayers Brook.
At yellow, which is very well-defined, turn right.
A field to the right.
An unmarked trail (per the map) which is actually blazed with those aqua markers, leads to a woods road on the right.
Turn right on the woods road...
To access a lovely mowed path through the field.
This comes out on to a mowed field which is the Black River Fields.
You can walk along the perimeter of the field to form a loop. (not shown on map)
Black River Fields
At the far end of the fields at a break in the fence, turn left on the paved road.
This leads to the community garden.
A loop around the community garden then right on the mowed path where I found ...
... the red-tailed hawk who had been calling out for some time.
While I was photographing, he was joined by two blue jays!
Back at the bridge on the woods road where you turn left just before the bridge to connect back to Evans Family Preserve.
Heading straight on yellow.
At the fork, take the bridge on the left to extend the hike.  The bridge on the right will short cut it back to the parking lot.
After another bridge turn right on red which follows Ayers Creek and ends ...
... at white at a stone wall.  Turn right on white but again, an unused and overgrown section of trail.
It's a shame the white trail in this area has not been maintained because it is actually on of the more interesting sections of trail following along the top of a massive stone wall along Ayers Creek.
Shawnee opted not to hike on the wall, which was fine, she followed along below.
We met back up at the end of the wall.
While I was busy trying to get a picture of a white-breasted nuthatch (and they are not easy to get)...
... Shawnee climbed the millrace and stood patiently waiting for me.
This time I continued on the section of blue I could not find at the beginning of the hike.
It actually has a name.
The parking lot in sight up ahead.