Rambling NJ’s Four Birds Trail

My sports medicine doctor still says, “No running” while I deal with this fracture.  But as long as it’s moderate, I’m allowed to go for a walk in the woods.  No big days in the Adirondacks over Memorial Day weekend.  Likewise, I won’t be going on this year’s installment 0f the annual Appalachian Trail sufferfest.  But something modest, an easy walk in the woods, is OK.

So while it poured down rain on Sunday, I finally took advantage of my permit to hike the Four Birds Trail on the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation (NWCDC) land.  NWCDC controls about 35,000 acres of land across six north NJ municipalities.  Four reservoirs supply Newark with fresh water.

For years, I’ve harbored a secret goal of through-running the Four Birds Trail from the southern terminus near the bat hibernaculum all the way to Route 23.  That’s something over 20 miles.  The limiting step was a permit:  the Four Birds crosses NWCDC land, and you can’t just traipse around there whenever you feel like it.  Back in January, I frittered away $12.00 for a permit as my foot began to hurt so bad I could barely run.

At the base of the hill a mile or so north of Craigmeur, I parked at the obvious turnout where the Four Birds Trail crosses Green Pond Road and set out to the east.  After following alongside an old stone wall, the trail climbed gradually, then steeply, to a ridge overlooking Charlottesburg Reservoir.  Ascending, I saw all terrain vehicle tracks on sections of the trail, as well as places where riders had created detours around obstacles.  NWCDC does not allow motorized vehicles on their property.   On the ridge, the trail follows a fire road on level ground before detouring into the woods.

The understory was thin, but healthier than parks where hunting is prohibited.  Mountain laurel, blueberry bushes, maple, oak and chestnut are the predominant trees that I noticed.  The trail crossed several old roads, so there’s plenty of opportunity to explore.  When I turned around, I was cold, wet and bedraggled, but I had a good time.

Lest I forget, does anyone wonder about the water quality in the reservoir when it’s about 10 miles away from the Radiation Technology Superfund site?

Permits are only available from the NWCDC office in Newfoundland, and you have to apply in person, during regular business hours.  Way to make permits accessible, guys.  Moreover, if you’re running with a group, everyone in your group needs a permit.  Just  because you’re carpooling four people to run on their land and your car has a sticker, that doesn’t cut it.  Everyone in the group needs a permit.  With the permit there are also regulations on when you can hike – the times vary during the course of the year.

Today’s walk wasn’t long, but it was just enough to whet my appetite for more of this part of NJ.