Morris offers miles of scenic hiking trails, and this is an ideal time to enjoy them

Author: 
Jillian Risberg
Date: 
09/24/2009
Source: 
DailyRecord.com

Hiking enthusiasts, rejoice: Morris County has miles of idyllic trails, and what better way to get moving, seek solitude and treasure open space?

"The foliage and all the plants are at their mature stages, the days are changing and it's a beautiful time to be out in the trail system," says Russell J. Nee, trails foreman at the Morris County Park Commission.

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Dave Peck of Denville has dedicated 15 years of volunteer service to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a nonprofit organization that builds, maintains and protects 1,700 miles of hiking trails in northern New Jersey and southern New York, according to its Web site.

He maintains Four Birds Trail, a four-mile hike from Hibernia up to Split Rock Reservoir. On monthly hikes, Peck removes fallen branches, refreshes and paints white blazes (trail markers) and trims overgrown grasses, so ticks are not as prevalent.

At the top of the trail ridge sits Wildcat Hawkwatch, a pristine spot to catch migrating hawks from August to November, as well as breathtaking views of the New York City skyline.

Being in the outdoors is good exercise and feels exuberant, Peck says. "You always see something new, and I like to do my part to help keep trails available."

Early fall flowers, such as asters, are coming into bloom, and katydids, cicadas and tree frogs are audible, "part of the music of the forest," he says.

An avid hiker, he has logged more than 400 miles on the Appalachian Trail (Pennsylvania to Vermont), hiked Mt. Whitney in California, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, as well as Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest summit in Africa.

Elevations like that just don't exist here, but otherwise, Peck says it's easy to find solace in Morris County.

"Most people aren't out in the woods, they're in the malls."