Apshawa Preserve

We do a couple hikes per month as a family and while we don't often do repeats, we may have to make an exception for Apshawa Preserve...

Just off NJ-23 in West Milford and with a whopping 576 acres of area and varied trails, this place is a must-hike destination. Whether you're looking for wetlands/swamp or rockier climbs and technical trails, this place has it all.

576 acre Apshawa Preserve

Well fenced with clearly marked trails (there are some unblazed routes for the adventurous) this preserve was a fantastic hike. Depending on your comfort with maps and solely following blaze markings, it would be well-advised to bring along a gps or your favorite gps app.

Here's where I'll shamelessly link to Gaia GPS as a stand-out amongst the crowded field of GPS apps: https://www.gaiagps.com/ With a nice minimalist interface and accompanying Apple Watch companion app, it is really pretty polished and will get you back on the trail even if you happen to wander a bit far afield of the trail.

Well-blazed trails

Like many other trails within the region, this New Jersey preserve has the familiar rock/root/hill technicals to go with it. Most of these trails are going to be quite difficult to navigate if you have a walking impairment or disability - not saying it couldn't be done, but some of the trail sections are both steep and crazy rugged. You'd really want to keep a close handle on small children if you decide to venture out here.

Nature

Plenty of opportunity to see a diverse range of flora and fauna. We happened across this interesting caterpillar - which we later found out to be a Banded Tussock Moth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halysidota_tessellaris)

Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)

Who knew that was a moth - I was thinking it was some sort of butterfly...

The woods were abundant with squirrels - but we also came across a lot of brown frogs which I think (if my Google-Fu is not too weak) is an Eastern American Toad (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_toad):

Eastern American Toad (A. a. americanus)

There seemed to be dozens of these little guys around the wetter climes like the small creek which runs down from Butler Reservoir. Tor had fun chasing them and he claims to have seen a "really big one" right before it leaped into this pool:

Runoff creek from Butler Reservoir

There were also a lot of different types of fungi and while we tell the kids not to ever eat any of them, it sure would be nice to learn a bit more about which mushrooms are edible. After reviewing on Wikipedia, it looks like these crown-tipped coral fungus (Artomyces pyxidatus) are edible but the Boletus mushroom we saw is probably not - although some types of Boletus are edible.

Interesting Sights

"How did this car get clear out here?", my son asked. Indeed. On closer inspection it looked like the hood of a really old Plymouth - judging on some other debris in the area it looks like this was an impromtu dumping spot from decades ago.

Hood from an old Plymouth

Upon passing a large chunk of ceramic from either a sink or a toilet, we realized this was a good teaching moment for the kids about how long litter/garbage remains in an environment. That ceramic fragment is going to be out there for millennia...

Further down the trail we encountered some interesting pipes - not sure what these were from - mining perhaps? Either way it was visually interesting and made us wonder how they got out there and what they were used for.

If a pipe rolls in the woods can anyone hear it?

Now we've been walking for almost 2 hours (yeah we went pretty slow) and we saw another man-made dam up ahead. The low-light of the tunnel of trees made the water coming over the rim look a little surreal - almost like something out of a game like Half-Life...

Dam ahead

An interesting note is that the banks of all these creeks are stained a dark black color - I suspect there is something causing this - perhaps tanic acid - but not sure how as usually this would be derived from oak bark decomposition.

Homeward Bound

Around mile 3.5 we were getting close to the parking lot and while it was a long hike for the kids, we all had fun and we will be back again - next time to check out the sections of trail that were closed for beaver activities...

Jeff Jones

  • New Jersey

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