Had wanted to travel out to Alpha, exit 4 off I-78, and south on CR 519 for three or four miles to Musconetcong Gorge and hike with my wife and black lab Sadie. Since she has so much to get done, she insisted we walk our local Bedminster Hike & Bikeway, about five miles round trip.
The trail hasn't always existed, although unpaved pathways have for many years. Completed some years after my family moved to Bedminster in 1999, Patricia says it's the best thing the town ever did. The trail includes iron bridges over Schley Mountain Road and an I-287 exit, and another bridge across Rt. 202/206 to River Road Park. The daily use the trail gets probably numbers in the hundreds, yet no one ever seems to feel crowded and solitude accompanies any walker, bicyclist, or jogger for most of the length.
Partway, the trail parallels the North Branch Raritan River with sweet views of a very fine smallmouth bass stream with a minor population of wild brown trout. The 2013 signs are posted by Fish & Wildlife, Opening Day trout season next Saturday, but I spotted one trout already present, this rainbow about 18 inches, so I'm positive it's a holdover from the batch of larger trout the Pequest Hatchery stocks in October. Thousands of trout are yet to be stocked for the spring. A very small number of brown trout stocked in May will possibly swim upriver and enter Peapack Brook to spawn in the fall. As you can see in the photo, the water is very nice and clear--and that's what no one wants to see on Opening Day, a dog in the water.
Near the end of our hike as we approached Miller Lane, the slightly distracting sounds from I-287 and U.S. 202-206 faded and once or twice I was aware of the silence of deep woods among the red cedars. My wife said, "I love this hike because I don't need to drive anywhere. I just walk out the front door and look where we are now." She makes the walk very often. I haven't done it since shortly after Hurricane Sandy, but may be frequenting the trail more often as the year progresses.
The cut along the bank to the right below the riffles looks real nice for trout this season.
Bedminster Pond's water quality was worse than typically poor today. I think it could be due to a large population of carp and because apparently the pond is fed by ground seepage--no stream enters and exits to keep water in slow flow and clean. I noticed a father and son fishing from the bank with the sun behind them. Water temperature was perhaps a little warmer along the this eastern edge photographed. Savvy fishermen take advantage of slightly warmer water to catch bass which seek out slight environmental differences in their favor.
Marsh marigold. I'm very certain, consulted Newcomb's Wildflower Guide when I got home. Marsh marigold is in the buttercup family and this flower closely resembles buttercups I'm familiar with. (But the bloom is larger.)
These are not Belladonna, but too lazy to look up. A lot of small, blue flowers to piece through in the book.
Do not eat! Deadly poison. No evidence today of Belladonna growth.
This is the sort of place spring peeper frogs inhabit, but we heard none today and none yet anywhere.