Friday, July 17, 2009

The Old Birch Spring Trail

NIGHTThere's a magical trail you might consider taking the next time you visit the Smoke Rise beach: the Old Birch Spring Trail. We discovered it thanks to Tom Kline on Sunday, July 5th.

This 1/2 mile long trail was never a fully marked trail. However, at both the starting and end points, it features delicious finds that offer a glimpse into the world of Francis S. Kinney.

The Birch Spring Trail starts at the north end of the beach. You know, Cove Lane, the road that goes behind the parking lot and goes toward the boat racks and docks? Walk a bit along that road - not too far - and you'll notice on your left hand side [the beach is on your right] a large granite flat-topped erratic.

Look closely, and you'll notice something in the middle.

NIGHT - closeupDo you see it in the picture?

Incised there in the middle in a rectangular frame is the word NIGHT.

Intriguing, no?

If you have seen Tom's slide presentation about Smoke Rise and the Kinney Estate, you may remember that he mentions statues. Kinney had many statues placed around his property in unexpected locations, at unusual vantage points. They contributed to the uniqueness of Kinnelon [how Kinney referred to his estate at the time].

Birch Spring 1This here, then, harkens back to those days! This massive erratic is where a statue called NIGHT was placed. Be sure to look at the flat top. Can't you just imagine the statue? What do you think it looked like?

Once you have discovered NIGHT, turn around. Now, head back toward the beach, cut through the parking lot and walk along East Shore Drive, past The Crossway.

Just past the big red house, heading north, keep an eye out on the left for what looks like a culvert for drainage from under the road.

I'm sure all of us have driven past this spot many times oblivious to the presence of this artifact of old Kinnelon.

If you look carefully, you'll see that there is no culvert, just the BIRCH SPRING itself, carefully walled on three sides, and welling up from within. The spring then drains into the lake.

Take the steps on the right side of the spring [step with care as they are covered with leaves and other debris] - see photo below - and you can admire the stone marker with the words BIRCH SPRING and the date 1894.

Birch Spring 2

Magical, don't you think?

I'm wondering whether BIRCH SPRING wasn't a perfect place for a quick drink of spring water on a hot summer day.

I can certainly imagine the walk being a perfect early morning jaunt, just to stretch the legs. Perhaps it was part of a longer walk or ride?
Birch Spring steps
According to Tom, when this trail was part of the official Smoke Rise trails [pre mid-70s approximately], residents would walk along the lake shore rather than on the road as we did. If you look carefully through the woods as you travel down the road, it does indeed look like a path once existed and perhaps still does in certain areas since the eye can still discern long cleared stretches among the trees.

If you've taken this trail before, what memories do you have?

Have you come across other signs of Kinney's Kinnelon?

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John said...

Oh my, I was afraid of this! Tom is starting to spill our secrets! **Grin**
So glad you have connected with Tom Kline. He's a wealth of information about Smoke Rise. Be careful, he just might lead you down the rabbit hole...

CB Whittemore said...

John, thanks for making the rabbit hole visible! It's a might fine one.

HOF said...


Just reviewing older posts. Many times I walked from 628 to the beach. On occasion the trip home (down was easy but back up to 628, well that took some energy)we would leave the beach and hike along Old Birch Spring Trail. Most the time we would climb back to the road from the spring. This reminded me there was another spring on the NE side of the intersection of Beechwood Terrace and Beechwood Lane (no stone markers).The water trickled from the ground, flowed down thru a pipe under Beechwood Ln and formed a creek along the west side of Beechwood heading towards the intersection with Mountain Road. Several small ponds formed along that creek with an abundance of frogs. Rob Eells any myself often created havoc on those poor frogs. At a couple of 100 feet short of Mountain Rd, another pipe had been installed and the water once again ran under Beechwood and formed a creek that ran downhill into the deep woods. With hoes and shovels myself and Randall Arendt built some magnificent dams in that location. In 1996 a portion of one was still visible (if you knew where to look). Remember, in the late 50s early 60 there were no houses around. On a routine basis we would drink directly from that spring, water was cold and clear. If the spring still survives, probably not a good idea today.

CB Whittemore said...

HOF, as usual, Simply Marvelous!

I'll have to follow in your footsteps and see if I can spot your creative dam-building...

Thank you!


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