This weekend, we decided to venture out into Norvin Green State Forest, located in Ringwood, NJ near the Wanaque Reservoir. It was our first time hiking this area; it is funny to think that we’ve never been here having lived in northern NJ all these years. A symphony of chirping Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) erupted as we jumped out of the Jeep to pull on our hiking boots. It was a gray day and it felt chilly, yet humid, with a gentle breeze. As we walked toward the trailhead, the place had a sort of eerie vibe to it – maybe it was due to the random stuff strewn about the grounds or old buildings, like the one marked “Nature House” that was guarded off by caution tape. “Surely, there must be a squatter or two in there”, I thought.
The eerie silence was soon shattered – acoustics ensued just a few yards up the trail as a group of young individuals paraded around with music whining from one of their smartphones. A bit further away, people in other groups shouted over one another in languages we did not understand. We did not spend much time at the overlook areas for these reasons, but it is nice to see people excited for early spring and get outside. We were surprised that no one else was around when we reached Chikahoki Falls (South Norvin Green State Forest) – this called for a special activity – it was time to chomp down on a big Crispin apple! We sat across from the falls, enjoying the apple and some tasty pumpkin bread that my momma whipped up the night before – now that’s livin’.
Finally, a quick plant report: Pitch pine in higher elevation areas and various hardwoods like American Beech and Oak in other areas. Many more to unveil later once flowers and leaves emerge. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is quite abundant in the shrub layer in this section of the NJ highlands. May is typically when K. latifolia blooms, but we have yet to time it right. Another thing to look forward to and be thankful for!