Monday, September 7, 2009

The Full Hemlock Trail In Smoke Rise

Hemlock trail headAnd, now, as promised in The Hemlock Trail in Smoke Rise, the FULL Hemlock Trail....

Hemlock trailThis was our first hike of 2009 which we did on January 1st - an invigorating way to ring in the New Year.

We took the long way around - on foot - to get to the official trail head on Summit Terrace.

If you remember from the official trail description for the Hemlock Trail:

The head of this trail begins at the intersection of Summit Terrace South and Bush Hill Road.

Note the large glacial erratic at the trail entrance. Fabulous, isn't it?

Now, the trail description refers to many giant Eastern Hemlocks, including a particularly large one with a ten foot circumference within the first 100 yards on right side of trail.

Hence the name of the trail, right?

We noticed the hemlocks. Unfortunately, none were alive. Some blight had killed them. What remain are tall, imposing skeletons - including that of the large ten foot circumferenced hemlock.

Hemlock TrailDoes anyone remember what happened?

The first markers we noticed were yellow. The rest, though, were orange.

The trail needs clearing. We had to creatively skirt many of the fallen trees.

You'll note a marvelously located bench - a perfect place for reading the Sunday paper perhaps. [Per Ted & Emma, the bench may no longer be. A tree may have fallen on it. TBD.]

The trail heads down a natural path or ravine. It looks to become a stream during rainy periods with water funneling down toward Hoot Owl Pond.Hemlock trail

To our left as described, we saw magnificent mini-palisades, highlighting the marvelous variety of terrain that 've noticed throughout Kinnelon and the Pyramid Mountain or Split Rock reservoir hikes.

Although I took photos of these palisades, they don't do justice to their natural beauty.
Hemlock trail

Past the palisades, the trail/ravine continues to Hoot Owl or climbs to the left.

The official Hemlock Trail goes up to the left for a short steep portion, across flatter terrain and then down to the infamous bog area.

Hemlock trail palisades
We noticed throughout most of the hike many other marks in the snow.

Not necessarily human, though.

Rather, deer! Many, many deer prints.

We believe we had come across the equivalent of a deer highway given the concentration of hoof prints and other signs.

Back to the bog portion of the trail.

Hemlock trailIn deep winter, as we had in January 2009, the bog is frozen over and the boards more stable. Missteps weren't that treacherous although some boards were iced over.

I consider this trail particularly magical in deep winter because of the Hoot Owl Pond connection.

Hemlock Trail through bogWhen Hoot Owl Pond is frozen, you can extend the hike by crossing the pond, sliding here and there and checking out the pond dam. I have some photos of that that I'll share with you - ideally before skating season starts up again!

Once through the bog, there's a last climb and then you reach the trail end at the Hemlock Lane cul-de-sac.

There you have it: the full Hemlock Trail in Winter and Summer with contrasting pictures!

I'd love to hear stories relating to the heyday of this trail. It must have been truly magnificent.

Hemlock trail

But, what happened? Were the trees destroyed by the hemlock wooly adelgid?

It also seems that this trail hasn't seen much use lately. Wouldn't it be nice to get it back into trail shape? Hmmmm.

I hope you'll check it out, if you haven't already, and will you let me know what you like most about the Hemlock Trail?


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