Adventures in Hiking – Swartswood Spring Lake Trail

In the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of New York City, I found a hike for Swartswood Spring Lake Trail in Newton, NJ. It was said to be a quick and easy 3.8 mile hike with lots of things to see – like bears and foxes – neither of which I hoped to see.

Initially, I accidentally passed the parking lot for the hike, so I continued into the parking lot for the lake instead. I decided to quickly check that out and noticed the restrooms, picnic area and, of course, the lake….. Seems like a nice place to spend a day.

I turned back and went to the correct parking lot. There was a K-9 cop car there already but no one else. I parked and continued on my way. The trail began as a wide and distinct trail with informational kiosks along the way. There wasn’t much to see along the first leg of the trail except for a completely dry pond, and it soon ended with a road block. At this point, I got very confused and headed in the wrong direction along the street to the right of the path.

I wandered for a while down the road checking out the large beautiful houses. I eventually realized this could not be the correct way, so I turned back, but I was fortunate to see a large family of deer grazing on the front lawn of a McMansion. I again made a wrong turn as I headed down another road, but I realized my mistake sooner this time. I only had one road left to turn onto, so I figured third time’s a charm! I walked along this road for a bit but still didn’t see a trail. After dodging a car, I finally saw a path through the trees to my left. I shuffled down a small embankment and was finally on the correct trail where I could follow along in the book.

First interesting thing I saw

First interesting thing I saw

After my bad start, I should have known that the hike was going to be a fail. Once I knew I was heading in the right direction, I felt better about the hike; however, I shouldn’t have gotten so confident. For quite a while, I followed the directions in the book. White trail, red trail, green trail, blue trail, back to the red trail……….. that’s where I lost it. The book neglects to mention that the Y that they want you to find is basically right across from the end of the blue trail. I turned right and completely missed it. I ended up back on a trail I had already walked (fortunately I had purposely taken a detour earlier and checked out Spring Lake, so I was familiar with the area). I stumbled back around Spring Lake at the wrong section, dragging my dogs through high brush because I was afraid the trail was just covered over.

At this point, I started to get stressed and had to stop and think about next steps – what if I just avoided the Y, where would I end up? The red trail! Always the red trail! Fortunately, I was using my Endomondo app so I was able to compare where I already walked with the trail in the book. I backtracked to the blue trail and started over. I actually found the Y this time and checked it out but didn’t really enjoy it, because, at this point, I was ready for this hike to be over!

Spring Lake

Spring Lake

I think this is Frog Pond, but maybe not.

I think this is Spring Lake too, but maybe not.

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Anyway, the red trail did lead me past Frog Pond which just looked like a high grass field. I did have to hop over a tree trunk at some point, but that was about all that was interesting on any of this trail. I saw some squirrels and chipmunks…didn’t even see any interesting birds. Oh and there was a turtle on a rock in Spring Lake. Woo hoo!

2014-09-19 13.31.36

I thought these trees were kind of cool.

By the end of the hike, we had walked over 6 miles instead of the 3.8 miles we were supposed to walk. I did learn a valuable lesson – if there is an available bathroom, use it before you start hiking. OR just carry tissue and do your biz the old fashion way, but don’t spend the whole hike thinking about whether or not you really have to pee!  🙂

pee

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