Monday, November 10, 2008

Norvin Green's Heart

So its getting pretty late in the year, as you can tell by the almost bare trees and the thick blanket of leaves covering the ground. But its not too late to take a few more trips out of the city before the winter sets in, particularly on beautiful days like last Sunday. To that effect, Cheo, Juan and myself spent the day hiking through a wonderful wilderness area in Northern Jersey called Norvin's Green. I had been wanting to do this hike for quite some time, having read that it was a very rough trail with several deep stream crossings and a hilly route with some fantastic views. As usual with hikes around the city, I was surprised at how quickly we moved from the city into the suburbs into the countryside and then into somewhere almost fully wild. Whenever I get out, it always makes me a little sad that more people don't enjoy the spectacular natural world that surrounds the city ... but then I remember that if they all did, I probably wouldn't like it as much ...

We got an early start for this hike, getting up around 730 in the morning and getting out to the forest around 9 am. When we got there the sky was full and blue and empty of clouds, and we started off slowly, enjoying the stark trees and thick, auburn ground cover. The hike started in a rural neighborhood but quickly became a bit wilder, moving up and down over a few small rises before getting to Blue Mine Falls. We lolled around the falls for a little while taking pictures, then moved along the trail until we got to Roomy Mine, an old iron mine closed in the middle of the 19th century. Crossing Blue mine brook, we headed up a steep rise, climbing about 500' in half a mile, arriving at a rocky bluff with an incredible 360° panoramic of Norvins Green, Wanaque reservoir and the entire surrounding area.

The high point was the start of a ridge that runs through the center of the preserve, and we followed the ridge along for a while, meeting up with a couple of guys from a search and rescue outfit who were scattered around the area on a training exercise. Just before coming down from the ridge through the "Valley of Boulders", we stopped to eat lunch at a gorgeous overlook. It was beautiful, but clouds had come in and it had gotten windy, so it was freezing. Cheo, being cheo, was completely happy freezing on the rocks but I pushed us to move on down the hillside. We passed yet another group of search and rescuers, then got to the obligatory getting lost part of the hike. It seems like everytime I go on a hike that I find on, everything works out perfectly except for one or two turns, which inevitably turn out to be hugely confusing and lead to my adding or subtracting several miles from the hike.

This time the trail guide had us crossing, recrossing and uncrossing Post Brook several times , following an invisible trail to Chikahoki falls. You would think that we could have easily followed Post Brook to the largish falls, but somehow we missed it .... twice. Having wasted about 45 minutes hiking in the wrong direction, we eventually ended up back where we started and on our last attempt before turning around we found the right trail and made it over to the falls.

The trail crosses the brook just under the falls, and after staring at the falls for a while, we hustled across the brook, and spend along the water for a while on our way out. We had originally wanted to spend more time enjoying the back half of the hike, but we spent too much time being lost and had to get out quickly. The trail took some sharp turns and followed another rise uphill over a series of rocky areas, which would have been covered with water in a wetter time of year. This part of the hike was the least interesting, although we did run into one of the largest spiders I have ever seen in the wild. Soon enough we crested the last rise, and sped downhill for a few miles before walking back out through the neighborhoods where we started. Getting back in the car, we got back on the highway and were back in New York within 45 minutes ....

To get to Norvins Green, cross the Tappan Zee bridge to I-287, and take I-287 south to exit 57 South (towards Ringwood) to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline until it ends at a T intersection, turn left onto lake turnpike (CR 511). Make a left on westbrook road, then another left on Snake Den road. Follow Snake Den until you reach the parking lot, then park and walk out the bottom of the lot for about a quarter mile until you reach the Weiss Ecology Center, where you can get maps for the preserve.

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