Discovering Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, Morris County, NJ
This afternoon I explored part of the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Jefferson Township, Morris County, New Jersey. Specifically, I ran along the yellow trail, making a slight diversion on the blue Highlands Trail to check out Headley Overlook. I had been intending to run the trails as Mahlon for some weeks since it’s only a 15 minute drive from home. What I discovered there was very runnable trails and pleasant scenery.
I parked at the Saffin Pond parking lot and began my journey on the yellow blazed trail heading south on the west side of the pond. I had not gone more than 100 yards when I stepped within a foot of two snakes. One darted off through the weeds and into the water. The other posed for a photo. Later I learned they were northern water snakes. They were sunning themselves on the side of the trail.
The first section of trail appeared to be rails-to-trails, flat, level, covered with gravel. This changed to ATV trails or some kind of old roads for vehicle access after maybe a mile. After the pond near the pumping station downstream along Weldon Brook from Saffin Pond, the trail began to alternate between ATV trails and single track. There’s no name for this pond on the map. Neither could I find one online.
What I like in the above picture of the pond is the swallowtail butterfly that made its way into the shot. It reminds me of the Swan Song Records logo:
(On a side note, here’s a link to a gallery of swallowtail photos I took many moons ago.)
Eventually the trail became primarily single track that meandered through the forest, up and down some hills. There were various rock formations, a few small stream crossings, fallen trees, and the usually stuff you find in a forest. The path zig-zagged uphill as it neared the area of Headley Overlook. This was the Zen section of my run. Keeping my feet moving, sweating, taking in the sounds of the forest birds and my own breath became like meditation. THIS is the aspect of running I love most. I can find it better while trail running more so than road running.
Headley Overlook was close to 5 miles from Saffin Pond. I didn’t hang out long there, just long enough to take a few pictures. From there I followed a gravel covered trail for a short distance to reconnect with the yellow trail to complete the loop back to Saffin Pond. That mile and a half was good running. The complete loop was 6.65 miles. It took me about 90 minutes. I always think about how much faster I can run that distance if I didn’t stop to take pictures. But every minute spent in the woods is worth it, whether running or not. That’s where the Zen is.