After battling a cold for the last week, I was chomping at the bit to hit a trail system this weekend. While lying in bed, my thoughts were mostly about where have I not been in New Jersey. One of these places was Ken Lockwood Gorge.
So on Saturday Morning at 6, the wheels where on I-287N, the drive was uneventful & quite foggy. There is nothing like having a whole Interstate Highway pretty much all to yourself. Arriving before just Sunrise, I was not the only person there, apparently Fly Fishing is popular in January.
Deciding to have a snack before hitting the trail/road, I made my way to the dock. While finishing my coffee and enjoying the sounds of a fast moving Raritan River’s South Branch, I noticed some movement about 20 yards away. At first thought I figured it was some debris flopping around but moving closer it appeared to be an animal. Thinking it was a Raccoon or an Opossum, I moved a little closer. I was wrong on both accounts; it turned out to be a North American River Otter or so I thought. As soon as it caught a glimpse of me it hit the water and I lost it to the pre dawn darkness. This has been the only time I have saw one, my closest spotting was some tracks in the snow at Natirar Park about 5 years ago. Being quite disappointed that I left all the cameras in the car I headed off. About a 10th of a mile into the trail, I ran across those Fishermen. Having a quick conversation with them, they told me that they saw two Otters swimming down river before my arrival.
The road was quite for the most part; I spotted a Great Blue Heron, Tufted Titmice, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Hairy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wren and the big bird of the day, Pileated Woodpecker / Dryocopus pileatus! Not just once but what I think was six different ones, unless it was a pair I spotted 3 times. The air was cold & refreshing and there was still some snow and ice on the path.
Reaching the end of Raritan River Road, my hike looped onto the Columbia Trail and headed back to the parking lot. This section was for the most part uneventful with the exception of finding Gnome Homes placed along the trail. By now there was a lot of people using the park system and that means to head home. I will be putting Ken Lockwood Gorge on a 4 season visit plan, which I usually don't do.