Saturday, June 18, 2016

Janet Van Gelder Wildlife Sanctuary, NJ

Janet Van Gelder Wildlife Sanctuary - New Jersey Audubon (as of May 2018 NJ Audubon no longer has any information on their site)

I had to do this hike in two separate sections so there are two parking areas.
North Parking:  GPS Coordinates 41.23292, -74.50278
Parking at the end of a very rutted, grassy woods road.
 South Parking:  GPS Coordinates 41.21384, -74.52169
Paved pull-out with room for 1 car.  It is directly opposite Cedar Ridge Road, a little hard to find but it's there.

Janet Van Gelder Wildlife Sanctuary Trail Map - NJ Audubon
The web site says the map was in the process of being updated by April 2013 yet the map is dated January 2012.  It most definitely is not updated and was not very useful.  A GPS is definitely needed along with the map.  (as of May 2018 NJ Audubon no longer has a map on their site)

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.8 miles
Northern Section - 2.8 miles
Southern Section - 3 miles

I had to do this hike in two sections because heading from north to south I could not find the continuation of a trail, plus I ran into a huge obstacle - more on that later.
When you turn off of Lounsberry Hollow Road on to a shared driveway where Lounsberry Hollow Road bends sharply right, you leave the driveway to the right , just beyond the dumpster, on to a rutted, overgrown woods road.  I made it (barely) with my low car thanks to the all wheel drive.
To the right of the kiosk, the continuation of the woods road is where the trail starts and there is a marker on the tree.
I almost aborted this hike after the drive in but the trail part of the woods road is actually better than the drive in part of the woods road.
So glad I did not abort this hike because the woods are beautiful and there is nobody else around.
When the trail becomes a footpath it remains easy to follow in this area.
Mountain Creek Ski Resort to the east.
The trail becomes more rugged.
More views of Mountain Creek.
When orange ribbons appear, that is when things become more unclear.  I found myself following the ribbons/more defined path and losing the markers of the path I was on.
Some views through the trees from the trail.
Some fairly recent maintenance has taken place on the unmarked trail where the ribbons are.
This leads to a clearing ...
... with views and a party pit :(  None of this is on the map.
We continued on the unmarked trail ...
... where I found my balloon!
The unmarked trail ended up looping around to where I lost the marked trail.
There is the marker where the arrow is pointing but it is all overgrown. I think the orange ribbons might be a reroute but it doesn't connect to the continuation of the  marked trail as far as I could tell.
We bushwhacked through to see if the trail would open up.
The trail did open up but as an unmarked trail skirting a vernal pool.
So we continued along on the unmarked, but defined path to see if it might take us to the southern part where I wanted to go when I saw a black blob in the distance.  I always use my camera to zoom in on black blobs to see what they are and 9 times out of 10 it is the open end of a hollow downed tree.  But this was that 1 time out of 10...
Howdy Mr. Bear!  I snapped a quick shot, didn't bother to focus for another since he was totally watching us, and we politely retreated back the way we came.
Retracing back the way we came.
I wanted to get to the overlooks on the map so this is how I ended up making two separate sections of the hike.  On to the southern part.
Where the trail starts is more obvious than in the picture.  There is actually an opening.
The trail is unmarked but well-defined.
A creek crossing.
At a woods road (I presume right goes to wherever the other access is but I could not find it driving around in that area) turn left for a few steps then right back on to the footpath where the NJ Audubon markers pick up.
The trail climbs steeply at times, never any scrambles, but let's just say I burned off way more calories than the Dunkin Donuts sesame bagel I had on the drive in.
I found this marker on the ground and propped it up on a tree.  To the right of this tree is the southern viewpoint, which is completely overgrown other than a glimpse of Mountain Creek Ski Resort that you get better views of from the trail.
There would be lots of views along the way when the leaves are down.
Red-tailed Hawk
At the T-intersection with two blazes on the tree, the marked trail goes left and presumably heads to where I was in the first part of the hike.  I'll have to had back another time to investigate that because after the viewpoint to the right, I got sidetracked by an unmarked trail again.
To the right from that intersection, the northern viewpoint on the map.  It is somewhat overgrown but I could still see the views standing on one of the rocks.
That same red-tailed hawk still circling in the same area.
Cooling down and taking a break after that climb up.
From that viewpoint, a nice unmarked trail continues along the eastern side of the mountain ridge (not on the map).  The marked trail would be on the western side.  I thought maybe the two would meet up at one point so I continued on the unmarked trail.
A safe distance away from that hawk.
I thought this was a fire pit but a closer look on the way back found it not to be a fire pit at all.  The marked trail should be down a short distance in the direction of this picture but I could see no markers so I continued on the unmarked trail.
This compares the map to my track of the unmarked trail.  Looks like I was about to meet up with the marked trail but it was getting very hot and Shawnee was getting very tired so I thought it best to save that for another time and head back.
Heading back.
A closer look at what I thought was a fire pit - turns out to be a dog's grave :(  He must have hiked these woods like Shawnee was doing on this gorgeous trail. 
Partial views along the trail.
This is the point at those horizontal markers where the marked trail continues straight (for another day) and left goes back down to the parking area.
Mountain Laurel
This was a strenuous hike for her but she did great.  OK, who am I kidding, it was a strenuous hike for me, too.  Lots of ups and downs, but also gorgeous and lots of fun.
Back at the car.


  1. Lots of interesting extras which add to the reader's experience. I liked the bird, chipmunk, butterfly and bear photos - also the dog's grave site. It's wonderful to see Shawnee still enjoying her hikes.

    1. Thanks, Bill! I know from experiences other people have had with dogs Shawnee's age is that they can be perfectly fine in the morning, gone in the afternoon, so I cherish every single moment on the trails with her and I think she does the same.

  2. Had one of those "big black blobs" gallomp right at me on a very narrow trail in VA. last month. Sure wished it had been just a hollowed out stump! My heart has only just begun beating again. :) I applaud your tenacity to ferret out trails that are sometimes so unclear and/or after being stared down by one of those 'big black blobs'. Much prefer chipmunks!!!

    1. Ohhhhhh my! But wait, you were in VA last month?!?!?!? Lucky you. And lucky you that you weren't plowed over by the black blob. That must have been scary. The scariest encounter I had was when a baby bear skittered down a tree into a huge pile of Sandy blow downs right next to the trail as we were passing by and momma, who apparently was already inside the huge pile of blow downs, let out a snarl like you have never heard before. Never did see her but heard her loud and clear!

  3. Always a pleasure looking at your pictures especially the close ups of birds and butterflies. Always happy to see Shawnee doing so well. I wish our dogs could live forever. This looks like a great spot and I don't live far from here. I never knew it was there. Thanks for sharing. Joanne from NJ

    1. Thanks, Joanne. I don't think many people know about that place at all. It's actually pretty amazing that there is even a trail to follow. It's pretty wild up there!